Category Archives: News

Online Cosi from Scottish Opera

Scottish Opera continues to set the pace with filmed productions online, announcing a new Cosi fan tutte, built around its current posse of Emerging Artists, available to view online from December 13.

Filmed on the stage of the Theatre Royal in Glasgow with music director Stuart Stratford conducting the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and chorus, Roxana Haines’ new production references reality TV. Soprano Catriona Hewitson, mezzo Margo Arsane, tenor Shengzhi Ren and baritone Arthur Bruce are joined by 2019/20 Emerging Artist Charlie Drummond and Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artist Michael Mofidian.

In the first month of the new year, the company follows that with a concert performance of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, also filmed at the Theatre Royal, directed by Daisy Evans, who was responsible for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival production of Menotti’s The Telephone.

Using David Pountney’s translation and a reduced orchestration by Derek Clark, David Parry conducts and the cast includes Kitty Whately as Hansel, Rhian Lois as Gretel, Nadine Benjamin as Gertrude and The Witch, Phillip Rhodes as Peter and Charlie Drummond as Sandman and Dew Fairy.

2021 is the 50th anniversary of Scottish Opera’s education and outreach department, in its various guises, and that will be marked by what the company intends as live performances by Scottish Opera Young Company next summer. Already meeting for rehearsals via Zoom, they are preparing for the world premiere of Rubble, composed by Gareth Williams with a libretto by Johnny McKnight. Soprano Shuna Scott Sendall will join the young singers for the show, which will be conducted by Chris Gray and directed by Roxana Haines.

Image: Shengzhi Ren, Arthur Bruce and Margo Arsane in Opera Highlights. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit Colin Hattersley.

Scottish Ensemble Scoops RPS Award

The Scottish Ensemble has triumphed in the ensemble category of this year’s prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. The full list of prizes, which also included success for the Virtual Benedetti Sessions, was announced in a virtual awards ceremony presented by BBC Radio 3’s Georgia Mann on the RPS website on Wednesday evening. 

The highly-contested Ensemble Award was conferred on the Scottish Ensemble “for sheer quality and innovation in their 50th birthday year [2019-20], and for showing us all how an ensemble can serve its community yet still have a striking international impact”. The Ensemble beat off stiff competition from fellow category nominees, the City of London Sinfonia and Manchester Collective.

The announcement also coincided with the launch of the SE’s new digitally focused autumn/winter season, which opened last week with Songs of Life, featuring mezzo soprano Karen Cargill (see Keith Bruce’s review on VoxCarnyx).

Responding to the RPS announcement, SE artistic director Jonathan Morton acknowledged the challenges facing the classical music world during a year that has sharpened ingenuity in the fight for survival. “Like many in our field, we have tried to stay connected with our audiences by creating new work and sharing it digitally, and we have enjoyed establishing new relationships with some exciting collaborators along the way,” he said.

“I very much hope that these experiments will be able to sustain performers and audiences alike, keeping our common musical spirits alive until the time when we can once again look forward to live performances.”

The Ensemble was also delighted to announce it has been awarded financial support from the RPS Audience Fund. “This will enable us to further develop our work finding a new filmic language for classical music and could not have come at a better time,” said SE chief executive Jenny Jamison.

Also among the recipients with a Scottish connection were the Benedetti Foundation’s Virtual Benedetti Sessions, one of several winners in the new Inspiration category, and soprano Natalya Romaniw in the Singer category for, among other achievements, her title role as Tosca for Scottish Opera. 

Tenor Nicky Spence, guitarist Sean Shibe, Scottish Opera’s Nixon in China production and Scots-based composer Errollyn Warren were also among shortlisted nominees. The RPS’ Gold Medal, recognising outstanding musicianship, went to legendary Hollywood composer John Williams. 

View the complete awards ceremony on www.royalphilharmonicsociety.org.uk/awards

BBC Radio 3 presents a musical celebration of the winners on 23 Nov, 7.30pm

Opera North streams Sins

The proposed tour by Opera North of a concert performance of Wagner’s Parsifal, which was scheduled to visit Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on June 2, 2021, has been postponed. The company says it is committed to revisiting the project in a future year, but the scale of the forces required, with 130 musicians on stage, make it impossible with social distancing in place for the performers.

