Nigel Gatherer's Mandolin Diary
Friday June 17th 2005
ALP Scots Music Group End-of-Year Concert
The end of year concert is always a big deal, for me if nobody else. It's the culmination of thirty weeks work, and chance to speak to my students and say "Have a good summer." Unfortunately I was asked to MC the event, but it may as well have been me as anyone else. What is amazing is that if I'd been asked to do such a thing a few years ago I would have run and hid. Anyway, comparing the concert gave me an opportunity to say what I felt about some of the fellow tutors I particularly admire.
A practice I established for the concert a couple of years ago was to combine my classes. I teach six different classes with the SMG and together we're an awesome band! When I asked my group to come on stage they sauntered on and kept coming. After twelve came on the audience started tittering, by the time twenty were on stage there was a mixture of laughter and amazement. I didn't have time to count, but I'm pretty certain we had more than thirty on stage by the time we settled. I had made an arrangement of the music from a Gaelic song, Fear a Bhois Fada Gun Phosaidh, and when the band were in full flight we had fifteen mandolins, ten whistles, fiddles, guitars, an accordion and a flute belting out the tune, making such a heavenly sound I was as proud as a new father.
My motto for occasions like these is "Short but brilliant." Too many classes take the stage and hog it, playing tune after tune after tune; it does not endear them to the audience, who have a long list of acts to sit through (we had more than twenty classes playing that night). When my lot were through the audience were cheering, wanting to hear more - that's the way to do it! It also makes the students feel on top of the world, and they were all beaming as they came off the stage.
Other memorable turns on the night included Derek Hoy's fiddle group, who played an old tune which was played by Dalkeith's town piper to wake folk up in the morning. Derek had produced a wonderful arrangement of the tune, and it's only a pity that it wasn't a little louder. Matt Smith's mixed instrument group combined with Alison MacLeod's stepdancers, which was extremely effective. The smallpipes class stood out as well. The last musical events for the classes was when everybody played Ian Duncan's tune Cullen Bay. Those in the hall who weren't musicians were encouraged to sing the last bar of each measure, and it was a good way of finishing off that half of the night.
Then all the tables and chairs were set aside and the floor cleared for dancing. This gave my students a chance to speak to me, give me my bottles and cards, say thanks, great year and so on - I loved it!