By Ken Hoffman
Over Easter break, Chaminade’s West Hills Instrumental Music Department participated in the Harrogate International Youth Festival of Music and Performing Arts, which offers young musicians a unique opportunity to meet and perform with other ensembles from around the world. Each year, in celebration of Easter week, the town of Harrogate, in North Yorkshire England, hosts bands, choirs, dance troupes and ensembles of youth performers from many different countries. This year, Chaminade’s Eagle Regiment, Concert Band, and Jazz Ensemble represented the United States.
On the first day of their trip, Chaminade students practiced their ability to “adapt and change” when they discovered that their rental percussion instruments had broken heads. Of course, that didn’t slow them down. After a brief rehearsal, the students did some sightseeing in the city of York, where they walked around the medieval city walls built in the first century.
Chaminade’s first performance featured Eagle Regiment in the Parade of Nations through the historic spa town of Harrogate. The opening concert followed in the Royal Hall Harrogate. Built in 1903, this historic venue offered a breathtaking Edwardian setting, where Chaminade’s Concert Band made its festival debut. The evening ended with the Massed Band, composed of more than 350 musicians from the UK, USA, Canada, Russia and Thailand/China all performing together.
On Easter Sunday, the Eagles attended Mass at St. John Fisher, a Catholic high school in Harrogate. That afternoon, Eagle Regiment performed at Fountains Abbey UNESCO World Heritage site, one of England’s largest and best-preserved Cistercian monastery ruins. In the evening, the Jazz Ensemble brought the house down at the annual Jazz Night, held in the famous Old Swan Hotel, from Agatha Christie lore. Space was at a premium in that venue, so the rest of the participants attended an open mic night at a nearby hotel, with Maya Angulo ’17 rocking the house with some Slam Poetry.
Monday, the Concert Band gave a magnificent performance at Ripley Castle, an estate just outside of Harrogate. That evening, the Eagle musicians had their first chance to hear some of the other performers, most notably a choir from Finland and a Russian violin ensemble.
Chaminade’s Concert band saved the best for last. On the final day of the festival at Birstwith’s St. James Church, they performed Psalm 42, an English folk song arranged by Samuel Hazo, bringing the audience to tears as the final note of the trumpet solo receded and the full band joined in. Later the Eagles attended a concert in the Ripon Cathedral, which dates back to the seventh century.
Before coming home, Chaminade students had a chance to do some sightseeing in London and catch a comedy show at the Criterion Theatre at Piccadilly Circus.