Sounds like a rocking festival

Scotland's first national Music for Youth festival and a procession through Perth have struck a chord with the community, says Julia Horton

Julia Horton

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There is a carnival atmosphere in the streets as people sing and dance in a "spontaneous Scottish samba". Scotland is marking its first national Music for Youth (MfY) festival and the procession of young players parading through Perth soon attracts a growing crowd of followers. A 1950s melody is mixed with the infectious rhythms of a samba group with the 100-strong musical marchers, including violin and accordion players, led by renowned UK fiddler and music teacher, Joe Broughton.

"It was like a mini travelling festival. A lot of people came out of shops to see us and were clapping along," he says. "By the time we reached the concert hall about 100 people were following us, dancing and singing. It was quite a street party. We had imagined it out in the sunshine, which didn't quite happen, but it didn't rain."

MfY is a UK charity that has just expanded into Scotland to give young musicians of all genres and abilities a chance to perform and improve. Around 400 of them are taking part in this day-long national festival of workshops and performances, which follows earlier events across Scotland.

Although his day job is playing Scottish folk tunes, it's the first time that Birmingham-based Broughton has heard Scotland's new generation of musicians first-hand.

"It's absolutely fantastic," he says. "I have been working with young people who have never met me before and they have to have a lot of trust and energy for that to work.

"My immediate impression was that everyone seems to be very open to ideas and has a great energy, perhaps even more so than in other places I have worked in. I don't know if that's about Scotland or Perth but I hope MfY carries on here."

To help mark the inaugural event, sponsored by TESS, organisers commissioned a fanfare from respected Scottish composer Stephen Deazley. It must surely be a first to have a world premiere repeated five times in a single day, and Deazley likens rushing between the concert hall and Perth Theatre to conduct each new performance to popular 1990s TV series, Challenge Anneka.

"They were all very different and all really good," he enthuses. "They only had about 20 minutes to rehearse, which isn't a lot of time. The double band performance was quite exciting, with the Carnoustie and District Youth Brass Band playing with Egglescliffe School band from the North East of England."

His brief from MfY was "very flexible", he says, explaining: "I thought to myself, `If I was about 17, would I like a fanfare or a nice, cheesy flan?'

"So it became Flanfayre. There are elements of a heraldic fanfare but it's really informal, relaxed and very cheesy."

Playing together teaches pupils a lot, he adds, especially in one workshop where teenagers in an indie group performed alongside children with learning difficulties.

"It's really good to have a mix of young people in a room making music together. I think the boys in the cool indie band got a lot out of that, though they might not have admitted it," he says. "The richest part of the event is the genre mix and the age mix, from jazz bands to vocal groups, coming from all over the country."

Perth-based social enterprise choir Melody Movers are among the musicians here enjoying the chance to play the town's concert hall - and hoping to be chosen to represent Scotland at a UK MfY concert at the Royal Albert Hall in November.

Choir director and music teacher Victoria Rice says: "There is a real buzz here. I think Perth Concert Hall has needed this for a long time."


Perth Concert Hall is known for its good acoustics. One young piper discovers that the roof isn't bad either, when he is invited to launch Scotland's first national Music for Youth festival.

Dressed in a kilt and strapped firmly into a safety harness, James Rodger belts out rousing melodies from the top of the venue in his home town to a cheering crowd below. It's an impressive opener for the inaugural Scottish national MfY event - and an unforgettable experience of "extreme playing" for James.

The 14-year-old, who also closes the festival in the same high-flying style, says afterwards: "It was a bit scary but I got used to it. It was great seeing all the people below and they really seemed to like it."

James plays with popular band the Gordon Duncan Experience, bringing together young players from schools across the area to play "modern bagpipes music with a twist". The 30 members also have the honour of being the first musicians in the world to play Scots composer Stephen Deazley's new work, Flanfayre.

James says: "That was another challenge. It's a really good tune with a really groovy beat, I enjoyed playing it."

The fourth-year pupil is doing Standard grade music at Perth High and thinks the festival helps him and others to appreciate music.

"I hope Music for Youth carries on in Scotland. I will play again if I get the chance."

Meanwhile, he hopes to be chosen to represent Scotland at the UK concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in November.


Entries for next year's festival open on 20 August. To apply, go to

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Julia Horton

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