It has been an incredibly busy week at the Lytham St Annes Classical Association as over 300 people came to the branch to learn more about the ancient world – on Thursday, we were joined by expert on Ancient Greek Music Professor Armand D’Angour for a fascinating lecture, and on Saturday we welcomed four finalists, our President Professor Michael Scott and VIP guests the Worshipful The Mayor of Fylde Councillor Peter Collins and Mayoress Mrs Caroline Collins, Deputy Mayor and Consort of Fylde Councillor Jan Barker and Mr Steve Barker, to the Grand Final of our 2019 Classics Competition.
Professor D’Angour, of Jesus College Oxford, is also a professional cellist and has combined his interests in Greek music, lyric, metre and innovation to uncover some of the ancient secrets that many presumed would remain hidden forever. As Wilfred Perrett said to the Royal Musical Association in 1932: ‘Nobody has ever made head or tail of ancient Greek music, and nobody ever will. That way madness lies’ but Armand, despite initial reservations about the fruitfulness of such a search, has wended his way through madness, scholarly scepticism, and many fragmentary texts to piece together the notation, melodies, and even sounds of ancient Greek music. His work is breathtaking as he revives music for cithara (lyre), aulos (double pipes) and voice which sound hauntingly familiar; as Armand suggested, the foundation of the Western music tradition does not stem from, as previously thought, Gregorian chants but from a much earlier Greek source.
After breaking down some of the evidence for Greek music, from both literary and epigraphical sources, Armand treated us all to a live-showing of his 2017 Youtube documentary and mini-concert and answered a range of fascinating questions. Prior to his lecture, Armand also gave an interview to Student Ambassador Holly Brookfield, which will soon be released and featured in our Newsletter Agora.
On Saturday afternoon, the hall at AKS Lytham was filled with sunshine, cake and friendly faces as our four young finalists took to the stage to present their top three favourite artefacts from the ancient world. The VIP party was treated to a lovely buffet lunch in the Sixth Form Centre, courtesy of AKS Dining, and then everyone was treated to some exceptional explorations of ancient objects, their modern reception, and their personal relevance to each finalist. The whole Final was live-tweeted and all of the finalists chosen artefacts will be entered into our Hall of Fame.
We began with Anna Dunkow from AKS Lytham and her artefacts: the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon marbles featuring the Centauromachy, and the Hammurabi Code from 18th century BC Babylon. Anna neatly linked these objects with her own Greek heritage and discussed their custody at the British Museum, the combination of political and artistic references within the iconography, and the modern day relevance of some of the Code’s laws, including debt, how to deal with sibling rivalry, and the all-important brewing of beer!
Next came Thomas Hewitt from Kirkham Grammar School, who brought us immediately close to home with a Roman shield boss – found in Kirkham itself and now housed in the British Museum! Thomas explained what we can learn about religious iconography and military technology from this piece of defensive weaponry and he also explored the manifold scenarios depicted on the beautiful Portland Vase. He drew a personal connection between ancient and modern pottery, in the form of his family’s own craft, and he carefully analysed the mythical and historical imagery of the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias.
Having travelled the furthest distance, from King Edward’s School in Bath, Archie McKenzie encouraged us to think of a globalised ancient world. He merged East and West by focusing upon the Gonzaga Cameo from Ptolemaic Egypt and the fabulous bust of Dynamis from the Bosphorus – a completely unique piece of art which combined Roman, Greek, Persian and Egyptian influences. He argued that the statue group of Laocoon is deserving of a first place position and many of us were indeed persuaded, such is the terrible expression of human suffering etched upon the figure’s face.
Finally, Alice Owens from Runshaw College took to the stage and she united her three artefacts under the theme of conflict and unity, showing how rulers and citizen states alike used art to demonstrate victory and unification through different media. We closely examined the sometimes-gory decoration of the Narmer Palette and marvelled at the recent reconstruction of the Serpentine Column of Delphi before learning a very relevant maxim – in the words of Alice’s grandfather, ‘obscure is interesting’ and, I think, from the great spread of artefacts chosen by our finalists, these young classicists have proven the truth in this statement!
All the finalists showed great enthusiasm and erudition and an infectious passion for the ancient world and for their individual #MyTopThree! The audience were also invited to have their say and the People’s Choice votes were swiftly counted: the Mayor and Mayoress presented Thomas Hewitt with a certificate, prize money and special owl trophy. The democratic voice had spoken and, indeed, was in agreement with Professor Scott who gave great feedback to all the finalists and announced that Thomas was also his Overall Winner. His impressive depth of research, controlled and confident delivery, and fusion of both local and national identity into the narrative of his chosen artefacts, made it a very impressive performance and he was a worthy winner.
Congratulations were also in order for two competitors who were Highly Commended for their shortlisted performances: Orlagh Carlin from Aldridge School in Walsall and Rebekah Hald from Sheffield High School for Girls. Both received their certificates from the Mayor and Mayoress and enjoyed chatting with the finalists and meeting Professor Scott himself!
Congratulations also to the other Highly Commended entrants who were not able to attend the Final to receive their certificates:
Annabel Hiller, Westholme School, Blackburn
James Fa, Blackpool Sixth Form College
Guy Morley-Jacob, Felsted Preparatory School, Essex
Jo Underwood, Shavington Academy, Crewe
Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who took part in this year’s competition, we look forward to receiving your entries again in 2020!
Massive thanks to the Mayoral party, to AKS Lytham for a lovely lunch and wonderful venue, and to the Classical Association, represented by Allied Associations’ Officer Barbara Finney, whose financial support has been integral to the expansion and organisation of the Competition this year. We love growing our #ClassicsCommunity!