RSNO Young Ambassadors 14:15 - Megan Lawson

Fife RSNO Young Ambassador Megan Lawson describes Metamorphosen in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Friday 24 October 2014.
I had heard R. Strauss’ Metamorphosen many a time on YouTube but to hear it live was a totally different experience. The unusual layout of the strings was a very different thing to see indeed. Many of the people I had brought with me were confused at the fact the orchestra was so small and that they were not placed in the usual manner. The piece started off very well, with the cellos taking the tune over now and again. The piece was very mystical and had a sinister feel to it. I think you have to have an acquired taste for that type of music to enjoy the musicality behind it.
Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio was a very short and beautiful contrast to the previous piece. The fast and lively sections of the piece caught the immediate attention of the audience. As the main tune re-occurs many times in this piece many people begin to recognise the piece. The question and answer sections of the piece were executed perfectly. I really enjoyed this piece.
Concerto for Orchestra - what a way to finish a concert! I love this piece, I have listened to it so many times and it is one of my favourite classical pieces. The five different movements are all very contrasting to each other. The final movement is very lively and upbeat. It is a fantastic ending to an amazing piece.
Overall, this concert was an excellent one. All 3 pieces contrasted each other in very different ways and it was a perfect first classical concert for people to attend.
Megan Lawson
Megan is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador Scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website. 
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RSNO Young Ambassadors 14:15 - Scott Bathgate

Edinburgh RSNO Young Ambassador Scott Bathgate describes Metamorphosen in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Friday 24 October 2014.

On Friday the 24th of October, I was treated to what was a magnificent concert. This concert featured the works of Strauss with Metamorphosen, Beethoven with his Overture to Fidelio and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Metamorphosen was a very emotional and inspired by very dark events in the composers life. Strauss began working on the piece after he heard there was a bombing (Strauss living in the time where his home city Munich in Germany was under the Nazi regime) on the historic opera house in Munich which he had known for 70 years. The music definitely reflects this pain as we are introduced to push string sections filled with beauty and slight dissonance. We were then treated to Beethoven's Overture to Fidelio.
Derived from Beethoven's only and unsuccessful opera, Beethoven composed the opera as he enjoyed and admired the work of Mozart's operas but he was critical of the immoral subject matter in works such as Cosi fan Tutte. A very impressive piece with a very vibrant and lively character. It went down a storm with the audience. Finally we are met with Bartok's Symphony for Orchestra. This being the longest piece on the programme was a very vast and very intricate piece. While the title may contradict itself, Bartok purposely titled this piece due to the way he uses all the instruments in the orchestra in a virtuosic and solo like manner. The piece is met with many ideas and motifs which develops throughout the entire piece. One notable point in the piece is when Bartok through compositional technique mocks Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, which he felt was getting way more attention than it should, in the fourth movement. The viola part introduces this theme very briefly before getting mocked by the loud sound of the brass. A very powerful piece which served as a suitable finale to the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and so did the audience.
Scott Bathgate
Scott is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website.
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School children collaborate on cultural commemoration

Primary pupils create art and music to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1

On Friday 24 October over one hundred and twenty primary school children from the Glasgow area joined Scottish and Canadian orchestral musicians at the city’s Riverside Museum in a cultural commemoration of the First and Second World Wars.
Musicians from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) joined forces to deliver an interactive day of listening and creating, designed to inspire pupils. Inspire Day was led by musicians from the RSNO and NACO, where pupils explored musical concepts around the theme of war, with a specific focus on WW1 and WW2.
The primary seven pupils were given a guided tour of the WW1 and WW2 themes in the museum. They were then treated to performances by an RSNO quintet of musicians and NACO’s Horn Quintet, and during the performances they created their own drawings and paintings whilst being inspired by the music. The pupils and musicians then collaborated to create new works of music with themes taken from their original artwork.
Inspire Day involved primary seven pupils from St Stephen’s Primary School, Sighthill, St Anne’s Primary School, Parkhead, Alexandra Parade Primary School and Haghill Park Primary School, and was supported by Celtic FC Foundation and the Educational Institute of Scotland.
RSNO Director of Learning and Engagement Jenn Minchin:

This was a tremendous opportunity to join with our visiting colleagues from Canada’s National Arts Centre in bringing an interactive project to the region’s primary school pupils. Using creative arts in the process of learning, in this case understanding significant historical events, the participants develop a greater connection with the subject matter.

