After two years of anticipation, Saffron Walden County High School students were at last able to celebrate the opening of Saffron Hall... and they did so in style.

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Inspired by the possibilities, the music and drama departments were determined to host two events which would allow students to exhibit their “enormous talents, fully representing the varied and wide-ranging arts provision in the school as well as doing credit to this state-of-the-art performance space”.

Playing to a full house, students from Years 7 to 13 launched the opening celebrations with the Michaelmas concert on Thursday.

The programme showcased the extensive musical opportunities offered at SWCHS with 17 ensembles taking to the stage.

Musical highlights included the Chamber Choir’s beautiful rendition of For everything there is a season, enhanced by the excellent acoustic of the hall.

Pure Sax and the Samba Band thrilled audiences with their energy and tight ensemble work. The orchestra’s performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony left the audience in little doubt that music-making at SWCHS is the best it has ever been.

It was clear that both students and teachers felt proud and inspired to be able to perform in such an incredible venue.

Alan Broadbent, Head of Music, said: “The students really rose to the occasion magnificently for their first public concert in Saffron Hall.

“Seventeen ensembles took to the stage and without exception performed with a real sense of professionalism and enjoyment. Comments from parents were extremely positive and all the music department staff were very proud of their students.

“Being able to rehearse and perform in a world class venue and acoustic has had a profoundly positive effect on what was already an outstandingly good department.”

On Friday, drama students from Years 11 to 13 collaborated to present An Evening of Shakespeare, featuring three abridged versions of some of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the audience were transported to a magical world of masks and fairylights and roared with laughter at the hilarious antics of the mechanicals.

In contrast, Romeo and Juliet struck a more edgy note with its urban costumes, energy and attitude, reflecting teen culture of today.

Finally, Much Ado About Nothing was both slick and classy with the cast fully exploiting the minimalist set in an imaginative way, the cast ensemble was outstanding.

Euan Wilson, who co-directed Much Ado About Nothing, said: “The night was a great success – the hours of hard work put in from the cast, crew and technical team came together perfectly creating a night of laughs, energy and brilliant acting. Everyone involved felt so honoured to be part of such a prestigious event”.

Anna Moorhouse, Head of Drama, added: “I was so pleased with the evening. The atmosphere was wonderful, the students were fantastic and the audience brilliant. It felt really special and I felt honoured to be part of it and excited about future productions in Saffron Hall.”

Headteacher John Hartley said the two nights of events allowed students to showcase the “very best of their musical and dramatic talents”.

“That their performance achieved this level of excellence was very much down to the enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of our wonderful drama and music staff,” he added.

“Saffron Hall now opens up for us a wealth of new opportunities to extend the range and ambition of our concert and theatre programming.”

A school spokeman said: “These events have demonstrated that arts provision at the school continues to go from strength to strength. This has been validated by the recent ‘Gold ArtsMark’, an award which the school has held since 2000, making SWCHS only one of a handful schools nationally which has retained this prestigious award.

“This event also marked the launch of the school’s new Music Academy, which aims to make SWCHS a centre for regional excellence for music education.”

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