Clarence Spring Reflections

It has been another fast paced and full term in Clarence. When you live with 98 girls there is never a dull moment and always something going on to get involved in. The girls have had mocks this term and I have been very proud and impressed by how they have managed themselves throughout this process. The day they finished their exams, the Clarence Library visibly gave a large sigh of relief, it is now getting ready for ramping up again before A Level examinations start next term.

One of the highlights of the term was undoubtably the Orchestral Concert in St Mary’s Church, Marylebone. I had the privilege of attending and listening to some exceptionally talented musicians. Charmaine tells us more  “Held at St Mary’s Church in Marylebone, the annual Spring Term Orchestral Concert was once again a success. It felt more special than ever before, not only because it was the first school concert held in London since Covid, but also because I had personally experienced it as both a Clarence soloist and a member of the Symphony and Chamber Orchestra. The church was filled with anticipation and excitement. Lucinda led with a trumpet concerto by Haydn, then Claudia sung an operatic aria from Romeo and Juliet. After Chamber Orchestra’s exciting performance of Britten’s Simple Symphony, Sinfonia played an extravagant Dance by Dvorak. The night continues with Iris performing an exhilarating violin concerto by Khachaturian, Wing-Hei on violin and Jocelyn on Cello in the fiery Passacaglia duet, and a touching story-telling of Pelléas et Mélisande by the Symphony Orchestra. Of course, I can’t forget my own performance of the Dvorak-inspired New World Piano Concerto (arranged by my own piano teacher Mr. Lenehan!), as well as the memorable experience of playing Shostakovich’s Waltz in the combined orchestra, where all the string performers of the night came together as one ensemble. I am certain that all the other Clarence soloists and I are thankful for the opportunity to showcase our talent in front of a live audience, alongside orchestras that provided beautiful accompaniments to our pieces. The feeling of accomplishment definitely set in as the audience erupted into thunderous applause. Both challenging and rewarding, all performances required hours of preparation and dedication, so I am glad all the hard work paid off. Undoubtedly, I hope the concert was an unforgettable experience for everyone – one that reminded us of the joy that comes from working together as part of an ensemble, as well as the power and beauty of making music.”

This term saw the final Caledonian Society event. Kimberley tells us more about what it has meant to her to be head of the society. “This year I had the privilege of being the head of Caledonian society. After an array of fun practices with the boys’ schools (Radley, Eton and Harrow) it culminated in two very successful balls; one at Wycombe and the other at Eton college. It was a delight to see everyone come together over a shared interest in learning a new skill. Cal Soc is a great occasion for both boys and girls to take a break from their busy school schedules in order to do something purely for enjoyment. Over the course of multiple months, the girls and boys assemble at either school to learn and practice multiple Scottish dances in preparation for the real thing, the balls. I can attest that the balls are truly the highlight of the Cal Soc calendar, consisting of dinner and dancing. Other than a couple mishaps and one accidental, allergy related, trip to the emergency room. I am glad to say that this year of Cal Soc was smooth sailing, full of dancing and fun as well as an opportunity for many of the girls to make new friends as well as to see some old ones as well.”  

