Ode to joy for Galloway choir

The curtain has come down on the National Youth Choir of Scotland Galloway Branch, but, at a meeting on Wednesday night, out of the ashes rose a proposal for a new choir funded by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The meeting at Penninghame Primary School between parents of children who were members of the NYCoS Galloway Choir and NYCoS’s new chief executive Morag Campbell confirmed NYCoS will indeed pull the plug on the choir, with the council stepping into the breach to keep the kids singing.

In April, a letter from Ms Campbell’s predecessor informing parents the Galloway NYCoS Choir was to be merged with the Dumfries NYCoS Choir stuck the wrong note, but two days into the NYCoS hotseat, Ms Campbell was quick to offer an olive branch by coming down from Glasgow to talk face to face with the disgruntled parents.

Also at the meeting was Schools Officer for the Council, Alan Cameron, who suggested forming two local choirs, one based in Newton Stewart - the Galloway Machars Choir - and one based in Stranraer - the Galloway Rhins Choir. He was confident of getting funding from Creative Scotland and after a year the situation would be revisited. It could continue with that model or there was also the option for NYCoS to get involved again with a new choir based in Stranraer.

He added the NYCoS would remain in a supportive role with the possibility of weekend NYCoS workshops so that the children could continue to work towards their gold. silver and bronze awards.

Although there would have to be some fine tuning, those attending the meeting were broadly in favour of the council officer’s proposal and Ms Campbell assured the parents that NYCoS would continue to be involved with the choristers. Mrs Sue St Joseph, who had been the NYCoS Galloway Choir Director will continue teach the children. If all goes to plan and funding is secured, the new choir will met on the first Thursday in September and continue until March with the suggestion of a Christmas and an end of season joint concert.

Alan Cameron said: “Further to the recent announcement that the NYCoS (National Youth Choir of Scotland) Galloway Choir is to discontinue, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Education Services has prepared a bid to Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative programme to run two new choirs in 2012/13, Galloway Machars (in Newton Stewart) and Galloway Rhins (in Stranraer). It is also hoped that NYCoS may continue in partnership with Education Services through the provision of occasional Saturday singing workshop activities.

“It is hoped the new choirs (for pupils P4 upwards) can start in the first week of September 2012 as an after-school activity. Access will be open to all interested young singers, with no auditions being held. There will be no cost to parents for children attending the Machars and Rhinns Choirs. Schools and parents in the west of Dumfries and Galloway will be informed of further details in August subject to the approval of the bid to Creative Scotland.”

Local MP Russell Brown welcomed the “extremely positive” meeting between local parents and the Chief Executive of NYCoS.

Mr Brown said: “The meeting between the NYCoS Chief Executive and local parents was extremely positive and I am delighted that we now have a way forward for the Galloway Choir. Given that it had been set to close, this is a fantastic achievement by everyone involved in the campaign to keep it going. It means so much to the children and I know that they are thrilled they will be able to continue singing. I am grateful for the new Chief Executive for coming down to Newton Stewart after only being in the job for 48 hours and it shows how determined everyone is to save the choir.”