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String musicians show funky side

They are funky, fun, and out to prove that playing string instruments is cool.

The Sensational Spicy Strings, a group of young musicians from Carmarthenshire, all have one thing in common - a teacher who loves punk rock. Norman Roberts, 45, writes original tunes for the group of 23 musicians based on his combined love of classical and rock music.

In keeping with his status as a former punk rocker, his music has a rebellious streak with a few rough edges.

Mr Roberts, who has 15 schools under his wing, said: "The Sensational Spicy Strings is showing people that a string group can play some really funky music - we are the antidote to brass and wind bands.

"The group is out to prove that the violin, along with other string instruments, has the wow factor."

Mr Roberts's group joined bands across Britain to take part in this week's Music for Youth Schools Proms 2005, a jamboree of young musical talent.

They performed at Wednesday's last night of the proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London, belting out their own tunes, "r u dancin?", "Hopsgots" and "Sensational Spice".

Members of the group are aged between nine and 15 and from Ysgol y Dderwen, Carmarthen, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Myrddin, Croesyceiliog, Ysgol Glan-y-Mor, Burry Port, and Ysgol Nantgaredig in Nantgaredig.

Music for Youth is an educational charity with a global reputation. It provides free access to performance opportunities for young musicians through its annual programme of festivals and concerts.

Two other Welsh schools also made appearances at the proms, which were held on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. One String Loose, a Celtic folk group from Newport, performed songs from Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Greater Gwent Percussion Ensemble, also from Newport, performed together for the last time. The four-member group of 16 to 20-year-olds will split up to take university courses.

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