Glasgow’s annual guitar festival returns to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Glasgow’s annual guitar festival returns to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Published: 06/10/2023

Big Guitar Weekend: The Sound of Scotland 

Thursday 2 – Sunday 5 November 


From classical virtuosity to contemporary innovation and a celebration of Scottish-based composers … Glasgow’s gearing up for the return of Big Guitar Weekend. 

 The annual festival of glorious guitar playing from renowned global artists will take place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland from 2-5 November and includes a highly anticipated performance from Sean Shibe – RCS graduate and Associate Artist of Guitar – who has been described as ‘one of the foremost guitarists of his generation’. 

Professor Allan Neave, Head of Guitar and Harp at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “Big Guitar Weekend returns with a ‘Made in Scotland’ theme – all the artists and tutors have studied here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, so it is a real celebration of the talent that has passed through the doors of our much-loved institution.  

“The programmes will feature a multitude of music with a focus on composers based in Scotland – a celebration of Eddie McGuire’s 75th year, David Fennessy’s long relationship with the instrument and Stuart MacRae’s collaboration with guitarist Sasha Savaloni.  

 “We’ll also run a bespoke guitar course for young players, a Scottish Schools Ensemble competition, talks with leading guitar makers and New York string maker, D’Addario. It’s going to be a blast!” 

Thursday 2 November 

1pm: RCS Guitar Prize, sponsored by Knobloch Strings 

Students present varied programmes exploring the instrument’s repertoire in competition for the RCS Guitar Prize.   

7.30pm: Kevin MacKenzie – The Spaces Between 

A performance that celebrates collaboration in guitar across the Jazz and Traditional Music departments.   

Friday 3 November 

1pm: Fridays at One – Sean Shibe and RCS Strings.

The programme includes traditional Scottish lute manuscripts and works by Bach, Mompou and David Fennessy, RCS Lecturer in Composition. 

3pm: Sean Shibe: Discussing Rosewoods 

Sean Shibe discusses David Fennessy’s guitar work Rosewoods. 

5pm: Ian Watt and Eddie McGuire – Writing for the Guitar 

Guitarist Ian Watt and composer Eddie McGuire lead a discussion on composing guitar music, which will also feature the world premiere of McGuire’s Nocturne and Sunrise for guitar quintet, performed by Ian Watt and the RCS Guitar Quartet. 

 7.30pm: Samrat Majumder and Ian Watt 

In the first half of this concert, Samrat will perform Spanish works for guitar including Nárvaez, Sor and Albeniz while Ian will celebrate Scottish composer Eddie McGuire on his 75th birthday with a performance of his work Amazonia, and a programme with strong thematic links and influence on McGuire’s compositions.  

Saturday 4 November  

5pm: RCS Juniors Guitars 

A showcase of emerging guitar talent from students of the Junior Conservatoire. 

7.30pm: Duo Ramelli-Savigni and Sasha Savaloni 

Duo Ramelli-Savigni and Sasha Savaloni share the stage in two programmes celebrating wide-ranging works for guitar, from Dowland’s early music all the way through to Ramelli’s own composition Sketching the horizon on a cloudy path and RCS Composition lecturer Stuart MacRae’s Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.  

Sunday 5 November  

11am: Scottish Schools Guitar Ensemble Competition 

Guitar ensembles from across Scotland compete with the hope of winning this coveted competition.  


Big Guitar Weekend is undoubtedly one of the most special guitar and music festivals in Europe. The energy, people and talent on showcase across the board is simply amazing,” said Samrat Majumder, who graduated from RCS in 2021. 

“It’s wonderful to see artists, students and music lovers come together again this year to share experiences and perspectives through the wonder that is the guitar. It’s always such a pleasure to attend this stunning event that takes place in the musical heart of Scotland, the RCS.” 

Samrat is part of RCS’s vibrant new Ambassadors initiative, which was unveiled in June. Samrat, who is the ambassador for guitar and harp, will support RCS to amplify and enhance the understanding of the institution across the world. 

Guitarist and RCS graduate Marco Ramelli said returning to Glasgow to play at Big Guitar Weekend is always a ‘tremendous source of joy’ as it feels like a second home: “My time at RCS was profoundly inspiring, where I had the privilege of meeting extraordinary musicians like my teacher Allan Neave and my friends Sean Shibe, Sasha Savaloni, Sofia Pyrounaki, Ian Watt, and Samrat Majumder, each possessing something truly special.  

“This year, I will play with my duo partner, Enrica Savigni a wonderful musician, and I will be presenting a rare fusion of guitars. I will be playing a historical Spanish guitar, while Enrica will play a Romantic guitar, allowing us to explore the soundscapes of these two instruments together. To conclude the concert, we will perform my compositions for trio alongside Sasha Savaloni. The piece, Sketching the horizon on a cloudy path was composed a few years ago, commissioned by the RCS Plug Festival, and it is inspired by the Persian mystical poet Rumi.” 

 The Big Guitar Weekend course runs alongside the festival and provides guitarists of all abilities with the opportunity to study with world-class faculty at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It is open to guitarists aged from nine and is designed to support all ages and abilities, including the most serious/advanced young pre-professional/professional guitarists in training. 

 Guitarists who sign up to the course will receive: 

  • Lessons with RCS Head of Guitar Allan Neave and RCS guitar lecturer and performer Matthew McAllister
  • Tickets to all performances and festival events
  • Access to exclusive festival activity including BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra rehearsals of David Fennessy’s new guitar concerto and product demos from D’Addario Strings.
  • Drop-in sessions with luthier Michael Gee for an instrument health check.
  • A seat in the Big Guitar Weekend Guitar Orchestra with the opportunity to perform on Sunday 5 November
  • A performance opportunity in the Big Guitar Weekend Performance Classes for invaluable feedback from professionals, tutors and current RCS guitar students.
  • And most importantly, the chance to meet and spend the weekend with other performers, luthiers, guitar students & fellow enthusiasts!


 Find out more about Big Guitar Weekend and book tickets at the RCS Box Office


Sean Shibe image © Kaupo Kikkas

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