Highland Swing

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The Inverness Courier, June 3rd 2005

Campbell McCracken contemplates life in the Highlands

Campbell netted a wife and now enjoys the samba beat
 
...Campbell is also one of the prime movers, and alto-sax player, with amateur big band Highand Swing.
 
Im not a particularly great player, but its a great band to be in, Campbell said.
 
"Making music is such a thrill. It's a wonderful feeling when you play together and make such nice sounds."
 
He is a relative newcomer to swing music. Like many teenagers in the 1970s, he could strum a few chords on guitar, but had given up playing any instruments by the time he responded to advertising about a new community band for Fife six years ago.
 
The Inverkeithing Community Big Band was formed with the help of a Lottery grant and a large donation from Inverkeithing High School Parents' Teachers Association with the aim of encouraging musical education and entertainment in Fife.
 
As such, total beginners were welcome and provided with instruments. I started playing tenor sax in April 1999.1 was living in Dalgety Bay, but the band was based in Inverkeithing," he explained.
 
"I turned up on the first night and the woman running it thrust a brand new tenor saxophone into my hand and said: 'Try it'. In the first 18 months I did quite well, going from scratch to passing my Grade Three Academy of Music exam, but then I think I studied so hard I kind of sickened myself with it and didn't get any further."
 
However, he stuck with the band and admitted: "When I moved up here I had to give the sax back which was quite painful."
 
By this time, he had got the music bug. He bought an alto-saxophone, found some like-minded players and got back into the swing of big band music.
 
Swing is making a comeback, Campbell agrees. Robbie Williams and the revival of interest in Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack buddies have turned a new generation onto the pop music of the mid-20th century and even an old rocker like Rod Stewart is finding success with "The Great American Song-book," he points out.
 
For Campbell, the appeal is easy to explain. Classic songs played in a style everyone has at least some familiarity with, whether they consider themselves fans or not, as was the case with himself.
 
"When I look back to when I was young watching 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons or 'Top Cat' cartoons or Laurel and Hardy, they always had background music which was swing or light jazz, so these things have always been there.
 
"It's amazing music and it crosses the generation gap. With older people you can see a look of delight when they hear these tunes they maybe used to dance to when they were courting their partners.
 
"It's a great feeling when you see that look on their faces."
 
Perhaps the band's biggest gig to date was at the other end of the age scale, a charity concert at Culloden Academy in front of a predominantly teenage audience where Highland Swing shared the bill with teenage rock groups.
 
"Someone wrote a review and said we stole the show," he said.
 
"The teenagers were thoroughly enjoying this band whose members would never see their teenage years again."