RGS has a large selection of bands, choirs, orchestras, and a number of smaller groups, all rehearsing on a regular basis. Several of the senior groups have featured at the National Festival of Music for Youth in the last five years, and are known locally for their community involvement. The various ensembles perform regularly at school concerts and special events, with this year’s schedule being posted under "Musical Calendar".
The RGS First Wind Band
Directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell, this is a full symphonic wind band, which rehearses for 30 minutes a week alternating between Tuesday lunchtime and after school. The band appears in the larger concerts at school, and has played at the National Festival in Birmingham four times in the last nine years, being selected as one of just ten top school wind bands.
A Senior member of First Wind Band writes: "Musicians at the RGS who are of a minimum grade six standard can join the First Wind Band. We rehearse weekly, alternating after school with lunch times on Tuesdays, playing well-known music from film soundtracks (such as Gladiator, The Lion King and Chicken Run), as well as more classical works by composers such as Gershwin and Holst.
"We regularly perform at school concerts and in recent years have competed with some success in the National Festival of Music for Youth. It was in the finals of this competition that we got the chance in 2003 to perform at the Southbank Centre, London, and at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in 2004. The First Wind Band is not only good fun, but also an excellent way to gain musical experience and also get to know more people at the school."
The RGS Second Wind Band
Also directed by the Tim Venvell, this is a training band for the senior band, accepting instrumentalists who are between Grade 3 and 5. The repertoire is generally light and fun.
The RGS Big Band
The Big Band, directed by saxophone teacher Jay Craig, formerly a member of the BBC Big Band and the Sid Lawrence Orchestra, meets on Mondays after school for an hour.
Their repertoire is firmly in the classic big band tradition, with which they have had great success this year, reaching the finals of the National Festival at Birmingham. They play regularly in school concerts, and are often asked to play for school functions and outside events.
A past member writes:
"Mr Craig's arrival in 2005 has brought an indispensable knowledge on a vast variety of jazz styles, ranging from the 1920s right through to modern times. He knows what he wants, and makes sure we meet the requirements! As a result, in July 2007, the band travelled to Birmingham’s Adrian Boult Hall to take part in the finals of the National Festival of Music for Youth. This was the first time for many years that the band successfully got through the regional rounds so everyone was pumped and ready to show the world what we were made of!
"After what we all thought was one of our best performances of the year, the adjudication panel were highly complimentary of our playing, despite the fact that we didn’t receive an award. However, it was a hugely enjoyable day, and a thrilling experience to finally reach the finals of the Festival.
"The Big Band can also be heard regularly throughout the year at most of the school concerts, including the Open Air Extravaganza every summer, along with performing in the centre of Wycombe as part of the Wycombe Arts Festival."
Click here to see a video of the Big Band playing Gordon Goodwin's "A Few Good Men" in the 2011 Leavers' Concert.
BREAKING NEWS: the Big Band has been selected to play in the Barbican as 1 of 11 UK Jazz Bands in the Lincoln Center's prestigious "Essentially Ellington UK Festival" in the Barbican. The Lincoln Center, being in New York, usually organises the festival for American youth bands, but this year it is coming to the UK so it is a fantastic achievement for the Big Band to be chosen to play!
Directed by the Assistant Director of Music, Richard Bolton, this is an intermediate band for those who aspire to join the Big Band.
Trad Jazz Band
The RGS Trad Jazz Band is directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell, but it often functions as an autonomous band run by the students to cope with the many requests for jazz at local events. The band consists of drums, double bass, piano, trumpet, clarinet, tenor sax, and trombone, sometimes adding a banjo or guitar to the rhythm section. Playing in the traditional style, it tries to emulate the great jazz groups of the Roaring Twenties such as Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens. Click here to watch them playing "Wabash Blues" at the 2007 Jazz Evening.
The "Jazz Company" is a student-run trad jazz band spring-off from the RGS band, originating as a Young Enterprise business venture and now playing local gigs.
Modern Jazz Ensemble
A relatively new addition to the RGS music scene, the Modern Jazz Ensemble is a collection of advanced standard musicians (sax, trumpet, piano, guitar, bass, and drum kit) which focus more on jazz post-1940s. Improvisation also plays a strong part in their performances.
The School Choir is directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell. Each section of the choir meets once or twice a week in the mornings before lessons start, with some full practices taking place at lunchtimes in the weeks immediately before a performance. The Choir consists of about 40 trebles, 15 altos, and 50 tenors and basses. Apart from concert items, the Choir is featured at the annual Carol Service in All Saints’ Church, Wycombe, and sings Choral Evensong each summer in Oxford or Cambridge. Every so often the Choir is joined by RGS Parents’ Choir and Wycombe High School Choir to present a large-scale choral work.
