Introducing #ClassicAll, a celebration of classical and new music in Scotland

#ClassicAll - Exploring Scotland's classical and new music

This month, we're focusing on classical and new music from Scotland.

Discover the work that is challenging perceptions, pushing boundaries, and exploring innovations in the genres.

Don't forget to use #ClassicAll on social media to share your own work as part of classical and new music in Scotland, and to uncover a wealth of inspirational activity.

It is no coincidence that this focus takes place at the time of soundfestival, the renowned and much loved festival of new music. View the programme for the festival, on until Sunday 24 October.

Scottish Freelancers Ensemble

The Scottish Freelancers Ensemble pride themselves on programming with composers that many have never heard of, discovered through research and investigation during the Covid-19 pandemic, drawing on an interest in adding the voices of minority ethnic composers (or ‘global majority’ composers) and female composers to the core repertoire of string ensemble music.

Co-founded by Katrina Lee and Alice Allen, they were nominated for the Award for Environmental Sustainability and the RCS Award for Making it Happen at the Scottish Awards for New Music 2021.

Alice and Katrina said: “It is our opinion that the public has been robbed of an opportunity to hear some truly fantastic chamber music in an existing and already extremely popular classical ensemble - the string ensemble. We want to give this music a voice in one of classical music’s favourite chamber music settings.

We don’t want to avoid the hard questions that face the classical music industry, particularly in chamber music programming where we have a significant opportunity to make change as individuals, from a grassroots level. Our programming is a musical response to our own growth in terms of no longer being passive, but beginning to embody ‘anti-racism’ in our work, instead opting for intentional programming. This growth includes understanding our own privilege regarding race, social status and the protected characteristics, and applying this understanding to our work and programming in classical music.

We hope our work at SFE draws attention to the large proportion of classical repertoire that still remains hidden from public view today. We hope the quality of the music we have chosen and the popular setting of the string ensemble present a comfortable and welcoming opportunity for audiences to engage in important conversation around classical music programming, whilst possibly beginning to change the tastes and expectations, and we hope, inspiring an appetite for fair and well-rounded programming from the audience themselves. We are passionate about all of our chosen works, and believe our programming exemplifies the highest standards of classical composition, regardless of the colour of the composer's skin and their gender.”

Red Note Ensemble - sub mari

Red Note is Scotland's Contemporary Music Ensemble. As the COP26 summit takes place in Glasgow, Red Note’s latest commission brings together a collaborative multi-media commission by Chilean composer / double-bassist Manuel Figueroa-Bolvarán and Red Note’s Weston-Jerwood Creative Fellow, Scottish-based Martina Corsini, that highlights the contrasting scarcity and abundance of water in Chile and Scotland.

The single art for sub mari, which is a blue abstract cover that looks as though it has been painted with a rough texture

"What is exciting about the genres this project works in is how diverse they are. Not only in terms of music style, but also culturally. There are several factors that play a part: the musical background, the cultural background, our life experiences, and the contemporary classical music world we are meeting in.

To quote the composer Brian Irvine, if you take three completely different elements and put them together, you have no idea what you’re going to end up with, but it’s definitely going to be something unique and unprecedented, and that’s the beauty of it.

The underlining aim in most art works is to deliver a message and give a voice to those who don’t have one. This piece is no different, and it aims to do that not only focusing on the content but on its quality and aesthetic. To describe this concept with a metaphor, we don’t want the audience to recognise an (hypothetical) apple by solely looking at it, but also by touching it, biting it, tasting and smelling it.”

Katherine Wren - Nordic Viola

Nordic Viola is a project by viola player Katherine Wren, who explores an intersection of the traditional and the contemporary, inspired by the seafaring heritage of the Faroe Islands, Orkney and Shetland, Iceland and Greenland.

Katherine said: "My Nordic Viola project and ensemble celebrate the musical and cultural connections around the North Atlantic Region from Orkney and Shetland to Faroe, Iceland and on to Greenland. The Nordic scene is one of the most vibrant in contemporary music, defying genre boundaries by combining cutting edge "classical" music with traditional genres. I have always been drawn to the cultures of the north and I love inspiring audiences to explore the vast and impressive landscapes of the region, and also their shared stories, by working with new voices on the contemporary scene (many of them women) to commission new music that sets old stories in a modern context.

