Carnival of the Animals

In March an ensemble of pupils under the direction of Lower Sixth Former Matthew P, who demonstrated exceptional maturity and poise with his conducting, brought us four performances of Saint Saën’s Carnival of the Animals.  Each performance was aimed at a different audience dynamic. The first one was for pupils from our own Prep School as well as those from St John’s and Oakhill School. This was followed by a wonderful neurodivergent-friendly performance to a room full of enthralled guests from ELHAP, Phab, Oakview School and Woodcroft School. Another performance was for family, staff and friends and the final one was for the whole family – everyone was welcome aged 0 to 99. The event was a very special one indeed.

Carnival of The Animals is a suite of fourteen movements scored for two pianos and chamber ensemble, with each movement introducing a new member of the animal kingdom. The animals gather for the carnival in the work’s celebratory finale. En route to the carnival we meet, amongst others, the Lion, the Swan, the Tortoise, enjoy a trip though the Aviary and explore the world of Fossils and the Aquarium. The themes of these different beasts are explored by different instruments, so the cello (Anavi S) gave us the ethereal Swan and the clarinet (Samah B) represented the Cuckoo, whilst Nish G on the xylophone conjured up the rattling bones of the Fossils. It is a largely playful piece, which was thoroughly exploited by Jo L, Nathan T and Krishan P as the pianists, especially in the piano duets.  An amusing and dramatic narration delivered with confidence and charm by Louis C and Lucas Y, led us through the menagerie.

The maturity of playing and the quality of sound, was quite astonishing for a group of students. The members of this tight ensemble gave it their all and played to the highest of professional standards.  What made the event all the more remarkable was that this was a student led venture. A huge thank you to all those involved and to the music department for facilitating this.

What I found particularly moving was the feeling of camaraderie amongst the performers. All friends, they encouraged each other to play well, and willed themselves to play their best for their fellow ensemble members.

Ronan MacManus, visiting Music Teacher



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