Sir William Borlase's Grammar School

Performing Arts

Borlase has a reputation for excellence in the Peforming Arts: Music, Drama and Dance are a very important part of the school’s ethos. We value all the creative arts and believe strongly in the entitlement of all young people to experience specialist teaching of these subjects, giving them the opportunity to develop their confidence, creativity and skills.

The school’s culture is one where pupils share and appreciate one another’s work through regular performance opportunities in assemblies; we recognise the positive impact this has on their confidence when giving presentations in all academic and discussion forums. Music, Drama, Dance and Art are studied by all Key Stage 3 pupils and the subjects are popular at GCSE and A Level with boys and girls. Technical Theatre is also taught in the Sixth Form which complements the learning of our Arts students and our Engineers interested in acoustic and lighting design.

The Arts are not only taught as subjects in their own right, they are also used in other subject areas as part of their creative approaches to teaching and learning. Dance has been used to explore topics across academic disciplines including Electricity in Physics, Elements in Chemistry and Verb-Endings in Modern Foreign Languages! The Drama department collaborated with MFL in 2014 and 2016 in staging productions of Brecht’s Die Gute Mensch and Ionesco’s Rhinoceros.

Extra Curricular

The extra-curricular provision in the Performing Arts is, in the words of The Tatler Magazine’s Good Schools Guide in 2014, “superlative”.

We have seven school choirs as well as small singing ensembles, a symphony orchestra, strings orchestra, jazz orchestra and concert band with many small instrumental groups and junior ensembles. Our musicians perform in concerts throughout the year at school, in local venues and venues further afield. There is a Senior Musical or Play every year and a Junior Musical every other year. We have several major annual Dance events including the Year 7 Cross Curricular Dance Project, Year 8’s Strictly Come Dancing Final and a Contemporary Dance Show. Drama, Music and Dance are fiercely-fought House competitions and every member of the school competes.

We believe in setting very high expectations for performance and our production values are always impressive. We perform with original sets, live student and professional orchestras and innovative lighting in our school theatre. Being involved in the Arts at Borlase for pupils and staff is very special. The most enthusiastic and talented people inspire each other, generating creative energy and producing excellent work while having great fun.”

We are very proud of the achievements of our students. We have pupils who are members of the National Youth Orchestra and Choir and the National Youth Theatre as well as many who perform at county level. We have several students each year who perform in the West End, recently in Oliver!, Matilda and one of our pupils is the lead in Billy Elliot. Old Borlasians have progressed to some of the most prestigious institutions in this country and beyond; we have many former students who have successful careers in the arts and many, many more who simply continue to enjoy the arts as an essential escape from their busy professional lives.

The Rock and Acoustic Scene at Borlase is vibrant; pupils from surrounding schools join our pupils to support the many Borlase bands who perform original compositions as well as interpretations of covers. Rocktober is an annual event and one of our most popular music concerts is the summer open-air rock and acoustic night where parents, staff and pupils picnic on the school grounds and watch bands perform on the outdoor stage.

Writing Poetry and Plays is encouraged in the English Department as well as by Performing Arts and there are annual competitions for pupils in these genres. We have recently developed a new tradition of chairing the Bard, crowning our winning poet in a beautiful oak chair made for us by one of our Year 13 students influenced by Celtic Bardic chairs.

Recent Productions

There is something being performed at Borlase almost every week. The A Level and GCSE Drama students devise their own plays and these are always of a very high standard, as are the many scripted performances. There are regular concerts and performances of Dance. However,  our major productions bring together the staff and students from the different arts disciplines: Technical Theatre, Drama, Music, Dance and Art.  In the last academic year the school's senior musical production of 'Sweeney Todd' set new standards of excellence and this year's senior play, an adaptation of Ibsen's 'An Enemy of the People'.

Facilities

The school is fortunate in having its own theatre with sprung floor which can be adapted to suit Dance, Drama and Music productions. It has professional sound and lighting systems; high-spec projector and cyclorama and various other “toys” for special effects. The Music rooms have Mac suites, concert grand pianos and an adjoining recording studio; we also have several instrumental teaching rooms. We have started to use the Chapel for sacred music concerts using the pipe organ. In a separate room we have another concert standard piano and harpsichord for examinations and baroque evenings. Recently we returned the original school hall in the cloisters back to its original purpose as a performance space and have converted it into a fully-equipped studio theatre. We have a sprung-floored Dance Studio with mirrors and barres which is used for lessons and dance clubs.

Arts Dinner

We celebrate the year’s performances in the Performing Arts at an annual dinner for the senior students and staff. Everyone who has contributed to making the busy programme of events possible across the year is invited and there are live performances as well as film-footage of the highlights.

Staff

KAY MOUNTFIELD Head Teacher and Director of Performing Arts, Production and Direction.
LAUREN ANDERSON Head of Drama, Production and Direction.
SETH MIALL Director of Music.   Musical Direction - Orchestral, Choral, Musical Theatre.
DR BEN PARSONS Assistant Head, Teacher of Music.  Musical Direction – Orchestral, Choral, Strings specialist.
CLAIRE HINDLEY Part Time Dance Teacher, previously Head of Dance. Choreography; Dance across the curriculum.
SARAH RAYNER Drama & English Teacher.  Production and Direction.
KIRSTY ASHBY

Head of Year 11 and Head of Dance. Choreography, Dance Technique, EVOLVE – elite Dance Company.

JENNIFER LEWINGTON-CHISLETT

Performing Arts Technician. Sound & Apple specialist, Technical Theatre Club, Technical Theatre, Production and Direction.

MARK HARTLEY Artistic Director of JAM Theatre Company, Marlow; Teacher of Technical Theatre; Set and Lighting Design and Construction; Musical Direction, Director of the Jazz Orchestra.
CHARLOTTE MORRIS Administrator, Box Office, Bars Manager.
HUGH ROBSON English Teacher, Chapel Organist; Piano, organ and harpsichord accompanist.
JENNY HOPPER Head of MFL; Violinist and piano accompanist.

We also have several in-house Peripatetic Music Teachers led by Seth Miall.

Peripatetic Music & Drama Teachers

We currently offer tuition is 16 separate instruments (including singing), provided by 13 teachers. We adapt to the needs of our pupils so where there is sufficient demand, we will work to provide lessons in school. We also offer LAMDA teaching.

In recruiting our teachers we insist that not only should they be expert teachers, but that they are actively working players. We think this is an important ingredient in ensuring that our students become accomplished performers as well as players, and this is borne out by the excellent contribution their students make to our school concerts and productions.

  • Mr Simon Davie – Brass/Jazz Band/Junior Jazz Band Director
  • Mrs Sue Cossins – Clarinet | Cello
  • Mr David Young – Classical Guitar
  • Mr Simon Bishop – Electric Guitar
  • Mrs Emma Walker – Flute
  • Mr Jon Woodhouse – Saxophone
  • Mr Hugh Robson – Harpsichord and Organ
  • Mr Jason Reeve – Percussion | Piano
  • Mrs Jean Garrett – Piano
  • Mrs Gilly Ross – Singing | Junior Boys’ Choir Director
  • Mrs Robina Redgard-Siler – Singing | Junior Girls’ Choir Director
  • Mrs Marilyn Vanryne – Violin | Viola
  • Mrs Alex Rooke – LAMDA

We also have students who take leadership roles which make it possible for us to offer the wide range of extra-curricular opportunities. These include Choir and Ensemble Musical Directors; Dance Leaders, Drama Club Leaders, Stage Managers and Technical Designers.