MGGS House Arts 2008
Whilst most schools view September as a time for students to settle into school life, Maidstone Grammar School for Girls kicks off its first annual event within days of term starting.
The MGGS House Arts competition is organised by students who are responsible for almost everything except the choice of judge, putting together a performance in just six weeks.
The subject of the competition revolves in a three year cycle, focusing on either drama, dance or singing. It is a tradition that is estimated by staff to be over 70 years old.
The six school Houses who take part in the competition are named after the various historical inhabitants of the British Isles; Romans, Britons, Saxons, Vikings, Danes and Normans. Each house has three Year 13 Leaders, or Captains, who are elected in the previous summer term.
The singing competition that will take place this year requires Houses to prepare a song of their own choice, a piece composed by the House and a set work that all the Houses must perform. The pieces must all revolve around an annual theme.
This year’s theme which was chosen by MGGS Head of Music, Robert Chapman, is ‘The Meaning of Life.’ The set work is the jazz standard ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing.)’ which was written by composer Duke Ellington and lyricist Irving Mills.
House Arts will be the third house competition lead by the current House Leaders, some of which do not read music. However all of the students are equally nervous, including Vikings House Leader Lauren Howard.
Britons House Leaders appeal for singers
“We’re most nervous about writing our own song. Some of us play instruments but as far as reading music we’re not that skilled so it will be hard to write a whole score from scratch"
Elizabeth Cranney, a Britons House Leader is enthusiastic about the task ahead.
“The first challenge will be getting a decent amount of people into your choir because you don’t want it looking bare! The composed song will probably be our biggest challenge because I’ll find it hard!”
As the theme, ‘The Meaning of Life’ is such a widely debated question, the House Leaders are free to interpret it in any way they like.
“We decided to do ‘Money, Money, Money’ by ABBA because we thought that quite a lot of people think the meaning of life is money and we thought that linked in quite well! Quite a lot of people have materialistic views” says Danes House Leader Ella Dove on the Dane's chosen piece.
The Britons House Leaders are being decidedly ambitious with their chosen work, choosing to perform Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The House must perform an abridged version as each performance is limited to 15 minutes.
Although all students are allocated to a House, taking part in house events is not a compulsory requirement and therefore the House Leaders have to work hard to encourage their students to get involved.
“We want to choose songs that people will be into...and we'll give the students sweets!” Elise Ross of the Saxons House says.
Head teacher Mrs Mary Smith has never experienced the singing part of the House Arts cycle but has been thrilled by the drama and dance competitions that she has witnessed over the past two years.
Romans House Leaders 2006
“I was amazed when I first arrived here because everybody had talked about House Arts but I didn't realise why it engaged everyone with so much enthusiasm until I’d actually experienced House Arts.
“I thought the quality of that first year was stunning. Although there were one or two members of staff on hand to help, basically It was done by students.”
Mrs Smith was also impressed by the high quality of the 2007 House Arts winners, the Romans.
“Their dance production was just phenomenal. It could have been on a professional West End stage.”
This year Mrs Smith is looking forward to hearing – and seeing the results of the 2008 competition.
“There’s nothing I like better than a choir that fills a large room with the sound of their voices. I’m really hoping that they get a big sound.
“What I also hope is that it spins off and students continue with choirs because I think there’s actually nothing as enjoyable as being fully involved in a choir. I think it would be lovely if this provoked students into joining the school choirs.”
The winning House will be decided in on the last day of term in October, when a specially invited judge will view the Houses’ performances and decides who deserves the House Arts Cup.
last updated: 09/09/2008 at 14:32