This is a time of year I enjoy greatly – and not only because the opportunity to bolster one of Europe’s sun-drenched but struggling economies approaches. There are performances aplenty. In the secondary sector there was MGS Summer Concert – and then a smaller contingent of the Guitar Ensemble played at the MGS Prize Giving last night. It always amazes me how the smaller group (8 members) sounds louder than the full ensemble (20+) – there’s a psychology/physics PhD in there, I’m sure.
In the purely primary zone, there are two nights of Annie at Wallyford PS. My colleague, Ewan Armstong, is the MD for this and puts in the spade work over many weeks. I simply swan in with a bass guitar on the night(s) and join in. On a personal level, this is one of the year’s most enjoyable musical challenges. There is no written part. The trick is to watch what Ewan is playing and decide, on the hoof, the best thing to compliment it. While it’s important that young people grasp the value of rehearsal – of preparing the music as carefully as possible – I think it’s also important for those hoping to pursue the art, that they see other ways of operating – some of which are thrust upon us from time to time. The closing night is this evening. If it’s anything like the miraculous opening night then it will be great.
My final visit to Campie for this session ended with a concert by guitarists in P5-P7 for the P4s – from whose ranks next year’s guitarists will emerge. I was really thrilled by this event. The pupils played excellently and we were able to squeeze in a few more courageous soloists than was the case during the school’s Musical Evening a couple of weeks earlier. Especially promising was the rapt attention of the P4 pupils and their intelligent questions and observations.
Transition is often where the fun is. Pupils from Campie PS and Wallyford PS joined the MGS Guitar Ensemble in the Summer Concert. Tomorrow, former pupils from Wallyford – currently at MGS – will visit the school to join with departing P7s in a performance at the Leavers’ Assembly. I’m always touched by the affectionate regard in which the pupils hold their former school, and with the warm reception they receive from their former teachers. It really is the best way to end the year and helps keep a sense of the big picture.
Last night saw the return of Campie’s Musical Evening, where guitarists perform in addition to brass, recorders and choir. Many thanks to Danny, my ‘recording engineer volunteer’. The guitarists played a mixture of group pieces and solos – ranging in age group from P5-P7. Our guest, Louise – a former pupil, now in S3 – also played a solo.
In the frenzy of end of term concerts, Showcase etc., it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of preparation and lose sight of the big picture – the raison d’être of the job. This was remedied last night when around 30 former pupils came along to the NBHS Spring Concert – the last one for Linda Medine who has taught Music there for many years.
Joining the existing members of the Chorale on stage they performed a beautiful arrangement of Robbie Williams’ Angels – magnificently prepared and directed by Gill Casson. The sound was huge and the whole thing was very moving.
This surprise item really meant a lot to Linda – as she had meant a such lot to them – enough to come from far and wide for a lovely send off. What a nice end to the term.
I’m just back from what has now become an annual East Lothian charity event, organised by our very own Maxine Wilson on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support. Instrumental Instructors in East Lothian schools put forward soloists and small groups for two (different) programmes. Tonight’s – the first of two – was sold out. I had two hats this evening: one as accompanist for former NBHS singer, Zoe Moskal-Guy, and the other directing a small group of MGS guitarists.
By coincidence, I sent off today the master of Love Burns – an album featuring Zoe and me, along with some very special guests. In a few weeks 1,000 copies will be delivered and the website www.loveburns.co.uk will go live. Watch this space…
Playing with the small MGS group (7 pupils) was a treat. We played a piece which we aired in 2010′s East Lothian Showcase Concert – that time with a much bigger group – around 40 players. With only 7, everyone can hear one another and it’s possible to play in a much freer way, without the necessity of a rigid beat to keep together. I was extremely proud of their sensitive performance – and grateful to all for cheerfully giving up their evening for this worthy cause. Many thanks to all involved.
This was the 2nd nice event of the week, coming a few days after Sunday’s ELjam Showcase Concert in the Brunton Theatre. It’s nice to see pupils (and staff) from across the county coming together in such positive settings.
…of term – quite a busy week with two excellent evening of Oliver at Wallyford Primary School and MGS Prize Giving. Tomorrow sees some former pupils of Wallyford returning to the school to play in the Leavers’ Ceremony – always a nice occasion.
In the meantime, I just received the latest Neuromusic newsletter, which features the programme (with abstracts) of the recent Neurosciences and Music conference. There’s a lot of text here but very interesting:
Below is a clip of former NBHS pupil, Zoë Moskal-Guy, performing the traditional Irish ballad, She Moved Through The Fair, at The Meadows Festival 2011. Now approaching end of her 1st year at the Academy of Music and Sound (Edinburgh branch), Zoë formerly represented the school and the local authority in concerts, Burns Suppers, musicals (Les Miserables; Guys and Dolls; Back to the 80s; Fiddler on the Roof) and out of school events (VOCAL Conference @ Marine Hotel; Head Teachers’ Conference @ John Muir House; Well-being Scotland Conference @ Our Dynamic Earth; Commonwealth Forestry Conference @ EICC). Also featured in some of the linked video footage are former NBHS pupils, Callum Devine; Fraser Fulton; Bess MacArthur; Polly Waters. We wish them well in their careers, with many thanks for all the playing!
This is the best example I know of a song with a very free meter – at times so free it disappears altogether:
One of my favourite expressions, much used (perhaps coined) by the late, great Ken Campbell is seeker. Former Knox Academy pupil, Simon Thacker, certainly deserves that label. Aside from being a virtuoso performer he has, for some time now, sought out new things, often by combining contrasting genres. He describes a new project here:
Years ago, when Lothian Region was still in existence, the Lothian Region Guitar Ensemble used to enjoy rehearsal weekends in Biggar or West Linton, preparing for concerts. One of the promising young players involved was Adam Brown. Now an even more accomplished performer, Adam is to give a free recital on Fri 5 November at 1:10 in Edinburgh’s St. Cecilia’s Hall (map here). Here is the programme:
Antonio Lauro: Virgilio
Alfonso Montes: Preludio de Adios
Leo Brouwer: Cuban Landscape with Bells
Fred Hand: Missing Her
Barrios: Julia Florida; Waltz No. 4
Jimmy Van Heusen: Like Someone In Love
Lorenz Hart: My Romance
George Shearing: Lullaby of Birdland
You can visit Adam’s website here, where there are links to some YouTube performances.