Tag Archives: music

Council Rethinks Practice Ban

Following Monday’s report in VoxCarnyx of a practice ban facing wind and brass players and young singers at Douglas Academy’s specialist music unit, East Dunbartonshire Council has written to parents reassuring them that urgent action is underway to resolve the situation.

The ban, which applied to individual practice rooms at the Milngavie school and its pupil residence in Knightswood (which falls under Glasgow Council Council jurisdiction), meant that the affected boarders – most of whom are in the process of preparing for A level and SQA practical music exams and conservatoire auditions due to take place with the next few months – were left with nowhere to practise other than their family homes during weekends.

A letter sent by parents on Monday to the Scottish Government and relevant local authorities calling for a reversal of the ruling, claimed that the ban “disadvantaged their children in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected”.When approached on Monday by VoxCarnyx, East Dunbartonshire’s Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie said that “a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School” was under way. “The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school,” she added.

On Tuesday, relieved parents received an email from the Council stating that measures will now be put in place to allow students to practice again in school. The issue affecting the pupil residence has still to be resolved, but East Dunbartonshire has told the parents it is now in discussions with Glasgow City Council to seek a positive outcome.

Practice Ban for Music Students

Parents of music students at Douglas Academy in Milngavie are petitioning a local authority over a ban on practice by young singers, wind and brass players that they say is harming their children’s education.
The ruling will particularly affect weekday boarders at the specialist music unit, some of whom are set to sit their Grade 8 Associated Board exams or undertake music college auditions in the coming months. These are critical, having a bearing on college and university applications to study music, to which the majority aspire. 

Senior pupils will also be gearing up for A level performance submissions, and for Higher and Advanced Higher practical exams, which normally take place in Feb/March for Higher and May/June for Advanced Higher, and account for 60% of the overall subject marks.

The pupils express deep concern for their future prospects. ”Many of us have come to Douglas hoping to become professional musicians but this is impossible if we can’t practise.”

Now parents have stepped up the campaign with a letter today to the Scottish Government and respective local authorities – the student residence falls under Glasgow City – calling for a creative solution that would especially allow the small number of boarders access to the individual practice rooms at both Douglas Academy and the Knightswood residence.

They believe such a solution need not infringe the most recent Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance, which, they say, states: “Young people should not engage in […] singing or playing wind or brass instruments with other people […] However, this does not mean that these activities cannot take place at all, it simply means that a more creative approach should be taken to providing such lessons.”

Parents of affected children claim that failure to allow their children to practise will deeply impact their future prospects. “These young people have mostly joined the Music School in order to try to become professional musicians.  They should be practising for up to three hours a day, yet they are now banned from practising at all, from Sunday evening to Friday evening”.  

“Several of them are auditioning for conservatoires this year, as well as studying for AH and Higher Music and this is impossible if they can only practise for two days a week,” the letter continues. “ These pupils are being disadvantaged both in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected.”

As for the pupils, their petition sums up their frustrations. “Lots of kids don’t want to do their music practice. But we really do. Please help us!”

In request to a statement from East Dunbartonshire Council, Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie told VoxCarnyx: “The Director of the Music School has been working with officers from the Education Service and the Council’s Health and Safety Officer to agree a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School.

“This includes provision for brass, woodwind and singing and takes account of the Education Scotland Guidance. The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school.

“We understand this has been a particularly difficult time for the pupils at the Music School due to the Infection Control arrangements that are required for the playing and teaching of certain musical instruments.

“The risk assessment will support pupils to continue to study music with the appropriate Infection Control arrangements in place.” 

Read the full petition here.

New Voice for Classical Music and Opera

As Scotland’s classical music scene copes with the restrictions imposed by the current health emergency, through streamed concerts and outdoor opera productions, a new website Vox Carnyx (voxcarnyx.com) is launched to celebrate the wealth of globally-recognised talent involved in the creation, promotion and delivery of classical music and opera in Scotland.

Vox Carnyx will be a platform for the latest news, reviews, interviews and features about those playing, singing, conducting, composing, creating events and teaching young people in the world of classical music and opera. Co-founders Ken Walton and Keith Bruce bring to Vox Carnyx many years of experience as writers and critics with The Scotsman and The Herald in Scotland, and share the aim of providing an online destination for all lovers and supporters of Scotland’s classical and opera scene.Make a visit to voxcarnyx.com a regular stop in your online day and join Keith and Ken in supporting and debating Scotland’s rich musical life.

“With the media world now in a constant state of change there were bound to be implications for serious arts coverage. So it’s exciting to hear of this new venture aimed at the entirety of classical music activity in Scotland. Between them Keith Bruce and Ken Walton have huge experience of covering classical music for Scotland’s two main publications, and I’m sure their new project Vox Carnyx will attract a lot of curiosity and attention, both here and internationally. I wish them well.”
Sir James MacMillan

“Serious journalism is so important and in Keith Bruce and Ken Walton we have two hugely experienced and knowledgeable writers and critics. I am so pleased to see that they are starting a new website dedicated to covering classical music and opera across Scotland. At this most challenging of times which has affected all corners of our sector including the media, it is so heartening to see this new venture starting which will ensure that musical creativity across Scotland is getting the exposure it so richly deserves.”
Nicola Benedetti CBE

For further information email Vox Carnyx at voxcarnyx@gmail.com.

