Category Archives: Community

The sun sets on another session…

This is a time of year I enjoy greatly – and not only because the opportunity to bolster one of Europe’s sun-drenched but struggling economies approaches. There are performances aplenty. In the secondary sector there was MGS Summer Concert – and then a smaller contingent of the Guitar Ensemble played at the MGS Prize Giving last night. It always amazes me how the smaller group (8 members) sounds louder than the full ensemble (20+) – there’s a psychology/physics PhD in there, I’m sure.

In the purely primary zone, there are two nights of Annie at Wallyford PS. My colleague, Ewan Armstong, is the MD for this and puts in the spade work over many weeks. I simply swan in with a bass guitar on the night(s) and join in. On a personal level, this is one of the year’s most enjoyable musical challenges. There is no written part. The trick is to watch what Ewan is playing and decide, on the hoof, the best thing to compliment it. While it’s important that young people grasp the value of rehearsal – of preparing the music as carefully as possible – I think it’s also important for those hoping to pursue the art, that they see other ways of operating – some of which are thrust upon us from time to time. The closing night is this evening. If it’s anything like the miraculous opening night then it will be great.

My final visit to Campie for this session ended with a concert by guitarists in P5-P7 for the P4s – from whose ranks next year’s guitarists will emerge.  I was really thrilled by this event. The pupils played excellently and we were able to squeeze in a few more courageous soloists than was the case during the school’s Musical Evening a couple of weeks earlier. Especially promising was the rapt attention of the P4 pupils and their intelligent questions and observations.

Transition is often where the fun is. Pupils from Campie PS and Wallyford PS joined the MGS Guitar Ensemble in the Summer Concert. Tomorrow, former pupils from Wallyford – currently at MGS –  will visit the school to join with departing P7s in a performance at the Leavers’ Assembly. I’m always touched by the affectionate regard in which the pupils hold their former school, and with the warm reception they receive from their former teachers. It really is the best way to end the year and helps keep a sense of the big picture.

Have an excellent summer, one and all!

ELjam Summer Tour

I received an email today detailing locations, dates, etc. for ELjam’s Summer Tour:

Sat 2nd June 12.00-4.00 pm

Haddington Festival – Neilson Park

Sun 3rd June 12.00 – 3.00 pm

Tranent Gala Ross – High Playing Fields

Sat 9th June 1.30 – 5.00 pm

North Berwick Friends of the Edington Hospital Centenary Fair – Elcho Green

Sat 9th June 10.00 am – 2.00 pm

Port Seton Festival of Youth – Port Seton Community Centre Grounds

Sat 9th June 1.30 – 4.30 pm

East Linton Gala – Park

Sat 16th June 12.00 -3.00 pm

Prestonpans Gala – Mary Murray Park

Fri 22nd June 11.00 am- 2.00pm

Musselburgh – FestiVale 2012- The Long-ish Day

Lewisvale Park

Sat 14th July 1.00 – 5.00 pm

Direlton Fete and Games – Village Green

If you are a solo performer or play in a band and would be interested in talking part, then you can download an application form here:

ELjam Summer Tour 2012 Application Form

Sound Editing for Oral Historians

The second project in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was to put together a short course, explaining the basics of sound editing so that local, oral historians – using the free program, Audacity, could edit and present their work. Of course this is equally applicable to music.

Here it is…

Sound Editing in Audacity for Oral Historians

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

In October 2011 I applied to participate in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). Under the mantle of Creative Learning Networks, the idea was to enhance creative learning in the (public sector) workplace – school, community etc. One spin-off would be that silos who have neither time not opportunity to communicate would have reason to come together, in the interest of learning. This very much appealed to my cross-curricular mind-set.

Under the leadership of Ruthanne Baxter – then Arts Education Officer and Manager for Creative Learning Network in East Lothian – I was paired with Caroline Mathers at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, soon to be moving into its new premises in Lodge Street. Various ideas were discussed and two projects were agreed:

  1. a short series of videos where working composers would give tips to pupils to help with the composing/arranging component of the SQA Music courses
  2. an online course in the basics of sound editing – using the free program, Audacity and aimed at oral historians

The latter idea seemed especially fitting for two reasons:

  1. the John Gray Centre is, among other things, a museum devoted to local history and community
  2. this seemed, to me, to fit the cross-sector brief

Five composers were initially scheduled to be involved in the video interviews but, due to various commitments, two were unable to take part. Nevertheless, I feel that the three videos we have will be invaluable to students of composition.

I shall post each of the two outcomes individually.

Matthew Warnock

Most criticisms of social networking I come across share two common elements: the complainer often has less experience than those at whose ears the comments are aimed; the complaint features accusations of egotism.

I’d like to offer an alternative example – one of someone sharing their learning, free of charge.

