RSNO New Bands: Blog Post One

RSNO New Bands is a new programme of activity designed to get groups of musicians to incorporate orchestral instruments into their own original material.Digital Projects Coordinator at the RSNO, Neil Cullen, explains.

Using a concert last October in Paisley Abbey with The Twilight Sad and Admiral Fallow as a starting point, Royal Scottish National Orchestra musicians are mentoring fledgling artists on how best to orchestrate for a variety of genres. Last year's concert was organised as part of Paisley's Spree Festival and Head of Brass at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, John Logan, was in charge of delivering arrangements of both bands' songs for full symphony orchestra.

On the morning of the concert, John Logan led an introductory workshop for three young bands from the Glasgow area (Marie Collins, Les Rusty Scruffs and Junkie Romance) along with input from Admiral Fallow's Phil Hague (who also handled some of the night's arrangements), Sarah Hayes and Kevin Brolly. Also in attendance at this first workshop was Ruth Rowlands, Davur Magnussen and John Whitener who play the positions of Cello, Principal Trombone and Principal Tuba with the RSNO, and would go on to lead the individual workshops with each band.

After the seminar on the morning of the concert, each band had individual workshop in December with Ruth, Davur and John at the University of the West of Scotland. These workshops will extend until June of 2014, with a performance planned later in the year where each of the bands will perform with the RSNO the fruits of their labour during the New Bands programme.

The bands that are taking part in the workshops are Marie Collins, Les Rusty Scruffs, and Junkie Romance, who you can find more about in the next episode of the New Bands video blog series

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Young Ambassadors Forum #1: Seona Glen

Stirling's Young Ambassador, Seona Glen, describes the first Young Ambassadors Forum and Lugansky Plays The Emperor, Sat 23rd Nov at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

On Saturday 23rd November, the new RSNO Young Ambassadors met for the first time, at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The young people came from all over Scotland, with one member making a six hour round trip to come to the event. The evening kicked off with a photo shoot with the RSNO in rehearsal behind us, which had all of us very excited. Afterwards, we worked in groups to discuss our ideas about how the RSNO and classical music in general might become more accessible to young people. It soon became clear that there was a shared determination amongst us to help more people our age reap the benefits of involvement in classical music.

After having got to know each other, the Young Ambassadors attended the concert which was taking place that evening, Lugansky plays the Emperor. The concert opened with a very moving interpretation of Messiaen’s Les Offrandes Oubliées. Before the performance Peter Oundjian, Music Director of the RSNO gave a the audience a meaningful insight into the piece, which helped me to really listen to the piece at a deeper level than I might have otherwise. Next, the phenomenal Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky took to the stage, where he performed with the orchestra a stunning rendition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No5, better known as the Emperor. The great energy shown on stage by all was transferred to the captivated audience. For me the highlight was the piano's first entry in the second movement, which the musicians handled sensitively to create a very special moment in the room.

Lastly in the programme was Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, of which the RSNO gave yet another first-rate performance. This was followed by enormous applause, but before too many had managed to get their coats on, the orchestra surprised us with an energetic encore of one of Brahms' Hungarian Dances, which ended the concert with a flourish.

I think I speak for all of the Young Ambassadors when I say it was an inspirational evening, and I very much look forward to our next meeting in February.

Seona Glen

Seona is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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Young Ambassador Interview: Nicola Benedetti

RSNO Highland Young Ambassador, Susannah Mack, interviews Nicola Benedetti

I recently had the incredible opportunity to interview the one and only Nicola Benedetti before her concert with the RSNO. She was amazingly welcoming and kind and I’m truly grateful for her brilliant answers.

Scotland is verging on a very exciting time for classical music. Due to hard work, fantastic projects and great role models such as Nicola, I think there is a new lease of life into the classical world on the way. For example, look at the new RSNO youth projects and the expanding national youth orchestras with the new junior and senior orchestras already making headlines, and the regional orchestras across the country are getting more exciting all the time. After having said that, there are huge regional differences. In the Highlands we are lagging behind the rest because of remoteness and very limited musical experiences on offer.

I asked Nicola if she thought she might not have still had her opportunities if she had grown up somewhere more remote.

I definitely do. I think I was very lucky to have a Suzuki programme near to where I was, and to have parents that we able to take me to that and in me consistently getting the opportunities I needed in order to become a violinist. There’s only so much your talent can do for you. The rest is about good teaching, the right kind of exposure and enough people around you encouraging you to work hard at it. If you don’t have those things you can be as talented as you like but it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be able to develop that and make the most of it. Especially within classical music because of the level of expertise you have to learn.

The RSNO Young Ambassadors have been selected to encourage more young people into concert halls. What are your opinions on how to do this?

I don’t think it takes much, actually, whenever I’ve invited young people to concerts they’ve really enjoyed it. There are barriers which we can break down, and it’s a combined effort to make new people and young people feel welcome. There are some people who can really be quite hostile - staring and glaring if anyone makes a slight noise or does anything out of the ordinary in terms of the protocol - so all of the work can sometimes be undone, and we don’t want to have people being worried about doing something wrong, we want them to be relaxed and enjoying themselves. Maybe if it’s someone’s first time then give a brief explanation of what usually happens such as waiting to clap at the end of a piece - although personally I don’t mind when they clap they can clap in the middle of a movement and I won’t care! Just give them a little bit of a run-down of how it is in a classical concert hall. I think it helps a lot.

