Nov 122015

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Fiona Kennedyfeat

Fiona Kennedy is a patron of NESMS.

Much loved Scottish entertainer Fiona Kennedy and influential actor and director John Bett, a founding member of the 7:84 theatre company, will lead the 40th birthday celebrations of the North East of Scotland Music School (NESMS) in November.

NESMS is the longest running independent music school in the area and has been the spring board for internationally renowned musicians such as Lisa Milne who has had lead roles in productions by both Scottish Opera and English National Opera and David Ferguson, the only Scot chosen by Gareth Malone for his Voices Choir.

The school’s major celebration will take place at its annual Keynotes Lunch which will be held at Norwood Hall in Aberdeen on Sunday 15th November.

Fiona Kennedy, long term patron of NESMS and John Bett are creating a musical tableau which will reflect NESMS’ history and contribution to cultural life in the north east since its inception. Current pupils of the school will perform in the tableau.

NESMS was founded in 1975 by the late Dorothy Hately who was awarded an MBE for services to music in 1987. Ms Hately, along with Lady Aberdeen, wanted to give young people who had musical promise the opportunity to have tuition which was not available to them through other pathways.

Dorothy encouraged the then director of education in Aberdeen to allow NESMS to begin classes in a part of the old Aberdeen Academy (now the Academy Shopping Centre) in Belmont Street.

NESMS opened offering teaching in four disciplines to just forty students. When work began on the transformation of the building into a retail centre, NESMS found a temporary home in the Methodist Church in the city’s Crown Terrace. Dorothy Hately’s tireless work on behalf of NESMS led to the awarding of a grant from the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund and from the Foundation for Sports and the Arts, to enable NESMS to purchase a permanent home.

In 1998, the school officially opened the door to its new premises and the Huntly Street centre was named the Dorothy Hately Music Centre in memory of its leading light who sadly died in 1996, never seeing the centre which she had worked so hard to achieve on behalf of the area’s musically talented youngsters.

From its early beginnings of four disciplines and 40 students, today NESMS offers 15 disciplines, taught by 20 tutors, to more than 250 students at its Huntly Street base with four teaching studios, a library and a lounge. And it’s not just students from the Granite City alone – talented musicians from the whole of the north of Scotland including the Highlands and Islands are pupils at the school … and they are not just youngsters!

The school welcomes enquiries from anyone who has reached a suitable level of attainment whatever their circumstances, age or musical background.

Potential students audition for entry to NESMS. Instrumentalists generally speaking should have attained Grade 5. Criteria for vocalists relate to voice maturity or experience of singing solo or in groups.

The range of instrumental tuition on offer is wide and includes brass (horn, trumpet), strings (violin, viola, cello, double bass) and woodwind (flute, recorder, clarinet, oboe, bassoon) and of course piano, with tuition in jazz as well as classical styles available. Students who wish to develop their ability to deal confidently with an audience are offered opportunities for both solo and ensemble public performances.

Students pay fees which are kept to a minimum through an active volunteer fundraising programme and the generosity of trusts, foundations, companies such as Aberdeen Asset Management and Mattioli Woods Plc as well as private individuals. There are scholarships which can be applied for annually. These are awarded on merit. Through assistance provided by the John Gordon Foundation and Aberdeen City Council a fund is available to pay lesson fees for students in financial hardship.

Barbara McFarlane, Chairman of NESMS, says that it is remarkable what the school has accomplished over the past 40 years.

Barbara says,

“Since Dorothy Hately founded the school in 1975 we have more than trebled the number of music disciplines that we offer. The number of students we teach has also increased by over six times since the school started.

“We are immensely proud to have reached this 40 year milestone and it’s a time to celebrate the fact that many of our students have gone on to become extremely successful musical composers, teachers and musicians.

“NESMS is also extremely fortunate to have such exceptional ties with the most distinguished music tutors in their field, many of whom are former NESMS students themselves, and also with our patrons who are all extremely passionate about dedicating their knowledge and expertise to the musical development of our students.

“Fiona Kennedy is a faithful NESMS patron and we are honoured that she and John Bett have both devoted their time to creating a musical portrayal of NESMS and all the effort it has contributed to Scottish music over the years.”

