Queenswood School


I travelled to Queenswood School, Brookmans Park, to hear a performance by Chloe Hanslip and Danny Driver of my violin-piano duo Music for 247 Strings, premiered 40 years ago in Wigmore Hall (by William Howard and Paul Barritt). It meant a lot to me that Chloe and Danny were about to play this work in that same venue the following week. I don't think it has ever sounded better, especially when followed by their enthralling account of the Bridgetower-Kreutzer Sonata.


Previously on this evening, I had joined a Herts Music Festival discussion with directors Tom Hammond and James Francis Brown in Queenswood's fine music block, hosted by the school's hospitable music staff.This boarding/day school for girls is in fact a historic locus for school music, the seat of a famous 20th century musical educator, Ernest Read. I'm old enough to remember being taken along by my school to Ernest Read Concerts in the Festival Hall (designed I guess to introduce us yoof to the sounds of the orchestra) and there still is an Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra, one of London's best amateur orchestras.


Queenswood itself is a remarkable sight, a giant Tudor-revival mansion with built additions and greenery/rhododendrons all around. It has many interesting corners, including the lovely arts and crafts chapel in which Chloe and Danny performed (pictured). I learned that the school was originally a Methodist foundation - the elegant students in sports clothes didn't seem to belong to that era any more - with an ethos derived from John Ruskin. The name of the school and its motto are actually quotes from Ruskin. How idiosyncratic the history of women's education often is. Many teaching institutions were invented of necessity almost 'by hand' by pioneering individuals, but in the modern age have like this one become international enterprises with a worldwide catchment area.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer