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Bolton School Fills Bridgewater Hall with Music

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The Joint Gala Concert at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall brought together musical talent from across the Bolton School Foundation for a stunning evening performance. Pupils from Years 3 to 13 in the Boys’ and Girls’ Junior and Senior Schools provided an uplifting programme of varied music, from classical pieces to modern pop tunes, culminating in a rousing Beatles finale.

After a brief welcome from Boys’ Division Headmaster Mr Britton, the compere for the evening, Rebecca Pukiello, took to the stage to introduce the first act of the evening. Rebecca is a broadcast journalist and Old Girl (1992-1998) who skilfully guided the audience through the evening of entertainment, providing interesting facts about each ensemble and choir and recounting their recent achievements.

As she set the scene for the first performance of the evening, she revealed that the Joint Drum Corps had been formed from equal numbers of Boys’ and Girls’ Division students especially for this Gala Concert. They marched onto the stage to play ‘#AC1DC’, a military-style piece written by Girls’ Division Director of Music Mrs Price which was embellished with drumstick visuals. They were followed by the Joint Senior Concert Band, directed by Miss Sherry. The band, which comprises musicians at Grade 6 and above, gave stunning performances of two challenging and upbeat pieces: ‘Arabesque’ and ‘Into the Clouds’.

Next the audience welcomed the Hesketh House Choir and Miss Fairclough to the stage. 60 pupils from the Junior Girls’ School performed Clean Bandit’s hit ‘Symphony’, with Tilly Morris in Year 4 twice singing a beautifully clear solo line that rang throughout the Bridgewater Hall. The accompaniment was provided by Senior School violinists Katie Couriel and Alice Edwards.

The Joint Tuned Percussion Ensemble’s version of Bach’s famous ‘Toccata in D minor’, arranged by Mrs Price and directed by Mr Forgrieve, was hugely entertaining and provided a different take on this well-known piece of classical music. The performance included xylophones, drums, cymbals and even tubular bells.

Fresh from their win at the Last Choir Singing competition, the Park Road Choir was in fine form under the direction of Mrs Ives as they gave an exquisite rendition of John Rutter’s anthem ‘Look at the World’.

The Boys’ Division Senior Guitar Group normally performs acoustic versions of rock classics, but for the Gala Concert they were joined for their performance by vocalists Adam Whitmore and Ellen Bate. Boys’ Division Director of Music Mr Bleadsale directed the group as they played The Eagles' classic ‘Hotel California’.

At the heart of the programme was a trio of pieces sung by the Joint Year 7 Massed Voices, accompanied by a staff band. Under the direction of Miss Sherry, the combined Year 7 cohorts from the Boys’ and Girls’ Divisions came together to sing ‘Strangers’ by Sigrid, ‘Talking to the Moon’ by Bruno Mars and ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There’ by The Four Tops. They handled the different styles of the pieces with confidence and filled the hall with lively sound.

The Middle School Choir directed by Mrs Wade swept the audience onward into the second half of the concert. They sang the uplifting piece ‘Adiemus’, accompanied by the Girls’ Division String Ensemble and Girls’ Division flautist Isabel Harper. This was followed by a cool performance of Steppenwolf’s hit ‘Born to be Wild’ from the Joint Jazz Band, led by Mr Spooner.

The Joint Chamber Choir has now been a fixture of Bolton School music events for over 25 years, and once again they put together a sterling repertoire for the occasion with two contrasting pieces. Mrs Whitmore directed the soulful ‘Abendlied’, while Mr Ainscough directed ‘Tonight Quintet’ from West Side Story.

As the stage was set for the final performances of the evening, Rebecca took the opportunity to chat with two Sixth Form students. Ellen Bate and Nicholas Clark are both members of the Chamber Choir and also play musical instruments in School ensembles and orchestras. In addition to speaking about overcoming stage fright, the pair commented on their musical experience at Bolton School. Ellen said, “I don’t think I would have been as musical without coming to Bolton School. I was quite shy so it was nice to be pushed in a good way to do what I love.”

Nicholas said, “At times when it’s a bit stressful, you can just go and do something you really enjoy and you’re good at.”

He also took the opportunity to encourage the audience to participate in the finale!

The Joint Senior Orchestra then took to the stage. The 51 pupils were directed by Mr Bleasdale as they performed two pieces: ‘Bacchanale’ by Camille Saint-Saëns from his opera Samson and Delilah and Offenback’s ‘Galop’, more commonly known as the can-can. Both of these complex pieces were played to a very high standard by the young musicians.

The Gala Concert drew to a close with ‘A Tribute to the Beatles’ from the massed choirs, orchestra and audience, all directed by Mrs Price. In her introduction to the medley, Rebecca pointed out a little-known link between the Fab Four and Bolton School: Ringo Starr played his first gig with the band at Hulme Hall in Port Sunlight, the model town created by the School’s benefactor Lord Leverhulme. Six Beatles hits were smoothly linked together to create a spectacular finale: ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Yesterday’, ‘Hard Day’s Night’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘With a Little Help From my Friends’, and ‘Hey Jude’. The verses were sung by ten soloists: from the Senior Schools Jude Ashcroft, Jean-Paul Asumu, Nicholas Clark, Hannah Holt, Joshua Kay, Sian Rowlands, Ella Smyth and Jemima Thompson and from the Junior Schools Harshini Madhu Shankar and Nathan Pierson. The combined massed voices of Year 7, the School choirs and the audience raised the roof during every chorus, bringing the Gala Concert to a thunderous close.

Girls’ Division Headmistress Miss Hincks addressed the audience at the end of the evening: “One of the great things about Bolton School is that we are, in fact, five schools, and we’re able to combine our strength on nights like this so that you can see individual talents as well as the massed talent of all of our people from Park Road, from Hesketh House, from Year 7 and throughout our Senior Schools. I’m sure you will agree, ladies and gentlemen, they did us all proud tonight, so to the performers a huge well done.”

She also thanked the evening’s compere, Rebecca Pukiello, the Boys’ and Girls’ Division Directors of Music, Mr Bleasdale and Mrs Price, and all of the music, pastoral and technical staff for bringing everything together for a wonderful evening celebrating music at Bolton School.


A gallery of photos from the evening is available here.

Video highlights from the Gala Concert are available to watch via the links below:

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