The company intends to fill the dates booked for Parsifal with an evening of music from the Ring cycle, conducted by Richard Farnes and using Jonathan Dove’s orchestrations, intended as a companion piece to the 2016 Opera North Ring cycle, currently free to watch online.

Ticket-holders for Parsifal may choose to apply for a refund.

Opera North has two livestream performances scheduled before the end of the year, beginning on Saturday November 21 at 6pm, when Gary Clarke’s new production of Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins will be available to watch for £10. The production was to have opened in Leeds in a double bill with Handel’s Acis and Galatea and will be the company’s first staged show since March. Conducted by James Holmes, it will be available on demand for 48 hours only.

Opera North’s The Seven Deadly Sins by Kurt Weill ©Tristram Kenton

In December Mark Wigglesworth conducts a dramatic concert performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio, directed by Matthew Eberhardt with a cast including Rachel Nicholls, Toby Spence, Robert Hayward and Brindley Sherratt. Originally due to run at Leeds Town Hall for four performances from November 29, it will now livestream at 7pm on Saturday December 12 and be available on demand for seven days at a ticket price of £15.

operanorth.co.uk

Main Image: Seven Deadly Sins credit Tristram Kenton

Volkov’s New Commission Body

Ilan Volkov, principal guest conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, has teamed up with violinist Ilya Gringolts, currently a Violin International Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, to launch a new Zurich-based Foundation that will offer worldwide support for the composition, performance and funding of new music.

The I&I Foundation will aim to commission up to 20 new works each year from emerging composers from around the world beginning in 2021. Among the first five recipients is the young Manchester-based composer and improviser Lawrence Dunn, who is joined by others from Russia, Israel, Japan and the USA. 
Among the key aims of the initiative are commitments to streamlining the commissioning process, shortening the usual delays between commission and performance, and offering financial payment to composers at the start of the commissioning process rather than just at the end. The emphasis, according to Volkov, will be on shorter “micro-commissions” so that the process is as fast, efficient and effective as possible.

Volkov, who founded and curates the global contemporary music phenomenon Tectonics, that has an annual festival residency in Glasgow, is well known in Scotland for his championing of progressive new music with the BBC SSO ever since his original appointment as its principal conductor in 2003. 

“I love performing works by established composers, but for me, my most important role is to look towards the unseen,” he says. “With the foundation I look forward to starting a long and positive process of working with composers, helping them develop their careers, having their music heard, recorded and better known. If we then see some of these names suddenly being commissioned by huge organisations, then we’ll know we’ve done the right thing at the right time.”

Further information on www.iandifoundation.org

Familiar faces with Dunedin Consort

Edinburgh’s Dunedin Consort will be broadcasting from Greyfriar’s Kirk again this month with an all-vocal progamme, How Lonely Sits the City, streamed from Thursday November 19. (Those who haven’t yet caught its predecessor, Nature’s Voice, with soprano Rowan Pierce, have until Saturday November 14 to do so.)

The recital, which takes its title from Rudolph Mauersberger’s lament on the destruction of Dresden in 1945, will be conducted by tenor Nicholas Mulroy, who has just been named the ensemble’s first Associate Director. Mulroy’s association with the choir goes back 20 years and he has recently combined the role of soloist with directing.

The concert will also feature the debuts of the Consort’s new Bridging the Gap recruits, young singers making their first steps in the professional arena. They are baritone Tim Edmundson, tenor Sam Leggett, mezzo Hannah Leggatt and soprano Sally Carr. The young women are both alumni of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, and the men are currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

The programme also includes the Lamentations of Lassus, MacMillan’s Miserere, Cecilia McDowell’s I Know That My Redeemer Liveth and a new commission from Edinburgh-based Ninfea Crutwell-Reade, Vigil 1, based on a text by Rilke.

www.dunedin-consort.org.uk

Image: Nicholas Mulroy

Scots to the fore at The Ivors

The annual Ivors Composer Awards will be announced on December 1 and the recently announced shortlist reveals the health of the Scottish scene across the musical spectrum.

