PGS has a long-standing tradition of musical excellence. Music plays a key part in the life of the school and the Music Department is an exciting, vibrant place. Music for all is a fundamental principle and we believe that taking part in a musical ensemble is important not only in developing musical skills but also in fostering a strong sense of community within the department and school. As such, there is a wide range of over 40 ensembles for all abilities and skills including two orchestras, four choirs, a wind band, two string orchestras, a swing band and five jazz ensembles, several brass groups, percussion ensembles, many chamber groups, close harmony groups and string and woodwind ensembles.
Additionally, the practical experience of music is at the heart of the curriculum. The Music Department stages in excess of 60 concerts a year, ranging from lunchtime concerts to larger-scale choral and orchestral concerts at the Cathedral and venues in Portsmouth, Winchester and London. The Chamber Choir sings evensong annually at Christ Church College Chapel, Oxford, in addition to school services. A highlight of the year is the annual musical, held in the King’s Theatre and led by the school’s Director in Residence. In 2014, the Chamber Choir recorded a CD of contemporary Christmas Carols, including several written especially for the choir, which was released commercially in September 2014 to critical acclaim. Copies of the CD may be purchased by clicking here.
An experienced and dedicated team of 40 full-time and visiting instrumental staff prepares students for ABRSM, Trinity and LCM exams, local and national solo and ensemble competitions, and University and Conservatoire entrance, giving over 500 individual music lessons each week. A number of pupils play in National and County ensembles, and over 200 pupils perform in music festivals and competitions each year. The school has developed a national reputation for commissioning new works by contemporary composers, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Stephen Montague, Tansy Davies, Alexander L’Estrange, Roxanna Panufnik, Malcolm Archer, Jonathan Dove and Tarik O’Regan. The Department enjoys a prestigious partnership with our Associate Musicians, the London Mozart Players, and has received the support of the Arts Council to run major educational projects involving children and adults from throughout Portsmouth. Pupils regularly perform alongside professional ensembles and take part in masterclasses and workshops. Recent highlights have included the PGS Chamber Choir performing the world premiere of Jonathan Dove’s cantata For an Unknown Soldier, alongside local primary schools and with the London Mozart Players conducted by Nicholas Cleobury, an innovative composition project creating live Dubstep remixes of Mozart symphonies and broadcasts on BBC Radio and Television as part of the DDay70 commemorations.
The 2013 Portsmouth Festivities featured a newly-commissioned community work written by Alexander L’Estrange, inspired by the story of the Mary Rose, and involving the PGS Chamber Choir and Community Choir in collaboration with the PGS Junior School and three local primary schools – over 350 performers. In November 2015, the Remembrance Concert marked the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign with three world premiere pieces commissioned by the school from Australian and New Zealand composers.
Excellence in performance and composition is complemented by a thriving academic programme. Music is part of the curriculum for all pupils in year 7 and 8 where projects develop pupils’ skills in performance, composition, listening and appraising through the practical experience of music from a wide range of cultures, traditions and genres. Music is a popular option at year 9 and a significant number of pupils go on to study music at GCSE , A level and IB level, achieving excellent results. Former PGS pupils are currently studying music at the Royal Welsh Conservatoire, Oxford, Bristol and Nottingham universities, and the Royal College of Music.