Campaign to help Big Noise Orchestra go to Venezuela

A MAJOR campaign is under way to help pay for a children’s orchestra drawn from a Scottish housing estate to take a “life-changing” trip to Venezuela.

Big Noise Orchestra member Charlie McCulloch and actor Rab Buchanan recall Rab's big moment in the ever-popular Gregory's Girl. Picture: Helen Peck/The Central Scotland News Agency

The Big Noise Orchestra, formed in Raploch, Stirling, five years ago, plans to visit the home of the famous El Sistema movement.

The Venezuelan movement has already inspired the creation of two ventures in Scotland, with a second opening in Govan earlier this year, and there are plans for more.

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Set up in Venezuela in 1975, the free music education system has benefited about a quarter of a million youngsters and seen almost 200 orchestras formed.

The Raploch youngsters, aged nine to 15, will rehearse with young Venezuelan musicians and perform during the ten-day South American trip in January.

About 450 children living in a two-mile radius are now learning music in the Raploch area – five years ago it was just one.

Sistema Scotland was invited to Caracas by El Sistema’s founder, conductor Jose Antonio Abreu, after the Big Noise Orchestra appeared with Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in an open-air concert in Raploch last summer.

The charity hopes to raise £40,000 for the trip for the 55-strong orchestra, the highlight of which is expected to be a gala show in Caracas’ concert hall with conductor Gustavo Dudamel, Raploch’s patron.

A spokesman for Sistema Scotland said: “It will be an extraordinary experience for these children to see the magic of El Sistema at the source. In Raploch now you have to work really hard to avoid becoming a musician. There are 450 children living within two square miles learning to play with us, from babies through to teenagers.”

The Big Noise Orchestra recruited Gregory’s Girl star Rab Buchanan, who featured in the Caracas hitch-hiking scene which closed Bill Forsyth’s film, for a photo opportunity to publicise the fundraising.

Buchanan, who was joined by 14-year-old Big Noise percussionist Charlie McCulloch, said: “I started out in the Glasgow Youth Theatre and I know how great something like Big Noise can be. So I’m delighted to be able to help them kick off fundraising for this trip.”

Charlie, a pupil at Wallace High School, added: “We are all really excited about going to Venezuela to play. We’ve met a lot of the musicians from there and we want to show them how good we are since they last heard us.”