To book tickets for the NESMS Keynotes Auction Lunch, or for more information on how to enrol for lessons, phone North East of Scotland Music School on 01224 649685 or email

Past and Present Notable NESMS Students:

The past 40 years have seen an abundance of notable and influential Scottish musicians begin their musical careers at NESMS.

Lisa Milne

Renowned Scottish Soprano Lisa Milne is one of the best known of NESMS’s alumni after a successful and extensive career in opera and classical music. Lisa was only 14 when she first started singing lessons at NESMS. After securing leading roles for world-famous operas such as The English National Opera, Metropolitan, New York and Scottish Opera, Lisa was awarded an MBE from the Queen in 2005 for her services to opera and music. She is now a vocal coach at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Ian Wilson

Ian Wilson began his exceptional career in music as a woodwind student at NESMS. Ian now shares his expertise with his very own NESMS protégés’ as he is a visiting recorder specialist at his former music school. After winning multiple music prizes during his time studying at Guildhall School of Music and Drama he is now the Principle Recorder Professor at Guildhall and Head of Woodwind at Eton College.

Ian has also spent time performing as a soloist with a variety of Europe’s period instrument orchestras and as a chamber musician in many European festivals.

Oliver Searle

Former NESMS piano student Oliver Searle was tutored at the school whilst studying for a degree in Music Education at Aberdeen University, he then went on to gain a distinction in his Masters degree from The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Oliver frequently collaborates with music charities, most recently with Drake Music Scotland for the London cultural Olympiad, he also regularly produces music for theatre and has been involved in a number of music projects for people with cochlear implants. He is currently Creative & Contextual Studies and Composition Lecturer at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.

Joseph Long

Accomplished composer and concert pianist Joseph Long studied piano at NESMS. He has vast concert experience in a number of world famous venues including The Grand Hall of the Moscow State Conservatory, The Calcutta School of Music and The University of Almeria in Spain. After leaving Aberdeen to study at Cambridge he is now back in his native city and teaches advanced piano at NESMS and Aberdeen University.

Donald Gillan

Aberdeen-born Donald Gillan was a cello student at NESMS, he later won scholarships to the Royal College of Music and the Royal Northern College. He has since toured with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra performing in countries including Japan, Spain and Germany. Donald also freelances for the BBC Scottish Sympathy Orchestra, Scottish Opera Orchestra, plays in duos and quartets and performed at three prom concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

Sally Garden

Sally Garden is a musicologist, mezzo-soprano, and a former NESMS vocal student who has trained with distinguished Italian soprano Laura Sarti. She was also a finalist in the Mary Garden International prize and was later appointed Historical Musician in Residence at the Wighton Heritage Centre, Dundee. During her time there she was responsible for directing a three year programme of music events to unfold one of Scotland’s finest music archives.

She is now an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen and has been able to dedicate her time towards recital work.

David Ferguson

Current NESMS student David Ferguson has been tipped for musical success after being handpicked by celebrity choirmaster Gareth Malone OBE after a nationwide search for a 17 strong choir. Before joining Gareth Malone’s Voices in 2013, David had been singing as a choirboy since the age of eight and had performed with a variety of different choirs throughout the UK.

After a CD release and a UK tour David joined up with four members of Gareth Malone’s Voices to form their own band, which they named The Harbour. David travels frequently to London to attend recording sessions and performances, as well as receiving voice tuition at NESMS.

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Nov 072014

20131124_Davids_002With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Dozens of Davids are required for an encore performance to break a world record in Aberdeen.
Davids, Daves and Davies from across the north east are being sought to join the Choir of Davids at the Castlegate in Aberdeen on Sunday 23 November 2014 at 3pm.

The massed Choir of Davids will sing the Christmas carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ in an attempt to top the 121 tuneful singers gathered last year in an attempt to create the largest choir sharing the same name.

VisitAberdeen, the destination management organisation behind the Choir of Davids, was impressed with last year’s turnout but is convinced that Aberdeen has more to offer.

