Orchestras, Choirs, Bands & Ensembles
Membership of the following groups is open to all boys, whether they learn their instrument inside or outside the College.
Junior School Orchestra, Junior School Wind Band and Purcell String Orchestra
Uniquely, the Junior School offers its own ensembles to the boys in Years 3 to 6. The Junior School Orchestra and Wind Band perform in the major Junior School occasions and at their own dedicated Junior School Concert held in the Lent term. The Purcell String Orchestra rehearses throughout the academic year and is an important training orchestra for boys in the early stages of their development as musicians.
Concert Orchestra & Concert Band
Boys who have been playing in Junior School Orchestra or Wind Band subsequently join the Concert Orchestra and/or Concert Wind Band together with boys who are new to the College. These ensembles currently number approximately 40 boys, ranging in age from Years 6 to 11, standard Grades 2 to 6. The repertoire is mainly light, with an emphasis on training boys to play well as an ensemble, improve sight reading and discover the enjoyment of playing with others. They perform in the annual Great Hall concert and in the case of the Wind Band, on Founder’s Day.
Brass Sinfonia performs in the annual Great Hall concerts and on Founder's Day. They also perform at outside events and will be taking part in music festivals in the future. The emphasis here is to perform accessible repertoire with a sense of humour!
Symphonic Wind Band
As the boys’ playing progresses, they are selected to join the College’s premier wind ensemble, the Symphonic Wind Band. This group of around sixty boys – all post Grade 7 and it has the opportunity to perform at the College’s major concerts including Founder’s Day at the end of the Summer term. The Symphonic Wind Band have undertaken many overseas tours in the past, for example to Spain, Hungary and Austria.
Boys are auditioned for the seats in the College Big Band and are of at least Grade 8 standard. Like the Symphonic Wind Band, the Big Band has a high profile routine in the annual Founder’s Day concert and performs regularly at the Hideaway in Streatham.
Other Big Band
The “Other” Big Band is for boys who aspire to play in the College Big Band. This is a lively group of about 25 boys performing in the traditional Big Band format and who are of Grade 6/7 standard. They perform in a number of College concerts throughout the academic and have developed their own clear musical identity in recent years.
The College Brass Consort is a group of the strongest brass players in the College based on the now traditional ‘Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble’ format. Their repertoire is demanding but approachable. It is a flexible ensemble in that it fits comfortably in concert next to the larger ensembles such as Symphony Orchestra but also suits a more intimate chamber ensemble environment. The group recently performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Concert at the Southbank Centre.
Dixieland Jazz Band
This is a recent addition to the range of ensemble opportunities at the College. It performs traditional Dixieland music from the Harry Gold era. The line-up even includes a sousaphone!
The Symphony Orchestra is one of the College’s major instrumental ensembles. Boys are auditioned at the beginning of the academic year for a seat in this Orchestra and will have achieved at least Grade 7 on their instrument. Boys may join the Symphony Orchestra when new to the College or progress to it from the College’s Second Orchestra which has an individual standard of at least Grade 5. The Symphony Orchestra performs works from the core orchestral repertoire and plays at the College’s major concerts given in some of London’s finest venues.
The College Chamber Orchestra comprises the very top string players in the school, regardless of age. Boys are selected from the Symphony Orchestra for which they must already have reached Grade 7 and have successfully auditioned. Most of the boys in the Chamber Orchestra are post Grade 8 players. In the last nine years the Dulwich College Chamber Orchestra has undertaken some challenging repertoires, including Bartok’s Divertimento for Strings and Elgar’s Serenade for Strings. They have also played modern works by contemporary composers such as Matthew Hindson.
Alan Morgan Chamber Orchestra
The Alan Morgan Chamber Orchestra (2nd Chamber Orchestra) is for the more advanced young players from the Concert Orchestra. This offers them a chance to play more sophisticated music and, most recently, to play commissions by such notable composers as Stanley Glasser.
Britten String Ensemble
The Britten String Ensemble is for any boy of any age who is of about Grade 2 to 5 standard. The ensemble performs in Great Hall Concerts and assemblies.
This ensemble rehearses for an hour every week and performs at the annual Percussion Department concert in November, as well as performing as a Samba Band on Founder’s Day.
Black ‘n Blues & Alleynian Blues
Black ‘n Blues is the College’s premiere Barbershop group and it performs in a variety of concerts throughout the academic year including School Assemblies. The Singing Department maintains close relations with the other two Foundation Schools: James Allen's Girls School and Alleyn's School. Alleynian Blues consists of members of all three schools and performs in various concerts over the course of the year including in the jazz concert at the Hideaway. It has produced four CDs which were recorded and produced at the College.
There are many smaller groups across all ages and instruments that come together to perform. The main groups are the String Quartet, the Wind Octet, the Brass Dectet and the Piano Trio. The best chamber ensembles have performed at St John’s Smith Square, Cadogan Hall and in the Foundation Schools’ Wednesday Lunchtime concert series in Christ’s Chapel.
House based ensembles are an important part of the boys’ music during an academic year. Each House produces an a capella choral group as well as a rock band for annual competitions.
In 2019 Dulwich College was awarded Independent School of the Year for the Performing Arts, acknowledging the work and talent of the Drama and Music departments. The award was conferred by Independent School Parent magazine.