Aud, by Linda Buckley, is our latest commission. It tells the story of Aud the Deep-Minded. This strong Viking woman showed great courage throughout her life, through her travels from Norway to Scotland and north to Iceland. Linda's own musical interests seep into this work, from the droning of the hardanger fiddle in Norwegian folk music, to the restless energy of Scottish and Irish dance tunes, to field recordings of wind and ice made in rural Iceland. I love the driving energy of this music and the sense of yearning to travel that permeates this music, written in Lockdown when travel was all but impossible."

Rufus Isabel Elliot - OVER / AT

OVER / AT is a concert series and music creation project centred around gender diversity and the trans community, started by composer Rufus Isabel Elliot.

A person sits at the side of the road looking out over a hill that has clouds nestled at the top of it - they are wearing headphones

Image credit: LoveLiveRun

"In OVER / AT, cross-genre work is very important. The basis of the project is experimental music, or new music, or call-it-what-you-will. But in order to carry the idea out – a microcosm of a trans living tradition – I needed artists from all kinds of backgrounds to be involved. This included traditional musicians, punk musicians, producers and DJs, those who wouldn't normally make music, or hadn't previously described themselves as musicians... I wanted to invite people to be a part of that conversation from all kinds of musical walks in life, as a form of diversity. It makes the world a bigger, more beautiful place.

For me, composing new music has been a way of finding a voice that had otherwise been silenced, and saying things I otherwise could not. It was a way of speaking out, something empowering, and not a theoretical, stuffy, or academic practice. It's all about feeling."

Alasdair Nicolson - St Magnus Festival

Land, Sea and Sky is a series of five films as part of the online programme of St Magnus Festival, incorporating music and poetry with striking Orkney landscapes.

Alasdair Nicolson, Festival Director of St Magnus Festival, said: "I love bringing new performers as well as brand new or undiscovered music to a wider audience, but I also like mixing genres, artforms and the way that music is presented to an audience.   As a composer, I found that a new departure into film was an exciting new ‘blank space’ in which to work during 2021 and provided a way of sharing and showing beyond a single day, date and venue.

The landscape and culture of Scotland play a huge part in what I do and this is true particularly as part of St Magnus International Festival whose backdrop is Orkney."

Chamber Music Scotland - Young Artist in Residence: Simone Seales

The Chamber Music Scotland Young Artist in Residence programme was born out of their commitment to increasing the quantity and quality of opportunities available to diverse creative voices across Scotland. It will build on the successful model of their existing Ensemble in Residence and Artist in Residence programmes, but will specifically allow for someone who is in the early stages of their career to develop in a way that perhaps isn’t readily available outside of an educational or conservatoire setting.

Their inaugural Young Artist in Residence is cellist Simone Seales, with the six-month residency being largely guided by Simone and the ways in which they want to develop their creative practice.

The embodiment of an artist driving social change, Simone centres Blackness, sexuality, intersectional feminism, and anti-racism in their work, and their free improv explores how sound can encapsulate and reflect emotion.

Simone Seales sits in a naturally lit room against a white wall leaning their head against their cello

Simone said:

"A quote that really embodies my work and practice is from Nina Simone. She says, “I had spent many years pursuing excellence, because that is what classical music is all about. Now I am dedicated to freedom, and that is far more important.” 

There was a time, when I initially began playing, where classical music felt freeing because it was the first time I was really able to express myself. However, as I began studying it for my Bachelor’s and Master’s, I began to feel really stifled. In the year of the pandemic, when classical music felt so far away, I found I really had time to evaluate what playing the cello means to me… and I found it meant expression and connection. I dove back into reading poetry, works by Black feminist leaders, and found that putting sounds to these texts was what excited me the most. How do I turn a poem into music? How can I connect to all sorts of people by blending text with sound? This, to me, is freedom and freeing."

Discover more - listen to the playlist

Start exploring Scotland's classical and new music with this selection of recent recordings.

Learn more

ClassicAll Brochure - Explore Scotland's Music

Scotland has a vibrant music scene that encourages innovative and collaborative working across classical, experimental and improvisation practice. This guide highlights the main resources and organisations supporting classical and new music in Scotland.

This article was published on 19 Oct 2021