Although not officially recognised by Guinness World Records due to the topic being too narrow, organisers believe that the 2014 Choir of Davids was the biggest gathering of Davids in the world all signing ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.

Davids are being encouraged to spread the word via Twitter and Facebook, sharing photos of themselves holding signs proudly stating “I am David!” and using the hashtag #areyoudavid in the run up to the event.

Steve Harris, Chief Executive of VisitAberdeen, says:

“We were thrilled to have so many Davids turn up to support our record attempt last year and hope to top the number this year with a melodic encore. Everyone’s got a friend called Dave, and we hope to hear all of them singing their hearts out at the Castlegate. We encourage all Davids to Tweet and Facebook their intention to take part in order to spread the word.

“Aberdeen’s festive celebrations fill the city with Christmas cheer every November and December, and we’re delighted to be a part of this again. The Christmas Lights Switch On Parade follow will follow our world record attempt at 5pm on Union Street, meaning the city centre will be buzzing with festive cheer.

“With great Christmas shopping opportunities and a full programme of events in the Winter Festival, we’re encouraging more people to consider the city for a festive break.”

The event is not limited to those bearing the name David, and VisitAberdeen encourages everyone to come and support the magnificent Choir of Davids which is guaranteed to get the festive season off to a great start.

The carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ was written and published by Miss Cecil Humphreys in 1848 as a poem, before being set to music a year later. The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College in Cambridge, which is broadcast annually, traditionally begins with a boy chorister singing the first verse of the carol solo.

Keep up to date with Aberdeen’s record attempt by visiting the Facebook page at or follow the event on Twitter  using the hashtag #areyoudavid

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Dec 132013

Granite City Chorus With City Brass Nov13Aberdeen’s Granite City Chorus is hosting a  Love to Sing day on 19th January which is free – yes FREE! – to all men. With thanks to Peter Coutts.

Within our local community we have a wide variety of musical and artistic groups, many of which are benefitting from renewed public interest in choral singing largely influenced by Gareth Malone’s TV series The Choir.

Aberdeen’s own Granite City Chorus is one group of enthusiastic men which would love to share their singing experiences with others and encourage more men to take advantage of the positive benefits which stem from being a member of an active choral group.

Apart from the social benefits, singing is officially good for your health!

Many clinical studies have reported a variety of health benefits including better posture, higher energy levels and enhanced feelings of relaxation, mood, and confidence.

Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared purpose.

Oh, and the chorus members are also often told they look better!

The chorus currently has around forty five members, with a wide variation in age and musical ability, who all love to sing and are addicted to ringing chords in four part unaccompanied harmony.

The chorus performs at local events and festivals throughout the year appearing at many local venues and corporate functions and also travels to compete in various competitions having performed as far away as Dublin and Bournemouth.

The chorus is holding a free, one day, Love to Sing event at the Doubletree Hotel, Beach Boulevard on Sunday 19th Jan 2014.

Granite City Chorus at Dobbies Nov 13

This is aimed at encouraging both new and existing singers to come along and experience a day of music and voice coaching in an informal and friendly environment.

No prior singing experience is necessary for this fun, unique and enjoyable day out, which could just turn out to be your new addiction!

So anyone who is interest is warmly invited to go along on the day and find or rediscover your singing voice.

There’s absolutely no commitment – just enjoying the day is fine.

Details and registration available at the Choruses website at   or telephoning 07909 108633 or by email to

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Jun 142013

The Granite City Chorus are holding a concert at the Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee, Bieldside, on Saturday 22nd June.  Brian Welch writes.

The Granite City Chorus has been in existence since 1990, from an initial idea by Bob Stevens, our current Honorary President, a name is synonymous with its home city, although it began life as the Royal Mailers which reflected its Post Office origins.

And, just to confuse things further, its ‘Sunday name’ is The Aberdeen Barbershop Harmony Club.

Having come first in the Light Entertainment and Barbershop Chorus sections of  the Aberdeen and North East Festival this month, the group can legitimately claim to be ‘the best male barbershop chorus in the North of Scotland’ and currently boasts a membership of just under fifty.

