The cult following of a 1970s school band from Aberdeen

They appeared in their ankle-length kilts and white school shirts to deliver their often futuristic and dream-like sound across Europe.

Monday, 31st July 2017, 4:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 12:22 pm
The Cults Percussion Ensemble perform at the Festival Hall in London in 1979. A young Dame Evelyn Glennie is pictured at the back on timpani with Ron Forbes conducting. PIC: Ron Forbes.

Now the music of the Cults Percussion Ensemble, which formed more than 40 years ago, is enjoying something of a cult revival after a rare recording was discovered and released by hip label Trunk Records.

Ron Forbes, teacher of the ensemble, which included a young Dame Evelyn Glennie, arguably the world’s most famous percussionist, said he had been “delighted and a little surprised” to be contacted by label founder, Jonny Trunk, to talk about re-releasing the band’s work.

Trunk had discovered a scarce copy of a recording originally made in a tiny studio in the Highlands ahead of the ensemble’s appearance at a music festival in France in 1981.

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Originally distributed to festival guests and supporters of the young musicians, Trunk found the vinyl at Spitalfields Market in London several years ago.

Since its re-release, the work has been widely lauded in music circles. Trunk said he had loved the “very beautiful sound” from “the second it started”.

Mr Forbes, who wrote all the music for the ensemble give the then lack of sheet music for percussionists, said he was happy the group’s work was reaching a new audience.

He said: “I was, well delighted, and really quite surprised when Jonny Trunk phoned me up.

“We probably made no more than 100 copies of that recording. We were going away to perform in France at a big festival and we thought it an idea to take some records with us.”

He said he was lucky to have worked with such a collection of talented youngsters.

Mr Forbes added: “I just did it for the kids. It was just my job to do that.

“I was lucky enough to have a batch of kids that were good. In my later years of teaching , you did find that level of enthusiasm deteriorated.”

The ensemble rehearsed at the old Cults Music Centre every Saturday morning after Mr Forbes, former lead percussionist in the Coldstream Guards and a London-based session musician, managed to convince education chiefs to buy more percussion instruments to meet demand from pupils.

The ensemble was made up of pupils from schools including Alford Academy and Ellon Academy, where Dame Evelyn Glennie attended.

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Mr Forbes, who moved to Aberdeen in 1972, said: “What sticks in my mind about Evelyn is that she was just very talented. A lot of the talented kids you taught were good - but then some were excellent. They had the ingredients you needed - they were single minded about what they had to do. They were tenacious.

“Evelyn was great to teach but she was hard work. When you gave her something to do she quickly wanted something more. She had an insatiable appetite for music - and of course she still has.

“Of course her being deaf was the thing that people were interested in - people couldn’t believe that she was.

“Evelyn has this perfect pitch. She can just look at a piece of music and know what it sounds like.”

Other members of the ensemble, whose work was re-released in 2012, were Elspeth Rose, Carole Coutts, Michael Urquhart, Rhoda Beddie, Jennifer McKay, Lesley Ponting, Elizabeth Fyvie, Angela Forbes, Susan Neil and Margaret McKinnon.

Mr Forbes said: “I remember them all. They were all very talented and a lot of them went into the music business.”

Mr Forbes and his former pupils in the Cults Percussion Ensemble, including Dame Evelyn Glennie, are due to meet for a reunion in the Aberdeen area this autumn.