KEGS House Music: The KEGS Spirit in Action

The Strutt House Choir

There is a lot that goes on at my school that I absolutely love.  But, without doubt, House Music is the highlight.  In fact, it is my favourite school event anywhere, ever.  The centre-piece of the annual House Competition, House Music not only provides a superb afternoon of entertainment, it also encapsulates so much of the school ethos.  As such, it is a celebration of the whole school and our highly valued ‘KEGS Spirit’.

House Music regular, Jasdeep, plays dhol beats to an adoring crowd.

The format is simple:  Each of the four houses, Mildmay, Holland, Strutt and Tindal (named after key figures in the school’s early history) puts together a 25 minute programme of five acts, with two comperes from each house to guide us through.  We squeeze almost the entire school into the hall for the afternoon to watch; three guest judges adjudicate and decide the winner.  Winning House Music matters a great deal at KEGS… it is almost the ultimate goal!

The Tindal 'technical piece', with string trio
The Tindal ‘technical piece’, with string trio

There are some rules:  Each programme has to include a choir, a band, a junior piece, a senior piece and a ‘technical’ piece. Each act is scored out of 20, additional points are awarded for the overall quality of the programme and points are deducted for running over time, for messing up the rehearsal rooms or arranging choir practices that clash with the official orchestra or wind-band rehearsals.  There is also a theme each year… this year, very simply, it was House Colours.  Last year it was ‘Music from Films’.  The range of music is stunning.  Large choirs, each supported by a band, the rock bands, soloists playing cello, guitar, piano, violin, dhol, jazz bands, string quartets, duets, trios…  The standard is very high. Here is a sample from this year’s event:

  • Mr Blue Sky, Electric Light Orchestra:  Holland House Choir (and band)
  • Sarabande from Suite for solo cello, J.S.Bach:   Ben Kimberley (Mildmay)
  • Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano, Joseph Horovitz,: Will Foster and David Wringe (Strutt)
  • Allegro, Piano Sonata in D Major, W.A. Mozart: Dylan Man (Tindal)
  • Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Frankie Valli: Tindal Jazz Band, feat. Bradley Starr on vocals
  • Blue Mountain River,  Cara Dillon:  Holland Senior/Technical Piece.  …my personal highlight.
Charlie Roberts singing ‘Ben Howard’ beautifully.

The beauty of the whole event is that it is entirely student-run. The music department sets out the parameters but the programmes, the selection of the musicians and the organisation of rehearsals are completely left to students.  For several weeks running up to the event, there is a frenzy of activity behind the scenes.  Wandering around at lunchtimes and breaks you can stumble across 50 students in a classroom or even in the playground singing in four-part harmony with a Sixth Former conducting.  There are multiple assembly announcements that become an art-form in themselves (this year, Strutt House Captain Brinny P, took us on a ride through his rap-announcements.)

Holland House play Hysteria by Muse.

In the end this year, it was a close run contest between Holland and Strutt, with Holland winning by 2 points.  Mildmay and Tindal weren’t far behind.  Congratulations to Chloe Reynolds, brilliant Holland Music Captain, and Andrew Davies… their leader!  For the first time, we used twitter to commentate on the entire event with the hashtag #KEGSHouseMusic and Director of Music, Tim Worrall, @musotim, gave a full run-down with his guess of the scores:

The students love House Music as much as I do.  And here is where the ethos kicks in.  There is a high level of ‘vertical modelling’ going on… the younger students see how the older students go about things; how they lead rehearsals, drum up support in the House assemblies, how willing they are to put the hours in to get things right.  Students will often say how they aspired to lead House Music or to play in the House band from Year 7.  The winning House this year told me that they’d rehearsed ‘Mr Blue Sky’ every breaktime for over two weeks with a total of 12 rehearsals. Other acts rehearse for much longer than that. The passion and commitment comes from them; it matters to them a great deal so they willingly go far beyond the extra mile to do as well as they can.  The competitive element is a vehicle, a mechanism for mobilising students into action.

House Music is a typical of our approach to student leadership.  We create structures and then leave the rest to the students.  The can turn to members of staff as much or as little as they choose.. but basically, once we launch the event, we just wait until the day, turn up and it happens. The students make it happen – and that includes the legendary ‘Tekky’ crew who do all the lighting, spending hours in advance rigging it all up.

The tears of joy at the announcement of the results illustrate how much it means to them… and this year the #KEGSHouseMusic twitter feed provided an interesting follow-up.  I already can’t wait to next year.. although, first, next term, we get House Drama!  That is very special too….


  1. Hi,
    I am teacher in a large school in a Montreal which is both an elementary and high school. We also are a performing arts school. I am keen to tackle the challenge of implementing a house system. I have no idea what i am doing but have tons of ideas. Have you come across any articles or info that could help me get this up and running?


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