Music concert is fitting swan song for James

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Words and pictures by Colin Smeeton 

The Arran High School (AHS) Summer Showcase concert was a feast of Arran’s musical talent and a fitting tribute to the hard work and passion of James O’Neil who has just left his position as the faculty head of the music department.

After nearly four years in the post James is venturing into freelance work and last week’s  Summer Concert was seen by many as his swan song.

The three hour music spectacular featured more than 150 pupils from the school, more than half the total number of pupils, and a number of performers from local primary schools.

With professional sound and lighting the event showcased the musical talents of Arran pupils with performances on instruments of all varieties, including the marimba and clarsach.

The audience, in the filled to capacity Lamlash Theatre, enjoyed the musical talents of the Lamlash S2 wind band and choir, fiddle group, flute ensemble, clarsach group, various vocal groups and the boys and girls senior ensembles.

In addition to this a number of solo performers impressed on the night and the audience were also treated to the first public performance of the AHS Pipe Band.

Following a grand finale with the full company performing two rousing songs, For You and Happy Ending, the performers and faculty said a sad goodbye to James.

Head teacher Barry Smith said: ‘I would like to warmly congratulate James on his successful appointment to his new role with Centre Stage.  He will be a huge loss to the school and to teaching more generally. He has made an exceptional contribution during the time he has been with us.

‘James leaves us with a very strong legacy.  Our young people have developed a love of performance and of music. He will be sadly missed by us all and we will remember fondly the crazy times, the huge productions and the genuine care and inclusive nature of the way he taught music.’

In an emotional goodbye pupils thanked James for all of his help, inspiration and assistance over the years and wished him well in his next venture.

James, not usually one for many words said: ‘My time on the island has been nothing short of special and fulfilling. I am moving on to pastures new outwith the education system to pursue freelance avenues and to work for Centre Stage in Kilmarnock, who organise arts provision across communities in Ayrshire and beyond.

‘I am delighted, however, to be continuing my links on island through work with the Isle of Arran Music School, progressing our work with the traditional music projects; and also with Arran Soul Choir. I am always impressed at how the entire community play a part in helping make music and the arts such a rich part of our community fabric, and I am very grateful to everyone for letting me be just a wee part of it all too.’


Lamlash Primary School Band perform Stand By Me. 01_B27music01

The S2 Choir perform Hallelujah with soloists Hamish, Ben, Caitlin and Izzy. 01_B27music03

Members of the Fiddle Group perform Sleeping Tune. 01_B27music04

The Flute Ensemble perform a melodic piece. 01_B27music05

Accomplished player Jesse Townsend performs Maple Leaf Rag. 01_B27music06

A student ensemble of Freya, Cerys, Jemima and Andrew, with Milo on piano, perform an upbeat version of Skyfall. 01_B27music07

Stella Riddell on the marimba performs Tambourin. 01_B27music08

The Arran High School Pipe Band perform Rocking the Baby. 01_B27music09

Hamish Campbell performs Fight For This Love in his piano solo. 01_B27music10

The Arran High School Choir has the audience singing along to their version of Africa. 01_B27music11

Megan Hamill wows the audience with her vocal solo. 01_B27music12

Senior Boys Ensemble perform Your Song. 01_B27music13

Accomplished singers, the Senior Girls Ensemble perform a rousing version of When We Were Young. 01_B27music15

Rounding off an enjoyable performance the full company perform the suitably named Happy Ending.  01_B27music16

Mrs Suzie Dick present James O’Neil with a departing gift. 01_B27music17

James O’Neil, in a very brief departing speech, thanks faculty members, parents and pupils for making his time at Arran High School enjoyable. 01_B27music18

Head teacher Barry Smith presents James O’Neil with a personal gift from himself and thanks him for his contribution to the school. 01_B27music19