As well the many informal opportunities the boys have to show us just how capable they are, the three major school events in the year’s calendar allow for a range of boys to ‘showcase’ their talent and success. The Carol Service, the School Concert and Prize Day are formal occasions when the very best of what the boys at Durston are capable of can be acknowledged and appreciated.
The Carol Service
In keeping with the school’s Christian tradition, the celebration of the birth of Jesus as saviour, through a service of word, prayer and music, is held just before the end of the Autumn Term, in anticipation of the Christmas season. The Carol Service brings the whole Durston House community together, boys, staff, governors, parents and friends. It reflects the English tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols, but is adapted to suit the boys attending and to give opportunity for them to participate. Four of the seven lessons are read by boys, one representing each of Years 5-8. Both the Senior Choir and Junior Choir sing for those gathered, and lead all present in the singing of congregational carols. These boys provide solos as well as descants, enhancing the beauty and sincerity of the worship.
The School Concert
The Spring Term brings the annual School Concert, an event of music-making that draws together the talent of boys from across the Junior, Middle and Upper Schools. It is an opportunity to witness the skills and progress of boys who learn individual instruments, both in and outside school, as well as those who sing in the Junior or Senior Choirs.
Visiting Music Teachers nominate those whom they think are ready to perform for the wider school community, and the Music Department audition and rehearse them. A range of instruments are represented in a programme that draws on the music of different periods and traditions. We can be entertained and moved as much by a boy soprano singing Handel’s Ombra Mai Fu as the Brass Ensemble’s rendition of the sea shanty, What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor. Woodwind and strings musicians excel, not just as individuals, but also as part of an ensemble or the School Orchestra, which would have rehearsed weekly, throughout the year, for such an occasion. These groups allow boys to bring their individual talents to bear, working one with another to create, through team effort, a harmony of sound, of which boys of this age can be justifiably proud.
The two choirs (Junior Choir – Years 3-4, Senior Choir – Years 5-8) offer a large number of boys the opportunity to experience the creation of music through the concord of different musical sounds, whether or not they learn an instrument. Choir pieces are a mix of old and new, familiar and sometimes unknown music. The School Concert is the paramount moment of performance for these boys, the expression of the music they have been preparing over the first two terms of the school year. The audience is more often than not over-awed by the professionalism of the boys, as they seem as easily able to offer a lyrical and delicately performed Bach cantata as a foot-stamping arrangement of Freddy Mercury’s I Need Somebody to Love.
Prize Day, in July, is the culmination of the efforts and success of boys throughout the school year. Examinations will have been sat and achievement formalised. Sports competitions will have been played out, whether inter-school or inter-House. The progress and attainment of boys, in whichever part of the school and in whichever chosen field of school life, are highlighted and acknowledged on Prize Day. The Junior and Senior Choirs perform and individual boys display their talents through music and word.
Three Prize Day ceremonies recognise the discrete educational development of those in Pre-Prep, Junior School and Middle and Upper Schools. Prizes and Awards are presented by special guests, who are invited to join Durston in its celebration of what the boys are able to do. Their own experiences and their advice to those present are inspiring, helping the boys and adults to look to the new school year with determination and renewed vigour.
At Durston House, the complete education of boys is acknowledged on Prize Day. Whilst academic success and progress are rightly recognised, equal importance is placed on personal development and the contribution made to the life of the school, for which awards are made. The three major awards in the gift of the school, The Citizenship Prize, the Cater Cup and the DHPA Cup are presented to three Year 8 boys whose personal development and contribution have enhanced and enlivened the life of all at Durston House.