A well-meaning parent asked me the other day whether I was winding down for the end of term. After checking myself, swallowing hard and counting to ten, I gently explained that ‘the end of term’ and ‘winding down’ was a fairly sizeable juxtaposition. A quick glance at the blue ECS calendar (have you got yours for next term yet?) shows that at the end of term the handle is cranked faster rather than more slowly, and that a tremendous amount goes on. Certainly that’s been the case over the last seven days, and I take my hat off to the pupils and the staff for a very well-navigated last leg.
We have had four performances of our first ever Summer Showstopper – a full blown musical performed by our senior pupils. This knock-out production was the much-anticipated culmination of the Creative Arts strand of our Senior Enrichment Programme, and the Music, Drama and Art departments came together magically to put on this terrific show. Huge thanks to director Miss Cox, MD Mr Fitzpatrick, set and prop designer and creator Mrs Reavill, and producer Mr Meeke – and, of course, to the cast and crew of Alice’s Musical Adventures in Wonderland. Bringing together two different scores/scripts and two different casts was no small task, and those of you who were lucky enough to get hold of a ticket for one of the evening performances will know just what a triumph it was.
In most Schools, that would have been the last hoorah before the end of term a few days later. But not at ECS! On Sunday the Choristers joined forces and, with a full orchestra and with a soprano soloist that I’m sure I recognised, sang Haydn’s Nelson Mass at Eucharist. That’s quite a sing, so to follow it with Britten’s ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’ at Evensong (if you don’t know it, YouTube it) is seriously impressive.
What made it even more impressive was that the night before some of those Choristers were dancing the night away at our Summer Prom. This annual event was ‘glammed-up’ this year and held in the Seymour Suite of the Mercure Southgate hotel. The suits and dresses were extremely smart, the buffet delicious, the decorations very fine, and the hotel bar just around the corner from the prom room was alive with the chatter of the mums and dads who enjoyed an evening of socialising whilst the Year 7s and 8s – and the returning class of 2017 – partied hard to the DJ’s tunes.
And still we weren’t done; still we packed more in. On Monday we welcomed Nursery families to the annual Nursery Celebration – a mini speech day for our youngest pupils. It was a great privilege to shake the hands of the boys and girls as they had their names and prizes called out by Mrs Oelmann, received their scrolls from Mrs Bowles, and walked across in front of the admiring crowd. Well done on earning those scrolls through lots of hard work, lots of good behaviour, lots of creativity, and lots of kindness and consideration for others.
Then on Tuesday the Prep School gathered together for our tradition Final Assembly. Here we celebrated various successes of the Trinity term, focusing mainly on sport. Players of the season were announced, participation certificates were handed out, and half colours and full colours were awarded. That afternoon we gathered together in the Cathedral Quire for our Leavers’ Eucharist, and to pray together for those pupils and staff moving on from ECS.
Wednesday saw Valedictory Evensong: the final Evensong of the year and, for our Year 8 Choristers, their last ever service in the Cathedral. There weren’t many dry eyes anywhere, least of all in the Choir Stalls, and the combination of some big music, some stunning singing, a beautifully-choreographed service and a very moving final blessing and dismissal of Choristers by the Dean made this an emotional occasion indeed. The emotion carried on as Mr Noon gave his thanks and best wishes (and distributed leavers’ books) to the departing choristers at the gathering afterwards – all the while keeping us up-to-date with the semi-final score.
And then there was Speech Day. For the second year running this was a whole-school affair, and it was glorious to gather together in a packed-out cathedral to say well done to our prize-winners; to review a fabulous year at ECS; to reflect on the many successes in the classroom, on the sports fields, on the stage, in the concert halls, and in the various other areas of school life which have played such a big part in our pupils’ lives over the past year; to bid farewell to our departing pupils and staff; and to listen to our Guest of Honour. Ms Catherine Armold, Head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Illegal Animal Trade Unit, and formerly Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Mongolia, enthralled us with her talk of powerful, soaring eagles and stoic, life-giving pondweed, and concluded that three of life’s key ingredients were: Curiosity, Tolerance, and Adaptability. With Catherine’s wise words (you could have heard a pin drop) ringing in our ears, we said goodbye for the end of term, and waved ECS families on their way for a relaxing and enjoyable summer.
The Year 8s and their families, as is traditional, stayed on for the performance of the magnificent Year 8 Comedy Revue in Kalendar Hall (where the rehearsal time for yet another show came from I have no idea), and then gathered together for the annual Leavers’Lunch in the Chapter House. Following a wonderful buffet (huge thanks to our catering team), I had the great privilege of addressing the Year 8s and their families. I offered – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – some advice for the future, and was proud to present each of our leavers with the ECS Charge to send them on their way. Our Year 8s left the Chapter House for the last time as ECS pupils with a tear in their eye and with many happy memories, but also with excitement and anticipation about what lies ahead. I hope that they will be able to take with them my final piece of advice: look back fondly, and look ahead excitedly.
To those who aren’t returning – good luck and thank you. Do stay in touch, and be sure us know if you’d like to keep receiving communications from us. To those who are – I look forward to seeing you on 5th September (the evening before if you’re a boarder). To everyone – have a wonderful summer.