Friday, 21 November 2014

RSNO Work Experience: Eilidh Allison, Alva Academy, Alva, Clackmannanshire

RSNO Work Experience, November 2014
by Eilidh Allison, Alva Academy, Alva, Clackmannanshire

Day 1
On Monday, I helped Christine – the RSNO's Chorus Manager – print sheet music and fold them into booklets. It was good to see what is needed to be done to prepare for rehearsals. It has made me appreciate the time and effort teachers put in to preparing our lessons. I also got the chance to listen to the RSNO Junior Chorus.

Day 2
On Tuesday, I created a survey using survey monkey, an online evaluation tool. I then watched the orchestra rehearse. I really enjoyed watching the orchestra as I had never seen a professional orchestra perform live before.

Day 3
On Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to watch Nicola Benedetti rehearsing with the orchestra. Watching Nicola perform was amazing and made me want to go home and practice for hours!

Day 4
For the final day, I helped prepare for the concert in Dundee. I am very much looking forward to the concert tonight to hear the orchestra perform.

Overall I have really enjoyed my work experience at the RSNO and been given many amazing opportunities. I hope to attend a number of RSNO concerts in the future.

Eilidh was part of the RSNO's Work Experience scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Work Experience participants belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

RSNO Work Experience: Chloe Hooper, St Ninian's High School, Giffnock

RSNO Work Experience
Chloe Hooper, St Ninian's High School, Giffnock                                

Day 1
My first day at work experience was fairly normal. Meaning I spent 15 minutes trying to find the place; panicked when we found out we travelling in a circle and stressed out when we actually managed to find the building!  I’m just thankful that I managed to arrive on time. Looking back, the first five minutes seem like a blur: the tour, the introductions and the trailing up and down the steps leading to different floors. There were a number of steps that lead to even more rooms, looking at the building from the outside you wouldn’t believe how big the space actually is. I drove straight into the work that was given to me by putting away instruments and doing inventory. It was one job after the next and I liked it that way. Everything came easier to me that way and I was comfortable getting on with my work.  I know however that the first day would have been the hardest. It’s easy to feel out of place. There are people who have worked here for years with experience that I can learn a lot from. Going from a fourth-year pupil, sitting in maths jotting down notes, feeling like you're just going through the day, to an office job is strange.  What made it easier was the kind people I worked with.
What I thought I knew I now know; I got a great placement which will teach me a lot about myself and will help me when the time comes that I need to make choices for my career. On the first day, I managed to work efficiently in a professional work environment while overcoming any challenge I was faced with. Which, in this case, is easier done than said since the hardest part of my day was figuring out how to update an iPad (since I’m just terrible with technological stuff the update ended up failing). Overall I can honestly say my first day was a good one.

Day 2
Today I attended a staff meeting which gave me a better insight to the company. I learned about their perspectives and the direction they're steering the company towards. It was interesting to see the department managers giving updates on their teams. I enjoyed hearing about their programs for young people and their workshops for schools. It was fascinating to hear about the upcoming events from a behind the scenes point of view, and learn about the preparation that goes into each event. What interested me the most was hearing about the green team. The green team is successfully reducing the impact the office has on the environment by reducing waste and encouraging staff to make use of public transport or park and ride schemes. It was refreshing to see the results.
Today was also the day I gave updating the iPads another go. Sadly it failed again but today has given me the experience of what office work mainly consists of. Whether it's scanning documents or watching updates, I have to consider if this job is suited to who I am, which is good thing considering this is what work experience is about - taking a look into where you want to take your life.
Day 3
Today, Louise (RSNO Learning Manager) gave me the opportunity to sit and listen to the orchestra itself. They were practicing different pieces for their upcoming concert. During their rehearsal, I knew I had to be quiet and tried not to draw any attention to myself. Attempting that I hid, sitting myself in front of the seats to listen. I couldn’t explain what it was like to hear but if you haven’t heard them I recommend that you come to listen. It's not to be missed! 
The most challenging thing I did today, or maybe even this week, was moving instruments around the building to prepare for workshops. Since I have no upper body strength it was a challenge even lifting three xylophones in the first place (!) but I did choose it rather than taking two trips. I think this was my favourite day out of the week. Three days into my placement and I have gotten to know the place. I know where my desk is, I know the login for my computer, I know the area and if I thought coming here was difficult then sinking back into my original routine for school will be harder.
Day 4
Day four - a Thursday - was uneventful at work, but I suppose that is most days when you have a desk job since you’re at a computer all day. To be more specific, I was asked to update the iPads software from a 7.0.04 to an 8.0.1.  I couldn’t say it was fun at all, but it didn’t bother me. I got stuck straight into it and time flew by fast.  Today felt shorter than any other day this week and that’s probably why I’m stuck for words writing about today. This week is almost done!
Day 5
These past few days have flown in when I expected them last longer. I have a better picture in my head of what I want to do with my life and what I definitely don’t want to do. Which is a great benefit towards making decisions for my future and yet I don’t feel different at all. Are you supposed to feel more mature? Capable? Confident?  I’m not quite sure. I’m grateful for this week. I’m grateful to the RSNO and everyone I worked with in the Learning and Engagement department, and grateful for my teachers helping me find this placement.
I learned valuable lessons and enjoyed working.
Looking forward, I’m excited to leave school one day and make something of my life.