Nominations in the Community and Participation category include Judith Weir for The Big Picture, which celebrated the re-opening of Aberdeen Art Gallery at Sound Festival, and Bute-born educator Paul Rissmann for the multi-faceted What Do You Do With An Idea?. Stuart MacRae’s  Prometheus Symphony, co-commissioned by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as the culmination of his work as the Lammermuir Festival’s composer-in-association, is among the five works in the Chamber Orchestral category, alongside Hover by long-time Scottish resident Sally Beamish.

The other three works with Scottish roots are by composers nominated for an Ivor for the first time. Timothy Cooper’s “ . . . Shadows that in darkness dwell . . .” was commissioned by Matthew Whiteside’s contemporary chamber music initiative The Night With . . . and features on its first album, Live Vol One, performed by the group formed to do that, Ensemble 1604.

Aberdeenshire’s Claire M Singer is a composer putting the organ back at the heart of contemporary music, including partnerships with post-rock groups Low and Stars of the Lid. Her work for organ, strings and horns, Gleann Ciuin, in nominated in the Large Chamber category. Completing the line-up is bassist Calum Gourlay, from Glasgow, whose New Ears Suite, recorded with saxophonist Helena Kay, trombonist Kieran McLeod and drummer James Maddren is in the Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble category.

www.ivorsacademy.com

Image: Composer Claire M Singer

Nevis Carol Competition

In the same season as BBC Radio3 has dumbed-down its annual carol-composition competition to a simple melody-line task (“you can just sing it into your phone” as presenters have been encouraged to exhort listeners), Scotland’s path-making Nevis Ensemble has announced its own two-strand commissioning initiative for new songs that will be broadcast over the festive period.

The first is open to young composers under the age of 18 living in Scotland and the selected young person will be mentored by top Scots composer Stuart MacRae to write a new work setting a text in Scots. The results of that will be seen on Christmas Day.

The second is open to submissions of an existing score by composers anywhere in the world, with the winner receiving a £1000 commission to set a new Scots text for voice and orchestra, which will be recorded by mezzo Andrea Baker and the Nevis Ensemble.

Baker has just been named as the orchestra’s second Ambassador, alongside trumpeter John Wallace. She toured to 20 community venues with the Ensemble in December 2019, an experience which she says “brought me back to why I became a singer, the capacity of live music to bring people together through a shared experience”.

Full details on how to apply for the carol competitions are on the Nevis Ensemble website, and the closing date for entries is Tuesday November 10.

Image: Andrea Baker © John Need

SCO Completes Autumn Season

In response to this season’s fast-growing digital audience, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is to extend its Autumn online series by a further 10 free concerts in the run up to Christmas. 

Music by Sally Beamish, Anna Clyne, Darius Milhaud, Errollyn Wallen, Beethoven and Bacewicz will be among the wide range of repertoire coming via YouTube from four different venues: the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, Perth Concert Hall, Laidlaw Music Centre St Andrews, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Nearest to normal are the two orchestral Perth concerts, directed respectively by Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and SCO principal conductor Maxim Emelyanychev, with music by Britten, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, and featuring ex-principal horn Alec Frank-Gemmill and current principal cello Philip Higham as soloists. 

The Queen’s Hall Thursday Chamber Music Series is being extended by four concerts, continuing this popular spotlight on the orchestra’s internal ensembles. It includes a rare performance of Milhaud’s jazz-inspired La Creation du Monde, and ends in December with Beethoven’s extraordinary Grosse Fuge.

Three Friday lunchtime recitals from Laidlaw Music Centre form part of the SCO’s residency at the University of St Andrews, while at the RCS the SCO Winds team up with Conservatoire students in Janacek’s Mladi and a wind-only arrangement of Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.

“Further plans for the remainder of this Season will be announced in December,” said SCO chief executive Gavin Reid. 

All concerts can be viewed via the SCO website. Lunchtime concerts from St Andrews University and the RCS will also be available via their own YouTube and Facebook Channels.

Full information on www.sco.org.uk

Image: Pekka Kuusisto ®Felix Broede

Errollyn Wallen at RCS

With a residence in a lighthouse on the North Coast of Scotland and a view to the Orkneys, Belize-born, London-raised Errollyn Wallen has been appointed Visiting Professor of Composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Wallen, who was appointed a CBE in the New Year Honours at the start of this year, found herself at the centre of some controversy with her instrumental arrangement of Parry’s Jerusalem for this year’s Last Night of the Proms, which she dedicated to the Windrush generation.

