St Francis School Celebrates 75 Years of Music Making

Written by Sue Round on .

Headteacher David Sibson and Head of Music Becky Saunders with St Francis School musiciansHeadteacher David Sibson and Head of Music Becky Saunders with St Francis School musiciansSt Francis School’s past and present pupils came together to perform a concert in St John the Baptist Church, Pewsey on Friday evening, March 18.  The concert was part of the school’s 75th anniversary celebrations.

The school orchestra, two choirs, soloists, and instrumental groups entertained the audience with a wide variety of music.

Becky Saunders, Head of Music, said, “It is wonderful to have so many involved.  I am especially grateful to our past students who have really inspired our current pupils to keep going with their music."  Music has always been important part of the school which was founded by Miss Phyllis Burden in September 1941 in the Rectory Room in Pewsey, with just four pupils.  The school thrived and moved to Church Street and then to the High Street, Pewsey before moving to the current site on the Pewsey/Marlborough Road. 

Today over 230 pupils aged 2 to 13 years, enjoy the school’s 17 acre site which includes a woodland play & learn area, a school farm as well as extensive sports pitches and facilities.  A brand new nursery is planned for this coming September which will be open for 51 weeks a year and take babies and children from 0 to 4 years.

Over half of all pupils receive instrumental tuition lessons, with many learning a second instrument.

Extract from St Francis School founder Phyllis Burdens DiaryExtract from St Francis School founder Phyllis Burdens DiaryBack in 1942 music at the school was just beginning.  At the concert, Headteacher, David Sibson read from founder Phyllis Burden’s diaries:

Entry May 14th 1942:
The percussion band commenced at 2.30pm and continued each Thursday afternoon throughout the term.  The players were: Jill Lane, Belinda & Caroline Peall, Humphrey Prideaux, Joanna Gilliat, Carmelita Paul, and Verena Fisher. (This would have been the whole school)  The Band made good progress and by the end of the term could play six Nursery Rhymes quite well.

Entry November 15th 1944:
The Percussion Band was asked to play at The Women’s Institute Social Half Hour at 2.45pm in The Bouverie Hall, Pewsey.  We were only nine members so many absent that day (whooping cough).  Belinda & Verena were the conductors.  We played three Folk Tunes arranged by Cecil Sharp.  ‘Rufty Tufty’, ‘The Butterfly’ and ‘If all the World Were Paper”.  Then we danced our little singing Dances;  ‘Falling Leaves’ and ‘How Do You Do My Partner’.

Ollie and Sarah Mattinson ex St Francis pupils perform Waltz for Flute and Clarinet by ShostakovichOllie and Sarah Mattinson ex St Francis pupils perform Waltz for Flute and Clarinet by Shostakovich75th Anniversary celebrations continue throughout this academic year until July 2017.  The school year began with a 1940s themed day : windows were taped, an air raid siren sounded, pupils ate a 1940s style lunch and listened to a radio recording of Winston Churchill. Historian and author Chris Lloyd talked pupils through the decades of the school’s existence interwoven with key events in the school’s development.

The autumn term ended with a pageant performance of Panto from the Past based on the school’s history and written by Head of Drama, Emma Gregson Burt.

The school will hold a Vintage Fete, open to the public on June 24. It will include:  performances by three local choirs (Marlborough Community Choir, Upavon Military Wives, the Bluebell Choir) with songs from the decades of the school’s history;  stalls and activities, vintage cars and military vehicles on display, a tea tent and much more.

The celebrations will end with a Thanksgiving Service at St John the Baptist Church, followed by a buffet lunch for past pupils and staff, tours of the school and visits to the archive room.