Carnoustie High charms China

Sunday 7 October 2018

Carnoustie High School Brass Band has returned home after a very successful trip to China.

Musical Director Michael Robertson sent SBBA a report on what the youngsters got up to, on what proved to be the trip of a lifetime.


The first week was spent in the city of Tianjin, where the youngsters performed on four occasions to capacity audiences. As well as playing, the musicians and staff also had to attend Mandarin lessons for three hours every morning, take part in Chinese fan painting and learn to play the zither. On completion of the Mandarin course each student and teacher received a certificate.

One of the many highlights of the trip was being invited to perform in the British Embassy in Beijing in front of 2,500 guests, then meeting the British Ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward OBE, who was presented with a quaich from the band.

Owen Sweeney, Carnoustie’s piper, was invited to perform for the Embassy Security Services and was then presented with a medal and invited to be the official piper for the British Embassy in Beijing. Owen and Carnoustie High’s two Scottish country dancers, Meggie Martin-Lyall and Cara McFarlane, were enthusiastically received wherever they performed. The girls danced many Scottish dances then wowed the audience with a modern dance set to traditional music which they choreographed themselves.

While performing at the Embassy, the band were filmed and appeared later that night on Chinese National television. Many of the senior officials commented that this was the finest youth band to ever perform there and extended an invitation to return again next year. It has to be said that the standard of playing from the band over the fortnight was absolutely superb.

The following day we visited the famous Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City where we walked for 11 miles, taking in the various cultural and historical delights. Yet another highlight was a tour on tricycles of the Hutong district of Beijing where one square metre of land costs around £30,000. This was followed in the evening by a performance to a capacity audience at the Beijing Conservatoire of Music where the band received a standing ovation and another invitation to play again next year.

On Tuesday, we visited the lovely water-town of Gubei for lunch before starting the long, steep climb to the Great Wall of China. It was well worth the effort. Fantastic views awaited the band at the top and, according to Chinese folklore, anyone who can climb to the wall is a hero. There were many tired legs that night.

Our final concert took place on Wednesday where we visited a high school and its feeder primary school, both attached to Beijing University. The band shared the concert platform with a group of eight-year old Mongolian dancers who were superb, and the primary school orchestra. The ages of the children in the orchestra ranged from eight to ten years old and the standard was absolutely sensational.

On the Thursday, the group visited the Summer Palace, where the Emperor used to stay in the summer months, the Pearl Market, where lots of last-minute shopping was undertaken, and the Temple of Heaven, where Emperors came to worship.

The final day was spent at the Water Cube and the Birds Nest Olympic Stadium before the band left for the airport and the long flight home.

A special thank you must go to Miss Fiona MacPherson, Faculty Head of Expressive Arts at Carnoustie High School, Mr. Paul Judge, Percussion teacher, Mrs. Angie Hill, Mrs. Jocelyn Robertson and to Mr. Ding who organised and co-ordinated all the events in both Tianjin and Beijing. He did a superb job and was extremely popular with both pupils and staff.

This was the trip of a lifetime for the young musicians. The Chinese people were very warm and welcoming and many friendships have been formed. The pupils were a credit to Carnoustie High School, Scotland and especially to their parents. I am so proud to have been able to take this group to China and I would like to thank again everyone who helped make this possible.