Sing and dance to it. Listen, and feel it. We start each morning assembly uplifted by inspiring music and end our service in collective song. Music in the Junior School has the power to shift our mood, whether we’re overwhelmed and need to unwind or demotivated and want to feel energised. There are many favourite songs which ignite significant emotion across our school, either through the accompanying actions which rekindle fond memories of our days in Little Knellies Nursery, or the stirring strength of our Chamber Choir’s three part harmony soaring high – the sensation so mighty that it could seemingly raise the roof of Kensington Hall.

Attending a school much like The Abbey as a child, I grew up surrounded by music. From those early formative days, my teachers influenced my musical palate with an eclectic smorgasbord ranging from ABBA and the soundtrack to Grease, through to Mendelssohn and Zelenka. I understood how the art of arranging harmonic sound brings people together. It gave me a sense of belonging; joining a choir in any new community has always helped me to grow. The post-pandemic resumption of collective singing to unite us as a school each day was one of the most emotional experiences we felt as a school staff and such a powerful symbol of life returning to normal once more. Its loss had been accompanied by the associated deprivation of creativity and connection.

When we listen to music we love, our body responds. When we sing together as a school and as the vibrations of our accompanying student orchestra travel as sound waves into our eardrums, they send electrical signals to our brain, triggering the release of hormones that are linked to improved mood and better quality sleep. Sound waves interact with our nervous system, too, regulating our heartbeat and helping us to rebalance and reach a state of calm. And all the while, the melodies and sounds are moving through our limbic system, playing into our emotions and impacting how we feel. These are the fundamentals of the therapeutic value of daily music in our school, each of us benefiting in body and mind. There is nothing like being in the company of our whole school and feeling the force of the inspiring sound of our entire student and staff body in song. It’s so much more than singing to create beautiful melodies: at its core, it’s about a school community made stronger each day.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the privilege of witnessing lives changed through the experience of our school. There is no doubt that music contributes enormously to bring about such transformation. Learning to read music encourages our students to think laterally and find their flow state. Using our brains and voice helps us to achieve mindfulness. Singing allows us to access far-reaching feelings and then put them to one side when finished, processing our emotions in a healthy, safe way. 

Whether we sing purely for pleasure or are pursuing a music scholarship in our Senior School, children across our school are immersed in music from the age of three – through specialist class and individual lessons, ensembles and bands, recitals, productions and concerts. In recent years, our Junior School students have made wonderful memories singing together in venues as magnificent as The Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham’s Symphony and Town Halls, Winchester Cathedral, The Barbican and Royal Festival Hall in London and the O2 Arena, not to mention local town festivals and theatres. Our choirs have been selected from across the country to perform in the National Festival of Music for Youth on many occasions and have been finalists seven years in a row at the Barnardo’s Choir of the Year Competition. This weekend, we have been invited to sing alongside Reading’s Male Voice Choir in a concert in Reading’s Town Hall. 

And there is really no stopping us. Next Spring, the Junior School embark on their inaugural Choir Tour… St Ives, anyone..?