The Junior Choir is directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell. The choir consists of about 50 Year 7 pupils, who present a piece of a lighter nature for the November Concert.
The Close Harmony Group (“Singers Limited”)
Directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell, this is a group of about 15-20 senior students who possess advanced singing skills (entrance is by audition only), who sing a range of a capella songs in a generally lighter vein. Three generations of Singers Limited have sung in the finals of the National Festival in the last few years (click here to see them singing in the 2008 Regional round), one year resulting in them singing at the TUC Conference in Brighton to entertain the delegates. In 2009 they entered the Eden Competition in Wycombe winning their catagory and £1000 for the school - follow this link to watch them perform. In 2010 they entered the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year competition at Warwick University and were awarded the title "Choir of the Day" but fell short of the televised finals, their only consolation being that they were first reserves. They appear regularly at concerts, and occasionally sing for community functions in Wycombe. Rehearsals are twice a week at break.
A Close Harmonist writes:
"Love singing? Have no social status or reputation to lose? Maybe the school’s close harmony group, or ‘Singers Limited’ as it is affectionately known, is for you.
"Basically, the close harmony group is a group of around 20 senior boys who meet two breaktimes a week to sing such well renowned classical masterpieces as ‘When Pa Was Courtin’ Ma’ and ‘Postman Pat’.
"Singers Limited are always a popular item at the school concerts, with a varied program including slow, calm soloistic numbers (‘Nightingale in Berkley Square’), some faster solo numbers (‘Trickle Trickle’) and classic barbershop hits such as ‘Mister Sandman’ and ‘Yes Sir that's my baby’.
To join Singers Limited, you need to be a confident singer, capable of singing your own line next to someone else singing a different one, possibly very close to yours (hence the term close harmony!). You also need not to be ashamed if you have to perform actions that make you look like a complete idiot; last year (in a performance of 'Postman Pat') we went as far as creating a van out of our bodies and ‘driving’ off the stage!"
The RGS Senior Orchestra is conducted by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell. The string section meets on a Tuesday lunchtime or after school on a regular basis. Wind and brass are added as and when needed, using selected members of the First Wind Band.
A Senior member of the orchestra writes:
"What better way is there to spend a Tuesday evening playing in the School Orchestra? From my personal experience, there is nothing better, but then again I have not done anything else. Open to all pupils who play an orchestral instrument to a high standard, the RGS Orchestra is a regular feature of the concerts throughout the terms, playing music from a wide range of composers, including Bach, Maxwell Davies and Haydn.
"Under the Maestro that is Mr Venvell, the Orchestra always performs to a good standard, and everyone is made to feel welcome. Therefore, if you play the violin or bassoon, the flute or the tuba, the RGS Orchestra is the place to be after school on a Tuesday."
Junior String Ensemble
Conducted by the Assistant Director of Music, Richard Bolton, this is the training orchestra for the junior string players. It performs at the main school concerts, and rehearses on Monday lunchtimes.
The Clarinet Choir is directed by the clarinet teacher, Mrs. Alison Downie. It rehearses on Tuesdays before school, and plays at various concerts and festivals. The school possesses a bass clarinet and an E flat clarinet, and occasionally borrows a contra bass and alto to complete the full range.
Classical Guitar Ensemble
The Classical Guitar Ensemble is directed by the classical guitar teacher, Gareth Hollwell. The ensemble meets on a Friday mornings before school, with numbers of players varying from about 20 down to a select group of 4.
A few years ago, the select group consisted of 4 highly talented individuals who were chosen to appear in the National Festival, one of them later going to the Menuhin School as the first guitar scholar, and another going on to Cambridge to take the top first in Music.
Alternative Guitar Ensemble
On Thursday mornings Mr Bolton leads a group of electric and acoustic guitarist would prefer to play music which is not in the classical style. Their repetoire is more focused on music from the jazz, folk, and rock genres.
Intermediate Wind Ensemble
The Intermediate Wind Ensemble is directed by the Director of Music, Tim Venvell. The group is a full wind ensemble which tackles classic wind repertoire such as Mozart serenades and Gounod’s Petite Symphonie. The ensemble meets on Wednesday lunchtimes.
Senior Brass Ensemble
The Senior Brass Ensemble meets at various times under the direction of the Director of Music, Tim Venvell. Each December it plays for a local charity carol service, and always enhances the school’s own traditional carol service.