BIG Songs : A Celebration of Song at the Queen's Hall is the culmination of a huge amount of work from everyone involved in a community project that has been funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative.
BIG Songs has involved professional musicians (amongst many other supportive people) Kim Edgar, Rachel Sermanni, Karine Polwart and Steven Polwart working with young people from the Broomhouse area of Edinburgh from the ages of six to eighteen years of age to not only form a choir, but develop their interest in music and introduce them to playing musical instruments and song writing.
This show was a mixture of music from all of our professional musicians written in a way that included everyone in the choir at all times. Interesting to hear Rachel and “The Old Lady’s Lament” sung with a youth choir, and also nice to hear " 1,2,3,4,5" – an amazingly catchy and simple little tune written by Kim and Karine that just seems perfect for audience participation with its infectious chorus. “The Good Years” by Karine also just fitted in so well with the community spirit of the evening.
Watching the “BIG Choir” itself was interesting as the emotions of being on stage at The Queen’s Hall was so obvious on the faces of them all...a mixture ranging from nervous to sheer enjoyment. Even the ones looking a little nervous to start with though soon started to smile and enjoy themselves.
The “BIG Songs” choir were joined this evening by the “Love Music” choir, and Stephen Deazley led both choirs in a unique version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. “Love Music” have been very generous with their time in supporting this project too throughout its development.
The choir and non-choir members have also been busy under the tuition of Kim, Karine, Rachel and Steven developing their songwriting skills and Steven gave us a little insight into how introducing them to basic notes to form chords, melody and riffs resulted in the “Sunset Party Song”. “Out of This World”, “Don’t Put Me Down” and “Stay Strong” are others original songs created from this project.
Also nice this evening was the way that individuals where possible were given the chance to perform solos or larger parts on songs -
Priya Roy (Sing)
Sofia Porteous (1,2,3,4,5)
Rowetta He (Amazing Firework Mash Up)
Aimee Dunsmore, Jame Smith and Morven Jamieson (Stay Strong)
Scott Herbert and Sandy Jamieson (percussion)
Jack Westwell (piano and fiddle)
One of the most interesting things about this project is the way that any potential boundaries between professional songwriters and the community group have been completely removed. There is no “them and us”, this is a true community project with everyone being involved on an equal level and everyone sharing a mutual enjoyment of that involvement. A lovely little song “8, 9, 10” by Kim using a boy’s birth date to build the song around is a great example of how a very simple song can have deep personal meaning.
Another thing that has to be noted about the whole evening was simply the high quality of the songs, music and performances by everyone involved. Everyone should be proud of their contributions at whatever level.
As much as this evening’s concert was about music, that curiously enough to me is actually one of the smallest parts of what this project is about. Music is the common thread that is bringing everyone together, but it is only one thread. Everyone involved in “BIG Songs”, whether performers or non-performers, are as they meet, make new friendships, discover new things about music and one another, getting far more than just a musical experience out of this. “BIG Songs” is first and foremost a community project involving young people with not only one another, but people of widely different backgrounds, and it gives people a chance to develop not only their musical interests, but social skills and personal self-confidence and belief. If anyone really summed up the evening and what the whole project was about, it was Bethany at the end who at eighteen has reached the upper age limits for this group and this was her final performance with everyone. What this project has personally meant to her was just so obvious from her emotional farewell to everyone.
For more information on The BIG Project visit
Review by Tom King