Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cello Day

Glasgow Education Department had it's first Cello Day for pupils in Glasgow Schools who play cello. It took place in the new City Halls and consisted of 60 cello players from all over the city and ages ranged from 9yrs to 17yrs.

It was very encouraging to see and hear so many young cellists. It was also good to see the majority of them were learning within the school system. We played two arrangements of mine; Libera Me and The Neapolitan Song. We also had 10 solo performers playing repertoire from Bach Minuets to the Gigue from the 2nd Bach Solo Suite.

I think Glasgow is in a pretty healthy state as far as cello playing goes. Not everybody there on Thursday will pursue a career in Music or become a cellist. In fact only a handful will even consider it but they all had a similar experience on Thursday. Music is for everybody and everybody can have that positive experience when they indulge in great music-making.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fraser's Short Story

I am very proud of this story which was written by my youngest son Fraser. While working for the Herald Newspaper on work experience here in Glasgow, he was asked to submit a short story with the possibility of publication in the Saturday ABC magazine of the Herald. He duly did in a day and so impressed were they that they indeed did publish his story. This along with some book reviews he did, and which were published also, added up to a great week at this national newspaper.

The Letter

By Fraser Parry, 15, Hyndland Secondary School

James sat staring, wide-eyed, at the letter on the table. Shards of glass lay scattered around it, and through the recently formed hole in the window, James could clearly hear the noises from the street outside. It was 9.22 on a Saturday morning. Moments ago thing had been perfectly normal; he had awoken at around 9.15, and had been sitting in his dining room while the Saturday morning train of thought chugged around his brain.
“What should I have for breakfast? Should I shower before or after I eat? Am I going out at all today? What time?”

It had been around this moment that someone had thrown a wooden block, carved into the shape of the letter H, through James’s window. Now some extra carriages had tagged themselves onto his thought train. “Who threw this? What does it mean? Why did they throw it at me? Will I have to pay to repair the damage? Gingerly brushing off some window fragments, James picked the recently airborne character and examined it. It was hardly a piece of master craftsmanship, the edges were coarse, the lengths were uneven and the crossbar was disproportionately thin. Afraid of getting a splinter, he placed it back on the table.

Suddenly noticing a strong draught, James looked up. Outside the street was busy with cars, but there was only one pedestrian. A young boy with short blond hair was standing there, holding the top a large burlap sack and looking straight at James. James jumped up, quickly grabbed a pair of jeans from the radiator, threw them on over the underwear he had slept in and ran out onto the street. Seeing this, the young boy turned and fled, leaving the sack behind him. James walked over, carefully lifted the lip of the sack and peered inside. It was filled with an alphabet of poorly made letters, James looked up “Hey! Hold it!”

But by now it was too late. The boy was already disappearing around the corner and running out of James's life for ever.

Published 28th July 2007

With thanks to the Herald Newspaper especially Barclay McBain an Rosemary Goring

Friday, August 24, 2007

"El Sistema"

There has been much in the newspapers recently about “El Sistema”, the most recent in the Herald August 18th, and the decision to import it into the Raploch area of Stirling. By all accounts it looks to be wonderful program for introducing children to Classical Music and hopefully in turn help to give young people a purpose in their lives. With all that involves I wish them luck.

It is not however unique nor is it the first time such a scheme has taken place in Scotland. The most successful of these schemes started around the same time as “Il Sistema” i.e. 30 years ago. It involved the people of Pollock and was based in the now closed Bellarmine Secondary School. Under the guidance of Winnie Dean, the most inspired music teacher of her time, it grew into one of the most successful music schemes in Britain. Many of the people who took part are now professional musicians themselves, playing in orchestras all over the world. Many have gone on to various other careers but all still recall their musical and social experiences on a Saturday when they came together to make music at “The Arts Centre”. Unfortunately for this scheme it became an easy target for financial cutbacks. It was easy to target because it had become an embarrassment to the Education department and some City fathers. Some thought it was outrageous to let these working class children have ideas above their station. Others were just were just directly opposed to it because they had no real control. It had to close in 1988. The result was an enormous void in that community. This is the biggest danger with such schemes. They can become a political football, mostly through petty jealousy and lack of vision, and the result is anger and disillusionment among the benefactors of the scheme.
“El Sistema” has succeeded because it has been backed both financially and politically, no matter the persuasion, over a long number of years. I feel there is no reason why a similar scheme could not work here if there is willingness from the parties involved to give it the long term financial backing it needs. The benefits are enormous for the children involved and for society as a whole

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer has ended before it begun

This has been the worst summer, weather wise that I can remember and I am sure I will not be the last to say it!

Unfortunately I have now started back teaching and Sardinia seems a long way away. Usually when I go back I am ready to and sometimes even raring to go. This year, however, I could have seen it far enough. That attitude was strengthened after the second day. Day one passed off peacefully and I finished early. No arguments!! Day two was an unadulterated waste of time.

I have banged on about this before but I feel if you have a day in which it's planned to have about 60 musicians in the one room, it would be a good idea to mention something about music. NO?????????? I sat through 4 hours of sales talk on Sibelius software and the wonder of Smartboards! Now Sibelius could be tentatively linked to music in that it is one of the main computer software programs used by musicians and in fact I use it a lot for my arrangements and other cello material. That does not warrant a 1 and a half hour talk on some of the other software which is useless to a teaching musician and which has nothing to do with the instruments we teach. When you are then told what this other software will cost you, it does not take a genius to work out what the purpose of these said talks were all about! The talk in the afternoon then took us to Sibelius 5 which is the latest version on sale from them. Schools will not sniff this software for about another 10 years; by which time it will be obsolete! Schools are struggling to get Sibelius 2 on their computers!!

