A vibrant performing arts department is at the heart of life at King Edward’s School, Bath (KES). Day to day, our Music department provides around 50 performance opportunities each year, 450 instrumental or vocal lessons each week, and 28 different ensembles (including the school’s own R&B band) gather weekly for rehearsals. The School’s vocal partnership with Bath Abbey also continues to thrive with KES providing the largest proportion of boy choristers to the Abbey.
The School’s unique side-by-side partnership with Bath Philharmonia is now in fifth year and provides unrivalled opportunities for our instrumental musicians. The annual Gala Concert, which sees KES musicians perform alongside the professional orchestra is the undoubted highlight of the musical year, however, the year-long partnership programme also includes workshops, masterclasses and mentoring programmes designed to develop, stretch and inspire our musicians as they play alongside or are guided by the professional musicians of Bath Philharmonia. As part of the programme, 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, saxophonist, Jess Gillam visited KES earlier this year to undertake a series of workshops and masterclasses with KES musicians and outreach events with local Schools.
Our Drama department is equally innovative in its ambitions for our students. A flourishing LAMDA programme has doubled in size over the last year and all students taking exams received either a Merit or Distinction, reflecting the success of our GCSE and A-Level pupils, who gained A*-B across the board. This Summer the school is making its second excursion to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to perform Hansel and Gretel – based on a Kneehigh Theatre adaptation of a Carl Grose script – and in Autumn our Junior School takes to the stage at the Egg Theatre, Bath to perform Romeo & Juliet, as part of the world’s largest youth drama festival organised by the Shakespeare Schools Foundation.
The most ambitious drama project this year, however, was the production of POP! The Musical. Not just content with starring in musicals, KES pupils and staff created one themselves (and recorded a soundtrack!), using as their premise, a best-selling teen title written by one our own English teachers, Catherine Bruton, who adapted her book into a musical exclusively for King Edward’s. The School’s Resident Composter, Mark Boden, wrote the score and this unique project was further created in collaboration with pupils who were involved in song-writing, work-shopping, performing, editing, documenting, stage managing and – of course – starring in the show! Described as ‘Billy Elliott meets The X Factor via Shameless’, POP! The Musical tackled emotive issues, such as poverty, immigration and fragmented families, topped by a layered critique of the cynical world of reality TV.
External recognition of the school’s prowess in performing arts continues, with KES actors, actresses and musicians regularly among the honours for Bath Young Musician of the Year & Bath Young Actor of the Year. Onward destinations include the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the Central School of Speech & Drama in London, and at last count our Drama department know, or are in contact with roughly 150 Old Edwardians who are currently working or training in careers as diverse as acting, film and media, opera, film-making, stage design, directing, comedy and writing.