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Young Critics Corner - Thomas McClure Review of the Young Musicians Showcase 2023 An Evening Seven Months In The Making 

On Saturday the 11th of November, 2023, the CatStrand Young Creatives presented the Young Musicians Showcase. With new performers showing off their amazing abilities, some only having started their musical journeys this past half-year, and previous performers returning from the Battle of the Bands seven months ago to blow us away all over again with their new and improved performances, the Young Musicians Showcase stood as a testament to the talents of the young performers of Dumfries and Galloway.

Musical Misfits

The first performers of the night were a group of ten brave girls who made up the musical theatre singing group Musical Misfits. It was a lovely opening to the showcase, led by music tutor Kate Picken, with the group performing old classics such as Hakuna Matata from the Lion King and Under The Sea from the Little Mermaid, along with the new classics such as A Million Dreams and This Is Me from the Greatest Showman.


Several of the Musical Misfits also had solo instrumental performances. Alba Wall showed courage and focus as she played Ba Ba Black Sheep and Old MacDonald on the ukuele alongside her tutor Michael Devereux on guitar; the pacing was so good that only a few notes a toddler in the audience was able to gleefully and loudly identify exactly what songs she was playing, which is certainly a good sign. Playing the Harry Potter theme on the piano with just one hand was the quick and dazzling Caitlin Mann, she knew what she was doing and she did it well. Freya Gibson, who also played the piano, gave us an impressive and beautiful slower rendition of Sway With Me. The next piano solo were of short versions of Clair de Lune and Merry Go Round played by Ivy Scofield, two difficult pieces that the talented Ivy played with ease. Lastly, Freya and Megan, as Guitar Sparks, gave their own wonderful rendition of the Harry Potter theme, with both keeping in tune with each other effortlessly. I believe all of these young musicians could be stars one day, and with a little practice that day might just be at the next Young Musicians Showcase.

Louis Campbell

The last peformance of the first half of the Young Musicians Showcase was the first performance of the thirteen-year-old Louis Campbell, who only started playing the piano six months ago and is already, in my eyes, an exceptional pianist. He blew us all away with his renditions of the Hungarian Dance, the Turkish March, and Für Elise. The moment Louis sat down in front of that piano, the rest of the world seemed to fade away as he was in his element and played the pieces quickly and flawlessly. The crowd and I were absolutely captivated, even the vocal toddler in the audience was silent for almost all of the performance. With that kind of skill, I am eager to see where Louis takes his musical talent next.

The High Priestess

After the interval came the returning singer songwriter duo that is the High Priestess, playing Mother Mother, More Than Done, Hole, and Legacy. When they played in the Battle of the Bands I wrote that they were in their element, and now, seven months later, I can safely say that they have now mastered their element on top of that. Both musicians were at their best this evening, delivering a performance that filled and shook the room, with vocals and music that you could feel in your bones. The energy of each song was palpable and to say that the vocals were strong would be an understatement. They've also improved in their stage presence, with the singer filling the moments between songs with commentary and context on their work, connecting with the audience and giving them an insight into each song, while also bringing some much needed levity to the transition between pieces.

In their first performance, the singer, Liv, showed off her vocal range in every song, and in this latest performance it seems she has found the perfect voice and tone for each song, giving every piece their own unique vibe.

One of their newer songs, Legacy, is perhaps their best yet, with both performers capturing the enchanting and ethereal energy that made them so spellbinding back in the Battle of the Bands. The instrumental performance takes centre stage in this song, with a memorable tune and a cathartic bend that really makes the piece so stellar and shows Christian's mastery of the guitar. Not to be outdone, Liv brings her whole soul into the vocals, with lyrics to match the raw feeling of the rest of the piece. And in writing this review I find myself realising that to describe their music is to evoke the supernatural because that is what their element is, and I can't wait to see what ethereal excursion they take us on next.

It is also worth mentioning that the High Priestess has recently been at Circa 16 Sound Recording, in collaboration with the CatStrand Young Creatives, the Music Maker's 'Stranded Cat' Project, and Stomping Ground Creative, and the Hollywood Trust, recording their very first single. From humble beginnings just over half a year ago, the High Priestess are preparing to debut their first single, so keep your eyes and ears out for that.

