ONE sour note at last week’s historic arrival of the Olympic Flame in Scotland was the decision to use the Dumfries Branch of the National Youth Choir of Scotland to welcome the Flame at Cairnryan instead of the more local Galloway Branch at a time when they are fighting for their survival.
In the teeth of a summer storm, the NYCoS Dumfries choir sang the Going for Gold Cantata “Faster, Higher, Stronger” as the Flame arrived off the evening ferry from Northern Ireland, carried onto the quay by Stranraer dance teacher Doreen Bowie.
NYCoS announced in April that the Galloway Branch, based in Newton Stewart, would be merged after the summer with the Dumfries Choir, meaning a long weekly journey for choristers from the west of the region. After strong objections were raised by parents, the new chief executive of NYCoS Morag Campbell has agreed to meet local families in Newton Stewart next Wednesday to discuss options.
One mother of a NYCoS Galloway member said: “There are some very angry and very devastated choir members and their parents after watching NYCoS Dumfries sing as the Olympic Torch arrived in Cairnryan. This was ridiculous - even to merge the choirs would have been fine but to ignore Galloway completely really is the final straw.”
A NYCoS spokesman said: “The Galloway Branch of NYCoS were already performing at a concert on Thursday night that had been booked for a while so it would have meant them having to cancel the concert.”
On hearing the NYCoS stance, a parent told The Galloway Gazette that she thought the Galloway Choir could have cancelled or postponed their concert as they had organised it themselves.
She added: “I can’t think of a parent who would have complained - lets face it I’m sure the decision wasn’t made in the last week - we had plenty of time to reschedule.”
Ahead of the meeting next week between the new Chief Executive of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) and parents of children attending the Galloway branch of the choir local politicians are fighting to keep the Galloway Branch going.
Both Galloway MP Russell Brown and MSP Alex Fergusson are due to speak to Morag Campbell on Tuesday, prior to the meeting with parents.
Mr Brown said: “I’m determined to fight to save the Galloway Choir and I am hopeful that a solution can be found to enable it to continue. The letters to parents at the start of April saying the Galloway branch of the choir was to close came as a real shock. Parents were understandably angry at the fact this came out of the blue, and at the prospect of a 2-3 hour round trip every week to Dumfries for rehearsals. That simply isn’t affordable, or practical, for many and the result will be the children missing out.
“I am pleased that the new Chief Executive has to agreed to my request for her to meet the local parents and I hope that signals NYCoS are reconsidering the planned closure. This meeting next week could well decide the fate of the choir. I will be speaking to her beforehand to make my view clear that everything possible should be done to keep the choir alive.”
Mr Fergusson has also been trying to secure a better future for the NYCoS choir. Speaking from his constituency office he said: “While the outgoing Chief Executive of NYCoS has handled this whole matter in a completely unacceptable way, her successor has shown a rather more inclusive attitude which is to be greatly welcomed. I am delighted that Ms Campbell is coming to Galloway to meet with parents in what will be only her second full day in office, and I will be speaking to her the day before to underline why I believe the Galloway Choir must be given more time before any abrupt decisions are made about its future. If the Youth Choir of Scotland is to remain a truly National organisation, then the Galloway Choir must be retained – it is as simple as that.”
The Galloway Choir put on what was possibly their farewell performance at Penninghame Primary School last Thursday evening.