What's all this jazz about opera-inspired cabaret?

2nd August 2013 at 01:00
One Fringe performer recalls how two of his former teachers helped pave the way to success. Henry Hepburn reports

Born 10 weeks premature, Colin Bryce had serious lung problems and was given a 50-50 chance of survival. He didn't walk until he was 16 months old and was five before his parents were assured of his long-term health.

This month, however, the 24-year-old will sing opera-inspired cabaret with the group All That Malarkey at the Edinburgh Fringe - a success largely down to two exceptional teachers.

Colin often found school difficult until encountering Margaret Rodgers, his P5 teacher at Glasgow's Broomhill Primary.

"I was shy," he recalls. "She gave me space and confidence to come out of my shell. She allowed children to explore the creative side of learning.

"She got us to do a puppet show for the school - we had to be different animals. It was a chance to escape from being your own self."

Colin later attended Jordanhill School. He was already excelling at music, but singing was not a big part of his repertoire. Principal music teacher Ian Anderson - now retired - heard that Colin might have a latent talent and invited him to a singing trial.

Mr Anderson was impressed and persuaded Colin, then in S3, to change his second Intermediate 2 instrument from keyboard to voice. Later, with only a week's notice, he told Colin that he was to perform solo at an end-of-term church service, singing the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen to 600 staff and students, as well as his mother Karen - a now-retired principal home economics teacher - and his father Tom, a University of Strathclyde education professor. It went so well that Colin became a regular performer at school events.

"That was very pivotal in terms of the direction I went in," Colin says. "It was the first time I'd stood in front of an audience that size. Pulling it off was a real confidence boost. My mum and dad snuck in, and they'd never really heard me sing properly, so it was a wonderful shock to them."

Colin completed a University of Glasgow degree in music and theatre and in 2010 won a scholarship to study classical voice and opera at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and graduates this month. He was offered a postgraduate in musical theatre at London's Royal Academy of Music, but opted to stay with All That Malarkey.

"I can't thank my old teachers enough - they paved the career path that I've chosen to take," he says.

The University of Glasgow's four-year professional degree programme is the main route into music teaching in Scotland. Course organisers advise that music teaching is becoming "more pupil-centred, more practical and much more individualised"

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