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Review: Chester Hammond School Centenary Celebration

‘A glittering success’ and a ‘joy to behold’

Hammond Professional Dance students performing Candyman in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

Beau Dermott may have just signed a record deal with Decca Records but last Friday (July 7) she was just another Year 8 pupil celebrating the centenary of her school.

One of more than 100 smiles, 100 leotards and 100 pairs of tap and ballet shoes that took the audience through from 1917, when Irene Hammond taught her first dance class at the Grosvenor Hotel ballroom, to the present day.

Hammond music students Megan Basford, Jude Johnson and Charlie Molloy in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

In fact, if you didn’t know the Britain’s Got Talent finalist, who wowed last year’s judges and audiences nationwide with her rendition of Defying Gravity, blink and you would have missed her. She sang Lennon and McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby as part of a musical ensemble led by a young Ed Sheeran lookalike on guitar and that was it.

BA student Emily Beresford in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

Except that wasn’t it - 31 pieces of work from ballet to tap, Shakespeare to Cole Porter, Les Mis to Beyoncé showcased all that the Hoole Bank school has to offer, with the story of how it all began woven through.

BA student Josh Hankey in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

The youngest pupils from the prep school delighted with a charming excerpt from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and professional dance students wowed with a rendition of Candyman.

Lower school ballet dancer Matthew Sugden in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

Young ballet dancers demonstrated port de bras and floor work in cleverly choreographed pieces before letting their hair down for a happy, hippy Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity.

Dan Wilshire and company performing Rhythm of Life in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

Artistic director David Needham didn’t just play safe with the old favourites and the decision to open Act 2 with the tricky tongue twister from Follies, The Story of Lucy and Jessie, paid off. Holly Edgar did the Hammond (and the memory of Irene) proud.

Drama students Annabelle Astley and Eve Coady Ward in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

But we love the old favourites, of course - Anything Goes, choreographed by Wendy Lockwood and Chrissie Eccleston-Tuohy and performed by the lower school dance students, was a glittering success and the Mamma Mia medley in Act II was a joy to behold.

The school has come a long way since the Whizz Bang Pierrot Troupe (with dances arranged by Mrs Broom and Miss Irene Hammond) performed at Chester Town Hall in 1917.

Graduate student George Vaccari in The Hammond School Centenary Celebration show. Photography by Brian Slater(Image: UGC)

That concert raised funds for Hoole House and Hoole Bank Red Cross Hospitals. Hoole Bank House was eventually bought by the school in 1969 and in 1974 the first boys were accepted, although they received their mainstream education at Christleton High School.

Here’s to another century of performance at the Hammond School.

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