Author Archives: Callum Mackay

Remembrance Events 2020

Over the last few weeks pipers and trumpeters from the Nicolson Institute and Sir E Scott School took part in a series of Remembrance services at the following venues: Harris War Memorial, Stornoway High Church, Lewis War Memorial, Garrabost War memorial, Martin’s Memorial Church, Nicolson Institute, Merchant Navy Memorial (Ferry terminal) and The Drill Hall.

The trumpeters Tom Blunt, Emily Davidson, Oscar Fish, Karen Logue and pipers Hamish Scott, Jamie Doig, Arron Ingram, Joshua Morrison and Liam Campbell performed the Last Post, Reveille and Flowers of the Forest.

Lord-Lieutenant of the Isles Domhnall Martin said of the young people ‘” It was gratifying to see that, despite the current COVID restrictions, school pupils were able to play an important role in participating as buglers and pipers at the recent Remembrance events.  Their presence at such significant community events adds to the occasion, is much appreciated by the public and provides the pupils with invaluable experience of performing at ceremonial events. They, along with their parents and tutors who encouraged them, are to be congratulated for overcoming the challenges encountered during the lockdown”.

Update on Instrumental music tuition delivery – October 2020

The current situation brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic continues to affect the delivery offered by our team of instrumental music teachers (IMTs).  To accommodate complex rules and regulations, instrumental music service staff have produced a subject specific risk assessment and a staged delivery plan to work alongside individual school arrangements.

Whilst instruments such as fiddle, guitar, keyboard, and melodeon can now resume face to face instruction (please see note 1. below), Scottish Government regulations state that singing, wind, brass, chanter and piping are still prohibited within school buildings.  Whilst these regulations remain in force, instrumental music teachers are using a blended approach to delivery. This includes the use of electronic chanters, music theory, general musicianship, and video tutorials. During this time Gaelic Singing Teachers are supporting schools with SQA course work and GME.

On a positive note, IMTs are delighted to be back teaching in our schools and pupil engagement is high.  Teachers are working hard to plan for future performance/project opportunities whilst individuals and local businesses have played their part by contributing over £7,000 of funds to enable the purchase of electronic chanters.

Further details on tuition arrangements that are being provided during the COVID 19 pandemic can be obtained by contacting individual IMTs through your child’s school.

  1. Due to local COVID related travel restrictions between schools, instrumental music tuition in primary schools is being provided using a blend of face to face and online tuition.

e-Cèilidh nan Òg coming up this Friday

The 4th e-Cèilidh nan Òg broadcast, featuring performances from primary school pupils across the islands, will take place this coming Friday 28th August at 7pm.

The programme will be hosted by piping teacher Anna Murray and can be viewed on the e- Cèilidh Facebook page or e- Cèilidh website.

The programme will also include 2 sing-along and 2 play-along items led by CnES Instrumental Music Teachers Iain MacIver, Neil Johnstone & Rhona Johnstone. The lyrics and music for these can be found on the e-Cèilidh website and in the Eilean Siar e-Cèilidh section on this blog.

We hope that you will be able to tune in, but if not the programme will be available for catch up on the website and Facebook, where you will also find the previous programmes.

There are 2 further e-Cèilidh nan Òg programmes scheduled for 25th Septmber & 2nd October.

Statement regarding the Instrumental Music Service and music tuition – August 2020

The Scottish Government guidance issued last week notes that movement of staff between schools, which includes our Instrumental Music Teachers, should be kept to a minimum until further notice.

We are also awaiting further guidance from Scottish Government, on the back of scientific evidence and research, regarding singing and the playing of certain instruments.

We are keen for lessons to resume as soon as possible and will be working hard to formulate a plan for the safe delivery of instrumental lessons to pupils in our primary & secondary schools.

We hope to be able to provide information regarding the continuation of music tuition shortly and this will be communicated to parents & carers of pupils in receipt of instrumental lessons via the usual channels, following discussions with the department, headteachers and staff.

In the meantime, we would encourage all our music pupils to keep practicing to continue the good work which was achieved last session.

Term 4 round up

Well, what a busy term it has been for the Instrumental Music Service here in the Western Isles.  Here is a brief summary of some of the things our staff and pupils have been involved in.

 Online Teaching

Through eSgoil, utilising the Vscene video conferencing platform and Microsoft Teams provided through Glow, our Instrumental Music Teachers (IMTs) have been able to provide online tuition and we are proud to say that CnES is one of only two local authorities in Scotland who have been able to provide online lessons for pupils from day one of the lockdown.