She has been working in Glasgow with the RCS String Orchestra and Teresa Riveiro Böhm, RCS Leverhulme Conducting Fellow, on her cello concerto, and will mentor students writing work for Plug, the Conservatoire’s annual festival of new music.

Wallen’s orchestral work The Frame is Part of the Painting was played at the 2019 BBC Proms by the BBC NOW under the baton of Elim Chan, with Scottish mezzo and RCS alumnus Catriona Morison as soloist.The current Principal Conductor of the Welsh orchestra, Ryan Bancroft, is also an RCS graduate and he will conduct her earlier work Mighty River in the RSNO’s current digital season, on January 15.

Image: Errollyn Wallen CBE ©Robert McFadzean

Hallowe’en Haunting

Those spoilsports in politics may have insisted that Hallowe’en is cancelled, but Children’s Classic Concerts is having none of it.

Following neatly on from the Ghost Lights in theatres that were the emblem of the Edinburgh Festival’s collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland back in August, Children’s Classics and the RSNO are unveiling The Haunted Concert Hall at 2pm on October 31. The loyal concertgoers that have packed halls across Scotland for their annual dose of spooky scores will have to don fancy dress in their own homes, but the usual prizes are still available for the best costume, as long as the wearer is snapped watching the film.

With a compact 20-player socially-distanced edition of Scotland’s National Orchestra to play music by Ligeti, Bach, Glass, and Wagner, prankster emcee Owen Gunnell will of course be one of the soloists with his batterie of percussion. Other popular regular ingredients include the RSNO Junior Chorus, working from home, and animations of drawings of The Hall of the Mountain King, made by students at the University of Scotland.

The 45-minute film was made in Dundee’s vast Caird Hall and takes full advantage of the huge empty spaces and secret spooky corners of the venue to combine all the concert elements with stunts and tricks not possible on a live stage. Although free to view on Hallowe’en and for 30 days thereafter, donations are welcome via the CCC website childrensclassicconcerts.co.uk where full details of the concert are available.

Image: Owen Gunnell with the RSNO’s Lorna Rough at La Bonne Auberge ©Martin Shields

Scottish Ensemble takes its season online

After its proposed return to live work with a socially-distanced performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was stymied twice by the return of restrictions to combat the pandemic, the Scottish Ensemble has announced an ambitious slate of work online and on film that attempts to reach the broadest constituency, and particularly those most in need of the sustenance of music.

As well as work specifically aimed at school-children, and tailored to the needs of different ages and abilities, the string orchestra is providing, via digital broadcast, Music & Mindfulness sessions for users of Maggie’s Centres supporting those affected by cancer diagnoses. Like others with health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, they are particularly isolated in the current crisis, and other strands of the Ensemble’s programme aim to meet those needs in the wider community.

On November 4, the group relaunches its Musical Book Club, with sessions exploring works of music with the help of experts in composition, performance and research. Guests in the coming series include composers Craig Armstrong and Dobrinka Tabakova and writer and broadcaster Tom Service. The online sessions will happen every second Wednesday, priced at £5.

Mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill joins the Ensemble for an evening of Songs for Life, premiering online on November 13, and available to view thereafter, tickets £10. The programme of music and conversation will travel from Purcell to contemporary composition and embrace songs of love, lament and celebration.

The group’s school concerts begin on October 30 with half-hour lunchtime performances available online, in both primary and secondary school versions, aimed at all pupils rather than those specifically studying music. Specialist students will be showcased later in the year when SE releases a video made with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland that uses the first two movements of Philip Glass’s Symphony No 3.

As well as a Solo Collaboration between principal viola Jane Atkins, artist Jyll Bradley and composer Anna Clyne, the whole Ensemble will provide an online version of its popular annual Concerts by Candlelight in December, in which Clyne’s music will also feature, in the company of Bach, Part and Crumb. Tickets to view that are also £10. Despite recent disappointments, the group has its fingers crossed that it may even be permitted to play that programme live if restrictions are lifted later in the year.

scotttishensemble.co.uk

Virtual Sound

Like everyone else, Aberdeen’s contemporary music Sound festival has gone digital this year. But instead of the usual single autumn event, its organisers have opted for two shorter weekend packages, one running this weekend from 22-25 Oct, the other from 28-31 January.

