The Caird Hall and City Square, Dundee

Interior of The Caird Hall Dundee
the great concert hall which reverberated
with the sound of

The St. Cecilia Orchestra

This is a special page for all past members of the orchestra who may come across this web site.  Here I say a "Hello again" to you all and no, I haven't forgotten the happy years, those who were characters (too many to name) and all who worked so hard each Saturday morning to reach a high standard of performance.

My woodwind section was made up of 7 girls and one boy.  The girls were all "head bangers" or "heavy metal freaks" to use the jargon of Heavy Metal Rock.  The first flautist was a confirmed giggler but did not allow this to impede her concentration or work.  Nevertheless, one rehearsal had me saying: "She's easily cured of this - just pop a sugar lump in her mouth and give her a pat on the head!"  There and then she adopted the pseudonym of 'sugar lump'.

Came the performance in June, I duly arrived at The Caird Hall, Dundee and, before tuning up the orchestra in the rear hall, I fished a large bag of sugar lumps out of my pocket and handed it to my first flautist to distribute to the assembled merry band.  Such things were all in good part and helped dispel the tensions of waiting to go on stage. 

That was the night of an all Russian programme and before the performance I asked the orchestra: "How shall we play the 'Dance of The Tumblers' tonight - SNO speed or the Berlin Phil. speed?"  All replied: "Berlin Phil.!"  This lit the fires in all assembled to tackle anything with a will.  And how they played that evening - Rimsky - Korsakov's 'Dance of The Tumblers', Swan Lake Ballet Suite and 'The Great Gate of Kiev' from Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition'.

Then there was the annual camp during the Easter holiday which provided an intensive rehearsal schedule for all of the city's concert bands and orchestras to really turn the standards up to full.

Remembering one fancy dress disco, my orchestral leader, Beverley, came dressed entirely in tinfoil. (Naturally I was expected to stand in a line with my "heavy metal devotees" from the woodwind section that evening and "head bang" with the best to Black Sabbath and A.C./D.C.) 

However the sequella of this was next day at the afternoon rehearsal when I appeared on the rostrum with a card marked: "K.F.B." and offered 50p to the first person to give the correct meaning of the abbreviation.  No one could hazard a guess at first so I reminded them of the previous night's disco as a prompt.  Still nothing - until one bright cellist put up her hand.  "Kentucky Fried Bev."  she shouted.  She got the 50p as my orchestral leader convulsed with laughter.

It seems that my conducting of rehearsals remain in the memory of most - most times on the rostrum but often racing from one section to another tidying up rhythms, accents, dynamics, nuances and a hundred and one problems that can arise.  BUT always with shirt sleeves rolled up, tie off and the sweat pouring from my brow, face and neck.  Here I would cajole one section, sing along with another or clap rhythms over and over again until a conditioned reflex would be established in the section or orchestra and the problem would be resolved.

Many years on, one of my staff met a former member of the St. Cecilia in another city. When she said she taught at Linlathen High School the now young woman asked her: "Is that zany Head of Department still there?"  Then she went on to give anecdotes from her days under my baton - could she have been one of my 'heavy metal freaks' - who knows?  

And many many years later, as I was exiting a supermarket car park, a vehicle blocked my way and the driver's door opened.  A well dressed young lady swung her legs out of the car and shouted to me as I endeavoured to recognise her, "It's Kentuky fried Bev!"  And it was indeed.  lol

With these memories still abroad in many minds, the St. Cecilia Orchestra, although now disbanded, plays on.  To you who reads and remembers - I wish you well and, although you may no longer play, you were there - you did it and did it well - and thrived under my humour.  Bless you all.