Game of Thrones star tells frosty fable


Scottish actor Daniel Portman narrates Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman for RSNO’s Christmas Concerts

Daniel Portman, famously known for portraying Podrick Payne in the hit HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones, will make his Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) debut next month, narrating the classic story of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, as part of this year’s RSNO Christmas Concerts.

The Glasgow-born actor will be known to many, with Daniel’s film credits including Outcast and The Angel’s Share.  On the small screen he has appeared in Scottish soap opera River City.

The Orchestra takes its popular RSNO Christmas Concerts (sponsored by the RSNO’s Official Transport Provider ScotRail) – now firmly embedded as one of Scotland’s traditional seasonal events – to the Caird Hall, Dundee (Friday 16 December, 7.30pm); the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (Saturday 17 December, 2.00pm & 6.00pm), and to the Usher Hall, Edinburgh (Sunday 18 December, 3.00pm). Led by conductor Christopher Bell, the Orchestra will perform Howard Blake’s iconic soundtrack synchronised with the screening of the animated film, with vocal soloists for the famous ballad Walking in the Air drawn from the RSNO’s own Junior Chorus. The concerts also feature well-known festive musical favourites, audience participation, the RSNO Chorus or Junior Chorus, and a few surprises.

Daniel Portman: “Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman is a big part of Christmas – it wouldn’t be the same without the classic animation and Howard Blake’s moving score. I’m very much looking forward to my RSNO debut. Narrating the story with the film and full symphonic support is going to be a highlight of my festive season.”

In addition to the RSNO Christmas Concerts the Orchestra will be performing alongside Owen and Olly for two distinct Children’s Classic Concerts’ festive shows, Christmas Countdown on Sunday 4 December (1.00pm & 3.00pm) at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and Christmas Swingalong with the RSNO Big Band, at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Sunday 11 December.

On Monday 2 January 2017 the Orchestra welcomes audiences to a new year at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for its matinee performance of Handel’s Messiah (3.00pm), with historical performance conductor Laurence Cummings joined onstage by soprano Elizabeth Atherton, counter-tenor Robin Blaze, tenor Joshua Ellicott, bass-baritone Peter Harvey and the RSNO Chorus .

Conductor Ben Gernon and soprano Jennifer France present Viennese Gala at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline (Friday 6 January, 7.30pm); the Buccleuch Centre, Langholm (Saturday 7 January, 7.30pm); Perth Concert Hall (Sunday 8 January, 3.00pm), Eden Court, Inverness (Tuesday 10 January, 7.30pm) and at Albert Halls, Stirling (Wednesday 11 January, 7.30pm). For more information please go to

Children’s Classic Concerts and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra present individual festive offerings in Glasgow and Edinburgh


Christmas Countdown

Sunday 4th December 2016, 1pm & 3pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall


Christmas Swingalong

Sunday 11th December 2016, 3pm, Usher Hall, Edinburgh


Percussionist paragons Owen and Olly are back, with a separate seasonal show for each city. Two distinct programmes, personalities and prop bags – but both packed with festive fun.



Our traditional seasonal concert sees Owen & Olly team up again with the full force of the RSNO, and new Assistant Conductor Holly Mathieson, for a host of festive family favourites - as well as a few unexpected surprises. Adding extra Christmas glamour are guests, the female chamber choir Les Sirènes (winners of Choir of the Year 2012) and dancers from the Manor School of Ballet. Audience members will also be given the final say in the programme, through Strictly Come Carol-ing, an on-the-day vote for their favourite carol – the three presenters will be urging them to rally for Rudoph, joust for Jingle Bells or fight for Frosty, in the run up to the big reveal.



A festive concert that’s a little different to the usual offerings, and crammed with Christmas cool. Owen and Olly will be joined by the RSNO Big Band, a hand-picked selection of the best jazz musicians around.  Featuring high-energy versions of Christmas and movie swing classics, there’ll be plenty of opportunity for audience singing and dancing, with familiar children’s favourites.


“We’re both excited about jazzing things up a bit (pun intended!) with this swingin’ take on a Christmas concert,” says CCC artistic director and presenter, Owen Gunnell.  “It’s going to be brilliant fun to have everyone up and dancing along to Chatanooga Choo Choo, and joining in with Let It Snow. And a great opportunity for kids to hear a superb group of musicians play classics such as the Nutcracker and The Pink Panther Theme.”

Each concert will also feature the dynamic duo showing off the percussion talent their fans know and love them for, with a fast paced and furious demonstrations of their unique skills as the highlight of each show.


“I’m particularly looking forward to wheeling out our large selection of percussion instruments to join in the musical fun,” said Olly Cox. “We’ve even asked the dancers from the Manor School of Ballet to join us at both venues, for an extra touch of festive magic. Just ignore the slightly larger, hairier one, in the back…”
A perfect introduction to classical music for children aged 4 to 12 and their families, our concerts encourage active audience participation and sing-a-longs, with presenters Owen & Olly educating through performance, in a fun and informal atmosphere. Devised and performed by Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox.


