School's music competition adapts to coronavirus conditions and spreads joy

The sound of music filled the classrooms of a Newport school last week as pupils enjoyed a virtual house music competition within their school bubbles.

Accepting the award, from left: Max Hughes and Grace Murray from Webb House with Jacob Parker and Steph Howie from Darwin House
Accepting the award, from left: Max Hughes and Grace Murray from Webb House with Jacob Parker and Steph Howie from Darwin House

Normally Haberdashers’ Adams' annual competition is hosted live on stage and the school’s sports hall is turned into an auditorium for the occasion. The Covid pandemic meant that was not going to be realistic this year, so the school’s music department was determined to find a solution so that the show could continue safely.

Head of music Malcolm Brown said: “The annual house music competition is one of the highlights in the school calendar and so we were very keen to find a way in which it could still go ahead this year to give pupils something to enjoy aside from their academic studies.

"To ensure everything was done in line with official guidance, we pre-recorded all of the entries so that they could be streamed on the day of the competition for pupils to enjoy in their classroom bubbles. We did need to reduce the number of music categories so that we could do everything within Covid-safe regulations and in the lead-up to the competition it was wonderful to hear pupils practising outside in the open, all around the school grounds.

“Even the adjudicating was done remotely and we are extremely grateful to Dr Tom Pankhurst, head of music at King Edward VI College, Stourbridge, for taking on the role this year.”

'A real treat'

Dr Pankhurst paid tribute to all of the performers for producing such a high standard of entry with less than three weeks to create their own musical arrangements, rehearse and record after returning to school.

He told students: “Music making has been in such short supply during these strange times and it has been a real treat to watch such a variety of performing styles. You have all gone beyond being able to play your instruments and showed what you were made of both technically and vocally, making it very difficult to judge. It has been so fabulous to simply hear people making music together.”

The scores for each of the individual categories were added together to reveal that, for the first time, there were two house winners – Darwin and Webb – and both house flags are now flying high from the top of the main school building.

Headmaster Gary Hickey concluded the afternoon by congratulating both houses on their joint win.

In addition to the house trophy, Mr. Hickey presented the Coomer Cup to Sixth Form pupil Ella Maddocks for her outstanding individual contribution and the Saull Cup to Webb House for their choral ensemble, and congratulated all of the individual category winners: Arjun Toora, Ezra Hirschi, Max Hughes, Henry Shaw, Charlie Watt and Grace Murray.

Mr Hickey paid special thanks to the music department, the competition’s independent adjudicator Dr Pankhurst for his helpful feedback and the school’s ICT/AV technician James Band for enabling the whole of the school community to watch the competition safely in their school bubbles with parents also being able to watch later from home.

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