At Queen’s we believe that all pupils should have the opportunity to make music, whether in a choir, instrumental ensemble, band, orchestra or as a soloist and we offer a variety of opportunities in lessons and within the extended curriculum.
Our Chamber Choir has recently produced a charity album and single available on iTunes and the girls have been enjoying great success, performing at prestigious events such as The Spirit of Christmas at Chester Cathedral and experiencing working in a professional recording studio.
Having an active composer as the Head of Music is certainly something that inspires the girls. We took some time out with of Mrs Healey’s busy schedule to talk to her about the Music Department’s role in school.
Q. You have recently written and released ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ song for charity which has been performed by the school Chamber Choir. How did that come about?
“We have been invited to sing at the "Spirit of Christmas" charity event at Chester Cathedral for the past few years and last year was the 20th concert. I thought that it would be nice to write an original song for the girls to perform at the event and asked Sarah Kelly (wife of TV personality Matthew Kelly and co-founder of the Neuromuscular Centre charity) if she knew of anyone who could write lyrics. She put me in touch with Debbie McAndrew who is an award winning British playwright. Debbie wrote some lyrics and I composed the song. We sold CDs last year and have put the single on iTunes this year to raise some money for the NMC charity.”
Q. The girls in the Chamber Choir certainly get some fantastic opportunities. You have just recorded and released an album of your songs, can you tell us more about that?
“I have always enjoyed composing music and have written for many different occasions before joining Queen's in 2008. I had never had any experience of chamber choirs before joining the school and thought that I would try to compose a song for the Commemoration Service. I wrote "Come Let Us Sing" and have kept on writing since then! Some of the songs have been written for specific girls in the choir to feature as soloists - "Search Me O God" was written for the Year 13 leavers of 2010 so I created the solo parts for the Year 13 members of the chamber choir. "Love Is" was written for Rebecca Broome's wedding and the chamber choir performed it as part of the ceremony. The notes of the introduction are made up from her initials and those of her now husband. We took the choir to Elevator Studios in Liverpool to record the album and spent a day recording eight songs.”
Q. Obviously the choir is just one of the areas of music in which the girls can get involved, could you talk us through a few others?
“We also have senior and junior choirs who perform a more popular repertoire and musical theatre numbers. For instrumentalists we have junior and senior orchestras, junior and senior jazz bands, as well as several small ensembles such as sax, clarinet, brass, strings and flute ensembles! This year we are rehearsing for High School Musical which we are putting on in February 2017.”
Q. Clearly you have excellent composition skills - how important do you think it is to have professionals like yourself for the girls to learn from?
“I think that it is important for music teachers to be musicians beyond the classroom and to pass on a genuine passion for the subject by example.”
Q. What do you think are the benefits of the girls developing their music skills in a single sex school environment?
“There are no boundaries or any sense of "traditional" instruments for girls to play. Girls here are thoroughly involved in all kinds of musical activities - we have several rock bands and a huge variety of instruments are studied.”
Q. The Senior School’s Cabaret event took place just before Christmas, what is unique about this event and why do you think it is important to the ethos of Queen’s?
“Cabaret involves all of the school's ensembles and is a chance for the younger girls to see what can be achieved as they move up through the school. There is always a real sense of celebration and support for each other. This year, 160 girls were involved in playing instruments and/or singing in the show!”
The charity album Songs for Queen’s is available on iTunes. The ensemble of original songs features solo performances from nine of the girls and can be downloaded for just £6.32 with profits being donated to The Christie in Manchester.