The music curriculum follows a rigorous path to understanding the stories behind the notes that we play and create, whether it is clarifying the structure of a symphonic work or studying the intricate rhythmic patterns of Indonesian gamelan to get a fresh perspective on Western Minimalism.
The IGCSE course complements all music-making through improving aural perception, enhancing historical and cultural awareness and increasing musical knowledge. For many, this is chance to explore world music in some depth for the first time or to see an original composition leap off the page in performance. A final written examination in the summer is complemented by a composition portfolio and two performance recordings. These coursework elements are compiled across the course.
At A level, we follow a parallel tripartite path through academic studies in Western Classical music (including unprepared listening, a set work and a set genre), composition (a range of creative briefs may be attempted as well as a free composition created at any point during the course) and performance (which may include playing solo, playing in an ensemble or accompanying another musician, as well as a combination of any of these). Both composition and performance are examined as coursework submitted towards the end of the two-year course.
Creating informed musicians in the classroom has tremendous benefits on the wide and ambitious range of activities we can offer outside of it. There is always a real buzz around a St Paul’s concert and the Music School is never silent during the school day. Symphony and Chamber Orchestras are supported by two training orchestras (for strings and wind/percussion) and a raft of smaller specialist ensembles (such as flutes, recorders or percussion) in addition to traditional chamber music groups such as wind quintets, piano trios and string quartets. Jazz is a particular strength of the department (with a loyal local following at venues such as The Bull’s Head in Barnes) and many boys take part in the Big Band or large Saxophone Group, as well as a number of smaller combos. A large and thriving Chapel Choir and select Chamber Choir perform sacred and concert repertoire both in school and at prestigious external venues and there are two a cappella groups that perform a wide range of lighter material. A full spectrum of performance opportunities, from informal lunchtime recitals to large-scale choral and orchestral concerts is offered, as well as a Music Society that provides forum for musical debate and stimulating talks, mostly from distinguished outside speakers.
After St Paul's
Music, with its careful balance of analytical, historical, critical, performance and creative skills sits happily with virtually any subject. Links with other creative arts and the humanities are obvious, but music’s rigour, theory, patterns and intangibility also make a good pairing with Maths and Physics. Core performing skills such as teamwork, self-discipline, critical awareness, interpretation and presentation are valuable life skills applicable to virtually any career or university course.
St Paul’s has produced a number of successful academic musicians and performers. Here are a few:
- Stanley Sadie (1930-2005) was a leading 20th century musicologist, editor of the New Grove Dictionary of Music. His Mozart library was recently donated to the school.
- Professor Stephen Walsh, is an expert on 20th century music history.
- Adrian Butterfield (violin)
- Danny Driver (piano)
- Simon Mulligan (piano and jazz piano)
- John Myerscough (cello)
- Richard Watkins (horn)
Jazz, Folk, Pop, Rock, Film
Music Staff Members