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(E) 4 out of 52
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NAYOEdinburgh Schools Concert Band and Wind Ensemble (page 87)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras Series (page 89)

Drams Concert 1:
           Concert 2:
Music Concert 1: John Williams: Midway March; Martin Ellerby: The 'Big Easy'Suite; Claude T Smith: Emperata Overture; John Williams: Raiders of the Lost Ark-March. Concert 2: Edward Gregson: Festivo; John Barnes Chance: Variations on a Korean Folk Song; Fred J Allan, Arranger: When the Stars Began to Fall; Frank Ticheli: Vesuvius
Musicians Concert 1: Edinburgh Schools Concert Band, Graeme Williamson(Conductor) Concert 2: Edinburgh Schools Wind Ensemble, Stephen Callaghan, (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Edinburgh Schools run three wind bands/orchestras. They are: (1) The Transition Orchestra; (2) The Concert Band; and (3) The Wind Ensemble. Students start in the Transition Orchestra in S1 and progress through the ranks as they gain experience. The same tutors and coaches work with all three groups. Tonight, it was the turn of the two senior groups to present themselves to the public.

Concert 1
The performance in the first half of the evening was given by the middle of the three groups. I realise that it is important that as many players as possible should be given the opportunity to gain the experience of playing in front of an audience, but I think that some thought should be given to the balance between the different sections in the band.

The programme listed 85 players in this band. Fortunately, not all of them appeared on the stage. However, I counted 16 trumpets and probably as many clarinets and flutes, as well as saxophones, horns, trombones, euphoniums and tubas. This was just one amorphous mass, which made it very difficult to sort out the different parts. The brass, especially the trumpets, tended to drown out the rest of the band. I hardly heard the flutes the whole evening.

The music was played in the order given above. The first Williams piece came from the music for the film Midway, about a sea battle in the Pacific during World War II. The balance was all wrong. The Ellerby was a 4-movement suite depicting life in New Orleans (nickname - The Big Easy). I am afraid that I found this an unsatisfactory composition. The movements were (i) Mississippi Rag - representing the Scott Joplin ragtime era; (ii) Satchmo, was supposed to be a tribute to Louis Armstrong, but I didn't think it did anything to represent Satchmo; (iii) Bourbon Street Blues was supposed to be a gentle interlude with "nothing to do but relax": sorry, but I couldn't relax; (iv) Mardi Gras - Carnival time: plenty of noise, but that's all. I think that the band did a reasonable job with some not very good music. The band finished with a much better composition, Smith's Emperata Overture.

My overall impression of this band is that they did not pay very much attention to the dynamics of the pieces they were playing. The conductor did try to indicate that he wanted them to play quieter, but they did not appear to be able to do so. The seemed to only to be able to play loud or very loud. This could have been the fact that there were just too many players on the stage, but their relative inexperience may also have played a part..

A presentation was made to Graeme Williamson awho had announced his decision to retire from leading this band after seven years. The band played another John Williams piece, this time from The Raiders of the Lost Ark. The band did play with enthusiasm, but, as Graeme said, they might have benefited from a few more rehearsals. Credit must be given to the staff and the students for trying. I am just sorry that it was not very successful.

Concert 2.
The senior band, The Wind Ensemble, gave the second half of the evening's programme. What a difference, a smaller group, approximately half of the previous group, and only 6 trumpets. One could actually hear the woodwind. This was a pleasure to listen to. The balance was so much better, the dynamics were better and the overall performance was that much better. It just shows what a difference a couple of years experience and training can do.

This part of the programme opened with a piece by an English composer, Edward Gregson. It was basically a short introduction followed by a rondo with two episodes. The main theme was quite reminiscent of the running figures used by Bernstein in his Candide overture, with the theme of the opening being used for the lyrical first episode, with a trace of minimalism in the second episode before reaching a climax with the combination of both themes.

Chance based his Variations on a Korean folk song on music he had heard while serving in the US Army in Korea in 1958-59. The clarinets introduced song, which was followed by five variations, each showing different approaches (i) using temple blocks and woodwind; (ii) oboe playing the tune inverted with quiet accompaniment; (iii) a fast march; (iv) a broad, solemn treatment; (v) a dialogue between the various sections of the ensemble using material from the opening. The orchestration and harmonisation introduced many oriental flavours, and the percussion section were particularly effective.

Fred Allan's setting of an old Spiritual, My Lord, What a Morning, was a beautiful expression of the miseries and the longings of the slaves, and the ensemble did it proud. Before the last item on the programme, Stephen paid tribute to Carol Main and all those connected with the NAYO for the work they did in mounting this Festival.