The first of these is remarkable for the volume of streamed activity crammed into four days, which will be a blend of streamed online performances and films, and real-time talks/Q&As by composers and performers, including Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir. 

Thursday opens with a concert of five world premieres featuring flute and electronics from young Scots-based composers commissioned through Sound festival’s composer development initiative. All in all, 15 premieres will be given over the weekend, including the world premiere of Makem composer Ben Lunn’s new festival commission, “Th’first munth is th’wurst iv awl”, based on letters from prisoners. 

Key events also feature 2016 BBC Young Musician finalist Ben Goldscheider and Pip Eastop as part of this year’s “endangered instrument” focus on the French horn.

Other highlights include organist Roger Williams’ recital of music by Scottish composers written especially for the organ of Aberdeen University’s King’s College Chapel, a programme of vocal music by members of EXAUDI, “lockdown” commissions performed by the north-east’s new music ensemble Any Enemy, and the film Grey Area by Cork composer Sam Perkins in which his passions for skateboarding and music collide.

Sound festival runs 22-25 Oct. Full details on events and how to access them on sound-scotland.co.uk

Image: Any Enemy Ensemble

Council Rethinks Practice Ban

Following Monday’s report in VoxCarnyx of a practice ban facing wind and brass players and young singers at Douglas Academy’s specialist music unit, East Dunbartonshire Council has written to parents reassuring them that urgent action is underway to resolve the situation.

The ban, which applied to individual practice rooms at the Milngavie school and its pupil residence in Knightswood (which falls under Glasgow Council Council jurisdiction), meant that the affected boarders – most of whom are in the process of preparing for A level and SQA practical music exams and conservatoire auditions due to take place with the next few months – were left with nowhere to practise other than their family homes during weekends.

A letter sent by parents on Monday to the Scottish Government and relevant local authorities calling for a reversal of the ruling, claimed that the ban “disadvantaged their children in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected”.When approached on Monday by VoxCarnyx, East Dunbartonshire’s Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie said that “a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School” was under way. “The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school,” she added.

On Tuesday, relieved parents received an email from the Council stating that measures will now be put in place to allow students to practice again in school. The issue affecting the pupil residence has still to be resolved, but East Dunbartonshire has told the parents it is now in discussions with Glasgow City Council to seek a positive outcome.

Royal Philharmonic Society Awards

The latest shortlist for prestigious awards features another strong showing from Scots and Scotland, as the Royal Philharmonic Society champions the highest achievement in music.

The award for opera and music theatre includes a nomination for Scottish Opera’s revival of John Adams’ Nixon in China, while the singer award pits Scots tenor Nicky Spence against sopranos Natalya Romaniw and Lise Davidsen. In the ensemble category, the ever-inventive Scottish Ensemble is nominated, while guitarist Sean Shibe is shortlisted for instrumentalist alongside pianist Yuja Wang and violist Lawrence Power. The concert series and event award includes a nomination for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, which is directed by Scot Graham McKenzie.

Alongside the 11 categories, digital broadcast of the award winners on Wednesday 18 November will also include the presentation of the RPS Gold Medal to a distinguished international musician, and a new Inspiration Award recognising a particular achievement in music-making during the current health emergency.royalphilhamonicsociety.org.uk

Distant Voices at St Andrews

The 8th edition of St Andrews Voices, Scotland’s festival of vocal and choral music, is inevitably very different from its predecessors, but the programme on Saturday October 17 – which is designated World Singing Day – is an epic undertaking, with online happenings every hour from 7am to 10pm.

As well as events from St Andrews University, which hosts the festival, and particularly the new Laidlaw Music Centre, this St Andrews Voices links up with Glasgow and London, where The Sixteen under conductor Harry Christophers are the Virtual Ensemble-in-residence. The choir and associate conductor Eamonn Dougan will lead workshops as well as performing in St Augustine’s in Kilburn.

Other artists featured in the programme include folk singers Iona Fyfe and Hannah Rarity and beatboxer SK Shlomo. Tenor and broadcaster Jamie MacDougall will launch a two year project to create a new St Andrews Scots Songbook, honouring former Professor of Music Cedric Thorpe Davie and collectors of Scots songs including George McPhee, George McVicar and Frank Spedding.

