Instrumental Music News

Senior Strings Festival

Over Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday selected BGGS string students participated in rehearsals and tutorials for the combined festival orchestra for the Senior Strings Festival held at BGS. Featuring some of the highest calibre string students from many schools around Brisbane, the students worked extremely hard to prepare a selection of the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi and the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla. The festival orchestra was conducted by Mr Chin and featured internationally acclaimed violin soloist and recent Masters of Music graduate of The Juilliard School, Ms Courtenay Cleary.

Our girls represented BGGS with gusto and worked through the hours of rehearsals and tutorials to master the extended string playing techniques included in the repertoire, which ranged from col legno (hitting the string with the wooden part of the bow), Bartok pizzicato (purposefully plucking the string so it hits the fingerboard), harmonic glissandos (rapidly moving left-hand fingers up and down the string while bowing, to create a large array of harmonics) and many more varied bowing articulations, dissonant harmonies, and rhythmic challenges. Congratulations to Elizabeth Fox (11O) who was outstanding in her tricky solo viola section at the start of Portena (Spring) by Piazzolla and to Irene Shim (11G) for her soli pizzicato ‘mandolin’ playing at the end.

The concert on Tuesday night also featured performances by the top string orchestras of all the schools invited, including our very own Chamber Strings conducted by Ms Pollicina. They performed Hungarian Rhapsody Op.68 by David Popper, featuring Michelle Jeong (12W), on Cello and Beyond the Shadow by Robert Davidson.

The concert was a great success with our students representing our Instrumental Music program with professionalism and outstanding musical prowess. We look forward to the upcoming Intermediate String Festival (for Albinoni, Bartok, and Copland Strings) on Monday and Tuesday afternoons in Week 5, and the Junior String Festival (for Dvorak and Elgar Strings) on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons in Week 9.

Combined Festival Orchestra Rehearsal Sunday

Mr Chin and Soloist Courtenay Cleary

Myella Jago (10H), Bella Cheng (9B), Madison Beltrame (11L), Sujin Ahn (11R), Elizabeth Fox (11O), Charlize Chang (10H) and Irene Shim (11G)

Jacqueline Hii (11R) and Kaiyu Su (10R)

Aurora Lin (7B), Charlize Chang (10H), Stephanie Bird (10H), Josephine Fenech (11M) and Madison Beltrame (11L)

Tiffany Yuen (8R) and Aurora Lin (7B)

Lunchtime performances

On Friday 29 July, Wind Symphony, Chamber Winds, Concert Winds, Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, and Wind Band performed for an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. These bands were preparing for combined performances at Open Day, so it was wonderful to be able to display all the hard work the students had put into this music.

Big congratulations to all the students and staff involved for your resilience, flexibility, dedication, and musicianship.

Ruby Turra (9L) performing on Bass Clarinet

Poppy Barry (8R) and Jessica Allinson (7B)—Euphonium, Alexis Cho (8M) and Anna Hodge (8L)—Bassoon

Chamber Winds and Wind Symphony directed by Mr Johnston

Emily Chang (7O), Muning Zhao (7O) and Celeste Garry (7H) enjoying the performance

Elgar Strings video performance

Although Open Day was cancelled this year, that didn’t stop Elgar Strings from putting on a concert! During their rehearsal time in Week 3, they workshopped and recorded a fun-filled performance. Repertoire in this beginner ensemble has advanced to three parts, and this program includes pizzicato (plucking), arco (bowing), dynamics and articulation. There is even a little ‘spooky’ surprise if you keep watching to the very end—enjoy! You can view the video below.


On Sunday 14 August, Brisbane Girls Grammar School’s Instrumental Music Department will present the annual Gala Concert in the Great Hall of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre (BCEC). This year’s Gala will be the first live Gala in three years, so our entire community of staff, students, and families are incredibly excited to produce what promises to be a truly stunning Gala event.

The BCEC Great Hall has hosted some of the entertainment industry’s biggest names and we are very excited to share the space with our audience, to stage a truly remarkable and awe-inspiring concert. We will showcase some of our most gifted musicians, ensembles, and directors throughout the evening.

Luminescence will feature incredible lighting effects, state-of-the-art audio-visual experiences, and the outstanding musicianship of our students. We guarantee you will see and hear new and innovative elements you have never before experienced at previous Gala performances.

Tickets for Luminescence can now be booked here.

From the teaching studio

This week, we caught up with Mrs Wendy Rolls in one of her vocal lessons with some of our Year 8 vocal students, Grace Jackson (8M), Remy Kalinin (8H), Kyleen Tseng (8H), and Chelsea Yan (8M).

The girls were warming up and preparing to rehearse one of the Chamber Music songs they have been working on in their current unit of study.

