Emily Hoile in Schools - Lammermuir Festival
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week, I took Emily Hoile to play her Clarsach in four primary schools in East Lothian: Stenton, Humbie, Saltoun and Yester Primary Schools.
The first school we visited was Stenton Primary School, which consists of 46 pupils in total, 23 of whom make up the older class of P4s – P7s, and 23 the P1 – P3 class. The children were in the playground on their lunch break when we arrived and the large instrument on Emily’s shoulder already attracted their attention. One boy was keen to know what it looked like out of its case, to which Emily replied that he would soon see!
Emily played to the older class first, opening with a fast folk tune. From the moment she started to play, the children were completely mesmerised and after a few stunned seconds they were looking around at each other in amazement, some wide-eyed and some grinning. This initial, amazed reaction was similar at each school and with each age group, and the children enjoyed the opportunity to ask lots of interesting questions about Emily and the harp. When Emily mentioned that she had been playing the harp for 14 years, one pupil responded in astonishment, ‘And I’ve only been alive for 4 and a half years!’
In each of the half hour sessions Emily played some of her own tunes, and asked the children to come up with titles for them. Some examples include ‘Sunshine
Mountain’, ‘What a Lovely Place’, ‘Rainbow Magic’ and ‘The Magic Rock’, and – for a faster tune – ‘The Jig of Joy’, ‘The Jiggly Song’ and ‘The Fairy that Fluttered Very Fast’. One girl said that Emily’s tunes reminded her of the Highlands because they sounded like Scottish music.
It was a delight to see such natural responses to Emily’s music. Many children, in the younger class at Stenton Primary School in particular, couldn’t help but dance and sway. At Yester Primary School, I sat behind a boy who whispered in awe, ‘She’s good!’, to which the girl next to him responded ‘She’s really good!’, and at the end of Emily’s performance, I heard children make such remarks as ‘That was so amazing!’
But while the children recognised Emily’s extraordinary talent, a lot of interest was sparked when Emily told them that she was 5 when she started to learn her Clarsach – the same age or nearly the same age as the primary school children themselves. So, East Lothian may need to watch out for a new generation of young harpists!