The end-of-term Extravaganza provided an opportunity for pupils and staff to showcase a multitude of musical and creative talents whilst raising money for those in need at Christmas. Here, Nick Russell reviews the evening’s entertainment:
What. A. Show! On Tuesday 11 December the much-loved Christmas Extravaganza became an institution. Launched in 2013, one of the first initiatives of the newly appointed Heads of Year, the idea was to create a platform for the diverse, but often hidden, talent within the whole Epsom Community: staff and students alike. And, in the spirit of Christmas, it was also an opportunity to raise some money for good causes such as Growbaby.
Over the years there has been many an enjoyable evening, but on Tuesday night, under the assured hand of Paul Johnson-Hyde, the Christmas Extravaganza reached a new level. It was an absolute joy from start to finish.
Anticipation was high: every single seat was taken, everyone was looking forward to a good time and, boy, we were not disappointed. Jasmine Bingham (M) and Guy Peppiatt (F) were our hosts and they guided us through the show at a brisk yet leisurely pace with wit and charm. Kicking off the night was Katie ‘Christmas Tree’ Vickers (Rv) with a joyous rendition of All I Want for Christmas is You – and that set the tone: fun, fast and shot-through with many moments of remarkable quality.
Everyone who was lucky enough to be there will have had their own personal favourites – I am sorry not to have time to do justice to the 50-plus members of the College community who entertained us royally for well over an hour – but for this reviewer some moments were particularly memorable. All soloists were special, though for different reasons: the piercingly pure-voiced Daisy Collins (M) (Can’t Help Falling in Love); the powerful gruff sincerity of Will Ludlow (Rn) (Annie’s Song); the accomplished easy naturalness of Jasmine Bingham (Carry Me Home); the mature sophistication of Nara Aligulova (Cr) (I Don’t Want To Be You Anymore) and the astonishing power, precision and clarity of Lily Moram (M) (Defying Gravity).
Meanwhile, Alan Yin (F) showed creativity as well as poise with his Khalid Mashup and Mr Steve Hibbitt was, as ever, hilarious with his adapted maths-infused lyrics for Let It Be – oh, how he yearned for a simpler age before the burden of the bewitching smartphone. He need not have feared – there was no danger of anyone ‘browsing out’ during a show of this quality. The duets were equally captivating with Mr Henson and Mrs Piggot giving a terrific acoustic performance of Shallow while Harry and Millie Milne (P and Hu) combined endearingly for another version of the Maria Carey classic.
Last year Luke Fisher brought the delights of the Barbershop to the College, and it was a joy to see how he’d garnered a fresh set of cheerful young bucks to carry the Barbershop torch into a brave new age; their performance – and their loud jackets – were rivalled only by the Staff Barbershop. Not to be outshone there was also a brilliant Girls Acapella Group who delivered a stunning version of Arianna Grande’s Santa Tell Me arranged by our very own Mr Johns. The sense of fun, allied to inventive musical excellence of these sprightly vocal arrangements, meant they were perfectly suited to the occasion.
And then there were the bands. A Sixth Form group performed Sam McGrath’s (Carr) extremely impressive Tell Me The News and then to round off the night there was a glorious rendition of the Pogues bittersweet masterpiece Fairytale of New York from the staff band. Mr Jim Stephens, seen moments earlier in the guise of a delightfully dapper barbershop singer, rose unsteadily from his piano – like a beaten up Shane Macgowan in Belle Harbor – to engage Rhiannon ‘ the voice’ Johnson at the front of the stage in a full-on musical row. Magnificent!
But arguably the most remarkable moment of the whole evening was the duet of James Macfarlane (Rn) and Ben Abbott (C). Back in 2013, the idea that we could have two Sixth Form boys singing a carol at an Extravaganza would have been laughed out of Big School. It is a testament to how far the College community has come in recent years that over 300 students allowed themselves to become spellbound by a vocal performance imbued with tenderness and sincerity.