Chloe was part of the RSNO's Work Experience scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Work Experience participants belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The faces behind the Enigma...

Elgar's Enigma Variations are well known for being dedicated to, as he put it, "my friends pictured within".  Each characterful variation is packed full of personality, and whilst the music can give a vivid portrayal of a person's nature, I've often found myself wondering what Elgar's friends actually looked like.  Well, wonder no more!  Thanks to our wonderful friends at The Elgar Birthplace Museum, we now know have pictures of each of them, in all their Victorian glory.

Variation I (L'istesso tempo) C.A.E.
C. Alice Elgar - Elgar's wife.
C. Alice Elgar.

Variation II (Allegro) H.D.S-P.
Hew David Steuart-Powell - a well-known amateur pianist and a great player of chamber music.
Hew David Steuart-Powell

Variation III (Allegretto) R.B.T.
Richard Baxter Townshend, Oxford don and author of the "Tenderfoot" series of books.
Richard Baxter Townshend

Variation IV (Allegro di molto) W.M.B.
William Meath Baker, squire of Hasfield, Gloucestershire.
William Meath Baker

Variation V (Moderato) R.P.A.
Richard Penrose Arnold, the son of the poet Matthew Arnold, and himself an amateur pianist.
Richard Penrose Arnold

Variation VI (Andantino) Ysobel
Isabel Fitton, a viola pupil of Elgar's.
Isabel Fitton

Variation VII (Presto) Troyte
Arthur Troyte Griffith, an architect and an "incompetent pianist"!
Arthur Troyte Griffith

Variation VIII (Allegretto) W.N.
Winifred Norbury, a easy-going friend Elgar's.
Winifred Norbury

Variation IX (Adagio) Nimrod
Augustus J. Jaeger - Elgar's close friend and music editor for his publisher, Novello & Co.
Augustus J. Jaeger

Variation X (Intermezzo: Allegretto) Dorabella
Dora Penny, a friend whose stutter is depicted by the woodwinds.
Dora Penny

Variation XI (Allegro di molto) G.R.S.
George Robertson Sinclair, the energetic organist of Hereford Cathedral, with his bulldog, Dan (a well-known character) whose falling down a riverbank inspired this variation.
George Robertson Sinclair and Dan the bulldog

Variation XII (Andante) B.G.N.
Basil G. Nevinson, a well known cellist. In later years, Nevinson would become the inspiration for Elgar's Cello Concerto.
Basil G. Nevinson

Variation XIII (Romanza: Moderato)  * * * 
Lady Mary Lygon, eldest daughter of the late 6th Earl Beauchamp, a personal friend of Alice and Edward Elgar's. She also promoted the Madresfield Music Festivals and was a keen supporter of Elgar's music.
Lady Mary Lygon

Variation XIV (Finale: Allegro Presto) E.D.U.
Edward Elgar!
Edward Elgar

So there we have it, a face to put to the name... or should that be a face to put to the variation!  I know I'll certainly enjoy thinking of these pictures at our Elgar's Enigma concerts this weekend. 

