Monday, 13 May 2019 10:53

Soloists past and present at QE Girls’ service Featured

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Guest soprano Penelope Martin-Smith with fellow vocalist, year-8 pupil Akua Nkansah at QE Girls’ School commemoration day service Guest soprano Penelope Martin-Smith with fellow vocalist, year-8 pupil Akua Nkansah at QE Girls’ School commemoration day service
Among the highlights at the annual commemoration day service for Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School were vocals by one of the youngest pupils and another by a past student whose musical training in Barnet inspired her to become an accomplished soprano.

Akua Nkansah (13) opened the service with an early 18th century Italian aria, Gia il sole dal Gange, and guest soprano, Penelope Martin-Smith, a pupil at QE Girls’ from 1969 to 1976 gave the finale, Let the Bright Seraphim, from Handel’s Samson.

The service, held at St John the Baptist, was led by the Rector, Father Chris Ferris, and the act of commemoration, originally read in 1923, was given by the headteacher, Violet Walker.

Violet Walker, headteacher, welcoming guests at St John the Baptist. From left to right, the Rector Father Chris Ferris, the Deputy Lieutenant for Barnet, Martin Russell, the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, Violet Walker, Martyn Bradish, chairman of the endowment fund for the schools of Queen Elizabeth the first, Barnet, and Neil Enright, headteacher of Queen Elizabeth’s Boys’ SchoolViolet Walker, headteacher, welcoming guests at St John the Baptist. From left to right, the Rector Father Chris Ferris, the Deputy Lieutenant for Barnet, Martin Russell, the Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Reuben Thompstone, Violet Walker, Martyn Bradish, chairman of the endowment fund for the schools of Queen Elizabeth the first, Barnet, and Neil Enright, headteacher of Queen Elizabeth’s Boys’ SchoolAfter the service, the Deputy Lieutenant of Barnet, Martin Russell, was one of the first to congratulate Akua Nkansah on her solo opening the event. He told her she had a fine voice and great poise and control.

His praise was echoed by guest soprano Ms Martin-Smith who was full of admiration for Akua’s mature and accomplished performance on discovering the year-8 pupil had learned to sing with a church choir.

Akua is the youngest member of the Christ Embassy Church choir of Barnet and she said her greatest pleasure was to perform with the QE Girls’ choir because it was a chance to sing with other girls of her age group.

She was equally full of praise for the final vocal solo by Ms Martin-Smith. “It was amazing to hear her. I was just blown away, especially thinking she sang with the QE Girls’ choir here in this church almost fifty years ago.”

Ms Martin-Smith’s appearance as guest soprano was a trip down memory lane because her mother, Ann Plank was a pupil at QE Girls’ from 1944 to 1951 and her grandmother, Beatrice Bull, a former head girl, studied there from 1903-1910. Her grandmother’s sisters Dorothy Bull and twins Merle and Mavis Bull were also pupils at QE Girls’

“You can imagine how special it was for me to join today’s choir at QE Girls’ and to hear the two vocal soloists, Akua and year-11 pupil Sibel Kurnaz who sang Ave Maria, who both gave such mature and accomplished performances.

“We had a very keen choir in the 1970s and studying music at QE Girls’ inspired me to complete my musical training,” said Ms Martin-Smith, who is vocal director of the baroque group Vivaldi’s Women.

Singing again at St John the Baptist had brought back many memories. Her father, Arthur Martin-Smith was organist at the church and her brothers were choristers. Her grandfather Douglas Plank was editor of the Barnet Press during the war years.

In his address, the Rector encouraged the pupils to celebrate their successes at school rather allow themselves to question the value of their achievements when they might find themselves bombarded by the false images of social media in a world that for some was troubled by self-harm and low esteem.

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