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St. Dominic’s 40th Anniversary Concert – in its 42nd Year!

The College marked its 40th Anniversary Year, two years later than planned, on Thursday June 30th.  In the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and composer, Sir James MacMillan, the BBC Singers and College Chamber Choir gave a superb concert to a packed chapel, hosted by Joseph Zubier from BBC Radio 3.  The programme, to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the Autumn included works by MacMillan, Panufnik and contemporary composer, Eric Whitacre. 

The College commissioned Sir James to write a piece for the 40th anniversary and he chose a text by St. Catherine of Siena, Be Who God Meant You To Be which is used regularly across the whole College community.  The final composition gave that text to the four part choir which became a repeated mantra whilst soprano soloist, Ella Shaul, sang other text by St. Catherine over the top of the obbligato figure.  The performance, conducted by Abigail Gorton, Director of Music at St. Dominic’s,  was utterly superb and met with rapturous applause by the assembled audience.  The concert concluded with a rousing performance of Handel’s Zadok the Priest which really did lift the roof of the hundred-year Chapel in recognition of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

The evening also provided an opportunity for the Cardinal to bless and dedicate the new stained-glass windows, designed by Andrew Taylor, a fellow of the Society of Master Glass Painters and nephew of a former pupil of the St. Dominic’s Girls School in the 1930s, Kathleen Copcut.  Andrew was delighted by the reception received by the assembled audience and said ‘I am absolutely thrilled to have been part of this evening’s concert and to have designed the new windows for the College Chapel.  St. Dominic’s has been a very special school and college for over 140 years and I wish it all the very best for the future’

The audience comprised staff, students, governors, local residents and friends of the College.  Long-standing residents Dee and Jim Hinton were present and commented at the end of the night ‘Wow! Wow! Wow! What an amazing evening. We and the other residents feel very privileged to have been invited to share in listening to the wonderful music with you all tonight! Thank you sooooo much for inviting us.  It was definitely worth waiting for!’

James Goodrick-Green, Head Boy said ‘It has been a truly magical evening and I and my peers feel privileged to have been part of it’.

Abigail Gorton, Director of Music at St. Dominic's commented, 'It is difficult to find superlatives for the experience we had this week. One of the students asked me ‘is it a big deal that the BBC singers sang with us Miss?’. The level of artistry they brought to St Dominic’s beautiful Georgian Chapel was no surprise as they are one of the top professional choirs in the world. The programme choice was inspired, pairing the beautiful new work written for our 40th anniversary ‘Be Who God Meant You To Be’ with one of James MacMillan’s earliest compositions – the Missa Brevis, written when he was only 17, firing the imagination of our 17 year old students, one of whom is herself a composition student at the Junior Royal Academy. The sheer nerve shown by deputy Head girl Ella Shaul in taking on the demanding soprano solo with the composer sitting in the front row, was testament to her cool temperament and professionalism. Her pure soprano voice soared effortlessly over St Dominic’s Chamber Choir.  As musical director at St Dominic’s, it was a very special highlight for me as our choir was joined by the BBC Singers for the rousing ‘Zadok the Priest’ finale. It is a great privilege to create experiences for young people like this that can stay with them for a lifetime.'

We were also very fortunate that Cardinal Vincent Nichols was able to join us to enjoy the concert and bless the newly installed stained-glass windows made for us by the artist Andrew Taylor. The stunning new windows depict the five mysteries of light:

  • The baptism of Jesus
  • The wedding feast at Cana 
  • The proclamation of the Gospel (a call to repentance)
  • The Transfiguration
  • and The institution of the Eucharist

The event was truly awe-inspiring, pairing world-class music and art, and reminding us all of the value of arts education for our young people.'

Principal, Andrew Parkin, said in his closing remarks at the end of the concert ‘It is the end of a great year at St. Dominic’s and it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t conclude with the very good news that I can now publicly announce that in our recent Ofsted Inspection (after 15 years), we have been judged to be an outstanding institution, Grade 1, in all areas.  What better setting and venue to make this announcement.’

The date for broadcast will be shared with the College Community in due course.  Images of the evening are on the link below as is the text from Andrew’s vote of thanks.

Here is an audio clip of the College Choir performing the commission by Sir James MacMillan, Be Who God Meant You To Be 

Bryan Johnston - Assistant Principal