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Good Vibes Music Academy Showcase (Susan Elkin reviews)

Good Vibes Music Academy Showcase

Corn Exchange, Newbury

20 May 2024

Good Vibes Music Academy provides music tuition and support in the Newbury area for students of all ages. This showcase, part of the Newbury Spring Festival was curated by Good Vibes but, as its CEO Steve Christmas told the audience,  featured only two groups with which GV has direct involvement. The rest simply reflect musical activity in the area and there seems to be a great deal going on in Newbury.

Notwithstanding the presence of some adult groups it it felt like a miniature version of the Music for Youth Proms (formerly known as Schools Proms) with well known local man, Chris Boulton doing the compère job that Richard Stilgoe used to do. And given the “cast” of this show, it’s hardly surprising that Newbury Corn Exchange was filled to the gunwales with proud, excited parents, siblings and grandparents.

It’s always a treat to see young people achieving things. Saint Bart’s Senior Band – wind and percussion with a few strings are outstanding. Their take on The Lady is a Tramp, complete with a fabulous saxophone solo had me on the edge of my seat. So did Burghclere School Brass band (it’s a primary school!) who played with support from Watership Brass Band. What an experience for these very young children to work with experienced adults. They all looked wonderfully confident. I have never seen anyone of such small stature play such a large trombone as the young girl in this group.

NOMADS, the local community musical theatre company contributed three numbers from different shows. I have no names but the woman who sang The Wizard and I from Wicked is seriously talented. Soul Reason is an adult choir formed online during Lockdown and their opening number (they did three Beatles songs) was sung unaccompanied with beautifully tuned harmony.

After doing two songs with admirable precision, two combined choirs from St Gabriel’s School provided the backing for Sweet Child of Mine and Good Vibrations played by the Good Vibes House Band (fine guitar work) with two young solo girl singers. The harmonic effects at the end of the second number were nicely done.

All in all, then a pretty uplifting evening although goodness knows why some backstage person decided to smother it all in dry ice “stage smoke” effects which added nothing. Moreover I wish the music choices had been broader. Chris Boulton used the word “eclectic” so many  times that I wanted to offer him a thesaurus but actually it wasn’t. Yes, the range of participants was pleasingly diverse (the evening began with big Year 3-6 choir from John Rankin School) but the music choices were anything but eclectic. It was almost all post-1960 popular music. Surely there was scope a bit of folk, trad jazz, classical etc somewhere in the programme to widen the mix? Education – and that includes music – is about opening doors: introducing learners to things they probably wouldn’t discover on their own.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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