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 regularly at the National Festival of Music for Youth in the course of the last 14 years, and are known locally for their community involvement. Most of the ensembles perform regularly at school concerts and special events, with this year’s schedule being posted under "Musical Calendar".
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 on a Monday lunchtime. The band appears in the larger concerts at school, and has played at the National Festival in Birmingham five times in the last 14 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 play 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. At the moment we are tackling Broadway Impressions by André Waignein
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."
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. Recent pieces tackled include an arrangement of the William Tell Overture, American Patrol, and Michael Jackson’s “Bad”.
RGS Big Band
The RGS Big Band, directed by Mr Jay Craig, formerly a member of the BBC Big Band and the Sid Lawrence Orchestra, meets on Mondays after school for an hour. Since 2006, the school has been incredibly lucky to have the services of Mr Craig, who has moulded successive generations of RGS musicians into stylish professional sounding ensembles. He is generally acknowledged to be “a legend”, and what he does not know about the classic big band sound is not worth knowing!
Their repertoire is firmly in the classic big band tradition, with which they have had great success, several years running reaching the finals of the National Festival at Birmingham. A particular highlight was being one of only two school bands, along with college and adult bands, to participate in the Essential Ellington Festival in the Barbican in 2012, where they met Wynton Marsalis. They play regularly in school concerts, and are often asked to play for school functions and outside events.
Their particular highlight of each year is Jazz in the Quad, on the first Sunday of July.
To see them in full swing at their Essential Ellington Performance, please click here
A particularly fine generation starred in a recent Jazz Supper Party in the school’s Queen’s Hall. Please click here for their final set.
Directed by the Assistant Director of Music, Richard Bolton, this is an intermediate band for those who aspire to join the Big Band. The standard of players is generally Grade 4-5, in Years 8-10.
RGS Trad Jazz Band
The RGS Trad Jazz Band, if it needs directing at all, 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 the traditional set up of four front line horns plus rhythm section, and the current band has been lucky to have the full 1920s effect of banjo and tuba, emulating the great jazz groups of the Roaring Twenties such as Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Sevens. The current band is generally recognised as being the best trad band we have ever had, with the individual brilliance of the players combining in a perfectly balanced group, and they can be seen doing their stuff at the National Festival in 2014 here.
Modern Jazz Ensemble
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 plays a strong part in their performances, and they are guided through the mysteries of the sophisticated harmonies and melodies of the Real Book by Assistant Director of Music and jazz guitar supremo Mr Richard Bolton.
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. Recent gala performances have included Belshazzar’s Feast, sung in the 450th Anniversary Concert in 2012, and Verdi’s Requiem, in April, 2016.
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 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. They meet usually on two break times a week, but over the last eight years or so have enjoyed incredible success nationally. Most 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 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. In 2012, the next generation appeared in the Schools Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, and then in 2014, the next generation again progressed to the Category Finals of Choir of the Year, where, to the delight of all RGS supporters, they won!!! This led to an appearance in the televised Grand Final, in Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, a recording in the Maida Vale studios of Radio 3, which in itself led to an invitation to represent UK and the BBC in the finals of “Let the Peoples Sing” in Munich!!
About ten years ago, a member of the group then wrote, tongue in cheek, …. "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…” However, now, there is no doubt that it is the group that all young RGS musicians aspire to be in, making it the top of the choral tree at RGS, and making singing a thing boys do!! There are numerous clips of them on You Tube, but a sample of the competition-winning group are; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, Bones, When Pa was Courtin' Ma. and this, in more serious mode in Biebl’s gorgeous “Ave Maria”….and finally, this is their final competition performance in Munich ….Let the People Sing.
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. Mrs Downie has taken many ensembles to the National Festival over the years, and is renowned locally for her high standards.
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.
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.
Brass & Wind Ensemble
These function as and when there is time or the appropriate occasion. The brass always play for the Carol Service, and 8 and 13 piece Wind Ensembles over the years have tackled the wonderful repertoire of Mozart, Dvorak and Strauss.