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Festival of rock, pop, pipe and more

The endeavours of teachers, pupils and those involved in behind-the-scenes support of extra-curricular music activities in the Highlands were apparent and acknowledged at last week's Rhythms of the North concert at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

The programme featured an impressive number of youngstersfrom a dozen schools and an eclectic range of music.

Charlie's Angels, a folk-oriented group from Charleston Academy, opened the concert with vocal and instrumental music. The Kingussie Wind Band dipped into film and television themes and finished with the evocative "Steam Train to Mallaig", bolstered by two fiddlers and an excellent girl piper.

The Tain Royal Academy Philharmonic played an orchestration of "Lord of the Dance" which combined folk and classical elements. Its tutor and conductor, David Evans, also looked after the Hooters and Tooters of Dingwall Academy in an arrangement of Pachelbel's "Canon" for large wind band (plus one French horn).

Several of these bands added keyboards, bass, drums or percussion to a basic classical or fiddle band line-up. The mixture of music reflected an open-minded approach which encouraged the children to express themselves in disciplined but creative fashion.

The Lochaber High School aelic Choir demonstrated the expressive ensemble singing which won it two medals at the National Mod last month.

The withdrawal of the group from Wick High School allowed the SLYMM (Skye and Lochalsh Young Music Makers) Steel Band to graduate from the foyer to the main stage. Its ebullient repertoire ranged from "La Bamba" to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".

The last of the large groups featured six singers and a fiddle band from Kilchuimen Academy and Glenurquhart High. They made a creditable job of two familiar but difficult pop songs.

The standard of the last four bands was even higher. Reultan, a folk group from Ullapool High, was particularly accomplished: one of the girls played with equal skill on accordion, pipes and keyboard. They delivered a polished set of jigs and reels and a beautifully sung version of the Irish song "Until We Meet Again".

The concert also featured rock bands. Overtime, a four-piece band from Grantown Grammar had the stronger singer, but Threshold, a raunchy power trio from Fortrose Academy, produced the tighter and more powerful instrumental work, and threw in one of its own songs.

The finale was more traditional, featuring the superbly disciplined Sutherland Schools Pipe Band from Golspie High.

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