Mini maestros

10th November 2006 at 00:00
The Schools' Proms reveal the ingenuity of student musicians, writes Karen Gold

"Not just a load of old rubbish" is how music director Richard Noyce describes the three teenage bin-and-saucepan virtuosi from Sir Thomas Picton school in Haverfordwest.

He should know: his school funds all the paraphernalia - plastic buckets, wooden brooms, frying pans - which James Iles, 17, Carl Rees, 15, and Ashley Williams, 15, put together one weekend in a garage two years ago, before launching Home Made, their percussion band.

Practising daily in Sir Thomas Picton school hall - fortunately separated from the classrooms - the boys soon beat off string quartets to win regional music ensemble competitions, and started receiving invitations to play at weddings, folk festivals and even this year's Labour Party conference.

"People sometimes put their heads through the window to listen to us, but no one has ever said 'stop making that awful noise'," says Ashley.

Home Made is one of of 33 top-class acts picked for the Schools' Prom being staged at London's Royal Albert Hall over three nights next week. It will feature 3,000 performers, including orchestras, choirs and dancers, and encompass every sort of music making, from jazz and rock groups, to wind quintets, string groups and even steel pans.

Playing alongside the boys on Tuesday will be a massed choir of 500 Bristol primary pupils, under the baton of Kate Courage, Bristol's music adviser.

She also composed their song, Under the Same Sky. This was inspired by 11-year-old Hassan, an Iraqi refugee, who arrived in her music class at Bristol's Bishop Road primary having never been to school, and speaking no English.

"We were singing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, and he loved it. He was singing along, even with the weirdest bits. I looked at him and thought, 'what a universal language music is'. It really touched me. I went home thinking, 'I want to write a song about that.' So I did," she says.

Almost 500 years separates her song and the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, to be performed by a group of Wigan youth orchestra brass players. Conductor David Williams introduced pupils to this ancient, sacred music by the 16th-century resident composer in St Mark's Cathedral in Venice. And he has persuaded them not only to perform it ranged across the stage fanfare style, but also in period costume.

"The girls thought it was great - but the big Wigan lads weren't overly delighted to be wearing tights.

"They only did it because I did"

Want to take part in next year's Schools' Prom? Groups must enter Music for Youth's regional heats (live or by recording) by December 1, 2006.For details see

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