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A Visit to Berrymoss Court Sheltered Housing, Dyce

St Machar Cathedral Recital Concert

ACMS was delighted to be asked to perform at the beautiful St Machar as part of their Sunday afternoon recital programme.

Music lover and reviewer Alan Cooper wrote the following review of the  concert:



CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF St MACHAR, OLD ABERDEEN AUTUMN CONCERTS 2023 YOUNG MUSICIANS FROM ABERDEEN CITY MUSIC SCHOOL Sunday 26th November, 2023 PROGRAMME AND PERFORMERS: Petra piano Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) October, Autumn Song (From The Seasons, Op. 37a) Freya cello J. S. Bach (1685 – 1750) Prelude from Cello Suite No.1 in G Janine piano Stephen Montague (b. 1943) Mira Kai piano Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1 Evangelina classical guitar J. S. Bach Prelude BWV 998 Freya cello with piano accompanist Ernest Bloch Prayer Katya piano Tchaikovsky February: Carnival (From The Seasons) Taylor bagpipes Ulrich Roever (1934 – 1997) & Michael Korb (1941 – 2014) Highland Cathedral REVIEW Before Sunday afternoon’s concert featuring talented young musicians from Aberdeen City Music School, Dr Roger B. Williams MBE welcomed the young performers to the Cathedral and introduced Professor David Hewitt who gave a fascinating talk about the history of the Cathedral. He pointed out the shields which decorate the flat roof, itself along with the round pillars, very unusual, the nearest similar building being in Rome. One of the shields near the front, bears the coat of arms of Giovanni de Medici, Pope Leo X. The heraldic shields of numerous Kings across Europe are also arrayed in magnificence there. I was delighted to be able to listen in. I learned a great deal. Soon it was time for the performances to begin. Dr Williams introduced Kevin Kyle, the new Director of the School. He was to introduce us to Sunday afternoon’s performers. Among them were four pianists, all of them pupils of Dr Barbara Strawa-Payne. The first of these, Petra had chosen to play a piece from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons Op. 37 a. This was October Autumn Song. The original score had a poem by Aleksey Tolstoy at its front. In English translation it reads, Autumn, our poor garden is all falling down, the yellowed leaves are flying in the wind. I was impressed by the way in which Petra had captured the mood which Tchaikovsky weaves into his music. Petra’s rhythmic playing flowed smoothly and suggested that sensation of gentle melancholy that autumn can bring. Her playing was beautifully well paced but with a steady forward motion and clean clear fingering which I was able to watch from where I was sitting. The second performer on Sunday was Freya, a cellist. As a first piece, Freya had chosen the Prelude from J. S. Bach’s Solo Cello Suite No. 1 in G. For Bach’s music, the player has to strike a balance between rhythmic steadiness and moments of rubato which are necessary to express the emotions contained within the melodic line. Freya had thought this performance through exceptionally well. Especially in sections where Bach has included repetition, Freya injected feeling and interest into the music in this way. Without that, this music can seem dull and uninspired and Freya’s performance was not in any way like that, even for a moment. Our second pianist of the afternoon was Janine. She had chosen a fascinating piece Mira (1995) by the now 80 year old American composer, pianist and conductor Stephen Rowley Montague. In an American programme note, Mira is described as ‘an experiment in using just the white notes on the keyboard and a few forearm clusters’. Janine’s performance made much more of it than that. She began with light tickling passages on the upper section of the piano. Then there were invigorating jabbed chords, a great variety of piano touch, eventually roaring bass sounds were created by the left hand slapping the notes of the piano and finally those forearm thrusts on the keys. I was impressed by the way in which the clusters finally opened out into fingering leading into an almost romantic conclusion. Kai was the next pianist to perform. He had chosen the Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1 by Chopin. It is essential in this music to capture that sense of night time with thoughtfulness and feeling. I thought that Kai managed that rather well. He captured that necessary marriage of changes in tempo matched with contrasting dynamics. The fiery central section was well done and I liked the little surges of motion that he got into his playing. It brought out the necessary colour in the music. Evangelina is a talented classical guitarist. She had chosen J. S. Bach’s Prelude BWV 998 scored originally for lute or cembalo. She played with marvellous clarity and steadiness and the idea of delicacy that would have been part of a performance on lute was also there in Evangelina’s delightful performance on Sunday. Freya had a second cello piece in the concert. This was accompanied on piano, it was announced, by Mrs Kyle. Sorry I don’t have her first name. They played Prayer from Jewish Life by the Swiss/American composer Ernest Bloch, once described by the cello virtuoso Steven Isserlis as ‘one of the most beautiful songs ever written for cello’. It was certainly played with great feeling by Freya. The last of the four pianists to perform was Katya. She had also gone to The Seasons by Tchaikovsky, but for a very different piece. February: Carnival fairly sizzled with pianistic excitement in this performance. The publishers had also added another short poem to the score, it reads: At the lively Mardi Gras soon a large feast will overflow. All that was there in Katya’s performance with dazzling pianistic fireworks too! Too soon we were at the final item in the performance. Not such a surprise as you might think because we had already seen a set of bagpipes getting ready to be played. Sunday’s piper was the magnificent Taylor. He had chosen a piece that is certainly popular with Aberdeen audiences, Highland Cathedral. It was also fitting for St Machar’s Cathedral since the chorus is used as a hymn tune. I shall finish by quoting a poem by Dugald Ferguson 1897, a Scottish emigrant to New Zealand: When Scotland’s pipe sounds in my ears My heart with martial joy it cheers From off my mind all worldly cares It makes to roll, And sways at will to joy or tears, My melting soul. Of course we need to ignore the fact that Highland Cathedral was composed by two German gentlemen! ALAN COOPER

