More than reel to reel

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
Music for YouthTES Scotland Schools Prom, City Hall, Glasgow, June 25

This Schools Prom provided a fascinating overview of the kind of creative work going on in schools around the country, and did so without recourse to the traditional flagship of youth music, the symphony orchestra.

With the massive Festival of British Youth Orchestras scheduled for Edinburgh and Glasgow in August, the Prom - which is to become an annual event - provided an opportunity to hear more specialised ensembles.

Music provision in schools has become a hot political as well as classroom issue in recent times, and rock singer-turned-politician Donnie Munro seemed an appropriate choice as master of ceremonies. He introduced six ensembles in all, and if none were quite the finished article, none failed to do themselves justice.

The most striking aspect of the evening was the sheer variety of music being developed to a high standard at this level, ranging from an early music group to a jazz orchestra, and taking in a brass band, a wind band, a percussion ensemble and a fiddle orchestra along the way.

The West Lothian Schools Brass Band opened the concert with a poised selection, spanning Charpentier's radiant Te Deum through to trombonist Adrian Drover's arrangement of the Star Wars movie theme, which sounded as though it still needed a little work from the players. The band upheld West Lothian's very strong brass tradition with rich and well-disciplined ensemble playing, while Paula Murphy added a fine cornet solo on Gershwin's Summertime.

Flat Pavan, a 12-strong Glasgow-based early music group, provided a pleasing contrast in both numbers and instrumental sonorities, although they played only one piece, a set of French dances, which utilised the full ensemble of strings, recorders and percussion. Dynamic balance was occasionally a problem as the hand drums dominated the other instruments, but this was another confident performance of both early and contemporary music.

The winds and brass of the Strathclyde Arts Centre Wind Band raised the volume level again, and if Alfred Reed's Alleluia! Laudamus Te was not an especially distinguished piece, they played it well enough for the most part, and enjoyed themselves in a suite of music drawn from various James Bond films.

The Fife Youth Percussion Ensemble assembled an impressive collection of hardware on stage, including a steel pan to add flavour to their calypso, City Soca. Their main work, Celebration, was not that memorable, but it did focus attention on the constituent parts of the ensemble.

Like most such bands, the Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra found itself top-heavy with reed players, but it all added to the lustre of their well-drilled and authentically swinging ensemble playing, while all three featured soloists, Gethin Evans (baritone saxophone), Phil O'Malley (trombone) and Victoria Moore (alto saxophone), rose to the challenge in admirable fashion.

The start of the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra's set was briefly delayed while all the players were shoe-horned on to the stage - the band provided a useful reminder that the kilt is not traditionally worn with a football shirt.

Niel Gow's Lament lost a little of its aching poignancy when transferred from solo fiddle to full band, but their buoyant sets of reels and session tunes from Shetland, Ireland and Scotland concluded matters in fine fashion.

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