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Reflections on Fife

Time was when a musician could go into a school, make some funny noises, say "this is a violin", and walk away confident that "education" had taken place. How times change. The latest project devised by Steve Page, development manager of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, offers education in myriad forms, and not solely in the classroom.

Positively Forth Street embraces a professional performance of a multimedia work and two parallel projects involving 100 children from two primary schools. It has been produced by a team of eight writers (aged 30-70), two composers, two animators, three multimedia specialists and a string quartet, using four monitors, three big screens and six slide projectors.

The enterprise is astonishingly ambitious. Its inspiration is a set of seven poems by Fife poet Ronnie Kerr, reflecting on his sense of place and heritage as a Fifer. His family memories and relationships are there, as is the decline of industry and its impact on landscape. He uses family and the land as intertwined metaphors for each other.

Mr Kerr's verses inspired Malcolm Lindsay (a Fifer and founder member of pop group Deacon Blue) to write a piece for Quartz, one of the SCO's string quartets, which fostered other projects, such as having non-classical musicians experiment with Haydn and Mozart.

His quartets will be performed as part of a multimedia presentation with visual images, poetry, and recorded, manipulated sounds contributing to the overall impression.

The poet also met eight amateur writers from Fife, who have spent eight weeks exploring his themes. They have collaborated with teacher, photographer and animator Ian Beattie, to create visual work around the images, objects and places that have inspired their writing. His work will offer raw source material to the three multimedia experts creating the visual presentation for Mr Lindsay's quartets.

The writers' pieces will be printed in the programme booklet, having already enriched the bank of material available for display.

That is not all - 100 children from two primary schools (Pitreavie Primary in Dunfermline and St Columba in Cupar) have been working on these same themes, which cut across the curriculum, the issues of landscape and industrial change complementing geography and local history modules.

They will work with the quartet, a composer (Mary Keith) and an animator (Edward O'Donnelly). And they have been encouraged to talk to parents and relatives about memories, family history and heritage.

When the people of Fife attend performances of Positively Forth Street in mid-June, Mr Page hopes the experience will be enriching. This is community art in the best sense - shared memories, stories, landscape and sense of place are the stuff of the piece.

The project is typical of much of Mr Page's work at the SCO, with the orchestra allowed to experiment with ways of presenting music. This event is geographically exclusive - but that is not the point. What may happen is that an audience who otherwise would have avoided such an event will come together for the world premi re of a string quartet. Even better, the quartet itself may be transformed from a group playing for people on a stage into something intimate, being played with them.

Freelance composer Mary Keith and animator Edward O'Donnelly will hold workshops at Pitreavie Primary School, Dunfermline, on May 22.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, tel: 0131 557 6802 Arts and Education in Partnership has been organised by the City of Edinburgh Council education department and the European Cultural Forum. It takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on May 22-24. Full details from Philippa Johnston, tel: 0131 469 3201

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