The full 2020 programme of St Andrews Voices is available to view and experience at standrewsvoices.com

Scottish Opera Highlights online

With a new opera film – of Sam Bordoli and Jenny Fagan’s The Narcissistic Fish – already in the can before lockdown, Scottish Opera has been ahead of the game in making work during the pandemic since before COVID-19 struck.

The company followed that with one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Festival’s online programme in an updated location-shot film of Menotti’s The Telephone, and then brought the Lammermuir Festival to a memorable conclusion with Janacek’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared, filmed in Glasgow’s Theatre Royal.

All of these are still available to view on the Scottish Opera website, and they will be joined on October 25 – World Opera Day – by the autumn production of Opera Highlights.

The four-singers-and-a-piano show, stitching together arias well-known and less familiar with an invented narrative, usually tours across Scotland, visiting small theatres and community halls from the Borders to the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland. With that commitment currently impossible, the show has been filmed at The Beacon in Greenock and will premiere online.

The playlist has been selected, as usual, by Head of Music Derek Clark, and the show is directed by Rosie Purdie. It has some fun and games with the strictures of social distancing and other current rules in a story of four singers meeting up to perform together for the first time in months. Verdi, Bizet, Mozart, Lehar and Arthur Sullivan are among the composers providing the soundtrack.

Susannah Wapshott is at the piano, and the cast is the latest line-up of Scottish Opera Emerging Artists: soprano Catriona Hewitson, mezzo Margo Arsane, tenor Shengzhi Ren and baritone Arthur Bruce.

Director Rosie Purdie says: “I wanted this production of Opera Highlights to feel bright and merry, provide a few much-needed laughs, and exhibit some wonderful music.”

scottishopera.org.uk

Picture, of Catriona Hewitson by Colin Hattersley

Changes to RSNO Digital Season


The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has announced changes to two of its upcoming Digital Season concerts as a result of COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions. 

The rising Norwegian conducting star Tabita Berglund (pictured) will make her unexpected Scottish debut replacing Carlos Miguel Prieto on Friday 6 November. The Mexican conductor is now unable to travel to Scotland. Berglund, who won the 2018 Gstaad Conducting Academy’s Neeme Jarvi Prize, will conduct Sibelius’ Symphony No 7 instead of the advertised Variaciones Concertantes by Ginastera.

On Friday 20 November, with RSNO principal guest conductor Elim Chan now unable to attend, soloist Jorg Widmann will double up as player-conductor in Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and in changes to the original programme perform his own Fantasie for solo clarinet, and direct Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” Symphony. 

Updated details on the full Digital Season available here.

Practice Ban for Music Students

Parents of music students at Douglas Academy in Milngavie are petitioning a local authority over a ban on practice by young singers, wind and brass players that they say is harming their children’s education.
 
The ruling will particularly affect weekday boarders at the specialist music unit, some of whom are set to sit their Grade 8 Associated Board exams or undertake music college auditions in the coming months. These are critical, having a bearing on college and university applications to study music, to which the majority aspire. 

Senior pupils will also be gearing up for A level performance submissions, and for Higher and Advanced Higher practical exams, which normally take place in Feb/March for Higher and May/June for Advanced Higher, and account for 60% of the overall subject marks.

The pupils express deep concern for their future prospects. ”Many of us have come to Douglas hoping to become professional musicians but this is impossible if we can’t practise.”

Now parents have stepped up the campaign with a letter today to the Scottish Government and respective local authorities – the student residence falls under Glasgow City – calling for a creative solution that would especially allow the small number of boarders access to the individual practice rooms at both Douglas Academy and the Knightswood residence.

They believe such a solution need not infringe the most recent Scottish Government COVID-19 guidance, which, they say, states: “Young people should not engage in […] singing or playing wind or brass instruments with other people […] However, this does not mean that these activities cannot take place at all, it simply means that a more creative approach should be taken to providing such lessons.”

Parents of affected children claim that failure to allow their children to practise will deeply impact their future prospects. “These young people have mostly joined the Music School in order to try to become professional musicians.  They should be practising for up to three hours a day, yet they are now banned from practising at all, from Sunday evening to Friday evening”.  

