Tag Archives: Scottish Chamber Orchestra

With a little help from my friends… An open invitation!

An Open Invitation: ‘With a little help from my friends’





P1100298Dalai Lama

Thursday 29th August

St Andrews Church, Queen’s Terrace, St Andrews



Cello suites/Scottish Music/Surprise!!

Who, me?

Who, me?

You will need:



Your ears!

The plan:


The charities:

Heisenberg (Jill Craig)


Families First (St Andrews)

Sistema Scotland/In Harmony

Arts in Fife/Dundee

Drake Music Scotland

Music in Hospitals

Military Wives Choir (Gareth Malone)

Scottish Ensemble {insert group here}

Rokpa/Tibetan Children’s Villages/ICT

tibet screensaver

Brooklands College

Signpost International (Dundee)

Just Made/Gillian Gamble



Pragya (India)

RSPCA/RSPB/Big cat rescue

SUGGESTIONS WELCOME!! Answers on a post card to: Jess Long!


Scottish summer music festivals not to miss

Well, the weather is warm (ish) and the sun has been out for more than 3 days so Scotland is rejoicing as summer seems to be here (for the moment, anyway…)

So here’s my guide to must-see Scottish summer music festivals (and I’m referring to mostly classical music festivals here, not your T-in-the-park Glastonbury- type festivals!)

Of course, the Edinburgh Festival is the main festival that everyone has heard of, but I’m not sure how many people know that there are two separate festivals that go on in Edinburgh in the summer: the Edinburgh International Festival (9th Aug-1st Sept) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2nd-26th Aug). The EIF is the more formal festival that encompasses classical music and opera, theatre, dance and visual art, whereas the Fringe is a huge festival (in fact the largest arts festival in the world) which encompasses almost anything from comedy to spoken word and cabaret. The difference between the two is that at the Fringe, anyone can participant and put on a show if they can find a venue and pay the fees, whereas the EIF is very much a world class international festival with invited artists. I have been to both and can highly recommend them: one for its assured quality, and the other for its serendipity: you end up seeing shows almost at random, and it is sometimes hit and miss, but you can find some real gems!

Cottier Chamber Project, West End Festival, Glasgow 31st May- 14th June

The Cottier Chamber Project, only in its third year, is part of Glasgow’s West End Festival. It features performances from a range of home grown and international ensembles and artists such as Moishe’s Bagel, Mr McFall’s Chamber, the Pavel Haas Quartet and Daniel’s Beard, who are the hosts of the festival and take their name from Daniel Cottier, designer of the interior of the Cottier’s Theatre where some of the performances take place. You can even get in free if you have a ‘Beard Like Brahms’!

Crail Festival 17th-27th July

A local festival that runs family friendly events such as a ‘Rock Pool Guddle’ and a ceilidh as well as a putting competition, but there are a few musical events including the annual performance of Crail Festival Orchestra on July 21st. This year I’m playing and we’re doing an all Mozart programme of Bassoon Concerto K191, the Haffner Symphony (No 35) and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The festival also usually includes some top folk musicians – this year Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain are playing.

East Neuk Festival, 3-7th July 

This short but high quality festival returns for its 10th year with events in venues all over the Eask Neuk of Fife. The festival started as a series of summer concerts by the SCO and still features the orchestra as a regular fixture. Last year I stewarded at its events and got to see some fantastic artists such as the Hagen Quartet and Alexander Janicek, and this year they have artists performing including the Tokyo String Quartet, Elias Quartet, Christian Zacharias and Tallis Scholars. Recently the festival has incorporated more environmental and literary events into its programme, so there are talks with writers and even a foraging workshop! Book soon though as it is usually sold out for the most popular events.

Mendelssohn on Mull, Mull, 1st-6th July

A chamber music festival directed by Levon Chilingirian set in the stunning surroundings of Mull. I took part in this festival in 2010, and it was an amazing if very intense experience: a group of young players at the start of their careers, hand picked by Levon, are matched into quartets and ensembles alongside seasoned professionals and have a few days to pull together a programme of top notch chamber music, then tour the island presenting concerts to locals and festival goers. All concerts are free and the standard is always exceptional. If you’re on Mull at the start of July, then it is definitely worth catching a concert or two.

Big Tent Festival, Falkand, FifeI was going to mention this eco festival that usually has some great acts such as Mr McFall’s Chamber and Karine Polwart, but I discovered that it is not running this year 😦 Hope it comes back next year, as it is lots of fun.

Pittenweem Arts Festival (3-11th Aug) is an art festival but usually runs some music events and is well worth a look as hundreds of artists take over homes in the small fishing village of Pittenweem to display their work, resulting in an amazing array of paintings, jewellery, sculpture, crafts and general artistry.

Some festivals I haven’t been to but have heard lots about:

Music at Paxton in the Borders, 19-28th July

Lammermuir Festival, East Lothian, 13th-22nd Sept

St Magnus Festival, Orkney, 20-28th June

Has anyone been to these festivals, or got any suggestions of great Scottish summer arts festivals to add to my list?

