The Ulster Hall was packed with Lisburn people recently as Friends’ School hosted its Spring Concert.
The hard work began way before the big night, with rehearsals and frequent murmurs of “Will they ever be able to pull this off in time for the Ulster Hall?”
Preparations began after the Christmas break, when stress was undoubtedly the word for Mrs Blakeman.
When the big day arrived, several hundred pupils arrived at the Ulster Hall early in the morning for an arduous day of rehearsals. The grandeur and size of the venue itself took the pupils’ breath away. As the sound and light technicians buzzed around, there was a flurry of activity: timpani being tuned, drums being (unnecessarily) mic-ed and hundreds of stands and chairs being set up.
The night began with a rendition of ‘Curtain Up’ by the Senior Orchestra. Comperes for the evening, past pupils Robert Harrison and James Marsden, welcomed everyone and introduced each of the performances, with a healthy serving of wit.
The capable Mr Briggs led the Wind Band as they partied and marched through ‘Party Dance Mix’ and ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ respectively. Soloists Shannon Moulds and Nathan Howe, along with the Brass and String Ensembles maintained the high standard of performance already set by the orchestra.
After this the audience was bowled over by the talent displayed by the youngest (and definitely cutest) performers, as Ashley Fulton ably directed the Prep Choir. He then went on to showcase the versatility of Friends’ singers through a variety of choral pieces.
The start of the second half had a different mood to the first - the lilting tones of both the Junior Choir and the Folk Groups had everyone dancing in their seats, with Rose McCullough playing two solo pieces.
The tone was changed once more by the Chamber Choir and their performances of the angry Russian song ‘Bogoróditse Djévo’ and the melancholic ‘Earth Song’, filled the Hall with beautiful, emotive harmony.
The audience was then awed by the wonderful Mr Elliott as he skilfully showcased the complexity of the organ with ‘Carillon de Westminster’. This was followed by the renowned ‘Ba-rock’ band with ‘I see Fire’ and ‘Charlie Brown’.
The Jazz band turned up the bass with its performances of the exceedingly difficult ‘Sir Duke’ (with its dreaded semiquavers), ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Birdland’ (complete with tambourine solo).
‘Carmina Burana’ was a fitting end to what proved to be an exceptional night: both pupils and staff alike joining together to sing and play in what was the biggest and most spectacular performance of many school careers.
Who will forget the surprise kazoos from the Prep School Choir? The amazing tap-dancing feet of Mr Elliott during his organ solo? Or the wall of sound provided by the awe-inspiring Carmina Burana?
Two pupils in their final year said: “We can truly say that it is like a close-knit family. For this to be our last concert was something amazing and unforgettable.
“Next year it will be the thing we miss most about school. “We would like to thank our three music teachers, who have done so much for us in our time here.”