Another highlight this term was the wonderful production of The Government Inspector. Ella tells us more: “A highlight of the School year has to be the “The Government Inspector”, a play performed by a cast ranging from U5 to U6. Set in 20th century Russia, the play takes place in an extremely corrupt town, run by an extremely corrupt Mayor. As the first scene unfolds, we realise that a government inspector is on his way to the town and in a flurry of activity the major and all his ministers hurry to hide all of their shenanigans, believing the inspector is already at the inn. Meanwhile, across town at said inn, a no-good, government clerk named Khlestakov is in trouble, having lost all of his money to gambling, about to be thrown into prison for not paying up. In the true style of comedy, Khlestakov is mistaken as the official and suddenly finds his life turned upside down. Realising he can exploit the major and the rest of his sidekicks, the lies get more outrageous, the bribes get even bigger, the flirting more cringeworthy. In a dazzling showdown, the Major realises his mistakes, only to find that the true government official is to arrive in the town, and all must proceed to the inn. At first, we were all apprehensive, it was quite a wordy play which required a high level of subtlety and nuance to really make the comedic aspects of it hit home. For many of us, it was the first time acting together as one group and even for some their first ever performance. Some of the scenes were especially tricky, the play relies on that perfect pantomime timing we all know so well and let’s just say that queues weren’t exactly on point when we first started. However, we put the hours in, learnt our lines and before we knew it, we were all backstage applying our moustaches, donning our top hats and waving fans around in a last-minute frenzy. The show was a great success, and despite our nervousness for the performance, once on stage everyone got into character and acted their hearts out. The time spent on stage under the lights really was amazing, however what was even more enjoyable was how were came together as a cast. A production is never about the final performance but the process, the excitement of trying on costumes for the first time, pizza dinners between rehearsals, the cast-jokes and fooling around on stage. I think we will all be grateful for such a great experience and extremely grateful to Mr Harrington for directing such a challenging play – it certainly won’t be forgotten!”

One of my most enjoyable times in House is a Saturday evening where we come together in Clarence Common Room for bar. The competitive nature of the girls never fails to come out in a game of Articulate and the Karaoke singing is something that need to be heard to be believe. It genuinely never fails to bring a smile and a bit of joy to a Saturday night. Phoebe tells us more “Every Saturday evening, Clarence Common Room undergoes a transformation into our very own Clarence Bar! With a nice drink in hand and snacks on the table, our individual houses combine, and we gather around for either an elaborate session of Karaoke or face a horror film on the big screen! It’s a great way for us girls to relax and socialise with those around us who we would perhaps not have seen throughout the week.” And Tori: “Every week on Saturday evenings, Clarence Bar is open to everyone in Clarence Common Room. There are lovely snacks and drinks, and it’s an excellent opportunity to relax after a busy week and catch up with everyone in house. Board games and karaoke are available, too, which is always an amazing chance to blow off some steam and enjoy the weekend.” 

Wing has fantastic success with her trio at the recent Chamber Music Competition. Before she went she told me just how much it would mean to her to win in her final year and guess what……they did! “Last Tuesday, I competed in the South East Schools’ Chamber Music Competition with my piano trio. Selina (L6), Gwyn (U5) and I had the privilege of performing Shostakovich’s Piano Trio no. 1 in C minor at St George’s Church in London, a stunning venue with impressive acoustics. We also enjoyed performances by fourteen other finalist groups ranging from the Junior to Senior categories, and ended up being the joint winners of the Senior category alongside NLCS. I was particularly proud of my trio because this was the first time Wycombe had won the challenging Senior category in eleven years, and with it being my fifth and final year taking part in the competition, I thought it was the best conclusion possible. As a trio, we would like to thank the Music Department for their tireless efforts in working with our ‘Shostakovich Triangle’, and the Wycombe audience who came to support us. We wholeheartedly hope that we have inspired younger generations of school musicians to form their own groups and take part in the joys of playing chamber music.”

The final weekend at School I saw another side to many of the girls at the fabulous “Highlights” dance show. Isabella tells us more: “On the last weekend of the Spring term, several Clarence girls took part in the 2023 Highlights Dance Show. The girls have been working on their dances since October and their friends in Clarence came to show their support on the Saturday performance. We even had Clarence Academy perform, a group of keen Clarence girls wanting to choreograph and dance together for the last time on the LAC stage. It’s safe to say their performance to a mashup of “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Umbrella” was a huge hit for the audience. Special thanks must go to the Dance Captains for this year: Isabella, Grace and Ruth, who all choreographed their own dances, organised auditions and led weekly rehearsals.” 

All that leaves me to say is that it has been another fabulous term in Clarence. I feel incredibly privileged to be Housemistress to such a talented, hardworking and genuinely lovely group of girls. I hope that you all have an egg-cellent Easter holiday!