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The inaugural Voices of Woodard Weekend took place from 6th – 8th October, hosted by Ellesmere College and led by the Senior Provost, Justin White. Bringing together 120 students and 15 staff from across 6 Woodard Schools, our aim was to immerse students in the music associated with the services of Evensong and Eucharist, allow the students to build on their vocal skills and have the opportunity to get to know one another.

Students from Sir Robert Woodard Academy in West Sussex, Worksop College in Nottinghamshire, Crompton House C of E School in Oldham, Queen Mary’s School in North Yorkshire and The Peterborough School arrived on Friday lunchtime where they were given a warm Ellesmere welcome and lunch.

We started our rehearsals with a run through of Mozart’s Ave Verum, the new choir finding their feet quickly. From this point the group started to warm to the challenge, producing some wonderful sounds and showing great team skills.

On Friday evening we moved to our base at The Quinta in Gobowen for a BBQ and Ceileidh where the students got to know one another and embraced the dancing with energy and enthusiasm. By the end of the night, several students remarked that this was how they would like to celebrate their next birthday!

Rehearsing through Saturday we travelled to Shrewsbury Abbey for Evensong at 4.30pm. The team at Shrewsbury were extremely welcoming and led by Steve Swinden. We were joined by the Headmaster and the High Sheriff, Mandy Thorn who both gave readings at the service, and our Chaplain, Phillip Gration gave a sermon on lions. Singing a range of music including responses by Anthony Coupe, canticles by Stanford and a brilliant performance of ‘The Heavens Are Telling’ from Haydn’s ‘Creation’ as the anthem, the choir completed their first performance challenge.

In the evening we took part in the Senior Provost’s ‘Fiendish Quiz’ back at the Quinta which was enjoyed by all. On Sunday morning, it felt like everyone, staff and students had become a proper family as we embarked on our final challenge, learning and performing the music for Eucharist which included a setting of the mass by Harold Darke.

The staff and students were unanimous in their enjoyment of the weekend which is both a testament to the way in which our students and staff welcomed the visiting schools and the resilience and responsive approach from our guests.

Huge thanks must go to the parents for their support in helping the students to attend and in joining us for the services.

We hope that Voices of Woodard will mark the start of an increased collaboration with other schools in the Woodard group.