Scottish Ensemble celebrates its 50th Anniversary season with new co-productions, pioneering collaborators, Scottish and international commissions, and a new Glasgow festival of string music

Scottish Ensemble (SE) is thrilled to announce its 2019/20 season, spanning August 2019 to June 2020 and marking the string orchestra’s 50th anniversary.

Founded in 1969, SE has established a reputation as the UK’s leading string orchestra, and is today known for exploring the imaginative and innovative ways in which classical music can be presented and shared. Since its first major cross-artform collaboration in 2014 (with visual artist Toby Paterson, at Glasgow’s Anderston Centre), the group has become increasingly known – both in Scotland, and further afield – for its adventurous, forward-thinking productions with artists of all kinds that introduce music for strings to new audiences, and connect it to our wider experience of contemporary life.

Across its celebratory 2019-20 season, SE continues on this trajectory offering a series of thought-provoking, experience-driven events performed across Scotland, the UK and the globe. Bursting with collaborative energy, SE will present new events with artists and partners from across art forms, genres and disciplines, including theatre company Untitled Projects, Icelandic composer/producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, harpsichordist and Arcangelo Artistic Director Jonathan Cohen, and social enterprise Social Bite, to name just a few.

The season also continues to see SE take music to a wider audience, whether by opening up classical music by creating engaging new experiences with collaborators outside of the classical sphere, or through
its commitment to taking music out of the concert hall and directly into communities – both of which have grown and diversified SE’s audiences across the past seven years.

SE will continue to create imaginative, meaningful ways to bring music to people who might not otherwise be able to experience it through an integrated programme of bespoke participatory events, workshops and creative learning opportunities. These are created in collaboration with local partners such as schools, hospitals and community groups, and inspired by themes from the season’s collaborations.

Marking Scottish Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary, the programme of events is both a continuation of SE’s recent innovation, and a celebration of the distinctive qualities that have been at the core of the group’s output since its inception: an inquisitive, open-minded, cross-disciplinary approach to presenting classical music, a sense of agility and flexibility in its programming and approach, and, above all, performance of an exceptional standard.

 SE Artistic Director Jonathan Morton said:
“It’s such an exciting time for Scottish Ensemble and, looking back over 50 years, it’s fascinating to see how far it has come. SE has shared the power and enjoyment of music with a whole range of people not only in Scotland, but across the world – and it’s showing no signs of stopping any time soon…

 I am really looking forward to a season that pays homage to some of our roots – be that getting back to baroque music or telling stories through song. But perhaps more so, I am hopeful this season will light up our collective curiosity with its mix of different perspectives, vivid musical voices and intriguing ideas.

 We will also explore how music, deeply rooted in our psyche and imagination, connects with the world we live in,  and how it might help us reflect on some of the important issues we face. We hope our creative collaborators, as well as the places and ways in which we perform, will allow our audiences to delve into these ideas with us. And of course we hope they’ll also join us in celebrating a half-century of music-making!”

 Season summary

Highlights from SE’s 2019/20 50th Anniversary Season include:

> A major new theatrical co-production with Untitled Projects. Directed and conceived by Stewart Laing (Untitled Projects / National Theatre of Scotland), with text from dramaturg Pamela Carter and a bespoke new score from Icelandic composer/producer Valgeir Sigurðsson for string orchestra and two vocalists, We Are In Time explores the journey of a transplanted heart through the voices of both the donor and the recipient.

– A collaboration centred around a new commission by acclaimed fiddler Aidan O’Rourke (Lau / Kan / Blazin’ Fiddles) and pianist and organ player Kit Downes, inspired by Edwin Morgan’s 1984 poem Slate and exploring its themes of Scottish landscape – both politically and environmentally – and the processes of change and time.

– A promenade concert with acclaimed harpsichordist and Arcangelo Artistic Director Jonathan Cohen, exploring a rich programme of Baroque concerti grossi and sonatas across two contrasting venues to explore the effect of our surroundings on the way we hear.

– The performance of a landmark Scottish work, James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words From The Cross, with Dunedin Consort, another leading Scottish Ensemble celebrated at home and abroad for their vivid interpretations and commitment to exceptional performances.

– Concerts celebrating virtuosity and talent of SE musicians and its collaborators, including a performance of Mendelssohn and Enescu octets with guest director Marianne Thorsen (Nash Ensemble / Trondheim Soloists).

– A celebratory musical feast in collaboration with Scottish social enterprise Social Bite, in which audience members and musicians will enjoy a meal together (provided by Social Bite) before an evening of musical entertainment featuring special guests.

The Bridge: a new four-day festival of music for strings. Supported by Creative Europe, The Bridge is a collaboration between three of Europe’s leading string ensembles – Scottish Ensemble (UK), Ensemble Resonanz (Germany) and Trondheim Soloists (Norway) – and a major European talent development organisation, the PLMF Music Trust (Estonia). From 14-17 May 2020, the festival will fill venues across the breadth of Glasgow – from concert halls, to theatres, to living rooms – with events that showcase the vitality, innovation and potential of the string repertoire, as well as the considerable talents of these exceptional European ensembles.

– An integrated programme of events taking music out of the concert hall, from SE Residencies devised with partners including hospitals, primary schools, youth orchestras and more, to participatory events and workshops running alongside the major tours. Incorporating themes and artistic collaborators from the season’s programme to create imaginative events, the programme will include events inspired by SE’s work with Jonathan Cohen, Aidan O’Rourke, Untitled Projects and Social Bite.

RCS Week: five days of intensive coaching at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, culminating in a public side-by-side concert. Following the week of coaching, SE will then select its Young Artists for the following year – a small group of students who are chosen to join SE on tour, gaining invaluable practical experience of life as a professional musician.

– A continuation of SE’s international success: SE is in demand at venues across the globe for its distinctive, original projects that put Scotland, and Scottish creativity, on the map. SE will perform across three nights at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (Germany, August 2019), take its 2016 collaboration with Anna Meredith to the multi-arts Yokohama Music Festival (Japan, September 2019), and perform with award-winning duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay for the opening night of the Baerum Kulturhus’s Scottish Season (Norway, January 2020). SE is also thrilled to be taking Prelude – skydiving from a dream, its critically-acclaimed second collaboration with Swedish contemporary dance company Andersson Dance, to Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music and the Sage Gateshead, as well as a performance in Glasgow as part of The Bridge festival.

Scottish Ensemble Artistic Director Jonathan Morton said:

 “Since becoming Artistic Director thirteen years ago now, I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about what music can be, and how we can present it in new ways that shed new light on its inherent mysteries and complexities.

This core of music has, of course, been at the heart of Scottish Ensemble since its inception in 1969, and it’s from this same core of music that we still venture out today.

Across this anniversary season, whether through collaborations with visionary theatre companies such as Untitled Projects, new commissions by exceptional musicians excelling in other genres, such as Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes, or projects with brilliant Scottish social enterprises such as Social Bite, I’m looking forward to venturing out into both familiar and new places, guided by our instinct to balance tradition with innovation, and a desire to create events that grip all of us.”