Sailors and pirates roamed The Portsmouth Grammar School as the fun and extremely popular Junior School String Musical Day took over the school.
Now in its third year, pupils from The Portsmouth Grammar Junior School were joined by pupils from Fernhurst Junior School, Wimborne Junior School, Craneswater Junior School and Mayville School for a celebration of string playing.
“Each year we have a different theme,” said Jane Ingamells, Head of Strings at The Portsmouth Grammar School. “The children are encouraged to dress-up, with a prize for the best costume. It is a great day and the children love the experience of learning and then playing to an audience the different pieces they have been taught that day.”
Following a day of tuition and rehearsals there was an informal concert to parents and friends, followed by tea and then a professional band who provided the setting for some impressive dancing. Guest violinist Lizzie Mason from Craneswater Junior School said, “I enjoyed playing in the orchestra, made new friends and won the fancy dress for the second year running! Can I come again, please?!”
This annual event is part of the PGS String Scheme, first started in 2000 with the aim of encouraging Junior School pupils to learn a string instrument and to nurture a love of music that would continue in the Senior School and beyond. It has grown and flourished for seventeen years with currently around 120 string players throughout the school. There are so many string players in the Junior School that a new orchestra was created in Year 5, so that there is now one for each Junior year group.
“We start the scheme for pupils in Year 3 when everyone has a free term of either violin or cello lessons,” explains Peter Hopkinson, Headmaster at The Portsmouth Grammar Junior School. “Many children who would not otherwise have chosen to play a string instrument have discovered through the String Scheme that it is something they can do well and enjoy. They have made new friends and some have continued to play at university and beyond.”
Children are encouraged to join a group as soon as possible and alongside the orchestras a small number of trios and quartets rehearse at lunchtimes, providing the most able pupils with an extra opportunity to develop their ensemble skills. “The Junior School Vivaldi and Corelli orchestras helped me improve my skills,” said William Hartridge who is now in Year 8. “I learned how to have fun playing in a group but still be disciplined. My first performance on stage was with the Vivaldi Orchestra, aged 8!”
In the Senior School, pupils initially join the Intermediate Orchestra and from there they can progress to the main orchestra. There is also a flourishing string chamber music programme offering opportunities to take part in masterclasses and concerts with members of professional groups such as the Sacconi String Quartet and PGS Associate Musicians, London Mozart Players.