The View From My Study 23rd September

I was moved several times during the Queen’s funeral and surrounding processions but the element that got me the most involved the bagpipes.

As an instrument, I had never before contemplated its versatility or its ability to evoke different emotions. This was particularly true as Pipe Major Burns played his mournful lament, “Sleep, dearie sleep”, at the end of the service and again as her coffin was lowered during the committal service at St George’s Chapel. As the piper slowly walked away towards the Deanery, the music faded and took on an ethereal quality. Furthermore, the knowledge that the Queen had planned so much of the funeral herself and clearly wanted pipe music with her until the last, only added to the poignancy and emotion.

I was stirred just as much by the massed bands of the pipers and drummers leading the gun carriage upon which the Queen’s coffin was laid from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. The pace and tempo were upbeat and kept everyone marching in time, together for a common purpose. This sound so often enshrines ideas of battle and conflict in a rugged landscape but not here; here it was unifying and disarming. The precision and skill with which everything was coordinated was masterful and the bagpipes were at the heart of it.

The funeral service itself was also delivered with music, prayer and reflection of the very highest quality. While the choir sang, the incredible bird’s-eye images from high up in the Abbey enhanced the richness of the melodies and general spectacle. Indeed, for the millions watching around the world, this insight into a distinctive aspect of British culture would have been spectacular with choral music taking centre stage. The composer John Rutter once said, “Choral music is not one of life’s frills. It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls.” That was certainly the case on Monday.

And it was the case yesterday evening too, only this time in the Rugby School Chapel where the Rugby Choristers at Bilton Grange delivered their first public performance during Evensong. This was a huge milestone for an ambitious project which has required significant planning and effort. Suffice to say, the rewards were superb. After just three weeks of rehearsal time, the sounds the choristers produced were incredible and left us wondering just what might be possible over the coming months and years. It is certainly worth dropping into the School Chapel at 5.30pm on a Monday and Tuesday from next week to find out.

Thank you to everyone who came into school wearing jeans today. The donations will make a big difference to the lives of children and families affected by genetic conditions.

It is an exeat this weekend and I hope everyone can find some downtime to recharge. Even with the extra day at the beginning of this week, it has been a full-on start to the term with a very positive buzz around the School. Long may it continue. I wish you all a very good weekend.

Gareth Jones, Headmaster

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