Music@1: a Musical Staff

Posted: 24th November 2016

Music Department news

Dr Higgins, Director of Music, writes about the Music@1 concert which took place last Friday, 18th November, bringing to light the musical talents of two of our members of staff:

‘Friday 18th November saw our third Music@1 concert take place in the Chapel. This time our performers were Mrs Cotton and Mrs Macallister. Mrs Cotton sang the stirring ‘Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben’ from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and the tongue-in-cheek ‘Stars and the Moon’ from the musical theatre piece ‘Songs for a New World’. The song tells of a woman who turns down various men in her life because they cannot give her what she truly wants (a yacht, champagne, ‘the’ life). She eventually meets a rich man whom she marries. Taking stock at the end she tells how she got the yacht and had the life, but the years went by and she’ll ‘never have the moon’.


Mrs Macallister played a Chopin Waltz on the piano and the smouldering tango-esque ‘For Latin Lovers’. Chopin Waltzes are notoriously difficult: they can be quite difficult to play but should sound effortless. This was not difficult for Mrs Macallister though and the only thing missing was Pasha and Oti from ‘Strictly’ to dance along.

We are looking forward to the final Music@1 concert of the term which will be on Friday 2nd December at which the Junior Harp Ensemble will play as will Molly Pollock and Lauren McKinnon, two of our talented musicians.’

Mrs Macallister took up the piano at five years of age and the violin at the age of ten. After studying Music as part of her university degree she did not do any music for the following ten years, giving up her music career to become an accountant.  Mrs Macallister has now taken up music again and says, ‘I have enjoyed playing the piano and the violin again in school shows and orchestras whenever asked since becoming a teacher.’


Mrs Cotton has been singing for a very long time and spent many hours when she was at school performing with her school’s 150-strong liturgical choir and playing for folk Masses. However, she only started having proper singing lessons as an adult because she was too busy in her youth learning to play the piano and flute (and trying to get O Levels and A Levels in between!)

Mrs Cotton says that she LOVES singing – it makes her feel happy and alive and when she sings properly using good technique it gives her a real buzz. (In the words of the old ‘Heineken’ advert:  It reaches the parts other beers do not reach!  Mrs Cotton thinks everyone should try singing.  It’s good for the soul and surprisingly physical – very good for those core muscles!)  In fact, Mrs Cotton’s first singing teacher is to blame for her becoming a teacher as it was only through performing an operatic aria at her first concert (organised by the singing teacher) that she realised that she was a proper show off and that possibly she could contemplate standing up in front of children and teaching for a living!  (The aria was ‘Che faro senza Euridice?” from Gluck’s ‘Orpheus and the Underworld’… still one of her favourites).


For last week’s ’Music@1’ concert Mrs Cotton performed two items:

  1. The aria ‘Bereite dich, Zion’ (Prepare thyself, Zion) from the Christmas Oratorio (J S Bach). This suite of music was written to be performed over several days in the Christmas period. This particular aria is supposed to be sung on Christmas Day and the words are trying to incite people (‘Zion’) to prepare themselves to meet Christ with the enthusiasm with which a bride meets her bridegroom.
  2. The song ‘Stars and the Moon’ from the musical ‘Songs for a New World’ by contemporary American musical composer, Jason Robert Brown. His lyrics are very clever, his tunes interesting and original and Mrs Cotton is a big fan of his work.

Mrs Cotton enjoys all kinds of musical genres, including opera and jazz, so long as there is a good melody. She is currently trying to put a programme together to do a Performance DipABRSM in Singing.  Her next public performance will be at St John’s, Smith Square on Saturday 26th November  where she will be singing the Mozart ‘Mass in C Minor’ and Handel’s ‘Dixit Dominus’ with the Anton Bruckner Choir, accompanied by the London Mozart players.

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