Music Director Thomas Søndergård
Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård is the Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, following six seasons as Principal Guest Conductor. The 2023:24 season also sees Thomas start his tenure as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra. Between 2012 and 2018, he served as Principal Conductor of BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW), after stepping down as Principal Conductor and Musical Advisor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
He has appeared with many notable orchestras in leading European centres, such as Berlin (including Berliner Philharmoniker, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Konzerthausorchester Berlin), Munich (Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunk), Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester), Paris (Orchestre National de France), London (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra), Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic) and is a familiar figure in Scandinavia, with such orchestras as Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic. North American appearances to date have included the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, St Louis, Toronto, Atlanta, Montreal, Vancouver, Houston and Seattle. He has made highly successful tours to China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The 2023:24 season marks the beginning of Thomas’ tenure as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra. With the RSNO this season, in addition to their subscription series, Thomas will lead the orchestra’s residency at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg, joined by Lise de la Salle, as well as an extensive European tour with Ray Chen. This season sees Thomas make his return to the London Symphony Orchestra, as well as his debut with the New York Philharmonic, where he will perform the US premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s Keyframes for a Hippogriff. Thomas also makes regular guest appearances throughout Scandinavia this season, debuting with Iceland Symphony and the Bergen International Festival, where he leads a full staging of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt to Grieg’s complete incidental music. Return visits include Bergen Philharmonic, a joint collaboration with Aalborg and Aarhus Symfoniorkesters, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, celebrating his receipt of the Carl Nielsen and Anne-Marie Carl Nielsen’s Foundation award for his outstanding contribution to Danish musical life.
As part of the 2015 anniversary celebrations of both Sibelius and Nielsen, he conducted a wide variety of their works with many leading orchestras. A passionate supporter of the music of Carl Nielsen, his performances with the Swedish Radio Symphony of his Symphony No. 5 was praised as “equal of the great pioneers of Nielsen interpretation… It’s hard to imagine a finer performance of this remarkable symphony.” (Dagens Nyheter); and in 2019 participated in a special concert to celebrate Nielsen’s works with the Royal Danish Academy of Music Copenhagen.
Following his acclaimed debut for Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial), he has since returned regularly to conduct a broad repertoire, including Die Walküre, which won the 2022 Reumert Award for Best Opera Production, Elektra, Le nozze di Figaro, Il barbiere di Siviglia, La bohème, Cunning Little Vixen, Il viaggio a Reims; and has also made short concert tours with the Royal Danish Orchestra. He has also enjoyed successful collaborations with Norwegian Opera and Royal Swedish Opera. His Stockholm productions of Tosca and Turandot (both with Nina Stemme) led to his Bayerische Staatsoper debut, conducting main season and Opera Festival performances of Turandot with her and he most recently returned to for the Opera’s Akademiekonzert series. He made his Deutsche Oper Berlin debut with the World premiere of Scartazzini’s Edward II and has since returned for Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet.
His discography covers a broad range of contemporary and mainstream repertoire, including Poul Ruders (Arhus Symphony, Norwegian Radio, Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial) for Da Capo and Bridge Records); Sibelius symphonies and tone poems with BBC NOW and Prokofiev and Richard Strauss with RSNO for Linn Records; Lutoslawski and Dutilleux concertos with ‘cellist Johannes Moser and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone); and Vilde Frang’s celebrated debut recording (WDR Koln for EMI).
In January 2022, Thomas was decorated with a prestigious Royal Order of Chivalry – the Order of Dannebrog (Ridder af Dannebrogordenen) by Her Majesty Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark.
Engagement Conductor Ellie Slorach
Ellie Slorach is the RSNO’s Engagement Conductor.
Alongside her work at the RSNO, Ellie is the Founder and Artistic Director of Kantos Chamber Choir and works across the UK and internationally with orchestras and choirs.
In the 2023-24 season, Ellie makes her debut with the Royal Northern Sinfonia at Sage Gateshead and with New Adventures’ production of Edward Scissorhands at Sadler’s Wells. She returns to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, BBC Singers, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Orchestra of Opera North and Manchester Camerata.
Specialising in concerts for schools and young people, Ellie has worked with orchestras including The Hallé and the Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège, where she was the Assistant Conductor to Gergely Madaras in 2021-22. She is often invited to work with youth and student orchestras and choirs, including having been Musical Director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra.