You can hear the RSNO perform Elgar's Enigma Variations, conducted by Rory Macdonald, on Friday 7 November in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and on Saturday 8 November at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Both concerts start at 7.30pm.

Some tickets are still available should you not have yours yet - just click here to book!

Until the next time...


All images courtesy of The Elgar Birthplace Museum in Lower Broadheath, Worcester.

RSNO Work Experience: Christoper Adam, Barrhead

Last week, Alistair Hewitt, S4 from Barrhead undertook a week's work experience with the RSNO's Learning and Engagement Department. Alastair describes the week. 

During my work experience week at the RSNO, I had a great time working for my department and helping out wherever I could. Throughout the week I had many jobs to complete of various different types.

I made an online record for the adult chorus members, I cleaned the trumpets and trombones and moved instruments and packed them in the car for the petting zoo. My favourite part of the week was on Friday, when I had to upload software to the iPads. I love working with technology and computers, so this was quite enjoyable for me, even if it took quite a while. If I had to pick the worst part of my week, it would be the cleaning of the brass instruments. I found this repetitive and monotonous and I got tired of it quite quickly. Another thing I found repetitive was making the online records for the adult chorus, although I didn’t mind doing this, in fact the time seemed to go by very quickly when I was typing up the records.

I feel I have acquired new qualities and skills throughout my week here. I have had to work independently a few times and this was something I was not used to. I had to use initiative if something went wrong too. I had to work by myself, and I had to organise my work on my own. This was a very different experience from being told what to do every day at school. I had to be very organised and I had to have good communication with my colleagues. These were skills that I did not have much experience using, but after a week filled with opportunities to use them, I feel I have improved a lot in these aspects and I feel much more confident.

In general, I have really enjoyed my week here at the RSNO. I had many different jobs to do so I didn’t get bored, and the week went by very quickly. I have enjoyed the experience of being in a workplace and the week has helped me grasp an idea of what I want to do after I leave school.

Alistair Hewitt – Barrhead

Alistair was part of the RSNO's Work Experience scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All views expressed by Work Experience participants belong to those of the individual and are not representative of the organisation. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Sitting in the balcony with old friends.

Today I'm back in my favourite seat in Henry Wood Hall; up in the balcony listening to the first rehearsal of the week. As poppies start appearing on lapels across the land, the RSNO will be performing a very special programme to commemorate Remembrance Day in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

This week's concerts are conducted by Rory Macdonald – a young Scot who is establishing a great career conducting in the likes of Covent Garden, Vienna Konzerthaus, Sydney Opera House and the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.  Earlier this week he spoke to Kate Molleson of The Herald: 
"There's a special kind of nervousness that applies to performing at home. How can there not be? I'll have friends, family, my old music teachers in the audience. They'll all be remembering me as a wee boy."
And he was right, in a way. When Rory arrived last week for an RSNO chorus rehearsal with Sally Beamish (for the Scottish Premiere of her new work Equal Voices), I realised we were seeing each other for the first time in about 14 or 15 years. You see, Rory and I played in West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra (WSSSO) together between 1996 and 1998, under the baton of William Conway. But I wouldn't say I remember him as a "wee boy". Even back then, I realised that Rory was an immensely talented individual. When we first met, I was in 3rd year at school sitting in the second violins; he was in 5th year – the leader of the Orchestra, and an incredible violinist. (Incidentally, it turned out that his then desk partner, Martin Suckling, would go on to great things too. His compositions have been performed by orchestras such as the LSO, BBC SSO, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, London Sinfonietta, Scottish Ensemble and Hebrides Ensemble and he is currently the Composer in Association with our colleagues at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.)

I mention my time at WSSSO not simply because it's how I knew Rory back in the day, but because in our second year at WSSSO – Rory still leading, me now in the ranks of the first violins – we performed Elgar's Enigma Variations, one of the pieces he will be conducting with the RSNO this week.  I still have very fond memories of the residential week of rehearsals in Castle Toward and the performances that followed so this is why, when I saw Rory's name on the Season planning documents alongside the Enigma Variations, I just knew within myself that this week's concerts were going to be great.
I had to just stop writing there. The orchestra had just got to that amazing bit where the last note from the eighth variation leads into the ninth... Nimrod. I just had to stop and listen. My heart is thumping and I don't mind admitting that my eyes are welling up. Wow.