The warm-up techniques you use are very interesting—what is the purpose of these exercises?

Grace—‘The purpose of these exercises is to help with articulation and to fully warm up your voice.’

Remy—‘Warm-up techniques such as ‘lip trills’ and ‘puffy cheeks’ help singers warm up and get ready to sing, kind of like doing a jog before a sports game.’

Chelsea—‘The warm-up exercises are used to give our voices some time to get used to the range. It’s sort of like stretching for a race and it helps our vocal cords produce clearer sounds.’

Kyleen—‘The warm-up techniques help us with skills that we use while singing. It also gets us ready for rehearsals and performances, as it warms up our voices.’

In the Choral-Vocal department, you appear to work equally on individual skills and ensemble skills. Do the two skill sets overlap? What do you find similar and different between the two?

Grace—‘The skills that you learn for ensemble and individual both help each other out in each department.’

Remy—‘I find it easier to work by myself because I don’t have to worry about the people around me. My progress is my own. Both styles of singing involve skills like splat breathing and memorisation but with individual work, self-responsibility is easier and better to develop for me personally.’

Chelsea—‘The two skill sets sometimes overlap, you have to know your part and be able to deliver it. However, when you work by yourself, you don’t have to listen to the others as much because you are going solo and not as much teamwork is involved.’

Kyleen—‘The individual skills and the ensemble skills do overlap, they both help us build our singing voices and our confidence. I find that we use our individual skills while performing by ourselves, but also when we are performing as an ensemble.’

What is your favourite aspect about being involved in the Choral-Vocal department in Instrumental Music?

Grace—‘My favourite aspect of the department is that the teachers are always open-minded and help you no matter what you need.’

Remy—‘I like seeing my friends, singing and hearing new music. I’m not sure I can really nail down why I enjoy it.’

Chelsea—‘My favourite aspect of doing choir is probably the fact that it is a good way to meet new people and also have a fun time with my friends.’

We took an opportunity to ask Mrs Rolls to reflect on her teaching at BGGS.

For how long have you worked in the Choral-Vocal department at BGGS? And what are the key features you see that distinguish it in our School community?

Mrs Rolls—‘This is my fourth year at BGGS. The Choral-Vocal department is very special! Although many schools offer group instrumental lessons, lessons in voice are not common. This is evidence that Instrumental Music is highly valued at BGGS and is resourced accordingly. Having access to Group Vocal lessons for any students who want it is incredibly special. Students can learn to develop their singing skills and performance confidence without having to ‘go it alone’. Being able to learn with a friend is a bonus!’

What do you view as the main purpose of music teaching generally at BGGS?

Mrs Rolls—‘The primary purpose, as I see it, is to develop the skills of a musician, both individually and collectively. The experience of growing as a musician helps develop confidence, persistence towards long-term goals, and working together as a team, not to mention feeding one’s soul through making music.

I believe our choirs are richer for having students who can sing with improved breath management and a healthy resonant sound, plus the ability to read music and hold a harmony part, all of which are developed in the Group Vocal program. Additionally, the development of intonation, audiation, and general musicianship is of benefit to instrumentalists. Singing helps reduce stress, and singing together builds camaraderie and teamwork. Since it doesn’t require an instrument, singing is the most portable means of music-making!’

What do you find most rewarding about teaching within the Instrumental Music department at BGGS?

Mrs Rolls—‘The most rewarding thing for me is working with highly skilled and supportive colleagues who challenge and encourage me in my own learning and my teaching practice. Since teaching adolescent girls undergoing voice change is the topic of my PhD research, I love that I can bounce ideas around with my colleagues. I also love making music with my students and seeing them grow in confidence and sound. After working on singing technique earlier in the year, recently the focus has moved to singing harmonies in the Chamber Music unit. Term 4 though is the ice-cream term: “Choose Your Own Adventure”.’

Mrs Wendy Rolls working with Grace Jackson (8M), Remy Kalinin (8H), Chelsea Yan (8M), and Kyleen Tseng (8H) in their vocal lesson

MSG News

Thank you to everyone who volunteered to assist at our Open Day stalls, we were looking forward to seeing you all.

The next major music event is, of course, the Gala Concert on 14 August. As the venue staff will look after ushering etc, we have no specific role except to help pack up at the end of the night. Music staff will have been on site since early morning and would love any assistance you could offer. Please sign up here.

And then, mark your diaries for our inaugural Soirée on 8 October!

Looking Ahead

  • Intermediate Strings Festival—Monday 8 and Tuesday 9 August
  • BGGS Gala Concert—Sunday 14 August
  • Junior Strings Festival—Tuesday 6 and Wednesday 7 September