Lockdown Life for Fergus Linehan, EIF Director

With a second spike in COVID-19 likely to undermine the return to normal for Scotland’s live concert scene, maybe it’s time to accept that a radical new norm is the only option. EIF director FERGUS LINEHAN is veering in that direction, he tells Ken Walton

Whatever time it takes to quell the presence of COVID-19, the pandemic’s impact on the Edinburgh International Festival will be game-changing, says its director Fergus Linehan. But don’t expect it to happen overnight. “2021 will only be the journey back,” Linehan cautiously predicts. “Probably 2022 will be the great celebration.” 

If he’s right, the timing is perfect. 2022 is the year the Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary. What better moment to embrace the catastrophic consequences of the current global dilemma and apply its lessons – and opportunities – to revolutionising the established norm.

We spoke in the wake of this year’s virtualised programme, in which – for classical music – streamed concerts on You Tube from The Hub replaced the traditional daily live Queen’s Hall series, orchestras were reduced to skeletal proportions in works such as Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, and opera became cinema (Scottish Opera’s terrific film version of Menotti’s The Telephone).

According to the EIF, a global audience of around 1.5 million tuned into the entire Festival rescue package, double the number of previous audiences. It didn’t do much for footfall in the city, of course, but it has opened Linehan’s eyes to new priorities, new opportunities, and lessons to be learnt through enforced adversity.

He was particularly surprised, for instance, by the extent to which the virtual audience signed up. “You know, usually our web audience skews much younger, but this time the older audience were equally engaged. A lot of people went ‘now I know how to play You Tube only television, or now I know how to hook up my speakers’. So what we started to see was not just us going to them, but those who never looked at culture online suddenly coming to us. That’s a huge change.”

Before Festival fans choke in their soup, be assured that Linehan has no plans to minimise the live experience. It’s a way of enhancing it, he says. “It has put us together with a whole range of people, whether it’s television production companies of filmmakers, who we’ve never really been together with before. I can see ways of really enhancing performances with it, where if you did a particular series, you could then have something online that people could go to before and after, like an extended equivalent to programme notes.”

We missed a few things this time round,” he admits. “I keep thinking of people tuning into Edinburgh for some of the music, say, where we might have had a merging of the performance with a video essay about different parts of the city, like a journey through Hopetoun House to Haydn’s music. It’s another art form and a way we need to start thinking.”

Whatever transpires, future Festival content is likely to reflect the inevitable anxiety over international travel that will be the fallout of COVID. Linehan is convinced the formerly accepted model of artists constantly on planes is going to change. “I do think we’re now going to need more localised culture. The idea of this constant flow of global stars is lovely, but it’s not really sustainable.”

But what Edinburgh really needs in order to bolster its global appeal, he insists, is a commitment by the city to improve its cultural infrastructure. And surely the most immediate priority is to resolve the bureaucratic bickering that is delaying and compromising the completion of the new 1000-seater concert hall of St Andrews Square, which will serve as a home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and as a much-needed world-class venue for mid-size Festival events.

Linehan is in prime position to influence that, having recently been appointed the project’s interim co-chair in the wake of previous chairman Sir Ewan Brown’s sudden resignation. It won’t be an easy ride – the current squabbles require the plans to be redrawn to lower the building so as not to spoil the views of a new hotel next door, incurring increased costs and inevitable delays – but he is optimistic of a positive outcome. 

“We really need this hall,” he insists. “I think anyone who has been through a major capital development will know it’s not for the faint-hearted. There are always going to be turns in the road. I think it’s up to every generation to leave some great infrastructure behind. We do struggle as a city to build infrastructure at times. Maybe it’s because we have such a beautiful historical legacy that the necessity to add to it never seems so urgent. But as I often say, if someone hadn’t built the Usher Hall, we’d never have had an Edinburgh Festival.”

The enforced rethink, he adds, together with the practical realisation this year that technology has a key role to play in shaping future programming, might even be to the venue’s ultimate advantage. 
“I do think that any infrastructure now needs to think about how it’s going to feed into broadcast. Everyone says how technology has threatened live music, but actually it’s created more. When people listen to more music they go to more live music. The disrupter has never replaced it in any sense. All it really serves is to widen the area of interest. The new hall must recognise that.”

Finally, Linehan’s vision for EIFs-of-the-future is one that looks beyond three weeks in August. “I think what is becoming clear is that the future is not about everything or nothing, but a question of what the 12 months look like, about taking some of the emphasis away from August. That might mean looking at an extended season.”

“We’ve got to think a lot more about what Scotland’s cultural calendar looks like and what’s our collective duty towards that? Earlier in the year do we need to gravitate towards things that are more like public art, or more outdoors, and then to skew things in another way?” 

In short, expect future Edinburgh Festivals to free themselves from time-honoured convention. “It’s going to be a constant testing, a constant moving forward,” he predicts. And maybe it’s a message to all involved in the performing arts, given the COVID wake-up call, to get real with radical change.