Ellie regularly works on opera productions; she conducted Northern Opera Group’s production of Handel’s ‘Silla’ in 2022 and returns as Musical Director for their headline production of ‘Sherlock’ in 2024 at the Leeds Opera Festival. She was co-Musical Director for the Royal Opera House’s production of Lost & Found at St Pancras International station in 2022 and was the Assistant Conductor for Opera Holland Park’s Rigoletto in June 2023.
In 2015, Ellie founded Kantos Chamber Choir; this trailblazing vocal ensemble is at the cutting edge of choral singing in the UK. Kantos performs unique and innovative concerts, devised by Ellie, to sell-out audiences, in venues ranging from nightclubs to concert halls. The choir regularly perform and record with orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic, on labels including Decca Classics.
Ellie studied Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music having previously studied Music at the University of Manchester.
Associate Artist Kellen Gray
American conductor Kellen Gray is Associate Artist of the RSNO, following his two-year tenure as Assistant Conductor (2021-2023), a post that was supported by the Solti Foundation.
Kellen has earned a reputation as a versatile and imaginative artist through his diverse array of traditional and experimental programming, thrilling performances, and provocative multimedia concert experience curation.
Alongside his role as RSNO Associate Artist, Kellen is an Assistant Conductor of the English National Opera, and Associate Conductor of the Charleston Symphony (USA). His earlier appointments included respective tenures as Assistant Conductor of Chicago Sinfonietta and the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.
The Scotsman gave Kellen’s Royal Scottish National Orchestra season debut 4-stars. Of the same performance, Vox Carnyx: Scotland’s Voice for Classical Music and Opera reported “he unfolded the smooth, mellifluous contours with patience and understanding.” Kellen’s 2022 debut album, African-American Voices with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Linn Records received 5-stars from Pizzicato; “Kellen pays attention to the minute details of Still’s warm score, while he revels in the romantic outbursts and continual changes of pace that shake up Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony,” stated Musikzen.
Kellen is a native of South Carolina and credits the many folk music styles of the southeastern United States as his earliest and most impactful musical influences. Though most known for his mastery of the works that feature American folk idioms, his thrilling performances of other folk based composers such as Bartok, Dvorak, Copland, or Vaughan Williams roots from the same passionate pursuit of authenticity.
As a champion for African-diasporic composers, Kellen is the founder and curator of the Charleston Symphony’s Project Aurora, a programming and performance initiative aiming to illustrate the richness of African-American arts and culture as equally important to its European equivalent. His performances of William Dawson, William Grant Still, Coleridge Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and George Walker have received critical acclaim. “Under Gray’s sure-footed direction, the RSNO (particularly the brass and the all-important woodwind) bring out all the bluesy flavour of this essentially neo-Romantic music. The infectious third movement, with its clear anticipation of Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ (the two composers were close colleagues), has long been a popular concert favourite on its own. Here, it’s the depth of feeling and tone that Gray and his musicians uncover in the other three movements (not least the noble-toned finale) that makes this performance a winner,” writes Europadisk.
His recent and coming conducting endeavors include: the Philharmonia Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra(USA), English National Opera, Chineke! Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Mozart Players, Spoleto Festival USA, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Philharmonic, Northwest Florida Symphony, Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, and Savannah Philharmonic.
Assistant Conductor Derrick Morgan
Derrick Morgan is Assistant Conductor of the RSNO; his two-year tenure commencing in 2023.
Derrick Morgan is a young Glasgow-based conductor. Born in the Scottish Borders, he was recently appointed Assistant Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, where he will work closely with Music Director Thomas Søndergård. He also served as the Assistant Artistic Director of the RPS award-nominated Nevis Ensemble alongside Holly Mathieson and John Hargreaves.
Derrick is a musician who strives actively to engage with the community, collaborating with ensembles and communities across Scotland. His work at the Nevis Ensemble involved giving concerts in schools, care homes, prisons and hospitals, travelling to some of Scotland’s most isolated communities. In 2019, Derrick led a tour of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ to several venues across Dumfries and Galloway with Blackbird Opera.
Supporting and promoting contemporary music is another significant aspect of Derrick’s career. He has conducted numerous new works in both public and educational contexts. He has collaborated with the Assembly Project and Red Note Ensemble, presenting student works and adjudicating composition competitions at the University of Edinburgh. His interest in contemporary music led him to give the Scottish Premiere of Jonathan Dove’s ‘Mansfield Park’ with Edinburgh Studio Opera in 2016.
