The Leas School,  Hoylake

Music at The Leas

contributed by Adrian Stevenson

There was a lot of music at The Leas, and much of it was an inclusive activity. Because the whole school attended Sunday services in chapel, there was whole-school singing-practice one morning per week: chairs were arranged in the Dining Hall, facing the harmonium; the choir sat in a central block of chairs, the rest of the school positioned round them. The idea was that the choir could lead and support the rest.

Every musical aspect of the coming service(s) would be rehearsed: chants for psalms and canticles (Venite, TeDeum/Benedicite, Benedictus/Jubilate; Magnificat, NuncDimittis), tunes for hymns. And the choir would be rehearsed too in its descants and parts (usually 2 parts, treble and alto; sometimes split into more). The choir also had its own separate rehearsal on Sunday, just before morning service. For the Carol Service (on the last Sunday of the September term) there would also be an extra choir of little people, no doubt well-rehearsed in Away in a Manger.

For non-church singing, on one evening each week the school was divided into three choral groups: Class A, the most able singers (choir plus a few others); Class C, the lowest 2 or 3 forms; and Class B, the rest. Each Class prepared a number of items for a Concert at the end of each September and January term; school ended immediately after the Concert, so many parents would attend. Another singing group was the Glee Club (always referred to by its members as Glum Club), a select few from the choir.

The end-of-term Concert included other forms of communal music-making. The youngest boys made up a recorder ensemble; and also a Percussion Band: snare drums, bass drum, triangles, tambourines, maracas, castanets, cymbals - all sorts of ways of hitting or shaking things.

Many boys learned to play the piano, and quite a few went on to pass various Associated Board Grades. Several played in the Concert, at all levels of skill: mostly solos, but also single-keyboard duets, trios, and even quartets.

Piano players practiced early in the morning, before breakfast. Often there were so many piano-players that practice had to be in shifts, changing over after some 20 minutes. For practice there were pianos of various types around the school: a baby grand in the Museum block (used for the end-of-term Concerts); uprights in the Music Room, Third Form (became Seventh Form in the 1970s), First Form, and in the theatre; and a Pianola player-piano in the Private Dining Room, which was fascinating to take apart, and not always successfully put together again!

There was also the Music Club, which met every couple of weeks, alternating with the Meccano Club. Activities of both clubs were regularly reported in the school magazine; paragraphs at the start of the Music Club reports might sometimes seem a bit pretentious, but in actual practice boys had access to a wide range of music.

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