A musical celebration of the excellence of youth

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
Some of the finest young musicians in Scotland will converge on the stage of Glasgow's City Halls this month for the annual TES Scotland Schools Gala Concert. Orchestras from the central belt and the Borders will be joined by a brass band from Moray and three of the "Pipers O'Dundee" for an evening which celebrates the diversity of music teaching throughout the country.

The concert on November 16 will be presented by Paul Rissmann, the gifted animateur who has done much to revitalise music education of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and is organised by the National Association of Youth Orchestras, an Edinburgh-based charity whose chief claim to fame is the well-established Festival of British Youth Orchestras that runs concurrently with the Edinburgh Festival in August. By contrast with the summer festival which is largely orchestral, the Gala has more of a mix.

NAYO director Carol Main aims to broaden the Gala's geographical range of the performers as well as the diversity of music being performed, although the constraints of time mean that the majority of performers still come from the central belt. Each group participating in the Gala has a 15-minute slot.

Moray Concert Brass comes from furthest afield, with its founder Glenn Munro conducting the 60-piece band, which last year came sixth in the European Youth Festival of Brass, in music by Goff Richards and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Although more local, Andrew Morris, whose Glasgow Schools String Orchestra is the only group playing a classical repertoire, says the short time slot does make it tricky. "The performers just have a chance to get on stage and get set up before they have to finish."

They will be playing Corelli's Concerto grosso no 4 in D with soloists Tom Smith, Erika Buurman, and Maya Burman-Roy. Morris also points to the growing problems of recruitment for the orchestra, now that free instrumental teaching is no lnger universally available in Glasgow schools.

No such difficulties in West Lothian, apparently, where continuing free tuition provides an endless stream of recruits for the West Lothian Schools Jazz Band directed by Stuart French, whose programme will include Ellington, Doug Beech, and an arrangement of Mo Better Blues by the band's original founder Russell Cowieson.

From further south, the Scottish Borders Wind Orchestra under Kevin Price will play arrangements of John Barry and Cole Porter alongside Montinedo by Jay Chattaway.

The foot-tapping finale comes from the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra directed by Wallace Galbraith. Twice a year this huge band plays to its full strength of 170, although a mere 90 will cram onto the City Halls' stage on November 16. The orchestra, which has plans for a Canadian tour next summer, is equally at home with light classical repertoire but for the Gala it is polishing up its Scotch Snaps for four sets of strathspeys, reels, and jigs.

At the other end of the scale, Carol Main has finally realised her ambition to include the Highland pipes in the Gala, but "we thought a whole pipe band would be excessive indoors."

In the end there are three pipers and a drummer coming from Dundee to play both traditional music and a sample of the new "free style" of pipe music. "Among the piping fraternity some hate it and others love it," says Charlie Maynes at Dundee City Council education department. "As they say, whenever you get three pipers together you get four different opinions."

Carol Main says the Schools Gala Concert is "a marvellous opportunity to showcase what our members are doing." She already has the RSNO junior chorus pencilled in for next year.

Christopher Lambton

Schools Gala Concert 2000 is on November 16 at 7pm in the City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow. Adults pound;5, concessions pound;3, children pound;1. For tickets, call 0141 287 5511

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