“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
Months of hard work, determination and anticipation culminated last night in The Abbey’s 130 Celebration Concert at The Hexagon in Reading. One of the most exciting musical events ever to have been staged by the School, the evening brought our 130th anniversary year to a close and marked the end to an incredible 12-month journey.
While each of the events and activities of the past year have been linked by the theme of people working, learning and growing together, none have demonstrated this more than last night’s performance. For the first time in The Abbey’s history, musicians from the Junior and Senior Schools came together to form a spectacular whole school ensemble. Whether aged 5 or 18, staff or pupil, on stage or off, the collective effort involved was immense. In the audience, parents, teachers, alumnae, governors, fellows and friends gathered to witness the spectacle and show their support. We were particularly delighted to welcome Mr Graham Barker, the High Sheriff of the Royal County of Berkshire and Mr James Puxley, the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire, representing the wider Reading community of which the School is a part. The night was, in short, testament to the immense power of community endeavour and a fitting conclusion to our anniversary year.
Without exception, the girls performed amazingly well. From the enthusiastic singing of our youngest performers – some only 5 years old! – to the poise and prowess of our Senior School musicians, every ensemble delighted and there was something for all to enjoy. One of the many highlights was the premiere of Dancing in Memory’s Stream, a piece written by esteemed composer Bob Chilcott for the occasion and set to lyrics by Abbey alumna Delphine Chalmers (2017). Her beautiful words are included below.
Thank you to all involved for making it such a special evening. It was truly a night to remember.
Please click here to view more photos from the event.
Dancing in Memory’s Stream
Chorus: Snatch a breath.
Catch the beat.
Though the years may make us strangers
Our voices set the ripples dancing in memory’s stream.
Our song begins with the fresh pencil thrill of autumn days.
Tumbling in the playground’s sandpit
Scrambling in the scarecrow trees
We sketch the lines of a stave on our little grazed knees.
Joint by joint, we unfurl our sticky-toffee fists.
Swirling names on the day’s page
Catching snowflakes on our tongues
The letters form bold melodies in our organ-pipe lungs.
Though our paper-score skin blossoms with minims
And our roots tug and pull as we grow
We feel only the lightness of our age
Finding first love in the tickle of a turning page.
Wasp weather brings the sting of first goodbyes,
The joy of fresh starts and future selves
But filled with the freckle-fine light of youth
Our hearts take up the baton and beat with love’s truth.