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  • Writer's pictureLiza Mulholland

Inverness Music Festival is first in class.

Did you have a child or grandchild competing in the Inverness Music Festival this week? Perhaps as a teacher you took your class or your music pupils? Or maybe your group entered Battle of the Bands or one of the adult events? The Veterans Talent Show perhaps or the Nervous Adults Class?

Such is the variety on offer at this venerable local gathering just drawn to a close - a community festival of the highest order, whose 2020 motto was ‘Performance for Everybody’. Organised by Inverness Festival Association, a charity run by volunteers, the Festival takes place annually in Eden Court Theatre and is a tremendous celebration of music, for all ages, stages and styles.

Like many locals, I have my own fond memories of taking part in Inverness Music Festival, my personal journey starting aged five in solo singing competitions. That was followed by piano and, as years of lessons went under the belt, competing in the Festival came to punctuate the early part of my piano year, just as annual Grade exams were undertaken in later months.

Eden Court Theatre had not yet been built, so competitions were held in various halls. I recall playing in several events and final night concerts in the main hall of Inverness High School, but it was an exciting day indeed when Eden Court opened in 1976. The concert was held in the main auditorium, and I can remember to this day how rather overwhelming it felt to step out onto the massive stage of this new theatre towards the grand piano.

Although I very nearly missed it! I didn’t know I was to play that night and as we didn’t have a telephone at home in Farr, a friend and her mum kindly drove up from town to tell us. Short notice perhaps meant nerves had, thankfully, little time to properly take hold!

Not everyone enjoys competition however - my own son took part in solo chanter and piping competitions for a couple of years but wasn’t so keen to continue. What he did love though was playing in the school pipe band and their excellent tutor had the group performing at numerous Inverness Royal Academy events, which he, and I, always enjoyed immensely.

I think what competition can achieve is to encourage students to really work hard on their pieces, focus on honing and polishing their playing or singing to a high level, and nurture confidence in performance. Like an exam, there is a specific goal to aim for, which can often motivate us to give our absolute best effort.

Last week I was working in a local primary school where a good friend who teaches there invited me into her class to hear a wee rehearsal of their song entry for the Music Festival. They were fantastic! The class not only sang beautifully with gusto and enthusiasm, but had made costumes, masks, props and, when I passed in the corridor later, were busy painting a backdrop. It was groupwork at its best, with every aspect of the project contributing hugely to the youngsters’ education.

From learning words and melody, rehearsing the song, making costumes, choreographing the performance, creating stage props, to going out in front of an adjudicator and an audience to perform, it all helps build a sense of achievement and self-esteem. It’s the taking part, of course, that matters most and, my goodness, that class looked like they were having a lot of fun doing it!

It’s great that the Festival offers so many non-competitive events and has added a wonderfully diverse range of styles and genres to the syllabus, along with classical and traditional music, including Songs From Disney, Stage and Screen, Musical Theatre, Choirs, Public Speaking, Debating, Showcases, Composition and much more.

I applaud Inverness Music Festival in delivering to our community such superb opportunities for no less than 98 years! Celebrating its 100th birthday in 2022, the organisers are already looking for photos and mementos, so if you, like me, have memories to share, please contact It’s going to be a great party!

(First published by Scottish Provincial Press 6th March 2020)

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