To Absent Friends launches with RSNO concert

A festival of storytelling and remembrance
TO ABSENT FRIENDS, a festival of storytelling and remembrance, launches on Thursday 29 October at 6pm with MUSIC OF MEMORIES, a special concert by school pupils alongside musicians from the ROYAL SCOTTISH NATIONAL ORCHESTRA (RSNO) at its new home in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The concert, featuring children from communities across Scotland, marks the start of To Absent Friends, which aims to revive traditions of remembering the dead to help those dealing with grief and bereavement.
Music for the concert has been composed by the children themselves, working with professional musicians from the RSNO and is inspired by stories shared by local care home residents of their ‘absent friends’ – loved ones who are dead but whose stories live on. Children have also drawn on their own experiences of loss and bereavement. On the evening, school pupils and the RSNO will play side by side. The work between the schools and the RSNO has been made possible by a community grant from the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The RSNO concert is the first of many events taking place across Scotland for To Absent Friends between 1 and 7 November, including concerts, poetry evenings, theatre shows, workshops and exhibitions. As well as these public events, individuals and groups are encouraged to hold their own remembrances  – maybe by gathering family together to reminisce, sharing photos and stories on the To Absent Friends website, or doing something as simple as lighting a candle.
Mark Hazelwood, Chief Executive of the Scottish Partnership for Palliative Care, who are behind the festival, said:
“We are delighted to be able to launch To Absent Friends with the RSNO. The concert is a great way to bring people of all ages together to remember loved ones. Most of us have lost someone, but our culture doesn't really support active remembrance of dead people. It can cause discomfort or embarrassment. We hope, with events like this, to change that, and help to reduce some of the isolation and suffering that bereavement brings.”
The concert will also be streamed into care homes around Scotland.
To Absent Friends: Music of Memories is at the New Auditorium, RSNO Centre, Glasgow on Thursday 29th October at 6pm
Tickets: £10
Online booking:
Telephone booking: 0141 353 8000

Children’s Classic Concerts and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra present a monster opening to their new season of family concerts

Owen and Olly join the RSNO for Magic and Monsters. Image © Jassy Earl

Owen and Olly join the RSNO for Magic and Monsters. Image © Jassy Earl

Saturday 31st October 2015, 3.00pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Sunday 1st November 2015, 3.00pm, Usher Hall, Edinburgh
Children’s Classic Concerts’ devilish percussionist presenters Owen and Olly will be putting their magical musical powers to good use this Halloween and inviting the audience (and orchestra!) to come dressed in their freaky finest for their latest spell-binding showstopper.
The stages of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Usher Hall, Edinburgh will be transformed into ghoulish grottos as the RSNO and RSNO Junior Chorus perform a spine-tingling selection of spectacular classics at the latest offering in this popular series of family concerts.
Children’s Classic Concerts Presenter Oliver Cox:
“If this concert doesn’t get the audience in the mood for trick or treating, nothing will! We’ve got magic spells from the world’s most famous wizard Harry Potter, a premiere of the Gruffalo Song by Julia Donaldson which has been orchestrated specially for our concerts, and we’ll be playing spot the gnome with the orchestra as they perform Gnomus from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.”
Among the other musical treats on offer will be a specially commissioned Magic and Monsters Medley which will feature Owen and Olly on solo percussion, and two spookily Scottish songs - Kelpie and Loch Ness Monster – written by Tom Cunningham and sung by the magnificent RSNO Junior Chorus.
Children’s Classic Concerts Presenter Owen Gunnell:
“We are particularly looking forward to dusting off our sorcerer’s hats and casting some spells of our own on the audience and orchestra to Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours and tackling Robert Wendel’s Headless Horseman. But the highlight of the concert is likely to be a performance of Savourna Stevenson’s beautifully bewitching ‘Misterstourworm and the Kelpie’s Gift’ which tells the story of a young boy’s magical quest to defeat the terrible sea monster Misterstourworm which will be narrated by actor (and former star of CBBC’s Raven), James Mackenzie.”
The musicians of the RSNO and their conductor Jean-Claude Picard will not only be providing just the right atmosphere with some superbly scary playing, but they will also be getting into the spirit of the season with some weird and wonderful costumes.
And the little monsters in the audience are also invited to come along in fancy dress, with a trolley dash in a toy shop offered as the star prize for the best costume of the weekend courtesy of 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’ Magic and Monsters will appear at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 31 October at 3.00pm and at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Sunday 1 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”
Supported by Creative Scotland, La Bonne Auberge and A1 Toys

