The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust (SSPDT) support Piping in schools throughout Scotland with help towards tuition costs, loans of instruments, grants to help purchase equipment etc. Their slogan reads "Every School Needs a Pipe Band". Due to Covid restrictions their annual schools' championship is being held this year as an on-line event. For the first time ever, this freestyle competition is open to primary schools.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service Piping teacher Esther MacDonald recently encouraged pupils at Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich to form a small band and to submit an entry. The timescale has been very short, and with Covid restrictions on singing, and the playing of wind instruments in schools, combined with all instrumental music tuition being delivered online since Christmas, it has been an extra challenge to get a performance together.
Fiona MacInnes, Principal Teacher at Balivanich School said,: "We would firstly like to thank Mrs Esther MacDonald (Piping teacher) for instilling her vision and encouraging self-belief in our pupils. During what has been a difficult time for many, our ABC Band have been motivated and encouraged to excel themselves in their chosen discipline. They have willingly rehearsed together during play and lunch times and have also convened through Teams in the evenings for some extra practices. This was made possible by the fact that all members of the band are part of the same school 'bubble'.”
Photo Caption for Picture 1 - Pictured below are the six members of the newly formed Balivanich Primary Freestyle Band. They are all pupils of the P6/P7 Gaelic Medium Class. L to R Seonaidh MacInnes (e-Chanter), Neil MacRury (e-Chanter), Catriona Beaton - Drums, Anna MacDonald (e -Chanter & piano), Joseph Hamilton (Vocals), Clover MacRury (Fiddle)
“We feel that our ABC Band's competition entry conveys the resilience, teamwork and perseverance which our pupils have shown throughout the past few weeks, whilst celebrating our unique cultural heritage. Judging will commence on Saturday 27th March at 7pm and we do we hope that our School Community - near and far - will support our band by taking part in the People's Choice vote on Sunday 28th March."
Pupils themselves have had a great buzz out of it all - it has certainly brightened up the school day a touch over the last few weeks. Comments from band members include:
"It's the first time I've done anything like this - I have been playing the chanter for two and a half years but I have never joined with other instruments"
"I feel amazing to be in the band - it's good to play music with my classmates and I'm excited about it all"
"I'm really enjoying it, and it's much more interesting to play with others instead of just on my own."
"It's a really good opportunity and it makes me want to practice"
"I love the music and it's a surprise to be in a band"
"This is my first time playing with others - it's new and it's fun"
Balivanich School and Parent Council have been very supportive, and local businesses have assisted with the purchase of e-Chanters for tuition in Western Isles schools during Covid restrictions. MacInnes Bros. Builders assisted with the purchase of t-shirts for the new band and its members. Special thanks must go to Culla Creations for the fabulous job they made of filming the entry.
The pupils in the band have benefitted from tuition provided by the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service through the Youth Music Initiative (YMI). This funding is awarded annually to local authorities across Scotland with one of the main aims being to allow all school pupils access to a year’s free music tuition before the end of primary school.
The tunes in the set the band have recorded are - The Dark Island, Kalabaken, and Donald MacLean's Farewell to Oban. The performance is called “An t-Eilean Dorcha"
Shortlisted films will be broadcast on the “Pipe Bands for Schools” Facebook page, with the Sgoil Baile a’ Mhanaich ABC band performance scheduled for 7pm on Saturday 27th March. Voting for the people’s choice section takes place on Sunday 28th March between 12 noon and 5pm, again via the Pipe Bands for Schools Facebook page, with the full results being announced at 7pm the same day.
Sgoil Bhaile a’ Mhanaich are the only school in the Western Isles entered this year, so please do support them and give them your vote! Best of luck to all who participated.