Ayr is a very pretty, if windy and raw seaside town. The centre of the town is full of old, and very old stone buildings including a ancient fort. I don't know much about the history, but it feels solid, secure and safe from marauding enemies and the wild weather.
The town hall, which is the wonderful venue for all the singing is a fine example of Victorian flamboyance and stolid respectability all in one building.
All the choirs have been in the large hall where the acoustic is vibrant, and the stage is huge. Not one choir from the tots to the teens seem to have been overawed by it, and yet the stewards tell me that it is not often used by children's groups.
I have been blown away by the standard of the choral singing, and the festival has really moved with the times. There is, in Scotland, a government directive called the YMI, Youth Music Incentive. Now I live in Scotland but have never heard of this. In essence each council is given money to provide core music in school and choral singing is a large part of this. Visiting professionals go into the primary schools once a week to work with every Primary 6&7 in the school. The clear and ringing result of this incentive in Ayr is the almost miraculous standard of choral singing. They teachers are encouraged to enter the children in festivals, and so this week the choir entries from all parts of Ayrshire number over 25! So many infact, that each age range has been split into 4 sub divisions. I have already heard 3 classes of Primary 4&5 choirs, and the same for Primary 6&7 ! Their work is vibrant, technically secure, includes strong choreographic moves and such discipline. The groups from the most deprived areas being just as accomplished as those from more affluent parts of the county.
I was introduced to the lady who is overall in charge of this for Ayrshire and she thanked me for my positive and affirming remarks, and how much that meant to the teachers. I felt unable to reply in any other terms than, what a sheer joy it had been to see and hear such fantastic work, to see such energy in these young teachers, and how humbling it was to also see how every child was involved. Wheelchair bound, blind, and Downs children were all part of the choirs, all having such a wonderful experience. I want to say ' You cannot buy that' but I would be wrong.
If the money is given for this then every council in Scotland should be able to buy in such expertise, and give their children this magnificent and utterly beneficial experience ! An experience which flows over into every area of their lives, building confidence and self worth as well as giving them the sheer physical thrill of music making.
Three cheers for Ayrshire Council. Three cheers for the brilliant young peripatetics, and three cheers for a festival happy to move with the times and allow a wide range of music and classes.
I take my hat off to you.