The ensemble finished the performance with an excellent rendering of Ticheli's depiction of life in Pompeii, Herculaneum and the surrounding villages while Vesuvius rumbled away in the background. Eventually the volcano exploded; the explosions and the ensuing chaos brought the music to a glorious, but terrifying climax. A truly excellent concert and I am sure that the members of the Concert Band, who were listening in the gallery, will have learnt something

© Charlie Napier, 26 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com

The series continues at 12:30: 16, 19-22, 26-30 August and at 19:30hrs: 16, 18-23, 25-30 August
   

NAYOEdinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra (page 87)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras Series (page 89)

Drams 0
Music Concert See playlist below
Musicians Soloists (see playlist below); EdinburghSchools Jazz Orchestra, Dan Hallam (Director)
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Once again, the exuberant figure of Dan Hallam bounced on to the stage of the Central Hall. With his usual infectious enthusiasm, he introduced the audience to the world of big-band jazz.

The programme, as it unfolded, covered the period from the classical swing era of the 1940s right up to the Latino music of the 1990s. Dan's enthusiasm for big-band music made itself evident in his introductions to the pieces (he likes to keep his programme secret) and the way the orchestra responded showed that the players had been infected as well. This was a great performance from the whole orchestra, many of whom had been here last year with the orchestra . The hours of practice they must have put in was evident from their playing; their unity in the tutti passages, their sensitivity when one of their number was being featured, and the fact that they did not seem to play any wrong notes.

During the performance, Dan paid tribute to the dedication of the players and also to those who had helped throughout the year, in particular the Edinburgh Education Authorities and the NAYO staff. Being a schools-based organisation, it is inevitable that some players leave at the end of the academic year when they reach the end of their sixth year. For about half of the present orchestra this was their last gig, but I am sure that next year we will hear just as good a performance. Congratulations to all concerned, not forgetting the individual instrumental tutors.

The programme was as follows:
Autumn Leaves (no solos).
Satin Doll featuring Rachael Cohen, alto sax; Sam Danzig, tenor sax; Hannah Cohen, trombone (Rachael's sister).
Stolen Moments featuring Sam and Rachael.
I've got you under my skin featuring Rachael.
Misty featuring Rachael and Ewan Bleimar, trumpet.
Groove Merchant (no solos).
Great Big Grin (Samba) featuring Dave Bruce, guitar; Lucy McCall-Smith, trombone; as well as Rachael and Hannah.
Impressions featuring Sam, Rachael and Hannah.
And to finish with, the Glenn Miller arrangement of Little Brown Jug, which featured Sam, Lucy, Rachael and Hannah.

So enthusiastic was the reception from the audience that the orchestra played an encore, Witchcraft, in which the whole orchestra shone. A great ending to a great concert.

© Charlie Napier, 30 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
The series concludes on Sunday 31 August, St Gile's Cathedral, High Street at 18.00 (Free)
   

NAYOEdinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra (page 87)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras Series (page 89)
Drams Full GlassFull Glass
Music Wagner: Mastersingers of Nuremberg-Prelude; Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez-Adagio; John Maxwell Geddes: The Hill House - A Celebration; Carlos Chavez: Sinfonia India; Glazounov: Symphony No.5 in B flat major, Op.55
Musicians Jochum Huby (guitar); Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra, Alasdair Mitchell, (Director)
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Just before the final concert of the 2003 Festival of British Youth Orchestras, Carol Main, the Director of the National Association of Youth Orchestras, announced that this was her last Festival and paid tribute to all of the people who had worked so hard and who had helped in so many ways to make this festival, the 24th, such a success.

As well as the clergy, the congregation and staff of the Methodist Central Hall; her full time and temporary assistants in the NAYO; all the sponsors, especially the John Lewis Partnership; all the Education Authorities, schools and the tutors and staff; Carol paid special tribute to the young players themselves, not the least of whom were the players in tonight's orchestra.

In the first Festival 24 years ago, of which Carol was the founding Director, the Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra had plaid the final concert and here we were tonight with the same orchestra (different players of course) giving the final concert. One of the young men in tonight's orchestra presented her with a beautiful bouquet in appreciation of the all work she had done on behalf of all the youth orchestras and especially the Edinburgh Schools Orchestras. All this preceded the final half of the concert and a fine rendering of the Glazounov symphony.

In the first half of the concert we had four works, two very well known and two that were probably completely unknown to the audience. The opening work, the Prelude to Mastersingers, one of Wagner's "lighter" works, was played with verve and enthusiasm but unfortunately the performance suffered what I have come to call the "Central Hall Syndrome", ie. the problem of the brass sections drowning out the strings. I am afraid that the only thing that can be done is to severely restrain the brass sections, which did not happen here. It was a different story in the Rodrigo, which did have a severely restricted brass section.

