“It’s the Sibelius Violin Concerto, and one of the students is playing the solo.”

Maybe I’m just overly critical, and perhaps I’d be different if it were my child playing, but I tend to not overly look forward to the prospect of school students being, how shall we put it, adventurous in their choice of concert repertoire.

This particular opportunity to experience a school musician came up as part of the combined Wellington College/Crowthorne Choral Society concert held last night at the school. This was their biggest concert of the year where they team up with the choir from the school, and bring in a full orchestra – in this case the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. As a side note it also means that they use the large sports hall at the school, were unfortunately the heaters are so noisy they drown out the music – hence we were rather cold by the end of the performance!

Anyway, the reason we were there was because the Choral Society were performing Mozart’s Requiem, the same work that I and various other members of the choir at St James are going to be singing when we join the Really Big Chorus at the Albert Hall on May 10th. However, as it’s a shared concert with the school, other parts of the programme were put in by Wellington College, and it has to be said that when various people mentioned that one of the students was going to be playing the solo in the Sibelius Violin Concerto there were definite hints of apprehension as to what it might be like.

If at this point you’re thinking I’m being overly critical, it is worth highlighting that whilst Wellington College has an excellent and well deserved reputation for it’s music, even with that, the Sibelius Violin Concerto is regarded as being a particularly difficult and challenging piece to play, and not something you’d expect a student to attempt, let alone perform well.

However, I’m glad to say that all the doubts proved to be entirely unfounded.

The solo violin was played by Claire Sledd, a sixth former at the school who comes originally from Seattle in the US – indeed her grandmother flew in from across the pond especially to hear Claire play. She is at the school on a music scholarship, and has been accepted by the Royal Academy starting in September. Certainly if I didn’t know she was a student at the school, I would have said that she was a professional musician, certainly the performance was as good as both the professional orchestra, and the professional soloists who sang on the Mozart Requiem, if not better!

Needless to say when we talked to various of our friends in the Crowthorne Choral Society during the interval (the Mozart Requiem made up the second half of the concert) they were all wondering how they were going to follow the virtuoso performance we’d just seen.

It has to be said that the Crowthorne Choral Society stepped up to the challenge and delivered a great performance too, but certainly Claire was fantastic, and deserves to go far. I wouldn’t be surprised to find her playing solo in somewhat more illustrious halls than a rather draughty sports hall in Crowthorne in a few years!

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