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Christ’s Hospital Band “Beats the Retreat” At the Tower of London

Christ's Hospital School, Beat the Retreat

The Christ’s Hospital Band performed an impressive Beating Retreat at the Tower of London in June, at the invitation of the Tower Governor, Andrew Jackson. The 60-strong band of young musicians entertained an audience of over 300 with a unique display drawing inspiration from a dual theme: the Coronation and the 350th year of the foundation of the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital.

These two themes were referenced throughout the programme and display, with many maritime pieces played to symbolise the spirit of adventure and discovery associated with the Royal Mathematical School. The audience was treated to a variety of quick and slow marches, with complex patterns accompanied by the tosses of the drum majors. This was followed by an impressive performance of drum splits, before the band marched into a fabulous Venn diagram formation, again referencing the Royal Mathematical School. They went on to form the cypher “CRIII” in honour of the King’s coronation.

Christ's Hospital School, Beat the Retreat

The CH Band rounds off each academic year with Beating Retreat, a display of marching and countermarching as a tribute to those who are leaving, which takes place in the Quad at Christ’s Hospital. It is, however, an unusual honour to have been invited to beat the retreat at the Tower of London.

When I arrived at the Tower, I learned that the Band had performed here in 1997 and was determined to repeat the occasion,” said Tower Governor, Andrew Jackson. “As a proud Old Blue (former CH pupil), I also discovered 40 years too late that pupils at the school have long had the privilege of visiting free of charge if they are wearing their uniform. The origins of this custom are uncertain but may date to 1673 when the Royal Mathematical School was founded.”

Christ's Hospital School, Beat the Retreat

The Royal Mathematical School was established at Christ’s Hospital in 1673 by King Charles II and went on to be shaped by some of the world’s foremost intellect, including Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren. Head Teacher of CH, Simon Reid, said: “The 350th anniversary of the RMS provides an opportunity to mark not only its long history but the continued role it plays in the lives of CH pupils as we prepare them for their place in today’s world.”

The CH Band gathers on four days a week to march all 900 pupils in to lunch through the school’s vast quad. This is one of Christ’s Hospital’s unique and most spectacular traditions. The Band was formed in 1868 when pupils requested that instruments be purchased to enliven their marching drill. Over the years, the Band has grown from a small static group into a dynamic and highly trained group of musicians. Today, the Band has an impressive record of engagements. It takes part in the Lord Mayor’s Show each autumn and performs at Lord’s where it entertains the crowds. Every year, the Band also accompanies the school on a parade through the City of London on St Matthew’s Day.

Christ's Hospital School, Beat the Retreat

A unique Sussex school

Christ’s Hospital was established in 1552 by King Edward VI and is the UK’s leading charitable school and largest bursary charity. It actively seeks pupils of potential, who often come from varied and complex backgrounds and provides free or substantially reduced cost places to ensure that children have access to first-class education no matter their background.

Christ's Hospital School, Beat the Retreat

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