Director of Music Mr Paul Gaske keeps us up to date with Grammar’s music news.


The Term I Concert and Scholars’ Concert relaunched the live Sydney Grammar School Concert Programme in 2021, albeit it with socially distanced performers and audience members. The winner of the instrumental section of the 2020 Form V Music Competition, Jun McPhee (VI) performed the Concerto for Clarinet by Artie Shaw accompanied by a jazz orchestra in the Term I Concert. Grammarpalooza saw one of the largest audiences it has attracted in recent years and once again raised a considerable amount of money for the Prefects’ charity. James Morrison returned to Grammar for another memorable concert in the John Vallance Hal.

Unfortunately, the sudden lockdown at the very end of the Term II ceased all rehearsals and concerts for the remainder of the school year.Many of our annual events were cancelled, leaving our Form VI boys without their traditional culminating musical activities such as their final concert, the HSC Recital and the Music Dinner. Nonetheless, we are very appreciative of the time and talent that they have demonstrated over their years at College Street.

Music classes, instrumental lessons and some rehearsals did continue, however, with online learning and rehearsing via Zoom (being the norm for most of the year). Boys participated in a series of Lockdown Lunchtime Concerts with video submissions and some ensembles managed some virtual performances. With singing and instrumental playing being regarded as some of the most dangerous activities a boy could do, our normally thriving Music Department was forced into somewhat of a hibernation for the remainder of 2021.

The video below is a montage of our online learning exploits


2021 was looking positive for the hundreds of boys preparing for their Term III AMEB practical examination. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The AMEB devised an intricate system to enable the boys to submit video of their performance for assessment. This meant our Head of Keyboard, Ms Pen Campbell and Keyboard Fellow, Mr Anthony Chen recorded hundreds of backing tracks to accompany the boys’ individual pieces. All the boys entered for written Musicanship examinations passed. The AMEB Shield for “Most Outstanding School” was not presented in 2020 or 2021.

Form V Music Competition

Postponed from the Term III lockdown, boys submitted entries for the annual Form V Music Competition at the very end of the school year. First place in the Instrumental section was won by Rohan Keshava playing the first movement of the Piano Concerto in F Minor by Anton Arensky. Second place was Thomas Henderson on bassoon performing the first movement from the Concerto in B flat K191 by WA Mozart and in third place, on French horn, Jason Fan presenting the first movement from the Horn Concerto in E flat by Richard Strauss. Other notable performances were from Fraser Delbridge (harp), Daniel Zou (violin), and Will Pearson (flute).


Kieran Chan (I) (pictured here) – Piano won first Prize in the international on-line Play Bach Competition – Steps to Bach 12 years and under. His various awards at the Sydney Eisteddfod included performing in the finals of The Alf and Pearl Pollard Memorial Instrumental Award for Performance Excellence.

Milo Abrahams (IV), Blue Barlow (VI) and Michael Chang (VI) won the Woodwind award performing the first movement of the Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano by Francis Poulenc in the national Strike A Chord Competition run by Musica Viva Australia.

Raymond Wang (II) (pictured here) – Clarinet won the Virtuoso Prize (the top prize in the Woodwind and Brass Category) at the Fourth New Talent British International Youth Music Competition and Festival. The Festival received 406 entries from 28 countries, with many candidates, attendees at some of the best music institutions around the world. It is hosted by AY Academy in association with the British Music Society with the Royal Academy of Music as an Official Partner Organisation. The competition jurors are made up of heads of departments and professors at the Royal Academy of Music, and the Director of Music at Harrow School.

Leo Huang (II) – Tuba was the winner of the Dora Simm Trophy at the NSW Band Championships Sydney Eisteddfod for U15 Brass Solo.

Festival of Film Music

Having reached a feeling of normality around music rehearsals and performances by the end of Term I, the Music Department presented their biannual Music Festival – this year focusing on Film Music. Boys participated in a series of concerts and activities all centered around music associated with film. Dr Nicholas Vines presented a lecture on how music is used in films and Mr Paul Reisner gave a lecture on the music in Hitchcock films. The Festival opened with a wonderful presentation on silent film music in which Mauro Colombis discussed how music enhances the action on the screen while he improvised piano accompaniments for the screening of excerpts from some of the seminal silent films from early last century. It was great to see members of the large audience in the Alastair Mackerras Theatre dress in film related costumes! This was followed by Grammar’s own silent film accompanying competition in which several boys were given 24 hours to devise an accompaniment to a selected short film. The primary focus of the Festival was the two concerts presented in the John Vallance Hall. In these concerts, ensembles performed scores from a diverse range of films whilst images from the films were projected on to large screens behind the performing ensembles. Films included Pirates of the Caribbean, Psycho, The Pink Panther, The Lion King, The Mission, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Singing in the Rain and many more.

The video below shows some snapshots of the boys performing at the Festival

Winterreise Concert

“Come over today and I will sing you a cycle of horrifying songs.” Franz Schubert, 1827.

With these words, Franz Schubert invited his friend Joseph von Spaun to the first performance of his Winterreise, a dramatic song cycle about lost love, hope and death. In what could be a world first, Tuesday 15 June saw the culmination of many months of hard work as Mr Koen van Stade’s ambitious vision for his vocal studio was realised: Schubert’s famous song cycle performed in its entirety by a group of College Street boys.

This setting of twenty-four poems by Wilhelm Müller is challenging both musically and intellectually, and it would be a rare occasion on which such demanding repertoire is performed by secondary school boys only. It poses interpretative demands on listeners and performers due to their scale, and structural coherence. Accompanied by Ms Pen Campbell on piano, the concert took both audience members and performers on a moving journey through the emotions of one character as he deals with love and loss. The maturity and skill of the performers was a remarkable experience for all involved.

singing CROP1.jpg

singing CROP2.jpg