Derrick studied Musicology at the University of Edinburgh and conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where he received prizes for his achievements in conducting. He studied conducting under the guidance of Martyn Brabbins and Garry Walker, while benefiting from the expertise of guest tutors including Mark Wigglesworth, Kevin John Edusei, Ilan Volkov and James Lowe. In 2017, he became the youngest participant of the Orkney Conductors’ Course as part of the St Magnus International Festival. During this course, Derrick studied with the late Alexander Vedernikov, Charles Peebles and Sofi Jeannin, directing the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, BBC Singers and the Assembly Project.
The RSNO Assistant Conductorship is a two-year post and benefits from the support of the Solti Foundation.
Conductor Laureate Neeme Järvi
The head of a musical dynasty, Neeme Järvi is one of today’s most respected maestros. He conducts many of the world’s most prominent orchestras and works alongside soloists of the highest calibre. A prolific recording artist, he has amassed a discography of over 450 recordings.
Over his long and highly successful career he has held positions with orchestras across the world. He is currently Chief Conductor of the Residentie Orkest, Artistic Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, and Conductor Laureate and Artistic Advisor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He became Artistic Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in January 2011. He also holds the titles of Music Director Emeritus of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor Emeritus of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Recent and future seasons include engagements with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Wiener Symphoniker, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra among others in the USA. This season he continues his regular relationships with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (for the start of a Tchaikovsky ballet cycle project) and the RSNO (for a number of continued recording and concert projects). He looks forward a return to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for an exciting project culminating in a concert to celebrate his 75th birthday. He will also make appearances with the Orquesta Nacional de España and the London Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras. Soloist collaborations include Janine Jansen, Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Vadim Repin, Evgeny Kissin, Lang Lang, Yefim Bronfman, Truls Mørk and Frank-Peter Zimmermann.
Highlights of an impressive discography include critically acclaimed complete symphony cycles of Prokofiev, Sibelius, Nielsen and Brahms. Neeme Järvi has also championed less widely known composers such as Wilhelm Stenhammar, Hugo Alfvén and Niels Gade, and composers from his native Estonia including Rudolf Tobias, Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt. He has recorded with Chandos, Deutsche Grammophon, BIS and EMI amongst others.
Järvi’s most recent discs with Chandos are a Wagner/de Vlieger series with the RSNO, a recording of Mahler Symphony No7 with the Residentie Orkest (which was awarded the International Record Prize ‘Toblacher Komponierhäuschen’), and a series of Johan Halvorsen’s orchestral works with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.
Throughout his career, Neeme Järvi has been honoured with many international awards and accolades. In Estonia these include an honorary doctorate from the Music Academy of Estonia in Tallinn, and the Order of the National Coat of Arms from the President of the Republic of Estonia, Mr Lennart Meri. The Mayor of Tallinn presented Maestro Järvi with the city’s first-ever ceremonial sash and coat of arms insignia, and he has been named one of the ‘Estonians of the Century’. Neeme Järvi holds an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Detroit’s Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He has also received the Commander of the North Star Order from King Karl Gustav XVI of Sweden.
Conductor Emeritus Alexander Lazarev
Alexander Lazarev is one of Russia’s foremost conductors. He studied with Leo Ginsbourg at the Moscow Conservatory graduating with first class honours. In 1971 he won first prize in the Soviet Union’s national competition for conductors, and the following year went on to win first prize and gold medal at the Karajan Competition in Berlin.
From 1987 to 1995 Lazarev was Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Theatre, the first person for over thirty years to hold both positions concurrently. His leadership marked a period of intensive activity with the Bolshoi Opera undertaking an unprecedented programme of prestigious foreign tours including Tokyo (1989), La Scala, Milan (1989), the Edinburgh Festival (1990 and 1991) and the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1991). Several of the Theatre’s most successful productions including Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mlada were filmed for video, and the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra made a number of highly acclaimed recordings for Erato including such milestones of the Russian symphonic repertoire as Rachmaninov Symphony No.2 and Shostakovich Symphony No.8.
From 1992 to 1995 he was Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and from 1997 to 2005 Principal Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra where his conducting of the complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies was a high point of his tenure. In recent years he has worked as a regular guest with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, appearing with them in London, Paris and Vienna. Other orchestras he has conducted include the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestre National de France, Oslo Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, NHK Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Montreal Symphony and London Philharmonic, and he has appeared with opera companies such as the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Arena di Verona, Opéra Bastille, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Bavarian State Opera and Netherlands Opera.
His repertoire is particularly enterprising in its scope, ranging from the eighteenth century to the avant-garde. In 1978 he founded the Ensemble of Soloists of the Bolshoi Theatre whose most important aim was the programming and wide dissemination of contemporary music by both Soviet and foreign composers.
