Goodbye Mr Donald

Music

Goodwill messages to Hampton School’s Director of Music, Mr Iain Donald, have been flooding in throughout the Autumn Term. Hampton pupils past and present came together to reflect on his 23-year Hampton career with a celebratory Christmas Concert. Fifth Year pupil, Josh Bartholomew, reports on Mr Donald’s time at Hampton:

Mr Donald’s vibrant presence in the Music Department has touched many over the years and dozens of alumni returned to express their thanks and appreciation at his celebratory concert. Two players rejoined the School Orchestra for this special occasion, having participated in Mr Donald’s first tour of Konstanz in 1996 – a trip which continues to this day. In his 23 years at the School, Mr Donald has overseen a remarkable change in the Hampton Music Department.

When I first started, I was the only full-time member of staff. The Assistant Director of Music dedicated half their time to Drama. As the numbers went up and Music started to become a more popular choice for GCSE and A Level, we expanded the Department and today we have four teachers who contribute to both the teaching and extra-curricular life of the School.”

Music productions are a highlight of the School Calendar, with the Senior Musical and Choral Society concerts just some of the many popular performances.

“Some of the musicals have been very exciting to do. Les Misérables in particular. The show itself was spectacular and the staging very special. We’ve done some big concerts with the Choral Society. We joined forces with Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra to do Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius. For the School’s 450th Anniversary celebrations in 2007, we went to Guildford Cathedral and performed the whole of Handel’s Messiah, without any cuts!”

It was one such musical which saw Mr Donald make his first foray to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“We went up to the Fringe with Sweeney Todd in 2009 and that was my first experience of the festival. It was a 17-day run, so we did basically the whole of the Fringe. About seven years ago we went to Paris with the School Choir, and the boys were saying ‘Can we do a show in Edinburgh’, because some of the older ones had been in Sweeney Todd when it went to the festival. We looked for a show to do, but we couldn’t find one, so we decided to do a choir tour. I was on the coach, travelling to Paris, and I thought ‘Why don’t we just take the Gents Choir?’ We did exactly that, performed five shows and were successful, so the next year we went and did eight shows.”

Since the first trip to Edinburgh in 2013, Voices of Lions has grown from strength to strength, reaching the final of the Choir of the Year competition in 2014, and building a core of loyal fans who visit their shows at the Fringe every year.

As Mr Donald’s time at Hampton draws to an end after 23 remarkable years, there is a clear sense that the choirs, and the Music Department as a whole have hugely benefited from his wealth of musical proficiency, teaching expertise and good spirit.

We wish Mr Donald well on his retirement and from all the boys who have had the pleasure of being taught by him over the years, Thank you!