The singing style of the chorus is the four-part, unaccompanied, close harmony of tenor, lead (melody), baritone and bass voices combining to create the unique Barbershop Sound and, as a variety of song types can be arranged in the Barbershop style, its present repertoire covers a range of songs from traditional barbershop to Scottish and vintage pop standards.

The Club is one of over 50 which are members of the British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) and is affiliated to the parent society, the Barbershop Harmony Society of America and to the UK choral organisation Making Music, previously known as the National Federation of Music Societies.

As the group is both a Social and Competitive chorus, the members sing for fun and the entertainment of others, but they also like to compete in annual barbershop conventions against many other choruses from around the UK and Europe.

The Chorus is also available for in the City and Shire corporate events, club functions, private parties and it regularly performs for local residential homes and sheltered accommodation and has a range and depth of material that can be adapted to deliver that 4th dimension to any event

Anyone who wishes to join the Chorus – which practises every Tuesday night from 7 – 10 p.m. in the Woodside Church Hall, off King Street – wants to engage it for a function, or is just interested in getting further information about it, is invited to contact the Chorus Manager via the Contacts Page at

About the Barbershop Style

The notion of men singing together as a group is thought to have originated in the coffee shops of 17th century England.  But it was much later, towards the end of the 19th century that actual barbershop singing, where an individual would sing the melody which others would harmonise around as men waited to get their hair cut singing, was started in America.

This form continued, even in competition, until the 1930’s when written music in parts was introduced, although informal harmonising, otherwise known as ‘woodshedding’ is still practised today and has its own association.

About The Granite City Chorus’s concert on 22nd June.

There will be four acts on the evening, including the Aberdeen debut of iQ, the 2012 gold medal quartet, it is iQ’s debut in Aberdeen which is not to be missed.

Tickets for the concert, which is being held at the Phoenix Centre, Newton Dee, Bieldside, at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 22nd June, are available from the Aberdeen Box Office.

The Granite City Chorus is directed by Colin Reid.

Further information can be obtained  at:

Web site:         
Mobile phone:         07909 108 633
Email Address
Facebook :               Granite City Chorus
Twitter:                      @granitecitychor

Dec 092011

By David Innes.

I’m as inclusive as the next man, and am delighted at the cultural diversity of the UK and the city in which I make my living.

Although I may occasionally wince at the Gingerbread Cottage-type Anglicisations of traditional place-names in the North East, this is ameliorated when I see dwellings bearing names such as An Teallach, Glas Maol and Glenfarclas on my regular working excursions into the English Midlands and beyond.

The man-made is all very well. Owners come and go, and taste and preference will move with the times and the custodians. Messing with natural physical and topographical features, though, is another matter.

Were there a move to rename Bennachie Strawberry Mountain or Lochnagar Byron Peak, there would be an outcry, and quite right too. Why there was none when A Certain Plutocrat decided to rename – because he owns them and he can – Menie Sands “The Great Dunes of Scotland” I do not know.

This cultural imperialism, however, did set me thinking. Scotland is great in other ways, and every time I hear the temporary new name for Menie Sands, I will think of these…

The Great Doin’s of Scotland

Wembley 1961. 9-3. Nine bloody three! Thank you Haffey, Shearer, Caldow, MacKay, McNeill, McCann, McLeod, Law, St John, Quinn and Wilson.

Flodden 1513. Scots manager James IV’s selection proved to be his downfall. Eschewing the tried and tested 4-4-2 formation, he elected to field the heavy guns and eighteen foot pikes on a heavy pitch. Not for the first or last time, a strategic military balls-up saw us lose a generation of young men. Silver lining? We got The Floo’ers o’ the Forest, that haunting lament that is among the Great Tunes of Scotland.

Wembley 1975. 5-1 Five bloody one! Stewart Kennedy in goal had a nightmare, leading to the accusation that John F Kennedy stopped more shots in Dallas in 1963 than his goalpost-clutching namesake did twelve years later.

The Great Junes of Scotland

June Imray. The Torry Quine. The Quine Fa Did The Strip At Inverurie. An icon.