Children’s Classic Concerts’ Christmas Countdown will appear at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 4 December, 1pm & 3pm; Christmas Swinglaong at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Sunday 11 December, 3pm. 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).            @CCC_LoveMusic                CCCLoveMusic

Supported by Creative Scotland and La Bonne Auberge

Appsolutely revolutionary concerts for primary schools


New interactive app, audience-controlled composition and new work about Sauchiehall Street featured in Scottish Orchestra’s latest concerts for primary school pupils

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s (RSNO) new concerts for primary schools merge a live orchestral music experience with technology and gaming.

Five sold-out performances of RSNO 360 Live, which runs from Tuesday 22 November to Thursday 24 November, feature popular classical works alongside two new commissions from Scottish-based composers, a free interactive app for digital devices and one of the world’s most successful video games ever, Minecraft, being played live on a cinema screen.

Nearly two thousand primary school pupils will attend RSNO 360 Live over three days at the RSNO’s new home in Glasgow, having participated in pre-concert workshops with RSNO musicians visiting the schools in previous months.

The new concerts will feature two commissioned works, Oliver Searle’s Sauchiehall, written to celebrate the Orchestra’s 125th anniversary and its move from Glasgow’s West End to the City Centre, a journey that can be made directly along one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Sauchiehall Street.

In addition to Oliver Searle’s Sauchiehall, Glasgow-based composer Jay Capperauld’s new work Terrarium has been written with a set introduction and coda but with five interchangeable central sections which can be performed in any order, to be determined by the audience at each concert. Terrarium will be performed while the audience explore five distinct worlds on the big screen, through the medium of Minecraft.

The new app, developed by the RSNO Learning and Engagement team and supported by Creative Scotland’s Innovation Fund, which will be utilised as a supplementary training aid, is available on a variety of formats. Taking the poster of the orchestra with its separately-highlighted sections many school music departments displayed on their walls as inspiration, the app, RSNO 360, presents the opportunity to view and listen to the RSNO from any chosen section in the Orchestra. Oliver Searle’s specially-commissioned work Sauchiehall was recorded for RSNO 360 using binaural microphones which mimic human hearing and the resulting recording provides an audio-3D experience when listened through headphones. RSNO 360 will be available on general release from the Apple App Store from Tuesday 22 November.

RSNO Associate Leader and Learning and Engagement Artistic Director William Chandler
, who will be presenting the programmes, said: “We have purposefully designed a concert platform to appeal to what young people love most, technology. By incorporating the most successful video game ever into our presentation we will introduce a new generation to the ultimate live music experience and plant the seeds of a lifelong relationship with the dynamic and colourful world of the symphony orchestra. Never before have we provided this level of interactivity, both in the pre-concert workshops and the performances themselves.”

RSNO 360 Live is generously and vitally supported by Foyle Foundation, The Hugh Fraser Foundation, The McGlashan Charitable Trust, Glasgow City Ward Areas and George and Mary Firth Bequest. RSNO 360 Live starts on Tuesday 22 November and runs until Thursday 24 November at the New Auditorium at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. These performances are all sold out. Further schools performances by the RSNO will be announced in due course. For more information visit

Young composers vie for national prize


Composition competition for 12-18 year olds in partnership with National Trust for Scotland

The third annual national competition for 12-18 year-olds, Notes from Scotland, invites applications from the countries’ budding composers.

In partnership with the National Trust for Scotland and as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s (RSNO) Notes From Scotland invites young composers to write a two-minute work for an instrumental trio, quartet or quintet. Following the closing date for entries in May, five works will be selected, to be performed by an RSNO ensemble at the Orchestra’s New Auditorium in Glasgow.

The themes for the third annual Notes From Scotland are taken from five distinct National Trust for Scotland heritage sites: Culzean Castle, Ayrshire; Glencoe, Highlands; Hill House, Argyll and Bute; Newhailes, Edinburgh and House of Dun, Angus.

Last year, James Nicolson’s work White Oasis, inspired by the architecture of the recently-restored Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, as the winning entry. Fellow Notes From Scotland competitor Tom Aitken’s Piano Quintet No1- which was inspired by the Scottish Parliament building - subsequently received a Royal audience as it was performed by RSNO musicians at the official opening of the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament in the presence of the Orchestra’s patron Her Majesty The Queen and Members of the Scottish Parliament last July.

Prior to the final concert of this year’s Notes From Scotland Jennifer Martin will host free workshops for entrants at each of the inspiring locations across Scotland. The participants will be given tours of the sites before receiving an introductory guide to composing to a theme.

Composer Jennifer Martin: “I've been delighted to have been part of the RSNO's Notes From Scotland initiative from the beginning. As a judge in the first two competitions, I'm now looking forward to helping inspire another generation of young composers through this workshop series. And what better inspiration for a new piece of music than the properties and landscapes managed by the National Trust for Scotland. This opportunity is open to young people writing music in any genre and I know they are out there, in every corner of the country!”

