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  • Graeme Scott

Best from the West

West Area String Orchestra and West Area Wind Band

Queen Anne High School, Dunfermline

March 16th 2019

Every now and again in this crazy world we call the music business you end up going to an event which turns out very differently to what you were expecting. We constantly hear how funding for the Arts and school budgets are being alarmingly cut from education budgets and there can be no doubt that is true. So after being invited to attend I had kind of built up in my mind that the players would be in short supply. How very wrong I was! Thanks to the programme I have just counted up the numbers and the orchestra and band contained 31 violins, 8 viola, 13 cello, 1 double bass, 8 flutes, 1 oboe, 13 clarinets, 1 bassoon, 3 tenor horns, 1 alto sax, 8 trombones, 6 trumpets and 3 sharing drums, timpani and percussion duties. Wow! Music is alive and well in West Fife. Ninety five young and enthusiastic players can make for a very full and rich sound and whilst they are not, as yet, up to full contemporary professional standards that did not matter one jot. The afternoon sets were evenly split between the shimmering strings of the orchestra and the punch of the band. Each played three pieces before handing the spotlight over to the other side. So it progressed through a very full set list of both familiar and the less so. The strings kicked off with a piece I had never heard before The Rocking Strings before moving on to Chopsticks and Bowin’ The Blues written and made famous by Sidney Bechet and Milton Mezzrow. The nicely rolling gait of Recess Boogie Woogie really brought a smile to my face before they tackled the ever sumptuous and evocative The Blue Danube the Johan Strauss masterpiece. This is a challenge to play well at any level and these kids put their hearts and soul into this gorgeous music conjuring up much of the Viennese 1800s waltz romance. The band, meantime, were rocking us with the likes of Surfin’ USA, Da Doo Ron Ron, The Magnificent Seven, Mack The Knife and Tequila. When a horn section kicks in you can really feel it and these kids delivered the goods. I’m kind of guessing here but I think the spread of ages must cover P5 up to S3 so we really are talking young. Coming together from many different schools each Saturday to practice from September they had put together a very varied setlist of nineteen songs plus one upon which the sections combined, Abba’s Thank You For The Music, which is an amazing amount of work. Some material worked better than others, and yes there were some fluffed notes here and there, but damn it all that is what can happen to the most professional of musicians. However in no way did it detract from the audience’s entertainment. It was a real pleasure to see the sheer joy of accomplishment spread over these young faces at what they had individually and collectively achieved. It reminds, and grounds, us all to the reality that those at the top of the tree had to learn their craft in much the same way that these talented kids are doing today. Obviously there is no way of telling if any individual will continue to climb the ladder to professional player or not. However, if not, that does not matter. They will all have the experience of performance and possess the wonderful gift that is the ability to make music and to be therefore able to pass that music on to others who will follow. Well done and thanks to them all for a fantastic effort and real entertainment.

Graeme Scott K107FM

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