Genevieve Cimon, Director of Music Education at Canada's National Arts Centre Orchestra:

Canada's National Arts Centre was delighted to be partnering with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, offering the Inspire Day to these children living in Glasgow. This day underscored the significance of the centenary of World War One and its relevance to young people today. What better way to do this than through a celebration of music making?

The RSNO, conductor Rory Macdonald, soprano Shuna Scott Sendall and baritone Marcus Farnsworth will perform the Scottish premières of British composer Sally Beamish’s major new work for Orchestra and Chorus, Equal Voices, inspired by former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion’s powerful collection Laurels and Donkeys, a Royal Scottish National Orchestra/London Symphony Orchestra co-commission, on Friday 7 November at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 8 November. For further details visit

Families invited to The Monsters’ Ball

Children’s Classic Concerts (CCC) and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) present a Strictly Spooktacular opening to their new season of family concerts

Both the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, will be transformed into spooky ballrooms the November, as the RSNO performs a spine-tingling selection of spectacular classics at the latest offering in their popular series of family concerts. Children’s Classic Concerts’ (CCC) charismatic percussionist presenters Owen Gunnell and Olly Cox will be dusting off their dancing shoes and inviting the audience to come dressed in their freaky finest for their latest Hallowe’en-inspired celebration.
Children’s Classic Concerts Presenter Oliver Cox:

This is a Hallowe’en concert with a difference because we have a dancing theme. Not only will we have live dancers joining us, but the audience will be invited to get up on to their feet too. We have some fantastic pieces that will all contribute brilliantly to the spooky atmosphere.

Among the musical treats will be a scene from Prokofiev’s Cinderella, as well as the mighty Montagues and Capulets theme from his music for the ballet of Romeo and Juliet. Grieg will contribute some tricky trolls from Peer Gynt and a specially commissioned Medley of Monsters will feature some scary characters from the cinema.
Children’s Classic Concerts Presenter Owen Gunnell:

We are particularly looking forward to telling the story of Robert Burns’ Tam O’ Shanter, with its scary dance scene in Alloway Kirkyard. I am going to play the role of Tam, so my horse Meg and I have been in strict training in order to escape the witches.

The RSNO and conductor Jean-Claude Picard will not only be providing just the right atmosphere with some magnificently scary playing, but they will also be getting into the spirit of the season with some creepy costumes. And the little monsters in the audience are also invited to come along in costume, with a trolley dash in a toy shop offered as the star prize for the best costume of the weekend, generously supplied by competition sponsor A1 Toys.
Don't miss the fun and excitement of this perfect introduction to classical music for children aged 4 to 12 and their families.
Children’s Classic Concerts’ The Monsters’ Ball will appear at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 1 November at 3.00pm and at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Sunday 2 November, also at 3.00pm. Tickets are priced from £6 and are available to buy from Glasgow Royal Concert Hall box office (0141 353 8000) or Usher Hall box office (0131 228 1155). For more information go to

