At Portsmouth High School music is all-inclusive and is one of the main showcases for creative talents. Everyone is willing to give music a try and, whether or not they take instrumental lessons or go on to pursue a career in music, all of our students enjoy participating in the numerous activities the school has to offer.
All music lessons in the Senior School involve elements of performance, composition, and appraisal. Lessons are exciting, energetic, practical, and fun. Theoretical aspects of music are incorporated into actual music making, not reserved as dry exercises. Students work individually, as well is in pairs and small groups.
Everyone has access to classroom keyboards and percussion as well as a range of orchestral instruments to try. Pupils have opportunities to use ipads, computer software, and multi-track recording equipment as well as traditional manuscript paper for their compositions. As they progress through the school, more advanced features are incorporated into lessons, but the focus is always on practical and enjoyable music.
Music opportunities in the Senior School
The majority of the pupils in the school take or have taken private voice or instrumental lessons and most of these earn grades with the ABRSM or Trinity boards.
There are opportunities to perform almost every week from informal recitals in the atrium, to large concerts in the main hall, to high-profile services and events at churches and the local cathedral. The school commissions from renowned composers a new, large-scale work to be performed every year at the Gala Concert, most recently, Bruno Newman’s The Willow Tree and Toby Hession’s Seasons and What Will the Children Remember? The school runs a range of popular ensembles to participate in these events, and soloists are always in demand. The school regularly stages full-scale musical productions, which have included in the last few years Hairspray, Anything Goes, The Wizard of Oz, Beauty and the Beast, and Sister Act.
Opportunities extend beyond school such as annual music tours (2014 Belgium; 2015 Italy, 2016 Sorrento, Pompeii and the Bay of Naples; 2018 Budapest; 2019 New York; 2020 Amsterdam; 2021 Barcelona), collaborations ranging from Chichester University’s Gala Concert to The Drifters and Foreigner UK concert tours, and theatre excursions for each year group (London, Glyndebourne, Bournemouth). There is something to appeal to everyone and we are always delighted to welcome new pupils to come and get involved.
Find out more about some of our recent soloists at this year’s Gala Concert, a highlight of the musical calendar – Musician Case Studies
Drama is different. You don’t sit at a desk and you do a lot of talking and moving around. It is the lesson where imagination is the key element, along with the confidence to share ideas and physically to show your work in front of others. We aim to develop these aptitudes, along with understanding of how plays are made and performed. The practical design skills of costume, set design, lighting and sound are part of the drama experience: as well as acting, these are skills to be taken for the examination years. Drama changes your way of thinking, so that you are able to approach tasks with immediacy and energy.
Key Stage 3
In Key Stage 3 we move from the basics of drama skills and group working in Year 7, through various dramatic styles in Year 8, to in Year 9 empowering pupils to use drama to explore issues and themes using their repertoire of methods, and their ‘drama toolbox’.
Key Stage 4
In Key Stage 4, we follow AQA GCSE, enabling a wide range of drama to be explored and performed, where pupils have leeway to follow their own enthusiasms and take them further.
At A Level, also AQA, academic study always leads to realisation of theatre and drama, whether the practical performance or the writing about performance, design or directing.
Co-curricular drama is a popular enterprise, from Year 7, 8 and 9 drama clubs, led by Sixth Formers, to performances of plays large and small for an audience. We put on a musical every other year, and each year there are several drama plays: every girl has the opportunity to be in an exciting venture in drama each year of their time here at PHS, from Year 7 to Sixth Form. We perform in theatres such as New Theatre Royal, and the Minerva at Chichester, and at the Edinburgh Fringe. Girls are encouraged to direct and write plays for others to perform and there is much opportunity for independent leadership challenges, including as Sixth Form Drama Scholars.
To enrich what we do in the curriculum, each pupil can expect to see live theatre each year, to enable them to apply best practice to their own.