“Several of them are auditioning for conservatoires this year, as well as studying for AH and Higher Music and this is impossible if they can only practise for two days a week,” the letter continues. “ These pupils are being disadvantaged both in the competitive field of music and also for other careers, as their preparation for SQA Music exams is being adversely affected.”

As for the pupils, their petition sums up their frustrations. “Lots of kids don’t want to do their music practice. But we really do. Please help us!”

In request to a statement from East Dunbartonshire Council, Depute Chief Executive, Education, People & Business, Ann Davie told VoxCarnyx: “The Director of the Music School has been working with officers from the Education Service and the Council’s Health and Safety Officer to agree a comprehensive risk assessment for the provision of music within the Music School.

“This includes provision for brass, woodwind and singing and takes account of the Education Scotland Guidance. The risk assessment also includes provision for pupils who stay in the residence and require to practice in school.

“We understand this has been a particularly difficult time for the pupils at the Music School due to the Infection Control arrangements that are required for the playing and teaching of certain musical instruments.

“The risk assessment will support pupils to continue to study music with the appropriate Infection Control arrangements in place.” 

Read the full petition here.

New Voice for Classical Music and Opera

As Scotland’s classical music scene copes with the restrictions imposed by the current health emergency, through streamed concerts and outdoor opera productions, a new website Vox Carnyx (voxcarnyx.com) is launched to celebrate the wealth of globally-recognised talent involved in the creation, promotion and delivery of classical music and opera in Scotland.

Vox Carnyx will be a platform for the latest news, reviews, interviews and features about those playing, singing, conducting, composing, creating events and teaching young people in the world of classical music and opera. Co-founders Ken Walton and Keith Bruce bring to Vox Carnyx many years of experience as writers and critics with The Scotsman and The Herald in Scotland, and share the aim of providing an online destination for all lovers and supporters of Scotland’s classical and opera scene.Make a visit to voxcarnyx.com a regular stop in your online day and join Keith and Ken in supporting and debating Scotland’s rich musical life.

“With the media world now in a constant state of change there were bound to be implications for serious arts coverage. So it’s exciting to hear of this new venture aimed at the entirety of classical music activity in Scotland. Between them Keith Bruce and Ken Walton have huge experience of covering classical music for Scotland’s two main publications, and I’m sure their new project Vox Carnyx will attract a lot of curiosity and attention, both here and internationally. I wish them well.”
Sir James MacMillan

“Serious journalism is so important and in Keith Bruce and Ken Walton we have two hugely experienced and knowledgeable writers and critics. I am so pleased to see that they are starting a new website dedicated to covering classical music and opera across Scotland. At this most challenging of times which has affected all corners of our sector including the media, it is so heartening to see this new venture starting which will ensure that musical creativity across Scotland is getting the exposure it so richly deserves.”
Nicola Benedetti CBE

For further information email Vox Carnyx at voxcarnyx@gmail.com.

Canadian soprano Erin Wall

Soprano Erin Wall, who made regular appearances at the Edinburgh International Festival and was a featured soloist in the seasons of both the RSNO and BBC SSO, has died at the age of 44. She had been suffering from breast cancer in recent years but continued to work during much of her treatment.

A regular choice of soloist for big orchestral pieces including Mahler Eight, Britten’s War Requiem, and the Four Last Songs of Strauss by conductors Sir Andrew Davies, Sir Donald Runnicles and Peter Oundjian, Wall’s performance as Ellen Orford in Britten’s Peter Grimes is one of the highlights of the new Chandos recording of Peter Grimes reviewed elsewhere on Vox Carnyx.

Conductor Ed Gardner’s concert performance of Grimes was a highlight of the 2017 Usher Hall programme at EIF, a festival in which Wall also sang in the rather rarer King Olaf by Elgar. She returned in 2019 to appear as one of the Norns in Gotterdammerung, the culmination of Wagner’s Ring cycle, alongside Karen Cargill and Ronnita Miller. In between she sang Britten’s War Requiem with the RSNO at the end of the 2018 BBC Proms at the end of the tenure of music director Peter Oundjian.

A finalist in Cardiff Singer of the World in 2003, Wall’s big break came a year later when, as understudy, she was called up to replace Karita Mattila as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Chicago on the opening night. It was a role she would go on to play at the Met in New York.

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