The Merton College Music Society has had an exciting year, with the return of many ensembles and events, including the Fidelio Orchestra, the Kodály Choir and the weekly lunchtime recital series in the TS Eliot Theatre. This year, the Music Society has focused on providing musical opportunities and reviving and establishing College ensembles that were not possible during pandemic restrictions, and to do so in a way that drives inclusivity.
The Music Society expanded at the start of this academic year to include a number of committee positions, including a concerts coordinator (Cecily Moorsom, 2020), a chamber music coordinator (Lewis Lee, 2021), a secretary (Jamie Cochrane, 2019), a treasurer and social secretary (Shaunak Desai, 2021), and a social media officer (Kit Thickett, 2020), with a view to making the music society more inclusive to non-music students. At the start of the next academic year, the role of president, traditionally taken up by second-year music students, will be open to students from any subject area for the first time in many years.
MCMS has hosted a series of Beginner’s Conducting Workshops this year, led by Senior Organ Scholar Kentaro Machida (2019), giving students the rare opportunity to conduct a piano duet version of the orchestra’s repertoire and to receive feedback on their technique in a low-pressure environment, with no previous experience required.
In Michaelmas term, the society hosted a ‘Freshers and Re-Freshers’ concert at the start of term, giving first- and second-year students the opportunity to perform after what was for many a long hiatus. Michaelmas term also featured a return of the College Showcase, an annual event with performances by instrumental award holders from the JCR and the MCR. In the final week of Michaelmas, to celebrate ‘Oxmas’, members of the Kodály Choir and the newly formed Chamber Choir, directed by Eleni Thwaites (2020), went carol singing in various locations around the city centre, raising an impressive total of £275 for the Oxford branch of Sing Inside, a charity that provides singing workshops and musical opportunities in prisons.
In Hilary term, the Fidelio Orchestra performed its first concert since combining forces with the orchestras of Magdalen and University colleges to form a larger intercollegiate ensemble. The concert also featured a performance from the newly formed Chan Quartet, made up of JCR musicians Owen Chan (2020), Megan Harfield (2021), Catherine Dixon (2019) and Anna Stephen (2020). Hilary term also saw the return of the annual Musical Soirée with a variety of performances including an impressive performance by Eric McElroy (2018) of his own original piano composition, a piece for recorder player and two interpretative dancers, ‘The Actor with the Monkey’, performed by Cecily Moorsom, and a debut performance by the College Chamber Choir. Towards the end of Hilary term, MCMS held the society’s first chamber music concert, featuring performances from some newly formed College chamber ensembles, including the Chamber Choir.
The lunchtime recital series, now operating on a weekly basis, has seen a high standard of solo and chamber music performances throughout the year, and even original compositions, by students both from the JCR and the MCR. The series has included a termly Baroque Recital in the College Chapel, newly established by choral award holders Ciara Williams (2021), Kit Thickett, and Cecily Moorson at the start of this academic year. While the lunchtime recital series has featured student performers from a wide range of subjects, it has also provided an excellent opportunity for final-year music students to perform repertoire in preparation for conservatoire auditions and for Finals recitals.
Final-year music students Jamie Cochrane and Kentaro Machida both scored very highly in their final recitals, achieving marks in the high 70s and 80s. Jamie secured scholarships in courses at both the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Next year, the Music Society hopes to see the continued success of the many College ensembles and traditions that were revived and newly established this academic year, and to continue to strive towards greater inclusivity and a broader reach in the College community.
Catherine Dixon (2019)
MCMS President 2021-22