Aug 112017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Illyria stages an open-air performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic opera ‘The Mikado’ at The National Trust for Scotland’s Drum Castle, near Banchory.
Performed by a cast of 6 actor-singers accompanied by a musical director on keyboards, it is produced on a stage boasting a strikingly large and authentic Japanese torii gate.

Despite the reduction in scale not a word from WS Gilbert’s libretto is cut, nor a single note or harmony from Sir Arthur Sullivan’s score unsung.  

Running time is approximately two hours including an interval and spectators should wear appropriate outdoor wear, provide their own seating and are welcome to bring a picnic supper, with hot drinks and snacks available from the tea tent both pre-performance and during the interval.

Tickets are available from and are priced £17.50 for adults, £15.00 concession and £62.00 for families (2+2).

For more information about summer events at Drum Castle – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit

Event:           The Mikado
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            Gates open 5pm, show starts 6.30pm.
Venue:          Drum Castle, Banchory, AB31 5EY
Price:            £15-17.50

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Aug 112017

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Celebrate summer at The National Trust for Scotland’s Haddo House with a day packed with fun for children of all ages.
Kids can let off energy on the bouncy castles, enter Gladiator duels and be challenged on an obstacle course.

Florence The Confused Frog author Cat Taylor will lead storytelling workshops and caricaturist Lyn Elrick will be penning portraits. There will be face painting and a toddler area for soft play and ball pool. 

For grown ups there’s an adult bouncy castle or book a flea market table and sell any unwanted toys or children’s clothes.

Refreshments will be on sale in the castle shop, and visitors can bring a picnic if they wish. Haddo House is an elegant mansion house with stunning late Victorian interiors.

Noted for its fine furniture and paintings, Haddo also has a terraced garden leading to the Country Park with lakes, walks and monuments.

For more information about summer events at Haddo House – and other National Trust for Scotland properties – visit

Event:           Haddo Summer Fair
Date:            Sunday, 13 August 2017
Time:            11am-4pm
Venue:          Haddo House, Methlick, Ellon AB41 7EQ
Price:            £3

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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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Jul 182014

Over five thousand Aberdonians packed the city’s Duthie Park for a free screening of The Royal Opera’s production of Puccini’s opera La Bohème last Tuesday evening. By Duncan Harley.

La Boheme Duthie Park small

Sponsored via a partnership between The Royal Opera House, BP Big Screen and eighteen other UK councils, Aberdeen was fortunate indeed to have been chosen as the sole Scottish venue for the event, which involved simultaneous screenings of a live performance at the Royal Opera House in Westminster’s Covent Garden.

With ticket prices at the London venue averaging around £140 per head, the ‘bring your own seat’, free outdoor event proved to be a resounding success, both entertainment- and weather-wise.

A timeless, potent and heartbreaking tale, Puccini’s La Bohème was first performed in Turin in 1896, just thirteen years after the 44-acre Duthie Park was laid out.

Based on a collection of vignettes penned by Henri Murger and depicting Bohemian life in the Latin Quarter of mid-19th Century Paris, the storyline describes the love and lives of the main characters, Mimi and Rodolfo.

Although performed by The Royal Opera Company as far back as 1897, this week’s production dates from 1974 and has John Copley directing, with Cornelius Meister conducting. The role of the poet Rodolfo was performed by Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo with Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu as the doomed seamstress Mimi.

Sadly, Aberdeen will not be hosting the September offering from the BP Big Screen, and so those wishing to enjoy Verdi’s Rigoletto on September 17th will need to nip over the border to the likes of Plymouth or Bristol, before speeding back the next day in good time to cast their vote in the referendum.

As an alternative, Scottish Opera will be touring with Rossini’s comedy La Cenerentola at the end of the year, with live performances in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness and at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen.

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Apr 262013

With thanks to David Officer.

Placido Domingo set to wow Deeside audience

Monday 29th April  at 7:15 p.m.

Placido Domingo, one of the famous Three Tenors, is set to entertain in Banchory when the Royal Opera House production of Nabucco is screened, via satellite from Covent Garden, to the Woodend Barn, when he makes his debut in the lead role.

Verdi’s Nabucco, which is based on a biblical story telling of the plight of the Jews under the rule of the Babylonian King Nabucco, was written in 1841 and first performed in 1842.  The original production was such a triumph that it was revived the same year with a run of 57 shows.

As Verdi wrote at the time:

“With this opera, it can truly be said that my artistic career began.”

This production by Daniele Abbado is set in the second half of the 20th century and makes imaginative use of large-scale video projections to accompany and reflect the action on stage.

The score throughout the opera blends rhythmic vitality and powerful drama with an enormous chorus lending weight to epic numbers such as Immenso Jehova  – the Hebrew slaves’ triumphant hymn of thanksgiving – and their song of exile, Va, pensiero, which is considered by many to be Italy’s unofficial national anthem.

There are wonderful bass and baritone roles in the figures of Nabucco, based on the biblical King Nebuchadnezzar and Zaccaria, the Hebrew prophet.  Verdi also created a memorable anti-heroine in Abigaille who is at once both terrifying and pitiable.

The screenings from Covent Garden are always extremely popular and Woodend Barn hope to expand their offering with opera’s broadcast from Glyndebourne and performances from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in the coming months.

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas reinventing traditional music

Thursday 2nd May at 8 p.m.

Master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser makes a welcome return to Woodend Barn on Thursday 2nd May alongside Californian cellist Natalie Haas.  The pair have formed a strong musical partnership over the years, regularly recording and touring together all over the world and their first album together, Fire and Grace, was awarded Best Album of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2004.

The duo first met when Natalie was studying at a Scottish fiddling school where Alasdair was a director and was inspired by him to investigate the cello’s potential for rhythmic accompaniment to fiddle tunes.

Alasdair’s richly expressive playing transports listeners across a broad musical spectrum, ranging from haunting laments from the Gaelic tradition to classically-styled airs, raucous dance tunes, and improvisations based on traditional themes. His vast repertoire spans several centuries of Scottish music and includes his own compositions, which blend a profound understanding of the Scottish tradition with cutting-edge musical explorations.

Natalie, on the other hand, is one of the most sought after cellists playing traditional music today and has toured with Mark O’Connor as a member of his Appalachia Waltz Trio, premiered his double concerto for violin and cello For the Heroes with the Grand Rapids, East Texas and San Diego Symphonies and has been a guest artist on over 50 albums, including those of Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster and Irish super-group Solas.

This is the opening night of a short UK tour for Alasdair and Natalie which sees them also performing in Gateshead, Skye, Edinburgh and Uist.

Swashbuckling Fun with The Mark of Zorro

Friday 3rd May at 7:30 p.m.

Banchory is about to be the scene of a swashbuckling adventure when Visible Fictions bring their lively and inventive production of The Mark of Zorro to Woodend Barn .

The play follows our masked champion Zorro as he ricochets from one sticky situation to another in a world where adventure is the name and justice is the game.

Originally produced for The Traverse Theatre, this production has toured successfully in the US, including a run in New York with favourable reviews in the New York Times and the Huffington Post which both proclaimed it,  “…a triumph.”

The story follows Diego de la Vega, who is so enraged by grief after witnessing the murder of his father and various other the injustices as he grows up, that he dons a black mask and becomes the fugitive Zorro, seeking to end the wrongdoing of the local Captain.

The Mark of Zorro is a fun play for children age 8+ and adults looking for a bit of adventure.  Watch out for Zs scratched on the ground, it could lead to a thrilling escapade!

Tickets for all events are available from the Woodend Barn Box Office 01330 825431 or at

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For further information, please contact David Officer on 01330 826520.