Statement from Dunedin Consort on Creative Scotland funding

Dunedin Consort’s application for Regular Funding from Creative Scotland has been unsuccessful. This decision is particularly unfortunate in the wake of the Scottish Government’s recent commitment towards Creative Scotland, offsetting the decline in Lottery funding. We presented an ambitious and wide-ranging programme of activity in our Business Plan for 2018-21, which was highly commended by Creative Scotland’s assessors. Despite being recommended for funding, our application was refused by the Music Team at portfolio level because ‘other organisations more fully met the strategic needs of the sector’.

As Scotland’s leading specialist period instrument ensemble, and the most decorated of any Scottish music company (with two Gramophone awards, a Grammy nomination and two Scottish Album of the Year nominations to our name), this comes as a significant disappointment. In the landscape of Scotland’s musical culture, no other organisation focuses on this vital area of the repertoire, uniting excellence in scholarship and performance to explore new ways of encouraging listener engagement. Dunedin Consort has achieved great success with very limited resources. Our artistic output, recognition in the industry and impact in the international and national music landscape in proportion to the level of funding and our turnover, cannot be matched by any other music company in Scotland.

Creative Scotland has in the past been very supportive of our work. Its funding currently accounts for 20% of our annual turnover (where other music organisations receive support between 46-74%) representing exceptional value for public money and without it, Dunedin Consort will be forced to capitalise more on its opportunities elsewhere. This, in turn, will reduce the performance opportunities for our Scottish audiences and supporters, including the valuable outreach work we undertake in schools and with young performers. After the enormous success of our recent performances at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival, our national and international profile continues to develop apace – only yesterday we confirmed a further seven concerts in our residency at London’s Wigmore Hall, which sits alongside residencies at the Misteria Paschalia festival in Krakow and the Handel Halle Festpiele in Germany in 2018, and tours planned for Spain, France, Bolivia, Brazil, the USA and others over the next three years. Without support at home, this international impact – something vital to Scotland’s reputation – must be at risk. What is certainly clear, is that the lack of Creative Scotland commitment will mean that it will not be possible to match this international demand with performances on home soil.

We now have the option to apply for limited project funding through Creative Scotland, accessing a funding stream that is consistently oversubscribed and which brings with it the uncertainty of not being able to plan well into the future. Our board will need to consider how this will affect the future of the company as a whole, and whether – over the coming years – the impact of poor Scottish national support will ultimately deprive Scotland of one of its greatest cultural assets and ambassadors.

Alfonso Leal del Ojo
Chief Executive

John Butt announced as Residing Director of Krakow’s Misteria Paschalia Festival 2018

Fast developing a reputation as one of Europe’s leading Baroque festivals, Krakow’s Misteria Paschalia Festival has announced John Butt as its Residing Director for 2018.

The 2018 festival will focus on music from the British Isles, with the Dunedin Consort playing a central role in a series of concerts in March and April.

The Dunedin Consort will open the Festival with a performance of the London version of Handel’s Messiah on 26 March and return to give a performance of Handel’s Samson on 1 April, before closing the Festival with a programme of arias by Purcell with Ian Bostridge on 2 April.

Read The Herald article about John’s appointment here.

For more details about the festival and to view the full programme of events, visit the Festival website.

PROM 49 – Congregational Chorales

Are you coming to our PROM this coming Sunday, 20th of August 2017? We would love if as many people in the audience joined the musicians on stage in the congregational chorales that would have formed part of the Vespers liturgy. We extracted these chorales from the Vopelius 1685 Leipzig hymn book.

There will be a short rehearsal at 19.15 ahead of the performance. Looking forward to this enormously!

Click on the link below to download the songsheet.

If you still have not bought your tickets, here is the link!

 

Administrator Position

NCEM young composers award 2015 winners announced

Meet Simon Frith – Why we should be frightened by Bach (and why we are not)

We speak with Simon Frith who will be introducing the discussion at our first coffee concert series! John Butt will join him to discuss along with the audience and musicians some of the issues raised.

Please could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.   I’m the (semi-retired) Tovey Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh.  My main academic duties now are supervising PhD students and running a popular music research seminar.  I’m also at work on the second volume of a three volume history of live music in Britain since 1950.

