RCS 175: Five-day festival of performance to celebrate 175 years of performing arts excellence

RCS 175: Five-day festival of performance to celebrate 175 years of performing arts excellence

Published: 22/11/2022

One hundred and seventy-five years, five days, a feast of performance and a finale that’s guaranteed to raise the roof … the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is gearing up for a birthday celebration like no other!

The nation’s conservatoire marks its 175th anniversary next month and the occasion will be commemorated, most fittingly, with a fabulous festival of performance that will sprinkle some extra sparkle over December.

From December 5 to 9, expect drama, dance, music and film and an electrifying closing concert that promises to bring the festivities to an epic end.

Symphonic strings, solo and choral singers, brass, wind and whistle players, pipers, pianists and percussionists … visionary violinist and conductor Greg Lawson and 80 artists from across RCS present RCS Does GRIT Orchestra, a rousing tribute to influential musical innovator – and RCS alumnus – Martyn Bennett, who died in 2005.

In 2015, Lawson realised Bennett’s final album GRIT for orchestra for the opening night of Celtic Connections, where some of Scotland’s finest musicians across classical, jazz and folk delivered a stunning fusion of Celtic, Scandinavian and Islamic traditions with techno, breakbeat and hip-hop.

Following that unforgettable debut, the groundbreaking GRIT Orchestra went on to stage Lawson’s interpretation of Martyn’s second album Bothy Culture at Glasgow’s Hydro as part of Celtic Connections’ 25th anniversary in 2018, a spectacular celebration that featured global cycling sensation Danny MacAskill.

Now, in a special reworking for RCS’s historic milestone, the orchestra’s values and spirit come to Scotland’s national conservatoire on Friday 9 December for RCS Does GRIT Orchestra, with Lawson’s interpretations of music from the GRIT and Bothy Culture albums.

A conductor leading a performance

Sharing the bill on the same evening will be RCS’s Braw Brass – a dynamic collaboration between the brass and traditional music departments, led by acclaimed conductor John Logan, RCS’s Head of Brass. Braw Brass has performed at high-profile events including the International Society for Music Education world conference in Brazil and the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament.

The 175 programme includes an ethereal evening of ballet and song, where dancers from the BA Modern Ballet degree programme join forces with Vocal Performance students for a choreographed performance of composer Maurice Ravel’s Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé.

 There are opera and film screenings, a joyous choral performance with works by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Antonio Vivaldi, and drama in the shape of Hermia’s Dream, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which throws the play’s themes into a new light.

Monday 5 December

Mondays at One – The Music of Learmont Drysdale, 1pm

Charlotte Bateman: mezzo

James McIntyre: tenor

Gina McCormack: violin

Rebekah Lesan: cello

Marianna Abrahamyan: piano

Learmont Drysdale (1866-1909) was a composer whose works were performed at Sir Henry Wood’s Promenade Concerts and Covent Garden. Celebrated in his lifetime, yet today the name of Learmont Drysdale will be known to very few. Glasgow University Library holds an extensive archive of Drysdale’s manuscripts, which has been researched by Marianna Abrahamyan on behalf of Music in Peebles. The result is this concert’s programme of chamber music, piano music and songs, some unpublished and possibly never performed before.

RCS Choral Performance, 6pm

A joyous choral performance directed by Andrew Nunn with a programme that includes Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Antiphon (from Five Mystical Songs), Ca’ The Yowes and Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria.

Tuesday 6 December

An Evening of Ballet & Song, 7pm

Conductor: Cameron Burns

Performers: Hannah Bennett, Marie Cayeux, Aline Giaux and dancers from the BA Modern Ballet programme.

This joint venture between BA Modern Ballet and Vocal Performance students features a choreographed performance of French composer Maurice Ravel’s Trois Poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé. The evening will also include third-year ballet students dancing to Debussy’s Pagodes from Estampes and a performance of three new dance works created by second-year students using new compositions as inspiration.

Wednesday 7 December

Hermia’s Dream, 7pm

Based on the lovers’ scenes in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia’s Dream throws the play’s themes into a new light using movement, dance and Shakespeare’s words.

Directors: Tucker St Ivany and Emma Gray

Mentor: Ali de Souza

Hermia: Molly Geddes

Helena: Chloe Ragrag

Lysander: Stuart Edgar

Demetrius: James Crutcher

Puck: Elizaveta Guryeva

Thursday 8 December

Lunchtime Concert – Accordions, 1pm

The programme includes J.S. Bach Preludium BWV 552, V.Zubitsky Karpathian Suite, A.Lyadov Music Box and M.Majkusiak Concerto Nevrotico.


Les Enfants terribles opera screening, 6pm

Part of a trilogy of films written by Jean Cocteau, each of which has been translated into opera by Philip Glass, Les Enfants terribles is written for four singers and four dancers and orchestrated for three grand pianos.


Friday 9 December

BA Filmingmaking Shorts, 1pm

Ūhte: Filmed on the set of BBC drama series River City, this ten-minute opera film, composed by Henry McPherson, who has since graduated, and directed by Ray Tallan, RCS Head of BA Filmmaking, tells the story of three magicians and the silence where magic was once found. With an orchestral score performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, the opera is a truly interdisciplinary collaboration, featuring students from the RCS opera school, with prosthetics, props and wardrobe created by RCS production students, and realised by film students.

Danila: A beautiful behind-the-scenes film that captures the artistry and intensity of ballet, centering on dancer Danila Marzilli, who graduated from RCS in 2019. It’s a perfect example of collaboration between art forms, fusing BA Filmmaking and BA Modern Ballet.

Musicville: BA Filmmaking’s first collaboration with the musical theatre department took advantage of the winter hiatus of the River City studios and backlot. Directed by Andrew Panton and produced by the students of the Digital Film and Television course (now BA Filmmaking), all music and lyrics were written and composed by RCS musical theatre students.


Braw Brass and RCS Does GRIT Orchestra, 7pm

Conductor Greg Lawson works with traditional, jazz and classical music students in an eighty-piece orchestra that celebrates Martyn Bennett’s vision for Scotland’s contemporary musical landscape, which he so brilliantly mapped and championed. The programme will include Lawson’s orchestral interpretations of music from Bennett’s GRIT and Bothy Culture albums.

Tickets for the 175 festival programme are available from the RCS Box Office and all proceeds will support the student experience.

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