Dulwich Prep was indeed fortunate to welcome Old Boys Ian Bostridge and Nicholas Ansdell-Evans to sing and play in a memorable recital. This would launch the appeal for a Memorial Wall honouring all our Old Boys who have fallen in conflicts since the School’s foundation.
Accurately described in the Headmaster’s welcome as ‘musical colossi’, Ian is an internationally renowned tenor, especially famous for his interpretation of German Lieder. Nicholas, as well as being on the music staff at ENO, is in huge demand as a pianist, organist, composer and conductor.
20 members of the Chamber Choir were encouraged to further their singing ambitions as Ian observed and commented on the boys in a rehearsal situation. Ian congratulated the boys on their performance of three pieces and offered wise words of support for their future endeavours.
The main recital began with a poignant presentation from the Head Boys, Arjun, Rohan and Ben, the Headmaster and Mrs Revell, relating just some of the stories of Old Boys and former staff who lost their lives in service of their country. Especially moving was the story of Lieutenant Mark Evison who died in Afghanistan. Mark’s mother was present for the evening’s concert.
Ian and Nicholas’s beautifully selected programme began with Butterworth’s Six songs from a Shropshire Lad. These are taken from poems by A.E. Housman. They poignantly mirror the futility of the 1914-1918 conflict. ‘These “lads” represent the doomed youth of every war’.
Nicolas then turned from accompanist to soloist as he showed his amazing dexterity at the keyboard with a simply astonishing performance of Fauré’s Impromptu No 3 in E flat.
Ian then returned to sing three songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. This amazing collection of love, soldiers, and children’s songs was an important source of idealized folklore in the Romantic nationalism of the 19th century. Des Knaben Wunderhorn became widely popular across the German-speaking world. Ian’s charismatic and powerful interpretation had the audience spellbound.
The evening concluded with an interview conducted by Ian and Nicholas’s friend and contemporary at the Prep, Huw Humphreys. Huw is a current Prep parent and is currently Chair of the Old Boys’ Association. The interview gave a fascinating insight into the lives of professional musicians, memories of the Prep and the influence of former teachers including Michael Spencer, Director of Music 1965 – 1997, who was present for the event.
Special thanks are owed, among others, to Huw Humphreys, Richard Bernhard and Ann Revell for their contributions to this splendid occasion. The Head Boys were flawless in their delivery and special mention should be made of Rohan who acted as page turner for Nicholas. This is a real skill which Rohan mastered with aplomb. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Ian and Nicholas for providing memories that will last a lifetime and for launching the Memorial Wall Appeal in such tremendous style.