On Sunday Benenden formally opened its new Centenary Buildings – comprising the Centenary Hall and The Sir David K.P. Li Music School – in a packed day that concluded with an exceptional performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Parents, Patrons, Seniors and other members of the Benenden community were invited to the School to enjoy a busy day in anticipation of the formal opening of these stunning new buildings.
They heard speeches from the Headmistress Samantha Price, Head Girl Isla and Chairman of Governing Council Anna Birkett, who unveiled a grand plaque commemorating the opening of the facilities.
Guests were taken on tours of the new buildings, where they were greeted by a range of performances in the various spaces. From music and poetry from students in the Chapel and the Jat Atrium to dances by partner school The John Wallis Church of England Academy in the Bonnie Yeung-Tsang Recital Hall, the tours culminated in a sneak preview of the Philharmonia Orchestra rehearsing in the Centenary Hall – ahead of their evening performance, which was open to local residents.
Visitors then gathered in the Hall to hear a wonderful vocal performance from Six Two Caitlin and more from Mrs Price about the realisation of the incredible project and the School’s gratitude to those who supported it.
She said: “We are proud to have achieved this wonderful facility and we have managed this through careful borrowing and the extraordinary generosity of our patrons. We have chosen to invest – both in our school community and in the local community. We have established one of the foremost concert halls and multi-use performance venues in the South East that will benefit generations to come.”
After a beautiful afternoon tea in the Science Atrium, the Benenden community was joined by members of the public to witness an awe-inspiring concert by the London-based Orchestra.
Opening with a triumphant rendition of Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, they were led by soloist and virtuoso Jennifer Pike in an exquisite performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. They returned after a short interval with Strum by Jessie Montgomery and closed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
The Orchestra – formidable in size and extraordinary in capability – was the perfect test of the Centenary Hall’s adaptability and its capacity to facilitate even the most intense musical performances, and it was clear from the audience’s positive response that the venue was quite impressive enough to host one of the nation’s leading concert orchestras.
The music was carried by the building’s excellent acoustics to give an overwhelming clarity and dynamic, establishing the Centenary Hall as one of the foremost concert venues in the area. Benenden is very much looking forward to future events, both for members of the School community and the wider community, that make the most of these exemplary facilities.
This time next year the School will be celebrating its centenary year, having opened in September 1923, and these facilities are a fitting addition to the school site to lead the school into its second century.