Scotland’s Studio

It is almost a decade since the Scottish Government set up a “delivery group” to cut through speculation about the desirability of a dedicated film studio in Scotland and create what most agreed would be a valuable cultural asset. Since 2013, various sites from Cumbernauld to Govan and the foothills of the Pentlands to Leith have been proposed, with the latter and Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall now seeming likely to reach fruition.

In just two short years – and years dominated by the strictures of a global pandemic at that – the RSNO has moved to create a sound studio that could prove just as significant in attracting film production to the country blessed with locations for shooting movies by making it possible to record a symphony orchestra playing the soundtrack in Glasgow.

The orchestra this week unveiled the first project to be created within that facility – music composed by Edinburgh-born composer Blair Mowat for a remake of the 1972 film The Amazing Mr Blunden which will be screened by Sky in the run-up to Christmas – as part of its launch of Scotland’s Studio before an invited audience.

With Scottish Culture Secretary Angus Robertson and Mowat adding contributions via video, RSNO chief executive Alistair Mackie joined the orchestra in its home next door to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to hail the creation of a studio that matches those in London – Air and Abbey Road – for which there are long waiting times.

He said: “We’ve created a state-of-the-art facility that will give the RSNO another string to its bow in the post-pandemic landscape as the only orchestra in the UK with its own recording studio, while also giving Scotland’s developing film industry a new facility to support its offer nationally and internationally.”

Mr Robertson added: “The new studio will contribute to growing a sustainable economy for the creative industries. The RSNO plays a major role in the performing arts and the new studio will give the orchestra the opportunity to build on their already highly-acclaimed international reputation for recording and expand on its educational activities.”

Mr Mowat, who conducted the recording for his new version of the Antonia Barber children’s fantasy novel, remembered seeing Elmer Bernstein, who scored the original 1972 soundtrack, work with the RSNO on a school trip to hear the orchestra in 1997.

“Scotland’s Studio is a world-class facility and it’s a game-changer, not only for Scotland, but for anyone looking to record in the UK,” he said. “We’re in desperate need of more recording studios this size to meet the pent-up demand, and the players in the RSNO rival the best in the world.

The auditorium was already known to be well designed and flexible enough to meet the stringent acoustic standards for recording. With the help of a legacy from orchestra patrons Iain and Pamela Sinclair, it is now linked to a 72-channel analogue recording desk in a control room which has been named in their memory.

The RSNO has recruited Digital Manager Hedd Morfett-Jones and Audio Engineering Intern Sam McErlean to operate its new equipment, while two current players – principal percussionist Simon Lowden and first horn Christopher Gough – have recently taken post-graduate qualifications to acquire skills that will also bring additional benefit to the orchestra’s film recording ambitions.

Picture: Composer Blair Mowat conducting the RSNO’s recording of his soundtrack for the Sky film The Amazing Mr Blunden