It’s fair to say that you’ve had quite an unconventional career for a ‘musicologist’. Please might you tell us a bit about your background and how it informs your current research?   I’m a sociologist rather than a musicologist, so my interest has always been in the meaning of music as a social and cultural practice, rather than the analysis of musical forms (though the distinction between text and context is also something that can be examined and understood sociologically!)

In the past, you’ve written extensively and perceptively on a wide range of socio-cultural issues relating to popular music. How far does this relate to classical music’s role in contemporary society?   From a sociological perspective, all musical practices are open to the same kind of analysis and, indeed, one interesting question is why and how the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ music in contemporary Western societies was first established and is now maintained.

Do you have (or have you had) any particular personal reactions or connections to Bach’s music?   Other than that I’ve always liked listening to it…. no

This project is boldly entitled Why we should be frightened by Bach (And why we’re not). Can you outline some of the reasons why Bach has become such a significant cultural figure, since the ‘rediscovery’ of his music in the nineteenth century?   What interest me here is a kind of double process in which, first, a music which has a religious function became a form of entertainment (people listening to Bach for pleasure; Bach concerts and recordings commodities for sale) and, second, that such entertainment came to be seen as offering a quasi-religious experience — a kind of transcendent uplift — which differentiated it from other forms of commercial musical entertainment (this is true for classical musical ideology generally — see below — but Bach’s music became particualrly important for this from the mid-19th century onwards).

To a significant extent in your writings — as both an academic and journalist — you’ve engaged with academia and ‘high’ culture’s difficulties in taking popular music seriously. How do you think that this might relate to some of the assumptions of earlier classical repertories?   An important strand of the thinking which created the high cultural ideology of the 19th century (the ideas of individual genius, the canon, silent listening, etc, etc) was the need to differentiate aesthetic experiences along class lines while also suggesting that the meaning of real art somehow transcended its social circumstances. To suggest that what we now call classical music (and its audience) was ‘serious’ in this new way necessarily implied that other kinds of music practice (and audience) could not be taken seriously.

Do you think it’s helpful for an audience to try and understand the creative contexts for historically distant repertories – for example, in this case, in relation to Bach?    I don’t think it’s necessary to have particular musicological or historical knowledge of Bach’s creative practice in order to enjoy listening to his music, but I think it’s helpful to have such knowledge when discussing why and how we enjoy listening to it (just as such knowledge is important for the musicians who have to make — and justify if only to themselves — performing decisions).

What do you think is particularly helpful or special about approaching Bach’s music in this format?   This format would be great for any kind of musical performance–we still know remarkably little about how people actually listen to and make sense of music–but it’s particularly interesting for Bach, partly because his music obviously raises interesting questions about the relationship of religious and aesthetic experience and partly because the music itself was first composed and heard when such questions about the nature of individual belief were of wide public concern.

Meet Simon Frith and join the discussion with John Butt at our concerts exploring JS Bach’s in early February 2015!
4th of February @ 6pm Greyfriars Kirk – Edinburgh Book Now

5th of February @ 6pm Glad Cafe – Glasgow Book Now

Matthew Passion – Best of 2014 – The Herald

We were delighted to be among The Herald’s Kate Molleson’s classical music highlights of 2014.

Dunedin Consort went from strength to strength with superlative recordings and performances…  colourful, lithe and graceful in Bach’s masterpiece Matthew Passion [for which] John Butt conducted with typically fresh, fascinating insight.

Read the article in full here.

Mozart’s Requiem – Grammy Award Nominee 2015

We are thrilled to report that – in addition to the coveted Gramophone award we received in September – our recording of Mozart: Requiem has been nominated in the category of ‘Best Choral Performance’ for the 57th Annual GRAMMY® Awards.

John Butt: A Rightful Gramophone Award Winner – The Guardian

Philip Clark, The Guardian

‘He may be an unlikely podium hero, but [John Butt’s] recording of Mozart’s Requiem with the Dunedin Consort, complete with echoes of a 1920s jazz band, is a delight.’

Read the full article here.

Mozart’s Requiem – Gramophone Award 2014

We are delighted to announce that our latest recording of Mozart’s Requiem has won a Gramophone Award under the Choral category.