What if we adapted this idea to involve school children in music from a much earlier stage? What do you think we should be proud of in terms of musical education and what she thinks we should change?

I think at the moment there is a lot to be proud of especially in international comparisons. I think Scotland has done particularly well in protecting our culture budget and protecting their cultural education focus. I so wish that every single child in Scotland could have the chance to hear music, and have a music teacher in every school to take time to listen to all sorts of music, making it their job to expose their favourites to children of all ages, with different levels of complexity, and share with the kids their enthusiasm for listening to it, share with them why they enjoy it and why they were so moved by it. And then, obviously, I’d love for every child to have the chance to learn to play an instrument and to play in groups together. First of all it’s so unbelievably difficult; you need so much patience, concentration and perseverance which are skills which will take with you through life and into your future. And playing in a group teaches you so much about listening to one another, about being a more open and better person, and about working together. And so I wish there was an orchestral programme in every school.

Nicola is very active in the Sistema Scotland project, which transforms lives and communities through music. I wondered if we could potentially adapt this project to spread across the whole country, and I was delighted to hear that the project is being taken on elsewhere - already in Govanhill and another underway in Aberdeen. 

I think once the momentum gets going it’s just going to blossom. It takes such a devoted number of people to make something like that work, it takes a lot of funds and it takes a huge amount of support. I think they really proved themselves in Raploch and I think that made a big difference, gaining a very warm reception in Govanhill as they probably will in Aberdeen. It’s definitely their intention to run the programme out elsewhere and now they have government funding which shows to me that it’s something the government would like to see scattered across the country in as many cities and towns as they can.

It’s not every day that you meet one of your heroes, and to be offered their thoughts and ambitions in response to your questions. I think the biggest outcome from my interview with Nicola Benedetti is that by sharing our love of music, offering positive role models and by creating exciting new activities, we will be able to transform the future of classical music.

Susannah Mack

Susannah is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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Young Ambassadors Forum #1: Kelsa McDonald

One of the Fife Region's Young Ambassadors, Kelsa McDonald, describes the first Young Ambassadors Forum and Lugansky Plays The Emperor, Sat 23rd Nov at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

On Saturday the 23rd of November it was the first chance for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Young Ambassadors to meet and attend the first concert. The Ambassadors come from all over Scotland but all share the same passion: classical music. The concert was “Lugansky Plays the Emperor” which was conducted by Peter Oundjian and featured the RSNO along with Nikolai Lugansky, a renowned pianist.

After arriving, myself and the other Ambassadors were taken into the concert hall for a hurried photo opportunity. At that point in time the orchestra were warming up and running over the material for the night ahead. It was almost dizzying to look down and see the cluster of people and instruments so far below us.

Once the photo shoot was over we returned to the VIP lounge where we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and have a small discussion about RSNO Schools Concerts. After stating our name, school, what instrument/s we play, and what part of Scotland we were from we split into small groups to gather ideas. The discussion was a great success and it was interesting to see so many different ideas being presented, showing just how much of an input young people can have in classical music!

When the time came to watch the concert I was particularly excited. I enjoy listening to piano music and watching live performances is always so different to simply hearing it or watching it through a screen. The conductor, Peter Oundjian, was interesting and informative when introducing the musical pieces, but was also brief. The show commenced with a lively piece of music by French composer Marais before Lugansky took to the keys to perform Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto. The time flew by and before I knew it, the second half had begun. It featured a set of Symphonic Dances by the Russian composer, Rachmaninov, and finished with another dance, this time by Brahms.

The evening was very enjoyable and I’m eagerly awaiting the next concert. There’s nothing quite like seeing classical music, or any music for that matter, performed live. Hopefully more people decide to head along to a concert and discover this from themselves!

Kelsa McDonald

Kelsa is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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Young Ambassador Review: Handel’s Messiah

 Fife Young Ambassador, Kelsa McDonald, describes the performance of Handel's Messiah, Thursday, January 2nd, at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

On the 2nd of January I was lucky enough to see Handel’s Messiah performed at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Unlike the last concert I was at, the RSNO Chorus were present, and there were fewer musicians in the orchestra. There was a harpsichord and a chamber organ, which were particularly interesting for me as I learned about these instruments in school, but have never seen them on stage until now. The oratorio is a term that is taught in music classes but it’s certainly different seeing it performed live than hearing excerpts from it played on a CD player!

Composed by George Frederic Handel in 1741, the famous oratorio features recits and arias, choruses, including the Hallelujah Chorus, and a very brief pastoral symphony. The Messiah was conducted by Jonathan Cohen, who is described as one of “Britain’s finest young musicians”. The arias were performed by four soloists: a Soprano (Lydia Teuscher), a Countertenor (Tim Mead), a Tenor (Benjamin Hulett), and a Bass-Baritone (Neal Davies). As a singer myself, Lydia’s solos and duet with countertenor Tim Mead were particularly enjoyable. I find performing songs from the classical repertoire to be both challenging and rewarding, and watching a professional soprano has inspired me to continue learning these types of songs.

The RSNO Chorus has given me an idea of where I can continue singing as a member of a choir after I leave school. I’ve been a member of Beath’s Junior and Senior Choirs and enjoy singing as part of a group as much as I enjoy singing by myself.

The performance was uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m certain that many people left feeling that. It was a wonderful way to start the new year!

Kelsa McDonald

Kelsa is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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