Music Changing Lives I: ‘Inspiring Change’

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the different ways music can be used in the community, and I’ve decided to write a series of posts about a few that have made the news in recent years and their social impact.

I’d like to start with a lesser known but hard hitting project, called ‘Inspiring Change’ which took place in 2010. Its rather bland name gives no hint of what the project was actually about – it was a pioneering collaboration between Motherwell College, a dozen arts organisations and the Scottish Prison Service to provide arts outreach to those inside Her Majesty’s prisons. The arts organisations involved were Scottish Opera, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the National Galleries of Scotland, the Scottish Ensemble, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, the Citizens Theatre and the Traverse Theatre, and funding was provided by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Arts Council. The project included rigorous evaluation so that the benefits that it brought could be recognised and applied to future projects of this sort.

Scottish Opera and the SCO collaborated on a project working in HMP Shotts, where the offenders were involved in creating an opera from scratch, including writing the libretto, music, designing costumes and sets, then staging a performance of their work. Reading violinist Rosenna East’s account of the project in the Herald, I’m struck by the enthusiasm and eagerness of the prisoners to participate in the project, especially to sing, when we are constantly told by the media that classical music, and especially opera, is for the elite and is definitely ‘not cool’. Rosenna writes, ‘Only one man says to me that he will get “slagged” if he has anything to do with the project’, and that this man eventually ended up in one of the music writing groups. How many of us would expect this reaction if an orchestra and opera company were to walk into a prison or young offenders institute? I find it surprising and wonderful that the stereotypes don’t fit.

The project at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute Polmont was divided into three separate projects: the Scottish Ensemble’s Music for Change, which focussed on learning tp play and record music, National Youth Choir of Scotland’s VoiceMale, which was a series of vocal workshops culminating in a performance, and an art project by the National Galleries of Scotland in which individuals constructed life size human figures. A research paper (which can be found here) summarised the outcomes of these projects, and contained the following reactions from some of the young offenders:

‘I’ve never really had a chance to do anything like that. Never really had a chance to put on a show for anybody’

‘At the end of the performance I actually got compliments. They said it was good and I should carry on when I get out. It was surprising and it was good to hear, you know what I mean?’

‘I was just more eager to do it. It was something you wanted to do… Other things you wouldn’t want to put the time and effort into. I actually tried. I tried and made an effort for it.’

‘They [the arts practitioners] told you what to do but they never pushed you or forced you. They helped you. They weren’t too bossy. And the way that they did it, it worked out good, you know what I mean? You learned from them.’

 ‘Music gives you extra skills…it can open your eyes and you say [to yourself] I didn’t know I could do that before I came here and it turns out I can and I’m quite good at it’.

Overall the report emphasises the improved engagement of the young men: the sense of meaning and purpose the projects gave them, and the improvements in confidence and self esteem that being involved with others focussed on a common goal brought about. As the report stated, ‘engagement in the arts projects seemed to challenge the passivity of prison life.’

More information about Inspiring Change can be found on the SCO Connect’s page about the project here


I haven’t posted about what I’m doing in a while, so here’s a run down of what’s been happening lately.

  • I am continuing to attend and help at St Andrews and Fife Community Orchestra (known as ‘StAFCO’) which is run jointly by St Andrews Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Gillian Craig. It is an amazing collaboration, as the sectionals get taken by members of the SCO, and the sub-principal cellist Su-a Lee is performing the Elgar Cello Concerto in the concert on 31st May which should be brilliant. We are rehearsing with her tonight which I’m looking forward to! Next week I will be taking a string sectional rehearsal, which should be good.
  • Excitingly, I now have some violin pupils! It’s great to get stuck in to some teaching, and it’s good for me to play my violin again (even if it feels a bit like a toy it is so small, no offence violinists!) I’m hoping to get some viola pupils too but I’ll have to wait and see what happens…
  • Last weekend I helped out at the SCO Connect’s Scrapers and Tooters project in Galashiels (Scottish Borders). The weekend was a lot of fun and we played Gluck, Beethoven and Dvorak under the watchful eye of Michael Bawtree and with help from members of the SCO who took sectional rehearsals, including Eric de Wit (cello) and Lorna McLaren (1st violin)
  • I am in the process of writing to schools in the Fife and Tayside area to see whether I can do any more teaching within the school environment. Watch this space…
  • The next 2 weeks will be pretty busy with concerts. On Sunday 22nd April I’ll be playing Elijah with the Heisenberg Ensemble and Stirling City Choir in Stirling, and then the following weekend the St Andrews Chorus have their spring concert of Puccini and Verdi on Sat 28th in the Younger Hall, and then on the Sunday it is my Chamber Concert with Tom Duncan and a few others, featuring Bach’s E flat Cello Suite amongst other works.
  • I’m hoping to collaborate with my friend Gillian Gamble on a project for her new social enterprise ‘Just Made’ which focusses on getting young people into the creative arts through education and training. We are still in very early planning stages of this but it’s quite exciting!