Young musicians from Lewis and Harris played to a storm of applause and appreciation last night (Thursday September 26th) when they joined a top-class military band to perform.

The band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland have been in Stornoway since Tuesday and, alongside performances at a street parade on Tuesday evening and a ceilidh on Wednesday, they have been working with school pupils to prepare a full-scale performance for the public.

Last night a near-full Lewis Sports Centre enjoyed a feast of music ranging from Highland tunes and Scottish anthems to military marches from the regimental  band, but it was the contribution of Lewis and Harris youngsters, local singers and music tutors which earned the highest praise of the night.

Lewis and Harris youth pipe band and the Nicolson Institute pipe band first took the floor under the direction of pipers Ashleigh Macdonald, Anna Murray and David Maclennan, with the Nicolson institute band then joining the Regimental band for the whole of the second half of the performance.

Also seated amongst the professional musicians for the second half of the concert were the Lewis and Harris Youth Band, under the direction of Gavin Wood, who had brought the whole project together alongside the military band’s musical director Major James Marshall.

Their offerings included a roof-raising rendition of the Emerson Lake and Palmer classic ‘Fanfare for the common man’ and a new piece, premiered in Stornoway and written by cellist and composer Neil Johnstone of Balallan.

His rousing new march ‘Colin Scott Mackenzie of Stornoway’ was arranged by Evatt Gibson of the Royal Regiment of Scotland band for this performance and celebrates the contribution of Colin Scott Mackenzie senior to military band music.

Former sheriff Colin Scott Mackenzie junior, who was in the audience, told “My father was a trumpeter in the army and the band he belonged to – the Stornoway-based band of the Ross and Cromarty Mountain Battery – was the first military brass band in the UK. I didn’t know that, Gavin found it out.”

The piece was played with vigour by the united forces of youth and military musicians, to be followed by a Gaelic song sung by the Nicolson Institute choir (conductor Avril Allen) and the emotional ‘hymn to the fallen’ with vocals by the Stornoway singers.

Major Marshall described the singing as ‘sublime’ and director of education Bernard Chisholm spoke of his intense pride in the island’s young musicians when he offered the vote of thanks. He paid tribute to music teachers and tutors working far beyond their contracted hours to support and encourage young talent, and said the islands’ young musicians had ‘beaten the band’ with the night’s performance.

Pictures show the Royal Regimental Band with young people from Lewis and Harris during the night’s performance (Annie Delin).