Alexander Lazarev is a prolific recording artist, appearing on such labels as Erato, Melodiya, Virgin Classics, Sony Classical, Hyperion, BMG, BIS and Linn Records.
From 2008 to 2016 he was Principal Conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and he now holds the position of Conductor Laureate. His work with the orchestra is extensively represented on Octavia Records; following the success of their complete cycles of the symphonies by Prokofiev, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, they are now embarking on a Glazunov cycle.
RSNO Chorus Director Stephen Doughty
Stephen Doughty is Chorus Director of the RSNO Chorus and enjoys a varied career as a freelance musician. Commencing his appointment of the RSNO Chorus in September 2022, he previously spent 13 years as the Chorus Master of Belfast Philharmonic Choir who, in addition to their regular performances with the Ulster Orchestra, have given a number of world premieres. He particularly enjoys working with amateur singers and is Musical Director of Edinburgh Bach Choir (since 2017) and has been Musical Director of the Garleton Singers since 1994. Over the years he has also run several, highly-successful ‘come & sing’ events raising funds for a number of charities.
Stephen held the position of Director of Music of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh for 18 years, directing the 30-voice choir through the full range of sung services which also included large-scale, orchestrally-accompanied services during the Edinburgh Festival.
As a keyboard player, he plays harpsichord/organ continuo and orchestral piano with all the Scottish orchestras as well as the Ulster Orchestra and has given frequent organ recitals including several four-star recitals on the grand Mulholland Organ in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.
He has compiled a large portfolio of arrangements and orchestrations, particularly for young voices and has received commissions from Children’s Classic Concerts, Ulster Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Recent orchestrations include the premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Seek him that maketh the seven stars and a classical/folk crossover with award-winning band Dallahan marking the anniversary of the Battle of Loos. In addition, the BBC have commissioned a number of arrangements which have been performed at Proms in the Park and BBC Alba and his pieces feature on several recordings.
Finally, he is an Examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
RSNO Youth Choruses Director Patrick Barrett
Patrick Barrett is a conductor specialising in choral music and opera. He is currently Chorus Director of the RSNO Youth Choruses, Royal Opera House Youth Opera Company, Irish Youth Training Choir and the award-winning Farnham Youth Choirs.
Recent work has included conducting the RSNO Youth Chorus alongside soloists Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Benjamin Grosvenor and Nicola Benedetti in the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s All-Star Gala performances, and preparing them for the recording of Jonathan Dove’s Gaspard’s Christmas, which is available on all streaming services. Over the summer, he led FYC to success at the Hull International Choral Competition and the International Choir Competition in Provence, winning the Youth Choirs of Equal Voices and Children’s Choir categories respectively, and will be competing with them in the World Choir Games 2024 in New Zealand. In the past year, he has also premiered a number of new works including Jonathan Brigg’s The Sapling with the ROH Youth Opera Company and pieces by Emma O’Halloran and DJ and producer R.Kitt with IYTC. This summer, he took up the position of Guest Conductor with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s Girls’ Choir and has been invited back for 2024.
Much of Patrick’s work revolves around championing young people within choral music and, for the past two years, he has been invited to address the annual conference of the Post Primary Music Teachers Association in Ireland. His work in this area began as a Trainee Music Leader with Spitalfields Music between 2015-16 and he is now firmly established as a music educator, having delivered projects for organisations including the BBC Singers, Sonoro, The Sixteen, Wigmore Hall, Aldeburgh Young Musicians, and Ark Schools.
In opera, Patrick works with many of the UK’s major companies including the Royal Opera House, English National Opera and Garsington Opera. For the ROH, he is the Musical Director of the Youth Opera Company, preparing them for main stage performances of Verdi’s Otello under Sir Antonio Pappano and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel under Sebastian Weigle, and conducting them in the world premieres of specially commissioned works including Lewis Murphy’s A Different Story in the Linbury Theatre. He is also a regular leader on their Create and Sing programme, working with secondary school teachers to stage specially-devised operas in classrooms across the country. For the ENO, he has prepared the children’s chorus for Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen under Martyn Brabbins and Bizet’s Carmen under Kerem Hasan. For Garsington Opera, he has worked on a specially-commissioned community opera called Dalia by Roxanna Panufnik as the Youth Chorus Director.
Patrick was previously the conductor of the University of Birmingham’s Upper Voices Choir and Brockham Choral Society.