Dean Close was pleased to welcome Mark Shepherd, Director of Music at Charterhouse School, to adjudicate the 2018 House Music (Instrumental) Competition and the Sherratt Prize. His remarks, succinct and helpful to every performer, frequently highlighted three aspects across the board – the standard of musicianship, notably reflected in performers having a clear idea in their minds of where they wanted to take their pieces; the high level of technical accomplishment; and the poise of the instrumentalists.

While the competition element inevitably means there are winners, all who participated are to be congratulated because everyone gave a complete performance without hesitation or obvious error. Ellie Pietroni (violin), Oscar Richardson (clarinet) and Tatyana Cheung (piano) gave winning performances in the Intermediate and Senior classes, while Tom Richardson (violin) was perhaps the outstanding player of the afternoon classes, winning the overall Senior Cup.

The Sherratt Prize, in honour of Colin Sherratt, an outstanding pianist in his day and one-time Head of Keyboard Studies at Dean Close, is a highlight of the Music Calendar. This year’s competition consisted of eighteen compelling individual performances. Four gifted pianists, Rei Chin, Hugo Till, and the Ng sisters were the contenders in the Piano class in which Janice Ng, playing Prokofiev, Sonata No 3, was outstanding for her power, sensitivity and sheer brilliance at the keyboard. The Woodwind class was dominated by two exceptional saxophonists, Ernest Tang who played Fantasie by Demersseman, and Hugo Till who performed Light of Sothis by the contemporary composer, Amy Quate. Doris Choi (flute) and Oscar Jack (clarinet) also gave polished performances in a class of a very high standard. Dan Barrow was the sole Brass player to have made it through to this stage and his trumpet playing earned considerable praise from the adjudicator. In the Strings’ class, the audience was treated to the beautiful tone of Jonny Woods (‘cello), the emerging talent of Finn Fleming (guitar), and Jeff Gao’s considerable ability on both violin and viola. Louis Morford gave a highly accomplished and entertaining performance of La Ronde des Lutins, a show-stopper of a piece by Bazzini, to be the runner-up to Janice Ng, this year’s winner of the Sherratt Prize.

During the eight hours of competition, there were fifty-four solo performances, most requiring an accompanist. In thanking the accompanists, Mr Shepherd made the point that accompanying is done in addition to everything else and requires considerable stamina as well as expertise and hours of practice. Soloists in the Sherratt were very fortunate to be accompanied by Simon Bell, Sara Harris and Helen Porter in what was a wonderfully absorbing and most enjoyable concert.

Richard Taylor