magdalen farm


overview of our 2022 course

Our Fifteenth Year

by Course Director, Sarah Gleadell

We were highly relieved to be back at Magdalen Farm for our usual Easter holiday slot in April 2022, having had to postpone till August for the 2021 course due to the pandemic.  28 participants aged from 8 – 16 signed up, one of whom sadly had to cancel, having caught Covid at the last minute. But everybody else stayed the course. We were delighted to welcome more boys than usual, 12 in all, 8 of whom were teenagers. 

Our 2022 tutorial team was once again impressively led by Alma Orr-Ewing, now in her final month leading up to qualifying with a Masters in Performance on viola at the Birmingham Royal Conservatoire. Alma coached and conducted the senior orchestra, and cellist Hilary Boxer again ably looked after the junior orchestra. Violinist Polly Orr-Ewing was in charge of the choir, helped to coach the chamber groups and – for the first time - led the daily Dalcroze sessions, which are a huge help in developing overall musicianship. Bonnie Schwarz, another talented cellist, was also coaching groups as well as helping with orchestra and choir. In addition, Bonnie and her partner led a folk evening with song and dance. Our energetic and popular house mothers, Poppy Orr-Ewing (violin) and Serena Forwood (cello) were an invaluable help both in coaching the younger chamber groups and supporting choir.

As usual, every musician was allocated to a chamber group, each of which had a coached daily session. At Magdalen we aim to feature as much English music as possible and this year was no exception. For several of the younger children, this was their first opportunity to play in a chamber group, let alone an orchestra. These little ones in particular need a good deal of confidence building and benefit hugely from help with bowing and technique.

Once again the children were fortunate to perform the world premiere of our Patron Colin Matthews’ new musical arrangements for two poems by Christopher Reid, composed especially for us. Polly Orr-Ewing, ably supported by Bonnie this year, is an expert in ensuring that our musicians sing tunefully and with great gusto and enjoyment. 

Outdoor activities included old favourite ‘Survival in the Wild’ (mud slides, den building, roasting marshmallows round the fire, much mud), ‘Capture the Flag’ (furiously fast team game), Magdalen Master Chef (many ingredients gleaned from the farm), Low Ropes team building, etc. The weather was very kind to us – warm spring sunshine, an occasional shower, and wonderful sun on concert day.

After-supper entertainments this year featured three visiting musicians, included group improvisation to story telling, folk fiddling and dancing, and a creative music making workshop. The traditional ‘Talent Show’, anticipated with great glee by the children, included a mixture of excellent solo performances and highly eccentric dramatic sketches, cooked up in secretive ‘dorm’ sessions.

Everyone’s hard work throughout the week resulted in a wonderful concert, enthusiastically appreciated by parents, grandparents and other family members. The children performed beautifully, taking their bows professionally to sustained applause. The grand finale with tutti orchestra was an intriguingly creative improvisation on Holst’s ‘The Planets’, choreographed by Alma, but led by the children themselves.   

Sarah Gleadell
April 2022