Mean fiddlers add some fizz to the fest

6th August 2010 at 01:00
Songs, poems and drama feature in a Burns heritage project at this year's Aberdeen International Youth Festival, July 28-August 7

The Lennox sisters may well be glad to get back to school for a rest after the summer holidays.

Cait, 15, and Annie, 13, are taking part in musical events all summer and heading to Germany with the Strathspey Fiddlers, before they go back to The Gordon Schools in Huntly.

This week, they're joining a distinguished line-up with performers of the songs and poems of Burns from schools across Scotland for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival (AIYF).

Fifteen singers and musicians have had less than a week to rehearse for the world premiere of a musical drama, A Portrait of the Scottish Enlightenment, as part of a Burns heritage education project.

Late-night chat and impromptu musical sessions are all part of the AIYF, now in its 38th year, with more than 1,000 participants from 22 countries. But despite the busy social life, there's energy and confidence in rehearsal as the teenagers belt out songs their great-grannies would have sung round the piano.

It's like an episode of Glee in the rehearsal room, with girls in shorts and purple tights with flowers in their hair, giving Rabbie an edgy fashion update he'd have enjoyed. They'll swap their shorts for 18th- century garb at the dress rehearsal tomorrow, but for the moment "Ae Fond Kiss" has a 21st-century feel.

It's astonishing that they've managed to master the script in just a few days, but all have a passion for performance and they're enjoying doing what they love in good company.

"I've been involved with the Robert Burns World Federation competition since I was in P5. I sing, recite and play the fiddle," says Cait, who was invited to take part by the federation, which is working in partnership with the AIYF.

The federation stages annual schools competitions and has invited some of the star performers to join this production as part of a three-year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The sisters are also taking part in the traditional music school for the third time this year. It's a five-day course for young musicians, led by the award-winning band Bodega.

"We both play the fiddle, and I play piano and Cait plays the tenor horn. Last week, we were at a course learning to play the clarsach," says Annie, as they rehearse their songs with a young actor and singer from Kincorth Academy, Ewan Somers, 17.

In the rehearsal room, they've begun a run-through to check timings. This is the third year that music teacher Heather Dickson has given up her summer holidays to join the festival and she is musical director on this production.

"It's good fun and it's hard work, but the kids make it all worthwhile," says Heather, who has just left Northfield Academy in Aberdeen and will join Dunbar Grammar, East Lothian, after the summer.

Jasmine Dey, 17, from Keith Grammar in Moray, sings like a younger version of Eddi Reader and puts all her emotions into the performance. "It's musical theatre and more popular rock stuff with my band that I have been doing recently, but I love Burns," Jasmine says.

Last year's Young Burnsian of the Year, Ewan McCall, 17, has just left Wallace Hall Academy near Dumfries and plays Burns in the show. His long- suffering wife is played by Sarah Getgood, 17, from Girvan Academy, South Ayrshire, who was overall best singer in this year's Young Burnsian competition.

Director Allan Dunn, who wrote the play, is delighted with their progress: "They're doing spectacularly and I am very proud of them all," he says, as the cast packs up and heads for tea at their hall of residence. "And no late nights tonight!" he warns as they leave.


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today