Specialist Weekend 4 - "Percussion"

A very busy ACMS Specialist Weekend, lots going on in preparation for our upcoming concerts.

This weekend we focussed on percussion. All the planning and running of the Saturday morning Come and Play session was taken on by S6 pupil Owen.

Dyce Community Centre Lunchtime Concert

A group of ACMS pupils treated some local residents to a selection of Scottish Traditional music, and some songs from the 30s, 40, and 50s.

"Cathedral at Noon" Recital

ACMS pupils will be performing at the monthly "Cathedral at Noon" recital at St. Andrews Cathedral Church, King Street Aberdeen.

This month pianist Kian peformed a selection from Bach, Mozart, Samuel Barber and Avishai Cohen.

Caithness, Orkney and Shetland Association 125th Anniversary Celebration

Scottish Ensemble In Sync

Last Friday Dyce Acedemy music pupils weretreated to a performance by Scottish Ensemble In Sync.

One of their members is former ACMS pupil Kirstie Logan.

Violinist Kirstie left in 2010 to study at the Royal Academy of Music, London. She has gone on to tour both this country and the world. Kirstie has fond memories of her time at ACMS and is very aware of the opportunities it gave her, especially the chance to perform in front of a live audience at such a young age.

Autumn End of Term Concert

Jazz Masterclass with Neil Birse (piano), Ray Estaire (vocalist) and Matthew Kilner (saxophone)

A New Song

One of our local primary schools, New Machar Primary, asked us to help them compose a new school song. A group of ACMS pupils visited the school and collaborated with their pupils and the new song is soon to be be released.

Come & Play Day

Our ACMS Come & Play day was a hit! 30 local string players joined ACMS pupils for a morning of music making. Thanks to all involved.

ACMS Visit Scottish Opera

Scottish Opera visited the Lemon Tree Aberdeen on Tuesday 26th September and 13 singers from ACMS were lucky enough to be in the audience. We were treated to a range of Arias from the 1700s to the present day. After the performance the cast generously spent time with our pupils answering questions and talking about their personal journeys to becoming opera singers.



ACMS Alumni Cameron Barnes visited us today.

Former ACMS piper and musician visited ACMS today, entertaining us with songs from his current tour and answering question about life in the music business. We loved the song he wrote for his daughter and the audience participation.

As a multi-instrumentalist he has toured the world, teaching and performing with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. He recently founded his own folk / rock band Break the Butterfly, which he fronts. His acting roles with the National Theatre of Scotland include Black Watch, and The James Plays trilogy. He is also a successful recording musician.

At the Town House this morning ...

What a great start to the day! ACMS pupils and Aberdeen City Music Service musicians performed Scottish traditional music to Aberdeen City councillors at the Town House this morning.

Specialist Weekend September 2023

Our first Specialist Weekend of the year was both busy and successful.

Vocal tutor Dr Milne lead a Lieder workshop for the singers and was delighted to be joined by two pupils and their singing coach (Mrs Andrew McIntosh) from Gordonstoun School.

We were lucky to have many of our tutors with us over the weekend. Mr Birse worked on repertoire with the pianists, Mr Maunder with the string players, and Mr Bone with the Traditional group.

Sunday afternoon finished with a small informal concert for pupils, staff and parents.


Performer of the Year 2023

Winners Katya (junior school) and Nadine (senior school)

Well done to everyone who took part in our amazing end of year concert.

Strings Masterclass

This weekend we were delighted to welcome Chris Hoyle, Head of Strings at the Royal Northern College of Music, for a day of masterclasses.

We really enjoyed the day, and learned a lot.

Scottish Young Musician of the Year 2023

This year 6 pupils from ACMS took part in the Aberdeen City heat of the Scottish Young Musician of the Year. All did incredibly well. The winner Nadine is off to the Scottish final in Glasgow in May. Runners-up Julia and Katya very well deserved their awards.

Percussion Masterclass

ACMS ALumni Jack Fawcett and the children's Class Concert Ensemble visited ACMS, running two improvised percussion sessions with all students.

Everyone loved it, and learned a lot.

Wheeler Trophy

This year's winner of the Wheeler Trophy for outstanding musical achievement is Nadine. She was presented with the trophy after the opening of the Jimmy McBeath memorial Concert in Portsoy on friday.

Summer Concert June 2023

Queen's Cross Church

St Machar Cathedral Recital Series