Kenny Mathieson meets a Highland band in this week's Schools Prom Scotland's sole representative at this week's Schools Prom in London was Dryzabone, a Celtic rock band from Charleston Academy in Inverness. If the six boys go on to a career in music, then their experiences this year will have given them an early taste of the musician's life on the road.
Progress to the Albert Hall event, organised by Music for Youth, began in March when the band attended the regional competition in Carlisle (Music for Youth prefer to describe it as an audition). The journey proved worthwhile and they moved on to the next stage of the event, the National Festival of Music for Youth at the Royal Festival Hall in London in July. There they picked up an award for most outstanding performance from BBC Radio 2, and were invited to take part in the Prom. A further award on the fringe at last month's National Mod in Inverness meant that Dryzabone approached their Albert Hall debut with no shortage of confidence.
The band got together at Charleston Academy only a year and a half ago but quickly acquired experience by performing at local festivals and ceilidhs. although they have done so well this year, they have become unhappy with the band's name, which they intend to change once they have found an alternative.
Dryzabone's material is an imaginative fusion of traditional Scottish music with rock. Although they acknowledge bands such as Wolfstone as an early inspiration, they intend to develop their own distinctive approach to the Celtic rock format.
The band is made up of John Somerville on accordion, Misha Somerville on whistle and mandolin, Barry Reid on electric and acoustic guitars, Sorley McDonald on bass guitar, Steven Due on drums, and David Eglinton who takes care of the sound-desk.
The motivation for creating the band came from the boys themselves, says their head of music, Norman Bolton. Although there is little in the way of formal instrumental teaching at Charleston and there is no official school orchestra, there are "always a number of bands on the go", and their successful production of a musical at the Eden Court last June will be followed by another next year.
The school has provided help and encouragement to the band. "We don't have a huge amount of music resources here, but we were able to give some help with practical matters like equipment," said Bolton. "We have concentrated mainly on giving them advice and constructive criticism, but musically they have done it themselves - the arrangements and compositions they play are entirely their own work."
The band prefers to work collectively and claims that the arrangements have usually turned out best when all five members have worked on creating them. Their standard of instrumental proficiency is already high, and they see their music as being in a continuous state of development.
The band's success has given Charleston Academy - a local authority school with a pupil roll of just under 1,000 - a great boost. The head is a traditional music fan, and was clearly pleased with Dryzabone's achievements, and Norman Bolton sees their progress as welcome encouragement for the music department's efforts.
The band's success comes at a time when the school is involved in an increasing amount of musical activity. After several disappointingly "empty" years, both the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra have sent groups into the school to work with pupils this year, and Opera Circus conducted a workshop there last week.
The school musical, Stage-struck, was well received at Eden Court, and there are plans for a Christmas performance of Young Messiah, a rock version of Handel's oratorio, as well as another musical next year. Dryzabone, meanwhile, have a career in music, and a new name, as their eventual aim.
Starting next year, there will be a TES Scotland Schools Prom in June. Interested schools should contact Pippa Cleeve, Music for Youth, tel 0181 870 9624