World Premiere of Music for Clydebank Blitz Memorial

Clydebank-recording.-L-R-Bailie-Denis-Agnew-conductor-Jonathan-Bloxham-composer-Christopher-Gough

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra will premiere a specially commissioned orchestral work to mark 80 years since the tragic Clydebank Blitz attack of 1941, this coming weekend.

Clydebank ’41 has been composed to remember the Second World War air raid which killed 1,200 people in Clydebank and left many thousands injured. The RSNO commissioned Christopher Gough to compose the work, which has been recorded by the Orchestra for a digital World Premiere through the RSNO YouTube channel on Sunday 14 March, the 80th anniversary of the attack, at 12pm.

West Dunbartonshire Council has given financial backing to the project which is part of ongoing memorial events throughout 2021 to mark 80 years since the wartime tragedy. The piece had been scheduled to have a live premiere performance on Sunday 14 March, but that event has been postponed to November due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The commission is also part of two major RSNO working themes of 2020-2022: the Polska Scotland music series, and the Scotch Snaps celebration of composers in Scotland. The Orchestra’s Chief Executive, Alistair Mackie, was inspired by conversations with his mother about the Clydebank Blitz and the vital role a Polish warship played in providing defence for the shipbuilding yards, to create a series of concerts and events celebrating Scotland and Poland’s unique historic relationship.

RSNO Chief Executive Alistair Mackie said: “I grew up listening to my mother recounting her experiences of the Clydebank Blitz. Memories of a six-year-old child crammed into an air raid shelter in her garden with both family and strangers. Memories of hearing the bombs fall around her and of exiting the shelter to see the homes of her neighbours ablaze. I also couldn’t believe how many people I’ve spoken to over the years who are unfamiliar with the details of this important historic event.

“With this year being the 80th anniversary of that horrendous attack, the RSNO wanted to do something significant and lasting to mark the occasion, and we hope this brand-new work from Christopher Gough will do just that. It is so hard for us to imagine how awful the events of 13-14 March 1941 would have been to experience first-hand, but through music we can remember those whose lives were changed by these two nights of bombing and continue to honour their memory for many years to come.”

Composer Christopher Gough said: “It is an honour to have the opportunity to compose a piece of music to remember such an historic event in Clydebank. The Blitz is something we closely associate with London, but I was stunned by conversations with my own grandparents who could recall seeing the Clydebank attack as young children living more than 40 miles away in Ayr.

“The devastation caused by the Clydebank Blitz affected so many people, and I wanted to write a piece that could help current and future generations to remember those families impacted by this awful event, and honour the lives lost or forever changed by the Second World War. This piece doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects, such as how the Clydebank Blitz was reported at the time, and the day-to-day fear that so many families lived in wondering when the next bomb would fall. I look forward to sharing Clydebank ’41 with you all, both digitally this weekend and at live performances later in the year.”

Bailie Denis Agnew, West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “As Convenor of Cultural Services, WDC, I am delighted to have this connection with RSNO. The resulting piece by Chris Gough is without doubt a wonderful composition. It encapsulates everything regarding the blitzing of Clydebank in March 1941.

“I am indebted to RSNO, Chris Gough and the wonderful Orchestra for bringing this poignant piece of music together and I am privileged to know that this piece will mark future commemorations for generations to come.”

The RSNO thanks the West Dunbartonshire Council Culture Committee for its support of Clydebank ’41 and memorial projects to mark the Clydebank Blitz.

The RSNO is grateful to the John Ellerman Foundation for kindly supporting the RSNO Scotch Snaps series of which Chris Gough’s new commission is a part.

The Polska Scotland series is supported by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the international cultural programme marking the centenary of Poland's regaining independence and by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Edinburgh. Financed by the Minsitry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual Niepodległa programme 2017-2022.