'Astonishing' improvements in musical talent thanks to lockdown

King's Ely pupil wins music award

Ayala Gate (centre) was named intermediate instrumentalist of the year at King's Ely's senior instrumental music festival. Ayala is pictured with judge Sarah James and Neil Porter-Thaw, director of music at King's Ely. - Credit: King's Ely

Students at a city school battled it out in front of a global audience to see who would reign supreme in their annual music event. 

King’s Ely were determined to stage the school’s senior instrumental music festival despite Covid-19 restrictions, and the outcome was rather impressive. 

The festival saw musicians from year nine to 13, all within year group safety bubbles, hit the high notes ahead of the finalists’ concert. 

Neil Porter-Thaw, director of music at King’s Ely, said: “It appears one good thing that has come out of lockdown is the amount of time students have devoted to their instruments.  

“The improvement in some areas is astonishing.” 


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The concert, streamed live from King’s Ely’s Recital Hall, saw over 410 devices tune in from around the world. 

Those competing for the prizes were: Daniel Millard, Connor Marshall, Sam Trueman, Ayala Gate, Lily McCallum, James Schoenberg, Miriam Reveley, Eleanor MacGillivray, James Wilkinson, Charlotte Bradley and Eleanor Wallace. 

King's Ely star wins another music award

Miriam Reveley (centre) with Sarah James and Neil Porter-Thaw. Miriam was crowned senior instrumentalist of the year and also won the Walser Trophy. - Credit: King's Ely

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All pupils competed to win three separate categorise, each coming with its own piece of silverware. 

Organist Miriam Reveley, who won a string of prizes for her organ playing last year, was named senior instrumentalist of the year and picked up the Walser Trophy. 

Eleanor MacGillivray won the highly commended award for her performance on piano, while Ayala Gate was crowned intermediate instrumentalist of the year and picked up the Walser Cup. 

King's Ely pupil wins at school music festival 2021

Eleanor MacGillivray won the highly commended award for her performance on piano at the King's Ely's senior instrumental music festival. - Credit: King's Ely

Mr Porter-Thaw was pleased with the turnout, despite restrictions. 

He said: “We were sorry that Covid restrictions meant the finalists’ concert was without an audience, but we were pleased to have more than 410 devices from across the globe tuning in on the evening.   

“If you missed the live streaming, the music department will be producing a video in celebration of the students’ performances.” 

He added: “Thank you to everyone who made the festival such a success.” 

The competition, judged by musician Sarah James, is not the only way King’s Ely have tried to lift pupils’ spirits during the pandemic. 

Last December, year 12 students donated dozens of shoeboxes filled with different items from food to games to Ely Foodbank as part of the school’s Christmas shoebox appeal. 

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