RSNO Work Experience: Alison Hedley, Gryffe High School

Every year, our school gives S4s [fourth-year pupils] a week of work experience to go wherever we want. I chose to go to the RSNO because I am very interested in carrying music into my career and I wanted to have a taster of what it would be like. The first day I came in, the staff were extremely welcoming and nice, they gave me a tour of the building and I met all the staff. I then settled down into a computer and started with some tasks that needed completing which involved making spreadsheets, typing up information and doing errands. This was definitely a new experience for me, working long hours and in a desk the whole day.
The second day I came in, I settled into preparing booklets for going out into schools which took up most of my morning but it paid off as I was allowed to have a large lunch break. In the afternoon, I carried on with this task then once I had finally finished I started preparing and checking flutes and clarinets that were going to be used in a workshop later that week. This is an essential job, if one instrument has a missing part then it means it can’t be used and one person is missing out on using it. The highlight of my day was looking at all the instruments, as I don’t play the clarinet or flute it was nice to get a close up look at them and see how they work.
The third day I was invited to go and watch the orchestra play as it was one of their rehearsal days. I got to watch them the whole morning and it was amazing to watch them rehearse and hear them play and hear how the conductor interprets the pieces, how it affects the orchestra’s playing. I could have watched them the whole day, but I had other jobs to complete! The afternoon was kept very busy, I cleaned the trombones which sounds really boring, but was actually a lot of fun surprisingly. I then scanned a folder full of important pages which needed to be completed very quickly, and then I worked out how to ‘bind’ music booklets together so I wasn’t in my desk the whole day! The highlight of my day was without a doubt watching the orchestra rehearse; you don’t see it every day!
The fourth day I was invited to assist a workshop in Perth which was a great opportunity. Katherine Wren, who is a member of the orchestra, was running a viola workshop in the Concert Hall in Perth. The students who came were Grade 4/5 violin players but were very interested in playing the viola as well. As a keen violin player myself, this would have been a great opportunity to go to which I would definitely have signed up for if I had the chance. It was great to watch them learn a new instrument as the viola produced a lovely sound. The Perth Concert Hall is an amazing building which I looked around for a while; when the workshop finished, Katherine then popped off to a rehearsal for a concert with the RSNO which she was playing in that evening. The highlight of my day was definitely seeing Perth which is a very pretty place and being at the Perth Concert Hall which is an amazing building and being out of the office was fun as well.
This is the last day and I am writing up this blog post and then I am going to carry on with some documents which I didn’t finish on Wednesday. The highlight of my week was definitely watching the orchestra and also going to Perth. I am really glad that I chose the RSNO to do my work experience with as it is a great place to do your work experience if you are wanting to do your career in music and hopefully this won’t be the last time I see the RSNO as I look forward to coming back here and doing lots of their courses.

Sitting in the balcony with Elgar

Sitting in the balcony with Elgar

Listening to a professional orchestra rehearse is a privilege that not very many people get to experience, but every so often I like to take some time away from my desk in the RSNO's office and nip up to the balcony of the Henry Wood Hall to sit and listen to the Orchestra as they prepare for the coming weekend's concerts.  Having studied music myself, it is an experience that is not wholly unfamiliar, but the way that this band works with Peter Oundjian is simply mesmerising and my trips up to the balcony serve as a perfect reminder of why I do the job I do - spreading the word about the wonderful music that the RSNO produces each week in concert halls across Scotland.
These first couple of weeks of our new Season are ever so slightly different this year as our first couple of soloists are not being flown in from the international touring circuit, instead the spotlight is shining within our own ranks. Last week we had the truly stunning 5-star performances from our Principal Flautist Kathryn Bryan who played to audiences in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow as we opened our 2014:15 Season.
This week is the turn of our Principal Cellist, Aleksei Kiseliov, who joined the Orchestra in September 2011, and he will be playing Elgar's immensely popular Cello Concerto.
I got in touch with the wonderful people at Elgar's Birthplace Museum and Visitor Centre, who were very kind in giving us access to some incredibly interesting information and resources relating to the various works by Elgar that the Orchestra will be performing throughout the Season. On my trip up to the balcony on Wednesday I felt like I'd been joined by a bit of history; whilst Aleksei was playing I had in my hand the facsimile of the piano score of the Cello Concerto, written in Elgar's own hand for his young friend, Alice Stuart Wortley (see below).

I've always loved following scores whilst listening to music, but there really is something about seeing the original handwritten version of a theme... makes the music more real somehow, more alive.
Another quite extraordinary thing is to hear the music whilst looking at photographs of not only of Elgar with the gent who gave the premiere of the Cello Concerto, but also of the very house in which it was composed. That kind of insight into Elgar's surroundings just adds another dimension to the music.