June 1976. Sun for weeks and weeks and weeks. Only spoiled by Elton bleedin John and Kiki flippin Dee monopolising the airwaves with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’. It did, every time I heard it.

June Gordon. Lady Aberdeen 1913-2009. Professional pianist and conductor who founded the Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society, helping bring that culture thing to the NE.

The Great Tunes of Scotland

The Bonny Lass o’ Bon Accord. A Scott Skinner 1910 chart smash, memorable for Pete Murray’s introduction on that year’s Top of the Pops Christmas Show, where he urged the audience to “sing along with the words, they’re lovely”. The gype.

Hallelujah Freedom by Junior Campbell, formerly of Marmalade. 1972 was a vintage year for Top of the Pops, with Alice Cooper, Blackfoot Sue, Slade, T Rex and Hawkwind all  threatening the Wood Lane studio foundations. Yet few songs that year were better than this tasty titbit of joyous pop soul from Shettleston’s own Sedaka.

The Black Bear. Formation marching forgotten as drouthy regiments headed back to the barracks and the mess to this rousing pipe melody. Guffaw during The Longest Day as Lord Lovat orders his piper to play Blue Bonnets Over The Border and The Black Bear fills the speakers. Grimace at Andy Stewart’s use of the tune for his Tunes Of Glory.

Hermless, Scotland’s alternative national anthem, according to its writer, Mr Michael Marra, of Dundee. Gets right inside the true Scottish psyche. Learn it now, you may be lustily joining in with it at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. “…I ging to the lebry, I tak oot a book and then I go hame for ma tea”.

Thanks, The Donald min. They’ll still be “thon great heaps o’ sand atween Balmedie and Newburgh” as far as many natives and inaboot-comers are concerned, who didn’t realise their official title until you plonked your glorified pitch and putt course there. But I’ll never walk along that beach again without humming Hallelujah Freedom , the Scotland The Brave-based Grampian TV signature motif preceding a June Imray link, and musing on what might have been had Bobby Clark been selected for Scotland in May 1975.

Sep 302011

With Thanks to Linda Allan.

The lilting strains of “Harmonise the World” with its powerful musical message for today’s world, can be heard at the close of every gathering of the body of women singers called Sweet Adelines International.
Audience members in Deeside will be treated to an example of this international spirit this autumn, when the Jazz Group Conference-of-Swing from Dresden and Aberdeen Chorus of Sweet Adelines team up for two evenings of lively Jazz vocals and superb close harmony.

This all came about when Riki Gohrbrandt one of the German Jazz Group, found an outlet for her musical talent by singing with the Aberdeen Chorus in her spare time while working for a year as a Foreign Languages Assistant in Aberdeen. 

She enjoyed the experience so much, and had become such firm friends with the singers, that she was determined to keep up her links with the Chorus and encourage her fellow singers in the Jazz Group to consider a trip to Scotland culminating in a joint concert with her musical friends from last year.

Several months and many reams of emails later, this plan has come to fruition.  

The Aberdeen Chorus – fresh from their success at the Edinburgh Fringe and their Show in the Music Hall Aberdeen – is soon to play host to the group of 25 talented singers from Dresden, and provide accommodation with lots of sightseeing opportunities, culminating in two concerts in the Banchory area.

On Monday 3 October at 7:30pm the two groups will make music together in Peterculter Church.  Both groups are particularly excited not only about the chance to hear each other, but also the chance to perform together as one and demonstrate to audiences what is so near to all singers’ hearts in the lyrics of Why we sing with its echoes of “Harmonise the World”.

On Tuesday 4 October at 7:30pm, Riki will sing with her group Conference-of-Swing at the Woodend Barn Banchory. 4 Quartets from the Aberdeen Chorus, Vocal Zone, Shindig, Chimaera and Singularity are also excited about sharing the stage then and this promises to be an entertaining and very harmonious event.

Tickets £8(£6) for the Peterculter Event from Peterculter Church, Riah Hair Design, Bridge St. Banchory, Kathy Davis 01330 823967, and at the door.

Tickets £10 (£8) (£5) for the Wooded Barn Event from The Woodend Barn Box Office 01330 825431, from the Website, and at the door