The current mood in ed-ucation may be negative, but at least youth music judging from the opening night of the 22nd season of Schools Prom - is something to shout about. Playing to an unusually crowded Albert Hall, 11 groups, representing a variety of musical styles, performed to the professional standard that is the trade mark of this unique event.
Scissett Music Centre's opening numbers were well contrasted. "Snakes", an at-mospheric, per- cussive piece that deserves to be better known, was followed by a simply orchestrated version of Vaughan Williams' "Linden Lea", and the "Kings March" from music written for the RSC's Henry V.
Welsh schools have always taken a pride in their cultural heritage. The chamber choir of Ysgol Gerdd Ceredigion, gave a poignant rendering of three traditional melodies with simple harp accompaniment, the last featuring two athletic clog dancers. Juniors from Our Lady of the Wayside Primary School put on a remarkable display of Irish dancing, delightfully costumed in green and gold, with a confident seven-year-old announ-cer and two excellent violinists.
The Hummingbirds Choir from Lytton House School, Putney, showed that even with large numbers of singers (the whole of Year 4) it is possible to achieve a musical sound. Their "Rainforest Medley" was clearly enunciated and exceptionally well presented.
Instrumental groups ranged from the energetic Bromley Youth Chamber Orchestra to Waltham Forest Steel, whose most musical item was Satie's "Gymnopedie No 1". Wootton Upper School Percussion Ensemble were cool, stylish and controlled in the Scherzo from Leonard Salzedo's Concerto for Percussion. Solent Youth Jazz Orchestra under dynamic young directorsaxophonist Daniel Mar Molinero made an exciting sound in Ellington's "Caravan" and Chick Corea's "Spain". Wakefield College Band put pop on the programme with an attractive ballad, "Slipping Away", by lead singer Lisa Goldthorpe.
Only at the Schools Prom would you find a group of yangchin (Chinese dulcimer) players from Middlesbrough playing music from Indonesia and Argentina. This original if unauthentic group from Hall Garth School plays with delicacy and sensitivity. The evening ended with Josef Suk's rather overblown symphonic poem Prage from the huge forces of the Surrey Youth Orchestra. Experienced comperes Richard Stilgoe and Bob Holness wisely kept chat to a minimum throughout and let the music speak for itself.
Schools Prom is a Music for Youth programme sponsored by British Aerospace, Commercial Union, GlaxoWellcome and W H Smith in association with The TES and the DFEE. Reviews of Tuesday Wednesday will appear next week.