Back in April, I wrote that I saw 2023 being the year of the High Priestess, and with over half a dozen gigs and a debut single under their belt, I believe I was right, and I can see 2024 being their year as well.

Alexander & The Greeks



Another returning group from the Battle of the Bands is Alexander & The Greeks, now expanded from three piece band to a seven piece band with their unique art rock charm.Their kinetic energy remains their greatest strength, creating an infectious vibe that quite literally rocked the audience. I could feel the ground beneath me shaking from the bouncing feet of the audience, like the marching of Macedonians.

This band, a veritable force of nature, consists of seven artists bringing their own unqiue talents to each performance. They performed an original song, Vietjam, as well as Proud Mary, Man Who Sold The World, and For Whom The Bell Tolls.


Josh is one of the newer members who takes over from Sandy as the main vocalist. He has the passion and energy that fits perfectly with Alexander & The Greeks, and post-performance discussions with other members of the audience, he has been brought up the most as a standout performance.

Ira is the band's drummer and never misses a beat throughout the performance, nor does he overshadow the other performers as drummers sometimes do. They have a clear mastery over their instrument and fulfills a vital role in the band excellently.

On keyboard and piano are Joseph and Charlotte, who complement each other instrumentally. As Alexander & The Greeks expand their set list, I believe they should try and bring the keyboard instruments into the spotlight every now and then.

Richard and Ben, who play bass and rhythm guitar respectively, perform masterfully and flawlessly.

 I can absolutely see Alexander & The Greeks performing in front of large crowds by this time next year.

Ella Campbell

The young solo singer songwriter returns from the Battle of the Bands and continues to prove herself as a star in the making. Performing five pieces, Familiar Faces, She Never Loved Anybody More, London, and a piano rendition of Teenage Dirtbag as well as an excerpt for the CatStrand's upcoming pantomine, Ella Campbell has started to cultivate an iconic style. Ella maintains a consistent tone between her works, evoking a kind of country pop with a mellow tune on her accoustic guitar and her soft voice singing sweet, thoughtful, nostaglic lyrics.

Seven months ago I posited that with some more work on her original songs that she could master the musicians trifecta (singing, playing, and writing) and this evening she proved herself. Her voice is absolutely stunning, something several other audience members brought up independently after the performances. I wrote in my first review that "Ella draws the audience in and effortlessly holds their attention for the entirety of her performance" and that still holds true with her latest performance as her voice is truly captivating. This evening she not only played the guitar beautifully, but also showed off her skills as a pianist, playing and singing a tender rendition of Teenage Dirtbag. While brimming with vocal and instrumental talent, Ella also showcased a few original songs, each exploring a side of herself, saying a lot with a little, and evoking feelings of yearning and reminiscence. Ella Campbell has mastered the musicians trifecta at only fifteen and I can't wait to see and hear what she does next.

Rhelm



Ending this Young Musicians Showcase, just as they ended the Battle of the Bands, is the returning champions Rhelm. This five piece teenage rock band played five epic high-energy tunes; Zombie, Rock n Roll, R U Gonna Be My Girl, and their original songs No-Go and Sleep.

The band was in their element tonight. Their confidence, presentation, and talent have all improved in the seven months since they were last bringing the house down at the CatStrand. Rhelm is the perfect closer to any evening, getting the whole audience to move and rock along with their up-beat songs, sending the crowd home with a buzz. The contribution of each musician could be heard clearly, creating a complementary holistic atmosphere throughout their performance. The three guitarists and the drummer are brimming with talent, and the whole band has nailed the rockstar look. The front woman, Megan, has the confidence, passion, energy, and talent to lead Rhelm into stardom. She dazzled the audience (and not just with her sparkling dress), being both skilled with a guitar (and a tambourine) and skilled with an incredible voice and range. Rhelm are rockstars in the making.

Many thanks to the CatStrand music tutors Kate Picken and Michael Deveraeux, sound technician Jim Ranyard, all the CatStrand staff and volunteers and the funders of the Young Music Makers programme who have made this fabulous evening possible.

If you would like to get involved in any of the projects, workshops, or to discuss opportunities, please email Catherine Campbell, the Young Creatives Project lead on catherine@catstrand.com, or visit www.csyoungcreatives.com


This is an independent review written by our Thomas McClure as part of the CatStrand Young Creatives 'Theatre Critic' programme.

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