London 2012 Festival: Raploch goes Caracas in the rain

There was a moment as the skies darkened, the rain fell and the musicians sheltered backstage, that we all wondered whether anyone would come.

But they did come. Some running down the soggy field to secure spaces at the front, others optimistically laying out picnic blankets and folding chairs.

They came from the Raploch estate to see their own children play alongside one of the world's most famous orchestras.

"We're so proud of them," says one man with two daughters in the Big Noise Orchestra, and a small boy on his shoulders who's keen to be in the next intake.

"I'm going to play the drums," he says, as he demonstrates on his dad's head.

Image caption Rain didn't dampen the spirits of the audience

Some teenage boys say the orchestra didn't appeal to them - but they can see what it has achieved.

"You see these wee kids running down the street because they're so desperate to go to rehearsals. It's amazing. And it makes people think again about the Raploch. It's not all crime and drugs."

Others at the front have come from Perth, Inverness, Dundee, Bearsden and London, just to see first hand this uplifting project.

And they're not disappointed.

The first performers are tiny - many dwarfed by their instruments - but their rendition of Purcell's Rondeau is passionate. Then Big Noise is joined by the world-famous Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela for Beethoven's Overture from Egmont.

Having rehearsed together for four days, there's a definite rapport between musicians which is quite touching.

Image caption The Simon Bolivar Orchestra played alongside Raploch's Big Noise children

At the end of the performance, the older musicians present their counterparts with Venezuelan medals, a tradition which marks the birth of any orchestra. The children beam from ear to ear.

The rain eases for the second half - the Bolivars' rendition of Beethoven's Eroica - which is warmly received by the damp crowd.

But then things really warm up.

The whole orchestra - including Gustavo Dudamel - don bomber jackets in Venezuelan colours. The music gets lively, the musicians get up to dance. So does the audience.

By the time they get to their trademark Mambo, even the crowd seated in the stands are on their feet.

Many of the Big Noise musicians are dancing down the front, and one small boy in a plastic poncho is conducting the orchestra from the field, mirroring Maestro Dudamel's movements.

There's reason to celebrate too.

Perfect platform

Word has gone round that Maestro Abreu, who founded El Sistema in 1975, has invited the Big Noise orchestra to Caracas to see first hand the work they do.

Just when the Big Noise orchestra thought their Big Concert couldn't get any bigger.

For Richard Holloway, Sistema Scotland's chairman, it's the perfect platform to lobby for more orchestras across the country.

"We're going to sow them like flowers across the country. Next stop, Govanhill," he says.

The Simon Bolivar Orchestra have one last tribute to the Raploch orchestra they describe as like "little brothers and sisters".

The final encore is Auld Lang Syne, with audience participation, and a speedy Venezuelan finish with fireworks.

The musicians throw their Venezuelan jackets into the crowd.

The perfect souvenir from an unforgettable evening.

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