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A galaxy of stars aiming to light up the musical sky

A week tomorrow there will be a remarkable gathering of luminaries at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

At 3pm on November 18, this amazing group of stars will give a one-off concert which is at once a fundraising affair and a celebration of a scheme that has had a profound impact on the development of Scottish-born musicians over the past 85 years and across generations of young artists early in their careers.

At the concert there will be a string quartet, formed for the day, with soloist Hector Scott playing first violin, Claire Docherty from the SCO playing second and Scott Dickinson, formerly of the Leopold String Trio, now a section principal in the BBC SSO, on viola. Cellist will be Alasdair Tait, previously with the Belcea Quartet, now head of chamber music at the Guildhall School of Music and chief executive of YCAT, the Young Concert Artists Trust.

There will be a trio of opera singers, with soprano Nadine Livingston, who recently graced the stage at Covent Garden, mezzo Arlene Rolph, who has appeared with Scottish Opera, Welsh National Opera and opera houses across Europe, and Kate Valentine, a familiar voice at most of the UK's opera houses.

Yet another singer, tenor Jamie MacDougall, perhaps the best-known voice and face in musical Scotland through his presentations on Radio 3 and Radio Scotland, will compere the event and do a bit of singing.

There will also be a battery of instrumentalists, including trumpeters Mark O'Keeffe, principal of the BBC SSO, and Laurie Gargan, principal with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and bassonist Fraser Gordon, principal with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and there will be pianists galore, with Iain Burnside, also a Radio 3 presenter, who will accompany the singers, and Laura Baxter, pianist with the RSNO and NYCoS choruses, who will accompany the instrumentalists.

With a single exception the artists have two things in common: they are native Scots and they have all been beneficiaries of a Sir James Caird Travelling Scholarship, which is what next Sunday's fundraising concert is all about. The travelling scholarship scheme is a phenomenon in the modern history of cultural Scotland, and the evidence for that is writ large within the history of the scheme. It derives ultimately from the seedbed philanthropy of Sir James Caird, the jute magnate, mathematician and entrepreneur who gave his native Dundee the magnificent Caird Hall, which has been a suitably massive performing space for larger-than-life characters such as the late organist Carlo Curley, and doubled as a recording studio for some of the legendary Chandos recordings by Neeme Jarvi and the RSNO.

In 1927, a series of Travelling Scholarships bearing Caird's name was set up by his half-sister, one Mrs Marryatt, after whom the smaller hall within the Caird Hall is named. Her start-up investment was £200,000, and the scholarships, reflecting Sir James's broad range of passions, were available in engineering, electricity, aeronautics and music. In the music scheme, more than 800 young Scottish musicians have benefited from a travelling scholarship which is awarded by audition and which stipulates that the musicians must leave Scotland to further their studies.

A survey of the scheme's alumni is revealing. Through its rigorous auditioning process in Glasgow and London, it appears to have developed, over the generations, an unerring instinct for spotting the big names of tomorrow today, early in their careers. Kenneth McKellar got one in 1947; a young Alexander Gibson got one in 1949, 10 years before he took over the Scottish National Orchestra and launched a renaissance.

The list reads like a Who's Who of musical Scotland past and present, including the late conductor Roderick Brydon, accompanist extraordinare Malcolm Martineau, singers Isobel Buchanan, Karen Cargill and Linda Finnie, pianist Steven Osborne, RCS principal John Wallace, cellist and Hebrides Ensemble artistic director Will Conway, and, bang up to date, young Sean Shibe, a recipient this year and already a master guitarist.

The fund now needs support; ergo the star-studded concert, with a pot pourri of music ranging from Mozart to Piazzolla. Tickets, priced £25, are available from RCS box office on 0141 332 5057.

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