Jochum Huby, a young man educated in Edinburgh but now studying at Trinity College, London, gave a very good rendering of the slow movement from the Guitar concerto. The orchestra was very well restrained by Alasdair Mitchell and the overall result was a very pleasant episode.

John Maxwell Geddes wrote a piece which was supposed to be a celebration of the Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's architectural masterpiece in Helensburgh. While the Alasdair and the orchestra seemed to make a fine job of performing this apparently complicated work, I'm afraid that I could not see it as a "celebration" and it seemed to lose its way in the middle section.

Chavez, on the other hand, did epitomise the life and culture of his native Mexico in the Sinfonia India. The "India" comes from the fact that he used native Mexican-Indian dance rhythms and melodies as well as those of the native Incas. He amalgamated all of these into this three-section work which made me picture local market-places and fiestas. The orchestra played this with conviction and enthusiasm and made a fine ending to the first half.

The second half was taken up completely with Glazounov's 5th Symphony, a 19th century composition in the traditional four-movement format. Apart from previously-mentioned problems, there were some minor problems of intonation which can be put down to youth and inexperience. These, however, did not really detract from what was a fine performance and a fine ending to this Festival.

© Charlie Napier, 31 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com
The series concludes on Sunday 31 August, St Gile's Cathedral, High Street at 18.00 (Free)
   

UOEFOEric Bogle (page 83)
Roots @ The Reid Series


Drams 0
Music
Musicians Eric Bogle (guitar) and John Campbell Munro (banjo etc)
Venue The Reid Hall
Address Reid Quad, Bristo Place
Reviewer Pat Napier

Eric Bogle
Eric Bogle's three gigs at the Reid were immediately adjacent to Brian Kennedy's three. Eric's middle one came beforehand and he followed in the other two. I was destined to hear Eric after Brian. Each was fantastic - in very different ways.

Eric's razor sharp wit and infectious humour was brilliantly evident from the start. Iintroductions were delivered in song and memorable words. In a few hilarious bars, we knew that John Campbell Munro (from the great Australian band Colcannon), was a long-time friend and fellow musician and would be playing the banjo and other string things. They've worked together since 1980 and their very easy, comfortable manner was proof of that. John was an integral and joyous part of the music all the way to the end.

Eric's wit and way with words were a beguiling cover overlaying his deep and abiding passion for social justice for the vulnerable and the oppressed. Like Brian Kennedy, he too told stories about his life and his songs' background. Unlike Kennedy, (these were told in the broadest of Scots accents, despite having left his native country in 1969) the wit was boyish, infectiously funny and upbeat, betraying the sharpest of eyes for detail. Towering above all else, the words are always hugely significant in Bogle's songs.

Highly poetic and condensed to point up the focus, the first three songs made us ache with pity for a poor farmer's hardships in It's nearly over now, then think deep thoughts about continuity in the story of Ray Smith's housewarming gift of a humble wee white candle three years ago. The Dalai Lama's candle, like the handing on of the Olympic flame, was the candle that lit the candle... that lit the candle... that lit Ray's gift. Ray was the link to the third song The little girl who lives in Rosie's eyes, about Eric's loving, spirited relationship with Ray's funny, demanding, talented daughter who has cerebral palsy.

John Campbell Munro
A sharp twist of the mood-tuning dial had us laughing heartily at the working title of Eric's new CD "A total waste of time and money" he said. Was he really joking? Now issued as Colour of dreams the title song was the first of a set of very different protest songs, which led us from the day they shot Martin down to the moment when Eric wished that "Martin was here singing with me on the day Nelson walked free." Next up was his enormously funny protest at being asked all through his career to sing something by Dylan.

Then into his very famous No man's land (The green fields of France) and its story. Would you believe that his 86 year old Auntie Ivy wrote to Tony Blair on seeing a photo of him holding a framed photo of his favourite poem The green fields of France "...written by a Scot who'd in the First World War"? She soon set Tony right on the author and his very much alive state. Then she followed it up by writing to The Times along the same lines, adding the listing Eric's complete tour dates and places!

I can understand why he's asked to write songs for very specific events. His most difficult commission was for the grieving Australian parents of a cot death infant to help heal their grief in song. We had a lovely daughter became a beautiful celebration of life. His reward was to bring solace to not one but two similarly bereaved couples when he sang it, all unknowing, in the tiny village of some 60 souls in Carrick on Shannon in Ireland!

All too soon we reached And the band played Waltzing Matilda followed by the poignant Leaving Nancy. We didn't want them to leave but 'Goodbye' time had come.

© Pat Napier. 27 August 2003. Published on www.EdinburghGuide.com

(E) 4 out of 52
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