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Chamber Choir perform at Oxford University

Members of Chamber Choir, accompanied by the Music staff, enjoyed a wonderful trip to The University of Oxford where they sang Evensong with the University College Chapel Choir and discovered more about university pathways.

The group arrived in Oxford mid-to-late morning and were met at the Porters’ Lodge of University College by their Director of Music Mr Giles Underwood, who hosted the choir throughout the day.

The first activity was a tour of University College, led by a number of students, including Old Stopfordian Elsa Shah, who is currently an organ scholar at the university. The singers were fascinated to look around the traditional buildings, dating back in part to 1249 when the college was founded, and see the portraits of famous alumni, including former prime ministers.

The tour was followed by a Question and Answer session with the Director of Music and a Senior Tutor at University College about future musical and non-musical pathways and opportunities in higher education.

After an hour enjoying lunch in the centre of Oxford, the choir was taken on a fascinating tour of three of the other Oxford colleges – Queen’s, Merton and Magdalen. The choir was shown around the chapels of each college and had the chance to meet a number of members of the Music staff and current students to learn about some of the distinctive opportunities in different colleges.

The travelling party were also very intrigued to see other historic sights, such as the old library in Magdalen College and Tolkien’s table, where J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have written parts of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. During their tour they were joined by Old Stopfordians Alex Pollard and Sam Howard who talked about how they are enjoying university life in Oxford.

The main focus of the day was the chance to sing Evensong in University College Chapel together with the College Chapel Choir under the direction of Mr Underwood and expertly accompanied on the organ by Elsa Shah.

It was a wonderful experience and the Choir sang beautifully in the candlelit setting. The service contained an anthem composed by the Manchester-based composer Sasha Johnson Manning as part of the current series of works at University College promoting the music of female composers to mark the 40th anniversary of the College becoming co-educational.

Sasha was with the Choir throughout the day and also sang in the service. She said: “I count myself very lucky to have been invited to share the SGS’s Chamber Choir day in Oxford. As well as being enormous fun, the trip was packed with lots to see and hear and learn.

“The SGS singers are a wonderfully vibrant group. Not only can they sing beautifully, they are joyous and lovely to be around. Their camaraderie and thirst for knowledge is infectious and I found the whole experience very uplifting indeed. Being in the midst of this group and their teachers and hearing them sing my piece was humbling, and something I’ll never forget.”

Mr Underwood was equally effusive in his praise: “It was clear to me just how much preparation had been put in by the staff and the students and how open the students were to being conducted by someone new, as well as dealing with such a foreign environment as a college chapel.

“Their behaviour throughout the day was impeccable and they all brought character! I hope they each managed to get something out of the day, even if it was an awareness of how much their education is for them, not for their teachers or parents.”

The day concluded with the coach journey back to Stockport, during which everyone continued in fine voice with a long medley of various choir favourites from recent years.

Director of Music Mr Michael Dow said: “It was a fantastic experience; the pupils sang superbly in the Evensong service and they were a great credit to the school throughout the day.”