Matthew Warnock is a man I have never met. However, he is a guitarist and teacher and posts useful material on his website, which he then mentions on Facebook – I came across this through a mutual friend – that’s the networking bit. This seemed sufficient grounds for making contact.

I was particularly impressed with recent posts on pentatonic scales (general Wikipedia explanation here). For some guitarists, there is only one pentatonic scale – usually used in blues. For many there are two – major and minor. Matthew’s recent posts featured the lesser known:

Dorian Pentatonic Scale

Lydian Pentatonic Scale

Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale

Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale

Mixolydian b13 Pentatonic Scale

Locrian Pentatonic Scale

Melodic Minor Pentatonic Scale

Each post features the scale, scale patterns and licks in the context of a chord sequence.

Thanks, Matthew.

Why not try them out?

A sense of perspective

In the frenzy of end of term concerts, Showcase etc., it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of preparation and lose sight of the big picture – the raison d’être of the job. This was remedied last night when around 30 former pupils came along to the NBHS Spring Concert – the last one for Linda Medine who has taught Music there for many years.

Joining the existing members of the Chorale on stage they performed a beautiful arrangement of Robbie Williams’ Angels – magnificently prepared and directed by Gill Casson. The sound was huge and the whole thing was very moving.

This surprise item really meant a lot to Linda – as she had meant a such lot to them – enough to come from far and wide for a lovely send off. What a nice end to the term.

One World Night

Last night I took part in an extraordinary event in Musselburgh Grammar School. Organised by Maya, a pupil in S4, One World Night featured an imaginative mix of pupil performance and presentations on humanitarian themes by guest speakers and pupils of MGS and Campie Primary School. The event was warmly compèred by Fiona O’Donnell, MP for East Lothian.

MGS Orchestra opened with the Prelude from Charpentier’s Te Deum, followed by an arrangement of Over The Rainbow. John Cunningham then gave a presentation on the work of Mercy Corps. MGS Guitar Group performed Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra before Katherine and Roanna described the work of the MGS Amnesty Group and the necessity of speaking out against injustice.

After the interval, six pupil members the local branch of the Alpha Dance Academy gave a fantastic performance of Jai Ho from the film, Slum Dog Millionaire. This was an energetic and impressive mix of Indian and en pointe styles.

P7 pupils from Campie PS spoke eloquently about the school’s links with a Burmese refugee school (CDC) in Thailand, and also about the recently released Aung San Suu Kyi. Having listened to an edition of Radio 4′s Word of Mouth earlier in the week in which schools in the U.S. were praised for nurturing confidence in public speaking, I couldn’t help feeling that Campie’s presentations were as confident and capable as it was possible to find. On this note, I also couldn’t help noticing some of my P6 pupils from Campie listening intently throughout the evening – an impressive counter to current worries about young people’s attention span.

Edinburgh based lawyer, Alison Smith talked about the Dalit (Untouchable caste) in India. I had no idea that so many people suffered such exclusion – 150 million – that’s 30 Scotlands!

Shirley gave a heartfelt performance of Leonard Cohen’s Alleluia, accompanied on guitar by Amy. The final presentation by Susan Dalgety (vice-chair of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership) described Scotland’s historic links with Malawi.

In her vote of thanks at the evening’s close, Maya informed us that £264 had been raised during the evening. This had been a moving mix of entertainment, information and philanthropy. I was particularly indebted to my pupils at MGS. As a result of the holidays and the itinerant nature of my work, they were asked only on the previous Friday if they would be free and willing to take part. Almost all were able to make it, happy to be there and engaged by all the speakers.

We are Macmillan

I’m just back from what has now become an annual East Lothian charity event, organised by our very own Maxine Wilson on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support. Instrumental Instructors in East Lothian schools put forward soloists and small groups for two (different) programmes. Tonight’s – the first of two – was sold out. I had two hats this evening: one as accompanist for former NBHS singer, Zoe Moskal-Guy, and the other directing a small group of MGS guitarists.

By coincidence, I sent off today the master of Love Burns – an album featuring Zoe and me, along with some very special guests. In a few weeks 1,000 copies will be delivered and the website www.loveburns.co.uk will go live. Watch this space…

Playing with the small MGS group (7 pupils) was a treat. We played a piece which we aired in 2010′s East Lothian Showcase Concert – that time with a much bigger group – around 40 players. With only 7, everyone can hear one another and it’s possible to play in a much freer way, without the necessity of a rigid beat to keep together. I was extremely proud of their sensitive performance – and grateful to all for cheerfully giving up their evening for this worthy cause. Many thanks to all involved.

This was the 2nd nice event of the week, coming a few days after Sunday’s ELjam Showcase Concert in the Brunton Theatre. It’s nice to see pupils (and staff) from across the county coming together in such positive settings.