Subscriber concerts and the Bahamas

SCO Principal Flute Alison Mitchell talks about the enjoyment of the SCO's Subscriber concerts and how they will lead to performances in the Bahamas.

This is it, my first ever blog, so here goes!

Have you ever been offered an unexpected trip to the Caribbean? Probably not, and neither had I until an email, in February 2009, popped up in my mailbox asking me if I was interested in organising a wind group to perform a couple of concerts in Nassau, Bahamas. As you can imagine, an opportunity like this is very motivating and I immediately set about forming the Scottish Chamber Soloists, a group of wind players from SCO namely myself on flute, Maxi on Clarinet, Pete on Bassoon and the wonderful pianist Scott Mitchell (no relation) also a familiar face to SCO audiences.

We wanted our launch concerts as an ensemble to be in Scotland and the perfect platform for these would be the SCO Subscribers' concerts where we knew how much the audience would appreciate hearing some more unusual and rarely performed works, even a world premiere!

As we set about putting together a programme we discovered, rather surprisingly, that there was nothing much of note written for flute, clarinet, bassoon and piano. Oh dear, this was a considerable stumbling block! However this opened up the perfect opportunity to develop new repertoire and support a Scottish composer by commissioning a new work especially for the ensemble. With the generous support of both the SCO and the Scottish Arts Council we were able to commission our first work specifically for our unusual ensemble.

Our composer of choice was Rory Boyle, and he composed Dance MacAber! Here are his programme notes from the front of the score which will give you an idea about the music.

This piece was commissioned by flautist Alison Mitchell on behalf of the Scottish Chamber Soloists who gave the first performance in the Strathclyde Suite of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in December 2009.

The players wanted something that felt Scottish but without any obvious pastiche and, for some reason, I started to think about the title "Danse macabre" and how I might use it to draw together a suite of movements inspired by Scottish dances which seemed to me to be the best way of meeting the players request. The word "macabre" can also be spelt "macaber" so it seemed reasonable to invent the Scots sounding surname "MacAber", change the noun to a verb and add an exclamation mark to stisfy what I had in mind.

The work falls into 3 sections played without a break, which are: Gigue, Interlude with Sarabande and Strathspey, and Reel.

I have tried to capture the spirit of the Scottish dances in the music as well as hinting at the macabre element although, hopefully, a sense of manic fun pervades the whole work." © Rory Boyle

Our last Subscriber concert, in Edinburgh later this month, will be our farewell concert before we head off to the Bahamas for concerts on the 26th and 27th March. ( A wee bit of warm weather will be very much appreciated after the long winter) This will be our fourth performance of Rory's Dance MacAber! and we are finally getting to grips with its intricacies and very complicated rhythms!!

As well as Dance MacAber! we're playing two very contrasting works. To start the performance we'll play an early Beethoven opus, WoO37, Trio for Flute, Bassoon and Piano and Maxi, Pete and Scott will end the programme with the gorgeous Trio Pathetique by Glinka for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano.

It's been a fantastic project to develop and commissioning a new work was a first for me. We've had a brilliant time playing together and are looking forward to further projects and maybe another new commission!

We look forward to the performance for our Edinburgh Subscribers.

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