Katherine Wren on Discover Day: Prokofiev

ProkofievWhen I was asked last year if I was interested in delivering one of the RSNO's new Discover Days on Prokofiev, I immediately jumped at the chance. I've been giving pre-concert talks for a few seasons now and I love the opportunity that that gives me to meet our audience and to share my love of music. It would be a real pleasure to spend a whole day looking at one of the most enigmatic and talented composers of the 20th century.
Prokofiev is a fascinating character. Highly intelligent (a whiz at chess, apparently!), he wasn't always the most patient man. Many found him aloof, even arrogant. Ploughing through archive material online, this comes across for me even in his appearance.  Matisse captures his latent energy perfectly in this sketch.
Prokofiev’s energy comes across in his performances, too. There’s a wonderful recording online of him playing his 3rd Piano Concerto in 1932, which became something of a signature piece for him: he was a superb pianist as well as composer. The melodies are shaped with a beautiful rubato and yet there is a potent energy driving the music forward. You can listen to it here:

One thing that I am very much looking forward to on the Discover Days is discussing Romeo and Juliet (and, in Edinburgh, Cinderella) with Scottish Ballet's conductor, Richard Honner. I played Romeo with Scottish Ballet and Richard back in the late 90s before I joined the RSNO and I know he shares my love of this music. We met a few weeks ago to swap ideas. I won't spoil the day by telling you what we talked about, but I will tell you how much I enjoyed my tour of Scottish Ballet's premises at Tramway – a far cry from West Princes Street, where the company was based in my time.
That brings me neatly onto the subject of our venue for the Discover Day in Glasgow: the RSNO’s New Home! Actually, I hardly know it myself yet – we've only been there for a week, but I can tell you that it is incredible! We are so fortunate to have it built for us.
So what are you waiting for? The chance to explore some wonderful music with me, to share the passion of Romeo and Juliet and to be one of the first people to see inside the RSNO's New Home. I’ll see you there on 7th November!

First RSNO Composers’ Hub participants selected

composersClockwise from top left: Peter Longworth; Lillie Harris; Desmond Clarke; Cameron Graham; Jay Capperauld

Scotland’s national orchestra welcomes first five emerging composers to nurturing initiative
Five emerging UK composers have been selected to benefit from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s first RSNO Composers’ Hub, a new initiative to develop the talents of individuals in the early stages of their careers.
Three alumni from the Royal College of Music; Peter Longworth, Cameron Graham and Lillie Harris, join former Royal Conservatoire of Scotland student Jay Capperauld and University of York PhD scholar Desmond Clarke as the first participants of the new scheme, who will be presented with the opportunity to write for the orchestra in a range of different contexts, develop skills and creative relationships, as well as acquire an understanding of the business of a major arts organisation.
With the support from PRS for Music Foundation, the five composers will spend the 2015:16 season with the RSNO.  As well as working with Orchestra’s contemporary group, Alchemy, each composer will write a ten-minute work for full symphony orchestra.  The scheme will culminate in a public workshop in the new RSNO Centre auditorium in Glasgow, April 2016, led by internationally-renowned composer and viola player, Brett Dean, from which one work will be chosen to be performed by the RSNO as part of its 2016:17 Season.
RSNO Composers’ Hub is also an opportunity to develop a meaningful collaboration with the RSNO and the other hub members over a sustained period and to get to know the Orchestra, staff and its audience, receiving guidance from different artistic and business areas.
RSNO Executive Producer Manus Carey: “I would like to welcome our first participants of  the pilot year of the RSNO’s Composers’ Hub. With support from PRS for Music Foundation we will have the opportunity to extend the support we give UK-wide composers, and to provide the creative space for them to explore and develop.  The breadth of the scheme will also mean it is an opportunity for our audiences to extend their knowledge of contemporary music and the compositional process.”
One of the RSNO Composers’ Hub mentors, award-winning composer Stuart MacRae: “There are very few opportunities for emerging composers to get the help they need in developing their approach to working with an orchestra; so the Composers’ Hub is a welcome move by the RSNO and I very much look forward to working with the first composers to join the Hub. I‘d encourage RSNO audiences to take full advantage of this new strand and lend their support to these very talented musicians.”
To apply for RSNO Composers’ Hub, applicants were invited to submit a CV, one-page letter explaining why the scheme would be suitable, and two examples of own compositions (preferably at least one for full orchestra), with scores and sound samples.
In October 2015 the RSNO begins celebration of its 125th anniversary, coinciding with the organisation’s relocation to a new, purpose-built rehearsal and performance space in the centre of Glasgow. For more information on RSNO concerts and events, visit