This has also enabled us to continue to deliver our Youth Music Initiative project work (YMI) which fulfils the Scottish Government targets for pupils to receive a year of instrumental lessons before the end of primary school.  Staff worked hard to upskill and as a result have reported a high level of engagement with pupils.  Our staff have been delighted to have been able to continue teaching throughout the lockdown and to have contributed in some small way to the health and wellbeing of our students by providing a focus, not only with online lessons but also project-based work, some of which is outlined below.  Some teachers have even been able to carry on ensemble activities, this is a particularly difficult task online and those tutors involved are to be congratulated on their hard work.


The impact of the work undertaken is summed up in this comment from a recent survey which was sent out at the end of term to parents/carers and pupils:

“Music lessons were a lifeline for my child during lockdown. They were the first lessons to get up and running (soon after schools closed) which provided an anchor for those scary first few weeks.” 

e-Cèilidh and e-Cèilidh nan Og

Conceived, administered and produced by Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service and the Comhairle Multi-Media Unit staff, e-Cèilidh and the primary school version, e-Cèilidh nan Og have provided local professional, community and school musicians with a performance focus throughout the lockdown.  They have also enabled some of our staff to flex their presentation and performance skills in front of the camera.  With total views in excess of 79,0000 for the six e-Cèilidhs and two e-Cèilidh nan Og events they have certainly proved popular with performers and audiences. Several people commented on the e-ceilidh in our survey.

“If possible it would be great to retain the e-ceilidhs on a regular basis as it encourages kids to practice for a purpose and it’s lovely to hear all the other talented people on our islands.”

More information on e-Cèilidh and e-Cèilidh nan Òg  can be found on the dedicated website as well as in the e-Cèilidh section in this blog site.


Key Worker Tributes

Thursday night tributes took place weekly since lockdown began and have provided our string, wind, brass, piping students and others, with a weekly focus for practice and learning of new repertoire as well as to show our appreciation for the keyworkers during the pandemic.  The performances became important to family, friends and neighbours with many looking forward to garden/street performances.  Students were encouraged to record their performances on video many of which they have proudly displayed on social media.  The large bank of heart-warming videos, which music service staff have been sent, attest to the amount of hard work and practice that has gone on by all of our students during lockdown.

“Having tunes to learn and playing on Thursday nights………has helped to maintain focus and concentration.” 






Partnerships/Local and National Projects

Our staff and pupils took part in various local and national projects, some of which you can read about in our earlier blog posts. These include:

  • Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band & Eccleshall Band Collaboration Video
  • Clap for Carers initiative
  • Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG) -Somewhere over the Rainbow project
  • VE Day 75th anniversary commemorations 

In addition to these events some of our staff and pupils took part in the following:

Make Music Day – Several of our pupils and staff took part in the MEPG project Hey Jude Symphony of a Thousand, which ran over several weeks and with participants coming together to perform and record a special arrangement of Hey Jude, which was broadcast globally as part of Make Music Day, held annually on 21st June. Hundreds of musicians, teachers and pupils across Scotland sent in recordings of themselves and hundreds more contributed on the day. A video of the performance, conducted by renowned Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan, can be viewed below



The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music also produced a video for International Make Music Day featuring 700 musicians from across the world, including many of our own students.

ABRSM Make Music Day video


Music Education Partnership Group webinars – Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service was invited to provide a contributor to present at a high profile webinar organised by the Music Education Partnership Group (MEPG) which included on the panel, amongst other musicians and educators, the world-famous violinist Nicola Benedetti.  Following our appearance on the webinar on online pedagogy, our Music Development Officer Rhona Johnstone was then invited to present at a subsequent MEPG webinar on the subject of online teaching platforms and spoke about our use of Vscene to deliver tuition during the lockdown.

Both these webinars can be viewed on the MEPG Facebook page

Poppy Scotland St Valery- Musicians from piping and brass took part in this national project to raise awareness of the St Valery commemoration, ‘The forgotten Dunkirk’.  Music service staff helped organise events at The Nicolson Institute, Drill Hall, Lewis War Memorial and Harris War memorial.



Army Cadet Video -Pipers, string and wind players took part in a national army cadet video.  Music staff helped prepare students by rehearsing their parts with them, these were then sent off and stitched into two videos.

St Valery Army cadet video can be viewed on the following link

St Valery Army Cadet Force video

          Army cadet video still                                                   Eccleshall video still

Armed forces week –  Two students, a piper and trumpeter, took part in two flag ceremonies in Perceval square as part of armed forces week.






Virtual Competitions – Several staff entered pupils in online competitions and pupils have gained much from these.  Piping staff have been heavily involved in the setting up of the brand-new Lewis & Harris Piping Society virtual competition for youth pipers which was also mention in a previous blog post.