John Butt, Music Director, had this to say on the announcement:

“I am absolutely delighted to hear that the Dunedin Consort has won another Gramophone Award, complementing our success with Messiah in 2007. We are exceptionally fortunate in having an absolutely superlative team of soloists, choir and instrumentalists, the most supportive board and management we could hope for, and, of course, the unsurpassed work of Linn Records at every level of production. This success is also a wonderful reflection of our generous Scottish supporters and donors, in a particularly crucial year for the country.”

Meet the musicians – Mhairi Lawson

We catch up with Soprano Mhairi Lawson ahead of our Messiah performances in December 2013.

Tell us a bit about your early life. How did you come to be a singer? Did you play any instruments? Were you encouraged by your parents to pursue music as a career?   I don’t remember ever not singing something or other.  Sang around the house, in church and sundayschool, in school.  My parents are both active in choirs and amateur opera societies, it was normal for the house to be ringing with some kind of noise.  I learned the piano, played for local ballet lessons and also occasionally church organ. A career in performing music came as a bit of a surprise as we didn’t know any professional musicians and there were none in the family. My parents were and still are extremely supportive.  My Dad is still holding out for the yacht I’m supposed to buy him….

In recent years, you have really started to feature as one of the top specialist performers of baroque repertoire. Did you find yourself instinctively attracted to this repertoire? When did that happen?   I have been extremely privileged to have been given good opportunities to work within the area of historical performance practice – it seemed to choose me, and I wonder if my childhood exposure to a lot of national and traditional music of Scotland, particularly dance tunes, contributes also to my love of 17th and 18th century repertoire.

You’ll be performing Messiah with us in December. I’m guessing that you’ve sung the work many times (!). How do you manage to bring fresh insight to it with every performance?    Yes, I’ve sung this work many times – I never get bored with it, I always work it with my voice teacher to find a higher level of delivery – this is a lifetime’ s work.

What do you enjoy most about singing with John Butt and the Dunedin Consort?   Being involved in all aspects of the work in progress ie. as chorister and soloist is immensely rewarding – hard work, mind you, physically and mentally.

When you’re not singing or travelling between engagements, how do you spend your time?    I do the following….  build Lego star wars models with my 5 yr old boy, nag my husband,  build lego batman models, plant vegetables,  catch up on “worthy” reading to keep ahead of my historical performance students at the Guildhall School in London,  build Lego chima models,  go to the hairdresser, make damson gin and goosebarry and blackcurrant jam,  watch DVD box sets of ‘boardwalk empire’ and ‘homeland’, drink gin, go to the opera as much as possible.

Do you have any advice for young singers considering pursuing their art as a professional career?   Hmm, difficult.  I was told by a well meaning teacher that I’d never have a career and that I should probably give up. I suppose that my advice would be – ignore people wanting to give you advice.  At least, choose your advisors carefully!

Mhairi will appear with the Dunedin Consort at the following performances:   Fri 20th of December 2013 @ 7.30pm The Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh 01316682019 Handel’s Messiah Sat 21st of December 2013 @8pm Kelvingrove Museum (Glasgow) 01413538000 Sold Out (£10 Standing Gallery tickets available) Handel’s Messiah Sun 11th of May 2014 @ 3pm The Queen’s Hall – Edinburgh 01316682019 Madrigals of Love and War

John Passion – Gramophone Award Nominee

Our recording of Bach’s John Passion within a liturgical reconstruction has been nominated for a prestigious Gramophone within the Baroque Vocal category.

We are delighted by this nomination and want to once again thank all our supporters, musicians and customers for their support. We could not have done it without you.

Meet the musicians – Jonathan Manson

We speak with Jonathan Manson ahead of his concerto appearances with Dunedin on August 2nd (The Brunton/Musselburgh) and September 17th and 22nd (Perth Concert Hall/Lammermuir Festival)

How did you end up playing the cello? I started on the violin when I was six but found it very frustrating as my sister already played the instrument much better than I could.  A year later, when I first tried the cello at our village primary school in Aberdeenshire, I was completely smitten – mainly because playing on the bottom string sounded to me just like a Land Rover starting up!