That was the only really tentative link to music all day. The first part dealt with business. The business doesn't change year in year out, it just gets worded differently and maybe by a different messenger. The form filling get more complicated and long-winded in order to really piss people off and so they end up not filling them in! Why bother??

The other part in the middle and before Lunch was dealing with the use of Smartboards. Does one have to clever to use a Smartboard? No! You need a laptop,not provided, a few clothes pegs and at least one good finger. Oh! and it is preferable to use them topless in order that you don't have trailing line from a disobedient shirt or cardigan! That could make for an interesting class!!

All in all I really just hate being treated as either an imbecile or as a candidate for a good sales pitch which is marginally less painful than sitting through a pitch by a Time-Share salesman. At least at the end of that you might end up with a little sun! That's more than we have had this summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sardinia 2007 Vignola di Mare

Summer Holiday Sardinia 2007

I have just returned from a holiday in Sardinia. What a marvellous holiday and what a beautiful island. This is the first time Caroline or myself had been to Sardinia but because it is part of Italy we knew it would be good. It was even better. We had experienced mainland Italy, especially Tuscany, but this was really special. It was the first time we had gone on holiday without the boys but of course we had Kate to accompany us. That was more than enough!

The island was a bit of a paradox as far as wealth was concerned. It ranged from the ridiculously rich (Costa Smerelda) to pretty poor (Sassari). I know we only experienced the North of the island but even in that small area you can get a good taste of what it is like. The people are fantastic. They are as friendly as they come and their laid back style of life suited us to a tee. You would have to be pretty laid back to be able to cope with the heat.It does get ferociously hot but luckily we were by the sea in Vignola-Mare and Santa Teresa and with the famous Sardinian wind we managed to cope.

We stayed in a Keycamp, which was another first, and one that had always gone against the grain, but it was very peaceful in location and facilities were excellent. Again the people on the camp were all very helpful and caring. Kate was certainly welcome and loved their playground and dancing classes at night.

Other bonuses were the numerous accessible beaches and the beautiful sunsets that appeared every night. This combined with the lovely food in a relaxed atmosphere all went to make this a memorable holiday.

One last added bonus is we returned to our house in Glasgow, where the two teenage boys stayed, to find it all in one piece! And not one complaint from the neighbours.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Adam sixth years Prom-Kate steals the show!

Adam had his school Prom last week after forgetting all about it. We had to find him a Kilt at the last minute as his was in the cleaners! Thanks to Lynn across the road, the day was saved! We of course wanted a photograph to mark the occasion. Just as I am about to take the photo Kate decides she wants to be the centre of attraction! She never fails to hog the limelight.

Meanwhile Fraser has been very busy. Not only has he been acting with the Scottish Youth Theatre in Micro Shakespeare, he has been rocking away with his band, Domino7, in the West-End Festival

It was really well received by the small but
enthusiastic audience. They even got a mention in
the Daily Mail!

Adding to this Fraser was also off with the West of Scotland Schools Symphony orchestra. It was a very demanding week but he coped really well and resulted in an excellent concert in Paisley Town Hall.

To finish off Fraser's recent activities he has spent the last week
at the Herald Newspaper. He should have at least two articles published and the possibility of a short story as well.
Not bad for a 15 year old!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Been quite a while

I haven't posted here for quite a while but today is my 51st Birthday and I have been looking through and trying to catch up with a few things I have either forgotten about or just have not had time for.
I notice it's been 6 months since I was last here and so much has happened I hardly know where to start. I suppose to follow on from my last post I would have to report that Adam didn't get into Medical School, which is a shame, but we don't know how they choose people and I know it's not a lack of intelligence on his part so I would have to put it down to either bad luck or fate in that it is not meant to be. He has been offered a place at Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities to do Chemistry and Pharmacology and St Andrews seems to have won. He's looking forward to it but first he is going to have a gap year in India! How diverse is that!! As well as all this happening he has just celebrated his 18th Birthday!

Fraser is doing very well this year and has achieved much of what he has wanted to do. Following on from his distinction in his Grade6 cello he is now a member of the West of Scotland Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra of very good standard, and No2 cello in the Glasgow Symphony orchestra. As well as his music, his acting is coming on well and he has been accepted to the SYT course this summer. All that and being invited to take part in a Shakespeare festival in May is keeping him a very busy young man.

Kate is continuing to keep us all on our toes and never fails to amaze us with her wit and intelligence. Quite amazing really at the age of 3!! She sang in her first concert with Colourstrings a couple of weeks ago and really impressed with her sense of rhythm and pitch, well I was impressed, I'm her Dad!!

Caroline has reached the grand old age of 50 and while she was not looking forward to it she has enjoyed a wonderful week of celebration with her friends and family. She has so many wonderfully attentive friends who have demonstrated to Caroline what she means to them. I know what she means to this family and I hope she has seen that at least this week. We love her to bits and for somebody who is so giving it was nice to give something back.

I'm continuing to teach and play. I have found this year to be particularly hard. It's been a combination of being spread too thin amongst the schools and keeping up with the rest of the family! I think I will have to cut back next year in order to try and get the best from the children as well as give them more. It is the only way to teach. If you spread yourself to thinly then you cannot possibly give yourself totally to everybody. There are some who I think are more deserving of my time and who have demonstrated to me that they would welcome more input. There are others who I could see far enough and no matter how much you do there will never be any recognition of what you are trying to do never mind trying to help you achieve it.

Next year will be an important year for me and it will probably be a year of prioritizing. Some people will not like it but at my stage I really don't give monkeys!!