Brinkwells Cottage, in Fittleworth, Sussex, where Elgar wrote his Cello Concerto.

Edward Elgar with Felix Salmond (left) who gave the premiere of his Cello Concerto.
Shortly after the above photo was taken, Elgar wrote to his friend Sidney Colvin (one of the dedicatees of the concerto) to report on how it was coming along:

"Felix Salmond has been down here & we have put the finishing touches to your cello concerto & it will be produced at a London Symph. Orch. Concert before Christmas. Date to be fixed but I will let you hear it the earliest."

I'm also pleased to report that Wednesday's rehearsal with Aleksei and the RSNO went much better than the one the gentlemen above had before the Cello Concerto's premiere.  As Elgar's wife Alice noted in her diary on the 27th October 2019:

"E. & A. & C. to Queen's Hall for rehearsal at 12.30 or rather before - absolutely inadequate at that - That Coates went on rehearsing Secy. remonstrated, no use, at last just before one, he stopped & the men like Angels stayed till 1.30 - A. wanted E. to withdraw, but he did not for Felix S.’s sake - Indifferent performance of course in consequence E. had a tremendous reception & ovation -"

On the subject of tremendous receptions and ovations, I have no doubt that you'll be part of one soon should you be lucky enough to have secured a ticket for one of this weekend's concerts!
If you don't have a ticket yet, there are only a few still available, so hurry! Book online at
Until the next time...
The photos, manuscripts and transcripts included in this blog were kindly provided courtesy of The Elgar Birthplace MuseumThe photos, manuscripts and transcripts included in this blog were kindly provided courtesy of The Elgar Birthplace Museum.

RSNO appoints new Chorus Director

Gregory Batsleer will take up the post of RSNO Chorus Director from January 2015

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) has appointed Gregory Batsleer as its new Chorus Director, succeeding Timothy Dean, who stood down from the post at the end of last Season. Gregory will join the RSNO at the beginning of 2015.
Gregory is currently Chorus Director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), Artistic Director of the Choir In Residence at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and maintains a close association with National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. He has also collaborated as music supervisor and consultant on performance and recording projects with artists including Elbow, James, Blur’s Damon Albarn and Clean Bandit.
Newly appointed RSNO Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer:

I am both thrilled and excited to be joining the RSNO’s artistic team as its new Chorus Director. The RSNO Chorus has a great history and holds a very important place in Scotland’s cultural community. As well as my close and focused work with the RSNO Chorus and its members, over time I am looking forward to getting to know and working alongside the other choirs at the RSNO.
Further to this, I am particularly excited to be working closely with Music Director Peter Oundjian. There is a clear commitment from both Peter and the RSNO to the continued development of the Chorus, enabling and growing it into an outstanding and leading symphonic choir. This was one of the real attractions to the post and we will all work together to achieve this ambition.
With the opportunity to work on some the most exciting symphonic choral repertoire, such as Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, the commitment to development across the board and the forthcoming move into the new home, this feels like a wonderful time to be joining the RSNO.

RSNO Music Director Peter Oundjian:

Gregory is a fine appointment for this organisation. His breadth of knowledge, experience and musicianship will be a huge asset to us. I’m very much looking forward to working with him in the future.

Chief Executive of the RSNO, Michael Elliott:

It is my great pleasure to welcome Gregory to the RSNO family. Over the years he has developed a reputation as a director of quality, passion and achievement. What he has achieved with our sister national performing company the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s chorus is astounding.

The RSNO Chorus’ next performance is with the RSNO, conductor Rory Macdonald, soprano Shuna Scott Sendall and baritone Marcus Farnsworth for the Scottish première performances of British composer Sally Beamish’s major new work Equal Voices, a Royal Scottish National Orchestra/London Symphony Orchestra co-commission, on Friday 7 November at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 8 November. For further details visit