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Concert Reviews

Fiddle Fiestas 2001


On Wednesday 12th July 2001, over 150 young musicians gathered for what turned out to be a very eventful Fiddle Fiesta at Wootton Upper School. The afternoon started off with students arriving from various schools in the local area at about two o'clock, enabling everyone to be unpacked, tuned and in their seats by the 'official' starting time of two-thirty.

The schools present were:

  • Lower Schools:
    Bedford Road, Broadmead, Camestone, Cauldwell, Church End, Cranfield, Elstow, Houghton Conquest, Kempston Rural, Shackleton, Shelton, Shortstown, Springfield, Stephenson, Thomas Johnson, Wilshamstead, Wootton Lower
  • Middle Schools:
    Abbey, Daubeney, Harrowden, Holywell, Marston Vale, Robert Bruce
  • Upper Schools:
    Wootton, Harlington

Fiddle Fiesta 2001For many of the younger members of the ensemble, a fiddle fiesta is their first opportunity to play in a string orchestra, and their first major public performance. Consequently the rehearsals started with a brief explanation from the conductor Mrs. Dunham, of what to expect, which included being told about the conductor's role in an ensemble, and why its a good idea to try to listen to everyone else at the same time as playing to help you stay in the right place in the music, and so on. Then the playing began, with the group working their way through the six pieces that were arranged by County Music Staff for the fiddle fiestas that take place during June and July throughout Bedfordshire and Luton.

The pieces played by the group were:

  • Fiesta Frolics
  • Thank You for the Music
  • Irish Lament
  • Scooby Doo
  • The Bramingham Concerto
  • King William's March

While this was taking place in Wootton Upper's Sports Hall, the senior members of the fiddle fiesta from the two Upper Schools were busy in the school's main hall practicing their more advanced piece - Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3. This rehearsal was led by Mr. Knight, one of Bedfordshire's peripatetic 'Cello teachers, who between half-past two and the concert at half-past six, was able to help the players transform the piece from being 'a lot of fast notes that we can't play' into a high-quality performance.

Fiddle Fiesta 2001

At four o'clock everyone stopped for tea, but as it was raining for the first time at Wootton's Fiddle Fiesta since 1986 (according to Mrs. Dunham) rather than having a picnic on the school playing fields everyone had to crowd into what is normally the sixth-form area at Wootton. After a while though, it stopped raining, and those who wanted to were able to stretch their legs before the dress-rehearsal as the concert was due to start at five o'clock.

Only it didn't ! A few minutes before the rehearsal was due to start, there was a power-cut and the school was plunged into darkness. This did not affect the senior group too much, as the school hall had windows, and so they were able to rehearse, although in dim light. The Sports Hall was a completely different story. With no windows, it was pitch black, with only three emergency lights on above the doors, needless to say, rehearsing was impossible. While younger students enjoyed a longer break, members of staff consulted with caretakers, who told them that the power-cut covered the whole of the village, and that the emergency lighting lasted only for an hour, after which time, the school would have to be evacuated until mains power returned.

After fifty minutes, the power did return. A much shorter than anticipated dress-rehearsal was held while the audience arrived, with each of the junior pieces being played. The senior group playing part of their concerto, and Jenny Fosbrook, a Year 13 student, playing a section of her piece, Praeludium & Allegro in the style of Paganini by Kreisler, accompanied by Wootton's Deputy Head, Mr. Gleeson.

The concert went very well, with the audience really seeming to appreciate all the hard work that had been done by staff and students alike during the afternoon and in the preceding weeks. The pieces performed by the younger players went very well, with almost everyone starting and stopping in the right place - a big achievement considering that so much rehearsal time was lost, the Senior group also performed excellently, and Jenny Fosbrook impressed students, parents and staff with her performance. Mr. Withell gave a brief speech at the end thanking everyone, and presenting flowers to Jenny and Mrs. Dunham and a bottle to Mr. Knight, before everyone headed home, tired, but proud at what they had achieved during the eventful afternoon.

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