Chorus of approval on 175th anniversary

Scotland’s longest continuously active ensemble marks milestone with pop-up performance

Scotland’s oldest continuously operational vocal ensemble celebrates its 175th birthday today (31 October) by presenting excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, walking distance from where the Chorus was originally founded.


Members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) Chorus, formerly the Glasgow Choral Union, will perform a free event to evening shoppers at Princes Square Shopping Centre, Buchanan Street - a stone’s throw from the location of its conception – on Wednesday 31 October from 6.00pm. The singers of the nation’s most long-established symphonic chorus will also surprise at least one attendee whose birthday it is that day with a rendition of an appropriate song.


Glasgow Choral Union was formed by enthusiastic amateur singers in 1843 to perform the Scottish premiere of Handel’s Messiah. The Choral Union’s committee formulated its ambition at a gathering at a coffee shop on Argyle Street (now Waterstone’s Bookshop). The Glasgow Choral Union recruited freelance orchestral musicians for the Scottish premiere of Handel’s famous oratorio, the group eventually coalescing to form the Scottish Orchestra, precursor to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.


The RSNO Chorus has been led by award-winning Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer since 2015. Gregory has also been Chorus Director for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra since 2009 and Choral Director of Huddersfield Choral Society since 2017. His passion and commitment has led to a resurgence in applications to join the Chorus in recent years. In addition to his knowledge of choral repertoire, Gregory’s choral expertise has been sought by high-profile musicians such as Elbow, Damon Albarn, James, Tim Burgess from The Charlatans and Clean Bandit.


RSNO Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer: “It is hard to imagine a world without the RSNO and RSNO Choruses. 175 years ago a group of dedicated vocalists formed a choral group that would, directly or otherwise, lead to the formation of Scotland’s national orchestra, Scottish Opera, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and many others.


“These days we have a tremendously capable chorus with singers who perform at the very highest level. With the arrival of new Music Director Thomas Søndergård we have some exciting projects planned this Season and many more in the planning stage. The RSNO Chorus has a bright future ahead of it.”


The RSNO Chorus will join its Orchestra to continue the anniversary celebrations the following week, with performances of Poulenc’s Gloria, conducted by newly-appointed Music Director Thomas Søndergård, at

Perth Concert Hall on Thursday 8 November, the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 9 November, and at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 10 November.


For more information on RSNO concerts and events, visit