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News : New Providence Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells For Schools” Debuts in The Bahamas
By Azaleta Ishmael-Newry with Lindsay Thompson
Oct 24, 2013 - 2:04:46 AM

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The new Hall at St Andrew’s School in Nassau, Bahamas is officially opened during the ribbon cutting ceremony which included from left to right, Dr Glenn Canterford, principal, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group who was a surprise visitor, Mike Oldfield, renowned composer and musician and author of the “Tubular Bells for Schools” which premiered that night, and LeRoy Archer, chairman of the school. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Nassau, Bahamas – It was the album that launched Virgin Records 40 years ago in 1973 and sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. It was rewritten to a jazzier swing style for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony where the composer performed before 1 billion people. Now, the famous Tubular Bells has been adapted for school children as Tubular Bells For Schools. It recently premiered at St Andrew’s School with the two men – English composer and musician, Mike Oldfield and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records in attendance.

In 1973, the collaboration between Mike Oldfield and Sir Richard Branson ignited when Oldfield just 19 years old and Virgin Records was just being established by a 22-year old Sir Richard. The success of Tubular Bells launched Virgin Records.  The album later won a coveted Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition of which an excerpt was later used in the film, “The Exorcist.”

Written by renowned composer and musician Mike Oldfield, the launch of Tubular Bells For Schools took place on October 17, 2013 when it was played on piano by 15-year old Jason Ren, a tenth grade student at St Andrew’s School in Nassau, Bahamas.  It was inspired, Mike Oldfield said, by the request of St Andrew’s principal, Dr Glenn Canterford who, encouraged by his previous support of the school’s music department, asked him to contribute to the opening of the school’s new Hall.

“The idea came to my mind of making a new arrangement of Tubular Bells for piano that could be used by students to learn to play, and as an introduction to rock instrumental music,” explained Oldfield.  “Tubular Bells is not so complicated. It is a different approach to music than pop, rock or rap and with a little effort, it can be performed by anyone with a little musical talent.”

Mike Oldfield, a renowned English musician and composer along with Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Group, attended the world premiere of “Tubular Bells For Schools” at St Andrew’s School in Nassau, Bahamas. From right to left are: Mike Oldfield, Dr Glenn Canterford, principal, Debbie Canterford, teacher and Sir Richard Branson. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

That performance was given by Jason Ren whose accomplishments include winning fourth place at the 2013 World’s Pianist Competition at the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C. He has also won three consecutive years in the annual National Arts Festival. Under Oldfield’s direction, he mastered Tubular Bells For Schools in just three weeks.

Ren’s seamless and passionate rendition of Tubular Bells For Schools on piano captivated his audience where many, including his parents Cynthia and Ren Xun and sister Megan, embraced the music’s inspirational sounds while for others it brought back the memories of earlier years when Tubular Bells was all the rage.

“At first I was worried that I would not have enough time to master it,” said Ren, “but I practiced an hour a day. It was a lot of fun doing it and I am really honoured to have played it.”

Mike Oldfield’s delight was evident during Ren’s performance. He said, “Jason is a fantastic talent who did a wonderful job on the arrangement.”

Sir Richard Branson the English business investor and founder of the Virgin Group that consists of more than 400 companies including Virgin Atlantic Airways thoroughly enjoyed the performances.  Impressive talents included Jason Ren and Angelique Sabrina who sang the Bahamas’ national anthem.  Other talent included skits, song, dance and music performed by the school’s students and teachers.

Jason Ren, a 15-year old St Andrew’s School student plays “Tubular Bells For Schools” at the world premiere during the opening of the school’s new Hall. It is based on the 1973 album called Tubular Bells. Present were the composer Mike Oldfield and Sir Richard Branson who started Virgin Records which debuted the Tubular Bells. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

Sir Branson joked, “I flew in for the special performance, to have a few drinks and enjoy the talents of the school.”

There was an official ribbon cutting by students, Jason Ren and Kimberley Darville, and Mike Oldfield, Sir Richard Branson, LeRoy Archer,  the school’s chairman and its principal, Dr Glenn Canterford. A Junkanoo rush-out was the finale to the evening.

In May 2011, St Andrew’s School established its 20-20 Strategic Plan.  “Our overall aim is to gain recognition, not just as the best school in The Bahamas, but as one of the leading International Baccalaureate schools in the Caribbean, if not The Americas,” said Dr Canterford.

The principal boasts of having amazing teachers, “off the chart” results in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations and great facilities for the students. Over the years, parts of the campus have been upgraded to include Music and Spanish rooms in the primary school section, an Arts room in the secondary school section and, lately the rebuilding of the school Hall.

“Now this is the first stage and hopefully we will make the rest of the campus this kind of standard,” said an enthusiastic Dr Canterford. Noting how well-known St Andrew’s School is for its sporting prowess, the principal expressed the aim of ensuring that its performing arts program was right there along side it.

The audience at St Andrew’s School enjoyed the performances made by students and teachers. Special guest was Sir Richard Branson who flew in to celebrate the world premiere of “Tubular Bells For Schools” written by Mike Oldfield whose 1973 album Tubular Bells helped launch Sir Richard’s Virgin Record company. Shown in the front row from left to right are Sir Richard’s personal assistant, Sir Richard, Eugene Oldfield, Mike Oldfield and Jake Oldfield. Photo by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

A proud parent, Penny Roberts praised the school’s opening night and said, “This evening was so remarkable that it has brought St Andrew’s School to a new level and set a new standard.”

Dr Canterford commended the contractors on the construction of the Hall, built at a cost around $750,000 with a seating capacity of approximately 500 people.  With construction almost completed, the Hall will be outfitted with high-tech sound system and lighting, changing rooms, storage beneath the stage and other amenities.

The Bahamas has been Mike Oldfield’s home for the past four years. It is an interesting coincidence that The Bahamas, Virgin Records and Tubular Bells all shared their fortieth anniversary in 2013. Perhaps the possibility of a Junkanoo inspired rendition of Tubular Bells will be another project.

“I love The Bahamas and this is now my permanent home and I never wish to leave," said Oldfield. "The people, society and natural beauty are unrivaled in the world and inspire my music and create wonder in my personal and spiritual self.”

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Standing left is Jason Ren, a 15-year old St Andrew’s School student who played “Tubular Bells For Schools” at the world premiere during the opening of the school’s new Hall. Standing right is Bahamas' singing sensation, 15 year old Angelique Sabrina, who performed the national anthem at the event. Photo: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry

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