In time-honoured tradition, the last night of the Schools Proms is party night. Dancing, clapping and even wolf whistles are all permitted in the interests of atmosphere. Rarely, though has there been anything like the rapturous welcome given to the Inverness group, Dryzabone, who brought the house down for a full 20 minutes with their seamless Celtic music played on whistle, percussion and electric guitars.
Jazz ensembles, rock groups and bands were much to the fore, all performing to an exceptionally high standard. Northamptonshire Concert Bank opened with the Star Wars Saga, while the Holme Valley Music Centre Big Band began the second half with a smooth rendering of Blue Bones, Azure Eyes and Tom Cat that belied the young age of some of its performers. Concierto de Aranjuez, played by Tapton School Brass Band on the flugelhorn, was unusually effective and Tico Tico with its Mexican rhythms was just the right follow-up.
The Blues Band from Groves High School, Wrexham, performed in gritty, bluesy style three of its own compositions that included some interesting vocals in Beautiful You.
With balance and variety in mind, the organisers always try to include at least one group of under-12s, although the youngest musicians do not always have the volume to make much of an impact in the Albert Hall. However, one of the evening's highlights was seeing the Falconers Marching Band (aged nine to 12) from Norwich, playing recorders and percussion, leading the audience in The Teddy Bears Picnic. These talented youngsters performed repertoire that was tailor-made for them (the tuneful Follywood or Bust was written by their conductor) with discipline.
The well-publicised showpiece was the Karl Jenkins Adiemus sung by 500 voices drawn from north London primary and secondary schools. Featuring a skilled group of dancers and instrumentalists as well as singers, this was a feat of organisation as well as a moving tribute to the multiculturalism that is the essence of music in London schools. Other choirs were the Gospel Choir of St Martin-in-the Fields, who gave a polished performance of two contrasting numbers, and the Chanterelles from Leicester, a choir open to all, who sang with sensitivity music from Gounod to Bernstein.
Classical music was limited, but all the more refreshing when it came. The Mayfield Piano Trio's version of the Shostakovich Trio No2 was haunting and delicately played. The splendid Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra rounded off a rollicking last night on a serious note with the Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances before the traditional Elgar.
Highlights of the Schools Proms will be broadcast on Radio 2, November 29, 7.30-9.30pm. Music for Youth is sponsored by British Aerospace, Commercial Union, Glaxo Wellcome, PJB Publications and W H Smith in association with The TES. In 1998 The TES becomes a major Music for Youth sponsor with Pounds 30,000. The first TES Schools Prom Scotland will take place in Edinburgh in June