Right, where was I? Ah yes, the concerts. Elgar's Enigma Variations are simply stunning. And I'm not just talking about Nimrod. My personal favourite is actually the twelfth – B.G.N. The soaring cello line is so intense; hesitant in places, insistent in others. It has an inherent sadness, and yet, so beautiful...

It's little wonder that this piece, alongside his Cello Concerto which Aleksei Kiseliov performed so wonderfully a couple of weeks ago, is considered one of Elgar's best compositions and is a firm favourite amongst British Orchestras and audiences alike.

You can hear Elgar's Enigma Variations, conducted by Rory Macdonald, on Friday 7 November in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and on Saturday 8 November at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Both concerts start at 7.30pm.

If you haven't got your tickets yet, please visit

Until the next time...


Monday, 27 October 2014

RSNO Young Ambassadors 14:15 - Megan Lawson

Fife RSNO Young Ambassador Megan Lawson describes Metamorphosen in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Friday 24 October 2014.

I had heard R. Strauss’ Metamorphosen many a time on YouTube but to hear it live was a totally different experience. The unusual layout of the strings was a very different thing to see indeed. Many of the people I had brought with me were confused at the fact the orchestra was so small and that they were not placed in the usual manner. The piece started off very well, with the cellos taking the tune over now and again. The piece was very mystical and had a sinister feel to it. I think you have to have an acquired taste for that type of music to enjoy the musicality behind it.

Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio was a very short and beautiful contrast to the previous piece. The fast and lively sections of the piece caught the immediate attention of the audience. As the main tune re-occurs many times in this piece many people begin to recognise the piece. The question and answer sections of the piece were executed perfectly. I really enjoyed this piece.

Concerto for Orchestra - what a way to finish a concert! I love this piece, I have listened to it so many times and it is one of my favourite classical pieces. The five different movements are all very contrasting to each other. The final movement is very lively and upbeat. It is a fantastic ending to an amazing piece.

Overall, this concert was an excellent one. All 3 pieces contrasted each other in very different ways and it was a perfect first classical concert for people to attend. 

Megan Lawson

Megan is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador Scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website.  
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RSNO Young Ambassadors 14:15 - Scott Bathgate

Edinburgh RSNO Young Ambassador Scott Bathgate describes Metamorphosen in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Friday 24 October 2014.

On Friday the 24th of October, I was treated to what was a magnificent concert. This concert featured the works of Strauss with Metamorphosen, Beethoven with his Overture to Fidelio and Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Metamorphosen was a very emotional and inspired by very dark events in the composers life. Strauss began working on the piece after he heard there was a bombing (Strauss living in the time where his home city Munich in Germany was under the Nazi regime) on the historic opera house in Munich which he had known for 70 years. The music definitely reflects this pain as we are introduced to push string sections filled with beauty and slight dissonance. We were then treated to Beethoven's Overture to Fidelio.

Derived from Beethoven's only and unsuccessful opera, Beethoven composed the opera as he enjoyed and admired the work of Mozart's operas but he was critical of the immoral subject matter in works such as Cosi fan Tutte. A very impressive piece with a very vibrant and lively character. It went down a storm with the audience. Finally we are met with Bartok's Symphony for Orchestra. This being the longest piece on the programme was a very vast and very intricate piece. While the title may contradict itself, Bartok purposely titled this piece due to the way he uses all the instruments in the orchestra in a virtuosic and solo like manner. The piece is met with many ideas and motifs which develops throughout the entire piece. One notable point in the piece is when Bartok through compositional technique mocks Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, which he felt was getting way more attention than it should, in the fourth movement. The viola part introduces this theme very briefly before getting mocked by the loud sound of the brass. A very powerful piece which served as a suitable finale to the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and so did the audience.

Scott Bathgate

Scott is part of the RSNO's Young Ambassador scheme, arranged by the Learning and Engagement Department. All opinions expressed by Young Ambassadors are that of the individual and are not representative of the RSNO. For more information, visit the RSNO website.

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