13th March, Bands, Ensembles and Orchestras

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Perth Concert Hall was the perfect setting for an evening of competition between ceilidh bands, ensembles and school orchestra. The adjudicators were Andrew Sherwood and Ken Blackwood. They had warm words of congratulations as well as sound advice for going forwards for all the musicians.

Andrew Sherwood, applauded the work of the conductors and tutor staff as well as that of the young musicians who had come together to make the event possible. The evening began with the rich young sounds of Braco Primary’s String Orchestra ‘Ardoch Strings’ which, following the adjudicator’s critical acclaim, were given an encore!

At times the adjudicators comments were brutally honest but, as they unveiled their encouraging praise, the young players clearly grew in their respect for the advice they were being given. Perhaps the greatest appreciation came when one adjudicator enacted out a mime of the ‘reluctant musician’ versus the ‘confident musician’. It was an ‘O wad some power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!’ moment which went down very well with his audience!

In the ceilidh class, Perth Academy, Kilgraston and Strathallan bands went head to head with a lively programme of traditional melodies worthy of performance at any Celtic Connections event. The winner on the night was Strathallan Ceilidh Band, conducted by Kyle Howie.

In an evening which showcased the very best of Perthshire’s young musicians there was just one entry in the Brass Ensemble section – Perth Academy’s Brass Ensemble directed by Elaine Stewart. Adjudicator, Ken Blackwood, praised the re-emergence of brass playing following the disruptive years of the pandemic.

String Orchestras from Kinross High School and Perth Academy were next – directed by Sharon Doyle and Lorna McGovern respectively both of whom drew emotional remarks from Andrew Sherwood in his adjudication. “Listen to your teachers, they are the real experts,” he told the young musicians. “When you see so many young string players you know that something is right in this world!”

It was a close run contest but, on the night, first place and the Margaret Miller Trophy, with an Honours Certificate, was awarded to Kinross High.

Regulars at Perform in Perth, the 25th Stirling (Dunblane) Boys Brigade Wind Band under the batons of Fraser Boyd and Ben Tullis, brought nostalgic comments from adjudicator Ken Blackwood – himself a former BB and Queen’s Badge holder. “Confident playing, both in the loud passages and the soft ones. Delightful playing from the French Horn especially – but from the whole range of instruments.”

Perth Academy Orchestra, conducted by Richard Waghorn, brought together many of the musicians who had already performed on the stage in the classes earlier in the evening. Now they were to display a unity of force that must be the envy of other schools. “This orchestra is something for the school to celebrate,” said Andrew Sherwood.

Their performance opened with Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’ whose powerful sounds brought out the finest playing.

The final class of the evening was for Orchestras (non school). Perth Youth Orchestra, founded in 1962, draws players from across all ten of Perth and Kinross’ schools and beyond and, as the largest group, they are traditionally the last to perform. Conducted by Mr Allan Young, Perth and Kinross’ Coordinator of Instrumental Music, the musicians played ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Howard Shore and ‘Fiddle Faddle’ by Leroy Anderson.

Their playing was met with superlatives from the adjudicators.

Andrew Sherwood praised the infrastructure behind the orchestra, adding, “you are doing a fantastic job – Perth be proud of yourself! This orchestra is something really special – you should realise how good you are and you must keep it.” He had praise too for the orchestra’s leader, Niamh Clark – “you are an inspirational leader.”

“The last time I saw an orchestra this big was when I was at a festival in China. Be aware there are large youth orchestras in other parts of the world but there are not many orchestra’s like this in Britain. You are not only standing up for Perth you are standing up for the whole country.”

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