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Our brilliant young Burnsians

A wealth of talent was on display at the regional Burns competition held on Saturday 16th February in Dumfries Academy. The standard in all four sections (recitation, singing, instrumental and bagpiping) was exceptional and all the young competitors did full justice to the beautiful words and music of Rabbie Burns.

Wallace Hall Academy was well represented by Bailie Paterson, Lois Geddes and Emily Kennedy in the recitation section, Priya Rome in the instrumental section and Ailsa Black and Bethany Nicholson in the singing section.

First to go before the judges’ scrutiny for Wallace Hall in the S3/S4 recitation section was Bailie Paterson who gave a clear and thoughtful performance of “To a Louse”. Later on in the same class it was the turn of Lois Geddes who entertained the capacity audience with a well- crafted and humorous performance of “The Braw Wooer”. David Baird, judge of the morning recitation section, certainly had his work cut out to make a decision as this was a very strong class with all competitors scoring in excess of 90%. David commented: “There has been a torrent of terrific talent in this class from young people who obviously have a real connection with the work of Burns.” David went on to announce the top three places in the class and Lois Geddes was delighted to be awarded a silver medal for second place.

In the S5/S6 recitation section the competition was equally strong with some well-rounded and polished performances from a group of very experienced youngsters, many of whom have achieved highly at national level. Emily Kennedy was the deserved winner following her sparkling, intelligent and well-pitched delivery of “The Rights of Women” for which she was awarded 99%, a fantastic result. In his closing remarks, David thanked all the performers for keeping the work of Burns alive and relevant in today’s society.

Priya Rome was Wallace Hall Academy’s sole representative in the instrumental section. Playing the clarsach, Priya gave a very emotive rendition of “Gloomy December” which communicated the story behind the music beautifully. Priya was delighted to be awarded 2nd place and a silver medal by judges Heather Downie and Claire Hastings, two very well renowned traditional musicians. Heather took the lead in the judging in the instrumental section and took time to offer some very informative and positive feedback to the young musicians.

Bethany Nicholson and Ailsa Black represented Wallace Hall in the singing section. In the S3/S4 class Bethany accompanied herself on guitar as she sang “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”. Bethany has a lovely voice with a beautiful tone and her quiet yet powerful stage presence engaged the audience with every note. Ailsa chose “The Slave’s Lament” for her performance in the S5/S6 section. This was a challenging piece and Ailsa used her well-developed dynamic range to convey every ounce of emotion that this lament required and she was delighted to be awarded a silver medal for her performance.

In her closing remarks, Claire, winner of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015 and a former pupil of Wallace Hall Academy, was most positive in her comments to all of the young competitors. Claire encouraged them to keep playing and enjoying music whether or not they were awarded prizes in today’s competition and graciously said that she wasn’t always a winner or placed in every competition she entered but she is now following her dream and forging a career in music.

At the end of the classes in each of the four disciplines, the combined judging panel chose the best overall primary competitor and secondary competitor to go forward to perform again and compete for the overall awards. Emily Kennedy was delighted to be chosen to perform again as the best individual secondary pupil in the recitation section. Emily went on to deliver another exceptional rendition of “The Rights of Women” to secure the accolade of the best overall reciter of the day. At the closing ceremony, Emily was presented with the Nithsdale Bi-Centenary Glass Trophy, the Rose Edgar Memorial Trophy and the Violet Saunders Book Prize: a beautiful two volume set of Burns’ poetry.

Emily, Ailsa, Lois and Priya will go forward to compete at the national finals which are to be held in Irvine Royal Academy on Saturday 23rd March. Well done to all of the young Burnsians who took part.

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