We thank all our staff, pupils and parents for encouraging our young musicians to keep themselves occupied with their music, not only entertaining themselves but also their family and friends during lockdown. Here are a couple of final comments from our recent survey.

“These lessons were a lifeline to my child. Some days it was the only reason they got up and dressed”

“It literally was the glue that held my child together. Music is very important to my child’s mental health, it is how they calm themself when anxious or stressed, a creative outlet to express their positive and negative emotions. I cannot thank the music staff enough for their professionalism, dedication and kindness “

e-Ceilidh nan Og

Join us for another e-Ceilidh nan Og broadcast on Friday 19th June at 10am.

The programme, which will be hosted by piping teacher Ashley Macdonald and is part of the “Deanamaid Dihaoine – Let’s do it Friday” series of events,  will feature more of our primary pupils from across the islands singing, dancing, reciting and playing.

The broadcast will also include sing-along & play-along sessions led by some of our instrumental music teaching staff. Links to downloadable resources (lyrics, sheets music & backing tracks can be found in the e-Ceilidh nan Og section of this blog or on the Eilean Siar e-Ceilidh website

The broadcast will be shown on the website as well as on the Eilean Siar e-Ceilidh Facebook page

The programme for this broadcast showing the performers can be found here

There will be another 3 e-Ceilidh nan Og events after the schools summer break so look out for details of them coming at a later date.

Lewis & Harris Piping Society launch virtual competition for youth pipers

For the first time in its history, The Lewis and Harris Piping Society will run their first ever virtual piping competition – with entries welcomed from the Butt of Lewis to Barra. The competition is open to all competitors under the age of 18. There is a varied selection of categories to encourage every level of player to take part.

For full details please visit the link below

CnES music pupils take part in national Clap for Carers initiative

On doorsteps, in gardens and even from atop mountainous peaks our young CnES instrumental music pupils  have been busy playing tributes to our key workers.  In the case of pipers this has been part of a national campaign called #pipeupforkeyworkers. The performances, which have been taking place every Thursday since before the April holidays, are now eagerly awaited by a growing audience of family, friends and neighbours’ who listen live or online.   The pupils, all of whom have been learning online during the lockdown, have learnt a whole host of repertoire ranging from Hector the Hero to popular songs such as What a Wonderful World.

CnES would like to pay our own tribute, by giving a big round of applause, to our intrepid and dedicated army of musicians.

The videos below show Cameron Hendry who is a P6 pupils at Sgoil nan Loch and Emily Davidson from the Nicolson Institute.

e-Ceilidh nan Og – 29th May 2020

We had originally planned to broadcast this primary schools event, which is part of the Deanamaid Dihaoine series of events, via the Eilean Siar e-Ceilidh website, however the site is experiencing a problem at the moment.

The event will now be broadcast via Vimeo and also on the Eilean Siar e-Ceilidh Facebook page.

Please find below the 4 links to view the event on Vimeo.

Each broadcast is scheduled to go live at the time stated below and you will be unable to view them on either Vimeo or Facebook until that time.

10am – Part 1

11am – Sing-along

1pm – Part 2

2pm – Play-along

On Facebook please search for the page @ESeCeilidh or use this link

Downloadable resources for the sing-along & play-along sessions can be found here

All the broadcasts will be available in the archive section of the e-Ceilidh website once it is back up and running again

Lewis & Harris Youth Concert Band collaboration

Two bands 523 miles apart, never met and still managed to make music together

The Musical Directors’ of The Lewis and Harris Youth Concert Band-Gavin Woods and Eccleshall Band-Martin Jones met through a mutual contact, Gavin’s mum.

During conversations about the challenges of making music during the lockdown Martin suggested that members of the two bands might collaborate on a joint project to make a video.

So began a wonderful musical adventure which saw individual members of the bands’ record their parts in the comfort of their own homes.  The resultant videos’ were then stitched together by video and sound engineer Dominic Gwynne.

The music chosen for this piece of musical fun was Camptown Races,  and just as at Ascot, participants wore hats.

The official launch party took place on Saturday  23rd of May on Zoom where an audience of a 100 or so guests, including Director of Education and Children’s Services-Bernard Chisholm,  were entertained by host Martin Jones before viewing the premiere of the video.

Well done to all of the band who took part in the project which has provided an excellent focus for the musicians during the lockdown period.

Well done to Lewis & Harris Youth Concert Band members Elizabeth Greenstock, Tom Blunt, Emily Davidson, Ben Jones, Francesca Greenstock, Penny Fish, Henry Greenstock, Simeon Fletcher, Jane Finlayson and musical director Gavin Woods.