Scottish Chamber Orchestra Masterworks Project

In September, S4 and S5 students took part in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Masterworks project. A viola concerto by Scottish composer Sally Beamish was the “masterwork” chosen by the SCO this year. After working in class on exercises to do with rhythms and creating melodies from a small number of notes, students took part in a workshop with two SCO players in school, focusing on techniques used by the composer Sally Beamish in her piece. The culmination of this project was an opportunity to visit the Queen’s Hall and, after an illustrated analysis by Paul Rissman, see and hear the orchestra playing the concerto.


This is what two of our students thought of the whole experience:


Hilde Metzger: “Even though the school shut due to the damage of the assembly hall roof on 25th September, about 7 pupils including myself went to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to listen to a piece called “The Seafarer.” This piece is unusual in the way that the composer (Sally Beamish) is still alive. It was well presented by Paul Rissman, with the aid of a clearly presented powerpoint presentation. He interviewed some of the players and they showed us different techniques on their instruments. This really helped me to understand and appreciate some instruments that I don’t know much about.


Before we went to see the SCO, we did some exercises in class. We made up our own version of Sally Beamish’s waves, and we pretended to be cuckoos on our instruments. We also got to meet some of the players, and talk to them about what it is like to play music as a profession. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and it has helped me greatly with Standard Grade music, especially with my compositions. I think ‘the Seafarer” was well written and wonderfully played”.


 Lisa Beveridge: “Despite the bad weather on the day which resulted in the school being closed, those that did make it to the Queens Hall would agree that it was worth the wait.


The first half of the workshop was a brilliant presentation by Paul Rissmann who explained in detail how the different sections of the piece were composed. This was shown clearly on a great informative PowerPoint slideshow. We were very privileged to actually have the composer of “The Seafarer” Sally Beamish come on the day to talk us through how she came to have the idea for the piece, an Anglo-Saxon poem with the same name about a man’s life at sea.


I found it very interesting hearing about all the different techniques used by the viola as I knew very little about the instrument before. These were all demonstrated beautifully by principal violist Jane Atkins.


After a short interval, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra gave us a wonderful performance of all the three movements from start to finish. Having the presentation first gave me a better understanding of what was going on in each part of the music and it was helpful for understanding what the different instruments looked and sounded.


Going on the trip has been a great experience that has helped me understand the ways in which you can construct a piece of music and also let me hear a professional orchestra perform. Hopefully what I learnt I can apply in the future to help with the Standard Grade music course”.