Rhiannon Naismith, Property Manager (Newhailes) for the National Trust for Scotland: “Like many of the National Trust for Scotland’s places, Newhailes was a focus of inspiration and creative engagement over the years. We hope that the next generation of composers find their creativity is unlocked by the heritage in our care and can’t wait to hear their compositions.”

Entrants do not have to attend the workshops to enter the competition. The Notes From Scotland website includes video resources featuring introductions to each of the Trust properties across Scotland and insight and advice from some of the country’s greatest living composers.
BAFTA, GRAMMY and Ivor Novello award-winning composer Craig Armstrong OBE, famed for his soundtracks to blockbusters such as Moulin Rouge!, Love Actually and The Great Gatsby, welcomed the initiative: “This is a fantastic idea to engage young people in composition and to bring them together with existing composers and musicians to pass on their knowledge and skills. I’m sure it will be an invaluable experience for all concerned.”
For more information visit the competition website,, or contact the RSNO’s Learning and Engagement team on 0141 225 3557 or email

A Conflict of Interests

A blog by Benjamin Graves, RSNO Composers’ Hub 2016:17

When one thinks of war music it is usually the descriptive nature of the pieces themselves that comes to mind: an incessant “andante marziale” or absurdist scherzo. What one doesn’t immediately think of – in comparison to, say, the war poets – is how directly conflict has affected the life of the composer, and affected they were: Stockhausen’s parents disappeared during the Second World War and only much later did he learn of their murder; Ligeti’s entire family, except his mother, were killed in concentration camps and George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney never returned from World War I.

So bearing this loss in mind, how does, or can, a composer who has never seen action, except on television, and unburdened by war’s emotional baggage set about composing a piece evoking war? How can the music he or she writes – music having the potential to be the most direct form of emotional expression – be seen as anything except passing off the turmoil of others: an appropriation of emotion?

Consider contemporary warfare: the constant bombardment of Aleppo, the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan or the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. What these conflicts all have in common is an advancement in remote warfare.

An interesting approach could be to draw parallels between contemporary artistic portrayals of war by disconnected composers and those that fight remotely. They, like the composers, live at home, perhaps with their boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives and children, they walk out of their front door each morning, get into their cars and drive to work, some have never seen a battlefield.

The potential controversy surrounding the composing of a piece reflecting on the cost of war, emotional or otherwise, by a composer who has never seen it is paralleled in the eventual scrapping of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, a medal introduced for remote warriors. What right, argued members of Congress, veterans and serving combatants, do individuals who have never set foot in a war zone, let alone risked life and limb in service of their country, have to receive a medal for valour? Likewise, what right does a composer have to receive a grant and all the congratulations and adulation that comes with composing a work for a world class orchestra, all for a piece about a war he/she has never entered?

One could argue further parallel: studies have shown drone pilots suffer similar emotional damage to fighters on the ground, they are acutely aware of the lives they end and the cities they destroy, despite attempts at desensitising. But this does not seem to resonate with many active personnel: remote warfare is held in much lower esteem, due to a lack of direct action. In fact, The RAF claim it is in fact workplace stressors such as overwork or a poor working environment that affects drone operators, rather than post-traumatic stress disorder.

A young composer could claim a deep, potentially damaging, feeling of emotional connection with the images he/she sees in the news, or perhaps knows someone at war, but surely this pales into insignificance when compared to the losses Stockhausen, Ligeti, Butterworth and Gurney suffered, but is it any less valid?

The main difference is, of course, that by composing a work for orchestra a composer is not directly or indirectly involved in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, many of whom are innocent casualties, and so my comparisons shall go no further.

Personally, without wishing to tie myself down to too rigid a narrative, the main approach I believe to be the most appropriate is to display, in musical form, a level of detachment to the subject I’m dealing with, a potentially tricky solution and one I’m still contemplating. One option is to compose a piece which employs (musical) drones. These, if by name alone, could represent, well, drones, but the problem is that a musical drone only represents a flying one because I, the composer, said so. Another, and the option I am exploring at the moment, is a musical representation of bombed out buildings: think Coventry Cathedral. Remnants of conflicts past inhabiting a contemporary, largely war free, space. These husks are what war has left me: they represent stories of war told to me by my grandparents, wars fought years ago spoken of in history textbooks and the images that flash up on news programmes of wars being fought thousands of miles away. All of which punctuate the contemporary landscape of my everyday life.

Ultimately in addressing the issue of so called emotional appropriation, the question I have to ask myself is: if by writing a piece of music about war is it only me who stands to benefit from its production? If so that piece should not be written. If instead I can encourage even one member of the audience to ask questions, whether moral or otherwise, of themselves, me and others then I believe the piece was worth writing.