Regent House has a well-established musical tradition that extends back over the past ninety-odd years. Under the batons of Alfie Burrows and then Keith Rodgers, RHS choirs, bands and orchestras participated with great success in many concerts, church services, competitions and festivals.
Twenty-six years ago, the present Head of Music, Colin McQueen, took up the baton and began a process designed to build upon these fine musical foundations. The extent to which that vision has been fulfilled can be measured in many ways – not least of which is the willing involvement of over 350 pupils – singers and instrumentalists at weekly rehearsals before and after the formal school day – a truly mammoth commitment.
The Music Department at Regent consists of four classroom teachers and Fourteen instrumental tutors, all of whom combine their talents in the maintenance of three orchestras, two wind bands, four choirs, numerous smaller ensembles for brass, woodwind, strings and saxophones, a Big Band and a madrigal group.
As membership of all groups continues to expand, so too does repertoire; in recent years the classical music performed has included works by Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart and Kodaly, together with Irish premier performances of works by American composers like Kevin Norbury, while popular arrangements of works by Lennon and McCartney, Percy French and John Rutter have become firm favourites of both audiences and performers.
In 1998 Regent House celebrated its 75th anniversary with a concert produced by all the above-mentioned groups in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. To appear on stage at such a venue and entertain a capacity audience of 2200 people was a lifelong memory for all involved.
The Music Groups
Our Senior Wind Band consists of our more advanced brass, woodwind and percussion players in school, regardless of age, with the minimum standard of entry at approximately Grade 5 level. These enthusiastic young musicians attend a one and a half hour rehearsal every week of the school year and are expected to maintain the discipline of one hour’s personal daily practice as well.
Mr Dawson and Mr McQueen share the conducting of this group which regularly competes in national competitions and has never been awarded lower than “3rd place”.
Members of this group are often selected for the Ulster Youth Orchestra.
The Senior String Orchestra is our string equivalent to the Senior Wind Band and is directed by the school’s Upper Strings Tutor, Mrs Marsden. A tradition has been established in this group over the past 10 years to invite the most advanced player to perform a concerto movement at the annual spring concert accompanied by the rest of the orchestra. Again, just like the Senior Wind Band, members of this group are often selected for the prestigious Ulster Youth Orchestra.
The Junior Wind Band and Junior String Orchestra are usually the first port of call for young instrumentalists either coming from Primary School or having just learnt the basics of playing a musical instrument. In these groups they begin to learn the skills of playing in an ensemble such as following the beat of the conductor, playing in balance with those around them, rehearsal discipline and striving to “play your own part as close to perfection as you can”. The pupils are encouraged to take their ensemble music to their instrumental teachers to sort out the finer details and then the ensemble practice is where they put what they have learnt together with everyone else. Some of the people in these ensembles have only been playing their musical instruments for about 6 months.
The Senior Woodwind Octet, the Senior Brass Consort, the Senior Saxophone Consort, the Senior Big Band and the Senior String Octet are all ensembles that were initially formed primarily to cope with the demands of the GCSE Music syllabus and each group rehearses early in the morning before the start of the school day. When repertoire has been sufficiently established then these small ensembles are able to embrace musical engagements such as providing background music at wedding receptions, graduation ceremonies or formal dinners.