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'It's scary to begin with until you start playing'

Michael Burnett reports on the first of this year's Schools' Proms

Emma Reid is a member of the Riding Mill Fiddlers from Northumberland. She's backstage at London's Royal Albert Hall and soon to play in the first of this year's Schools Proms, mounted by Music for Youth. "It's scary to begin with", she says. "But once you're on stage and start playing you forget about your nerves".

Nerves appeared to pose no problem for the five secondary-age Fiddlers when they played a set of traditional pieces to a capacity audience. But then the entire Prom was marked by the skill and musicianship of its many youthful participants.

The Riding Mill Fiddlers were preceded by the Northamptonshire County Youth Band whose ensemble control during a Coltrane arrangement proved excellent. NKS Jazz, Kent, aged 15 to 17, were also up to standard. Indeed, their sparkling "Tiger Rag" could hardly have been bettered in terms of rhythmic precision.

Longley Primary School, Sheffield, staged a convincing performance of Colour, a composition which stemmed from the children's own work in the classroom. An arrangement of Elgar's Chanson de Matin elicited some well shaped playing from Hills Road Sixth Form College Brass Quintet, Cambridge, although intonation was not always accurate. And the Coffey String Quartet, in the same age group, from Northern Ireland, performed a movement from Dvoyr k's American Quartet with real musicianship.

Chris Turner is musical director of St Mary's Gospel Choir, London, whose singers are aged nine to 11. "It's great for our children's self-esteem to be participating in the Proms", he says. "And, in the process, they're meeting pupils from very different backgrounds".

The choir's performance of "Teach Me to Dance" proved a delight, with tone and phrasing showing real promise.

The secondary-age High Wycombe Music Centre Concert Band's Orient Express was well projected although melodic lines sometimes needed better definition. Wardle High School Year 8 Brass Band, Rochdale, also had balance problems. But there was some first-rate playing here and the band deserved their rapturous applause.

The South Hampstead Studio Choir, London, (age 11 to 13) gave a well shaped performance of Edward Kay's "Tell Me the Truth about love" while the Berkshire Youth Orchestra proved thoroughly professional in it's management of pieces by Leonard Bernstein.

MFY is sponsored by British Aerospace, Commercial Union, Glaxo Wellcome, PJB Publications and W H Smith Retail, in association with The TES. Reviews of Tuesday's and Wednesday's Proms will appear next week

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