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  • Writer's pictureLiza Mulholland

Silver lining for children's music.

If this were a normal year, I’d be getting ready for Fèis a’ Bhaile – Inverness’s tattie holiday fèis – starting in Millburn Academy on Monday. It’s been in the diary since last year’s event and I would be gathering my thoughts, instruments, whatever bits and pieces I’d need, and would be hugely looking forward to meeting the children and the fun week ahead.

It’s anything but a normal year though and the fèis isn’t happening in the usual way. However, all is not lost, as Fèisean nan Gàidheal - the umbrella organisation for Scotland’s fèisean - is hosting Fèis na Dàmhair (October Fèis) with support from Fèis a’ Bhaile, and the more northerly Fèis Air an Oir, next week as an alternative,

Like so many of this year’s events, it will be online. The Gaelic for online is air loidhne; a term that many are getting very familiar with. Fèis na Dàmhair offers music for all ages and abilities, with a great choice of instruments, singing and even drama. So, don’t be stuck for activities for the youngsters in the holidays - or yourself (there are even Gaelic song classes for adults). It runs from 19th until the 23rd of October and it is free!

Another bit of good news for children’s music is it looks like YMI (Youth Music Initiative) tutors like me who visit Highland primary schools delivering traditional music sessions, will once more be back in action in the New Year. Air loidhne! I have to confess I was a little anxious at first as to how it would be possible to deliver satisfactory music sessions to school classes when, under current guidelines, they’re not permitted to sing or use communal school instruments.

But, like so many aspects of life during Covid, it’s about learning alternative ways of doing things – instead of mourning what we can’t do, think about what we can do. After several Zoom discussion and training sessions, I’ve realised there will be opportunity to introduce new elements that will hopefully enhance the learning experience for the children.

Yes, the technical side of getting to grips with Google Classroom, and using it to best advantage, is rather daunting but it offers scope for using online resources such as archive film, recordings and photographs, enabling tutors to set the music and song in a bit more context.

For those uninitiated in this strange online world, I would be at home logged into our Google meeting on my laptop. Pupils would be watching on their class whiteboard in school, so as well as them seeing me playing instruments, singing etc, I can add resources from the internet which might deepen the youngsters’ understanding of our musical heritage.

I will most definitely miss the fun and interaction of being with the children in school but as they say, every cloud…

(First published by Highland News & Media 22nd October 2020)

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