Category Archives: Pupil Performance

Super troupers

This has been quite a performance-heavy week. Mon – Wed saw three evangelising concerts, where guitarists performed to younger pupils who will be eligible for guitar instruction next session.

On Monday, P5 – P7 pupils from Campie PS played a short concert for the current P4s. The repertoire was a mix of group items and solos, the latter of which would give them some idea of what they might be doing next year. The atmosphere was great and there were some very interesting questions for the pupils from the audience. Recordings from this event can be found on the Campie PS page.

In a similar vein, Tuesday saw a visit of NBHS guitarists to Law PS and Wednesday, a visit of Knox guitarists to King’s Meadow PS. Technical glitches e.g. batteries running out during performances, resulted in their being fewer recordings than I’d hoped, but there are enough to give some idea of the day. The explosive applause of P7 pupils should also convey how much the pupils enjoyed the visit. (NBHS page; Knox page).

Thursday evening was the Musselburgh Grammar School Summer Concert in which the school’s Guitar Group played two items – a Scottish Medley and a Brazilian Choro. You can hear these items on the MGS page.

Many thanks to all the pupils concerned for the hard work, joie de vivre and savoir faire.


This afternoon I was proud to take part in a performance with 9 guitarists and 2 singers from Knox Academy & North Berwick High School. Organised by Health Scotland, the theme was mental well-being and the idea of the performance was to allow delegates to see the benefits conferred upon young people by engagement in positive activity. This resonates with my own view (not mine alone, of course) that involvement in something, which is both meaningful and bigger than oneself, is one of the key ingredients of good mental health. Music and sport provide many and varied opportunities for the natural occurrence of this phenomenon.

Impromptu MC, I was keen to highlight the relevance of the way in which much of the music had been put together to the themes of the day. Many of the pupils had been on exam leave for several weeks and, nevertheless, were game to take on new material for public performance at very short notice. One example of positive attitude was to be seen in two pupils who agreed to join in the accompaniment of two songs only yesterday. Another was in the willingness of the whole group to perform a blues put together in a few minutes with neither notes nor overall plan written out. Four individuals volunteered improvised solos in this blues, and I was keen that the audience enjoy the quality of living in the moment, which always adds an immediacy to performance. I decided to dedicate this blues to Carol Craig of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being who was seated quite near the group. Her talk on well-being at the 2007 Scottish Learning Festival was one of those rare events where someone appears to be articulating inchoate thoughts you’ve had for years.

Our final item, an arrangement of The Average White Band‘s Pick Up The Pieces, seemed apposite. The young people playing have most of their lives before them. Things are bound to go wrong in the remaining decades but the thing is to pick up the pieces and keep on keeping on.

Thanks to everybody involved* for representing East Lothian in general, and these two schools in particular. The audience seemed both engaged and moved and the organisers were very grateful to the pupils for providing exactly the positive effects they had envisioned.

* the day had kicked off with a performance by some hip-hop dancers from Dunbar Grammar School – unfortunately this was long before we arrived for our lunchtime slot.


NBHS Spring Concert

I seem to have fallen behind with the dusting 🙂 possibly due to having spent 10 of the last 16 nights in schools. Here are some of the highlights of items featuring NBHS guitarists this evening:

Guitar Ensemble Scottish Medley 2009 scottish-medley-2009

Zoe & Senior Guitarists Ca’ The Yowes ca-the-yowes-live

Zoe & Senior Guitarists John Anderson My Jo john-anderson-my-jo

I was keen to clarify, to the audience, an important nuance in accreditation. The musical arrangements were my own but in the case of the Ca’ The Yowes, Zoe had brought as much to the project as I had in creative/interpretative terms and certainly a good deal more in performance terms. My role had simply been to find the nicest harmonies I could and sprinkle notes, like so many dew drops, around the fingertips of my fine young friends in the ensemble. The melodic variation wrought by Zoe (entirely her own idea) provided, for me, the lion’s share of the transformational and affective content of the performance.

Have a great Easter, everyone!


Christmas is perceived as the busy time of year for instrumental instructors as, every school puts on one or two evening’s worth of yuletide music-making as near the end of term as possible. However, this term has been no slouch either. In addition to SQA practical exams, the last few weeks of term has seen: a Sunday band call, Wednesday dress rehearsal and then 3 nights of Guys & Dolls at NBHS; Campie Musical Evening; East Lothian’s Showcase Concert; Knox Spring Concert (tonight) and NBHS Spring Concert (tomorrow).

These last two clashed with the only two nights of Wallyford PS’s production of Annie and so I took the opportunity to go along to the dress rehearsal last night. I was really stunned by the stage presence, quality of singing, acting, accents and, last but not least, by the traditional Wallyfordesque lack of prima donnability.

It struck me how odd it was to have walked past many of these pupils, so many times, completely unaware of their great talent.

Showcase Concert 2009

This year’s East Lothian Showcase Concert took place last night in the Brunton Hall, Musselburgh. The evening showcases, to a packed house, the inter-school String, Wind, Jazz, Percussion & Guitar Ensembles.

I have to confess to loathing the acoustic of the Brunton Hall which constantly threatens to undermine the many, many hours of work put in by guitar pupils, as it’s virtually impossible for them to hear one another. Rhythmic cues necessary for timing are often inaudible as, for example, a cough by one member of the audience reverberates as loudly as the sound of 40 guitars. Our preference is the magnificent acoustic of Musselburgh Grammar School’s hall, where the event has been hosted in years when the Brunton Hall was mercifully unavailable.

That said, tragedy was averted for another year and the pupils turned in a commendable performance. You can hear mp3s of the East Lothian Guitar Ensemble’s contribution to this year’s event on the East Lothian Guitar Ensemble page.

Other ensembles seem to thrive in this acoutic. The magnificent Wind Ensemble nearly took the roof off!