As a cello (and viola da gamba) player your role keeps constantly shifting. One day you are supporting the bass line, others you are part of the harmony and others you need to play the most difficult solo pieces. Is there a particular role you enjoy better? I feel very lucky to have such a variety of roles, often on different instruments, which all help me to get different perspectives on the music.  The difficulties involved in playing a concerto are obvious, but the craft of playing a bass line – which involves being responsive and flexible but also guiding the music with conviction – has particular challenges which I relish.  Playing middle parts, which I usually do on the tenor viol, is also great fun as one usually gets the juiciest harmonies.

The cello concertos you will be performing in August (Vivaldi) and September (CPE Bach) are very different. What challenges do each one bring? The Vivaldi C minor concerto is a wonderfully atmospheric piece, but it’s concentrated into a shorter and denser format so there is less time to develop the musical ideas: one has to grasp each character quickly before it changes again.  The CPE Bach concerto, on the other hand, is conceived on a bigger scale and uses a much greater range of the instrument.  The fastest movement is the last, so the challenge is to pace yourself so that you have enough energy left for the tiring passagework that comes just before the end.

What’s your idea of perfection? As I’m writing this in the middle of a heatwave, my idea of perfection right now would be standing on top of a mountain in Sutherland with a fresh sea breeze blowing in my face…

What living person do you admire the most? David Attenborough, who has done more than anyone in the last 50 years to raise awareness of the importance and extraordinary variety of the natural world.

What is special about working with the Dunedin Consort and John Butt? One of the things I appreciate the most is the working atmosphere in the group: the focus is always on the music and how we can best serve it, rather than on personalities and politics.  I’m sure we are all infected by John Butt’s generous, inventive and open-minded spirit, which helps us all to feel involved in the delight of ‘rediscovering’ the music.  I find it fascinating that pieces I’ve played hundreds of times before can seem so fresh and vivid when we’ve worked on them with John.  And his razor-sharp wit keeps us all amused, which is an added bonus!

Jonathan Manson performs:

Vivaldi’s concerto RV 401 2nd of August @ 7.30pm The Brunton in Musselburgh  EVENT INFORMATION CPE Bach in A minor 22nd of September @ 7.30pm St Mary’s Church – Haddington Lammermuir Festival SOLD OUT CPE Bach in A minor 17th of September @ 7.30pm Perth Concert Hall – Perth EVENT INFORMATION                 You can find out more about Jonathan Manson from our artists’ page.

John Passion – Recording of the Month March 2013 – BBC Music Magazine, Gramophone and MusicWeb International

Our new recording of Bach’s John Passion has stormed to the top of the UK Specialist Classical Chart after its first week of release.  It is also at Number 10 in the UK Classical Artist Chart.

This is another great result with the album selected as ‘Recording of the Month’ by not one, but three different publications!

Recording of the Month: ‘a dramatic, profoundly considered reading.’ ***** BBC Music Magazine

Recording of the Month: ‘…[a] perfectly paced ensemble Passion.’ Gramophone

Recording of the Month: ‘an exceptionally fine small-scale performance’ MusicWeb International

Further criticial acclaim:

‘Wonderfully pure, buoyant and transparent.’ Financial Times

‘The liturgical experience offers benefits to heart and mind.’ The Times

‘A breakthrough on Bach’s John Passion.’ The Herald

‘Historic and supremely important new recording’ The Observer

‘This Johannes Passion performance is without doubt the most involving and dramatic I have encountered.’ McAlister Matheson Music

‘The impact is huge. The architecture, emotion and implication of Bach’s music all change.’ The Big Issue

John Butt awarded the Royal College of Organists Medal

John Butt has been awarded the Royal College of Organists highest honour. He was amongst the three Medal recipients honoured at the College’s Conferment of Diplomas ceremony at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 11th March were. The three recipients were:

  • Prof. John Butt OBE, for organ playing, organ- and choral-related scholarship, and choral conducting
  • Dr Peter Hurford OBE, for organ playing, choral conducting, organ teaching, organ and choral composition, and organ-related administration
  • Mr Mark Venning, for organ building, organ-related scholarship, and organ-related administration.

Photography by RCO / Simon Jacobs