Harrodians of all ages rocked out and joined the jam as our latest generation of music star wannabees took to the stage in this year's Battle of the Bands.
On Thursday 27 April, the School Theatre echoed to the sound of original contemporary music of all kinds as young musicians, from singer songwriters to rock bands, competed for the 'Silver Stratocaster' trophy awarded to the winner of Harrodian's annual Battle of the Bands (BoB) contest. Since it was inaugurated in 2008, BoB has been hugely popular and this year was no exception. Eight competing finalists – four singer songwriters and four bands – played to an appreciative audience of parents and pupils that packed the theatre out. Compères for the evening, Jamie L and Woody S (14s/Year 10) known for their recent performances in the drama production of Macbeth, introduced each of the acts with great energy and enthusiasm and ensured the smooth-running of proceedings.
As always, standards were high and competition fierce. This year's soloist prize was awarded to Olivia W in the 14s for her vocal/guitar composition, a song called 'Starbucks'. The 13s/Year 9 group Atlas – Benji L, Marcus H, Jack H – won the band prize with their song 'Born To'. The winners were invited on to stage to meet the judges and lift the Silver Strat trophy, below. Links to video clips of both winning performances can be found at the bottom of this page.
So what is it that makes BoB a Harrodian institution that pupils adore? According to Director of Music Hannah Ashe, the appeal of BoB lies in the opportunity it gives to our pupils to express themselves and showcase their creativity. Winning soloist Olivia unintentionally reiterates this but in her own words. 'To take part in the Battle of the Bands, you have to write and compose our own song and then perform it to a packed theatre full of your friends and teachers. It is a terrifying prospect but so exhilarating when you are up there performing,' she enthuses. 'I express so much of myself through my music and lyrics, so it is always really reassuring when other people in the audience enjoy it too!'
To take part in the Battle of the Bands, you have to write and compose our own song and then perform it to a packed theatre full of your friends and teachers. It is a terrifying prospect but so exhilarating when you are up there performing!
Olivia W (14s/Year 10) winning singer songwriter
I express so much of myself through my music and lyrics, so it is always really reassuring when other people in the audience enjoy it too!
But perhaps just as important to the event's success is the aura of professionalism that surrounds it. Former parent, John Giddings, who returned this year for the twelfth time as chairman of the judges, is the man behind the success of the Isle of Wight (IoW) Festival and the fellow judges he brings are always seasoned music professionals too. This year’s panel featured reality TV star and singer/songwriter Megan McKenna, making her debut BoB appearance and judge Charly Beedell-Tuck, music agent from Solo agency and Jamie Oborne, manager of the band 1975.
The prize on offer to the winners is also clearly a serious incentive for any young musician keen to make his or her mark in the industry. This summer both Atlas and Olivia will have the opportunity to play a 20-minute set each at the IoW Festival, courtesy of John Giddings.
The fun outweighs the scariness and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play and be discovered at the Isle of Wight Festival
Battle of the Bands Winners 2023
Benji L, Marcus H and Jack H (13s/Year 9) of winning band Atlas set out to bring an alternative and new-school rock sound to the competition. Inspired by the likes of Kings of Leon and Fleetwood Mac, their catchy but quirky song 'Born To' hit all the right notes and the judges were impressed. John Giddings compared them to Imagine Dragons, whilst the rest of the panel remarked on their individual instrumental skills. The boys have been jamming together since the 11s/Year 7 but they only started to create their own songs last year. It only took them a week to put their entry together for this year's Battle of the Bands. When asked how they created a song in such a short timeframe and what their secret is, the boys are very quick with their response. 'The three of us are really good friends, so we work really well as a team and that's the most important thing in our view, more important than ability or talent.'
The three of us are really good friends, so we work really well as a team and that's the most important thing in our view, more important than ability or talent
Benji L, Marcus H and Jack H (13s/Year 9) of winning band Atlas'
Olivia's original song 'Starbucks' is a personal account of a romantic break-up. Performed from the heart with beautiful lyrics, she wowed the audience and the judges who called her song an 'instant hit', 'absolutely beautiful,' and were struck with her wonderful storytelling and how she made them believe every word. Olivia, now 15, has been writing songs since she was 10 years old and up until now it has mainly been a hobby. The warm reception she received from the judges has started her thinking about a career in music. 'It is one thing having your mum and dad telling you how good you are (because they would say that, wouldn't they?) but when you hear it from the judges who are experts in the music industry then it becomes a bit more believable.' She was also thrilled that the judges likened her to Kate Nash, one of the many artists that she cites as a musical influence, alongside Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, Lana Del Rey and the Arctic Monkeys amongst others.
When asked what advice they have for Harrodian pupils thinking about entering the BoB competition next year, all four of them are in agreement. 'The fun outweighs the scariness and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play and be discovered at the Isle of Wight Festival. Don't hold back or worry about making mistakes and just play your song like it is the last time you are ever going to play it,' they say.
[We'd say to anyone thinking about entering BoB next year,]... don't hold back or worry about making mistakes and just play your song like it is the last time you are ever going to play it!
The winners aside, everyone who took part in the competition gave an amazing performance. A massive congratulations to all the other soloists and bands that took part in this year's competition, they were:
- Georgia M (14s)
- Freya P (13s)
- Harry C (15s)
- Tumbling Pebbles (Ramsey B, Mack S and Elijah D from the 11s - below)
- TBCs (Ava N, Toby F, Walter F and Sam S from the 12s)
- Vertigo (Sampson L-J, Samson M, Artemis D, Oli H all from the Lower Sixth).
It was clear that all the musicians who took part in the Battle of the Bands shared a love of performing. Our Staff band, below, clearly feels the same way. Closing the evening with two energetic and dramatic renditions of Wheatus's 'Teenager Dirtbag' and 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love,' by The Darkness, they totally rocked!
To see and hear the winning performances, please click the links below.
(Please note the videos were recorded on iphones and not recorded professionally)
'Starbucks' by Olivia, soloist winner:
'Born To' by Atlas, band winners:
For a gallery of photos (most of which were taken in rehearsal by Daisy Mackay)