Newer events like the East Neuk Festival and the Lammermuir Festival build on an infrastructure of music clubs and societies – some with histories dating back to the middle of the last century – that have annual programmes of top quality performances in community halls, churches and other venues in every corner of the country. That network, which is supported by Creative Scotland through national body Enterprise Music Scotland, is arguably unique to this nation, certainly when the scale of the activity is set alongside the size of the country and its challenging geography. As the EMS slogan boasts: "There is always a concert near you."
Next month EMS is bringing all these various strands of activity together for a special two-day conference, Chamber Music Matters, at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, on May 25 and 26. The dates coincide with the next phase of Svend Brown's Minimal concerts, showcasing the music of Philip Glass and featuring the Kronos Quartet. Kronos leader David Harrington is one of those contributing to the conference, which embraces the quartet's performance on the Friday evening.
To that EMS has added a concert by a trio from Germany's Ensemble Modern, European music pioneers for over 30 years. In an important link with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which is showcasing its composing talent in the Plug concerts this week, the group will workshop half a dozen new works by student composers and then select one or two for world premiere performances in their own recital.
Scotland's own international-class chamber groups the Scottish Ensemble, the Hebrides Ensemble and the Red Note Ensemble will also feature over the two days with their directors and administrators joining academics from Scottish universities to discuss the way forward for chamber music. Composers James MacMillan, John Harris, Gareth Williams and David Fennessy are also part of the programme and the opening address on Friday will be given by writer and broadcaster Tom Service.
Delegates to the conference have a packed agenda, ending on Saturday afternoon with a recital by the Sutherland Duo, current recipients of one of the EMS residencies, and places are still available. The conference has also generated a showcase event for young ensembles, taking place parallel with the Kronos concert, at Glasgow's Merchant House, and for which tickets will be available to the public separately.
The event also marks the merger of Chamber Music Forum Scotland into the longer-established Enterprise Music Scotland with composer Oliver Searle joining the EMS board. It is a consolidation of resources that Creative Scotland has rewarded with extra investment of almost £30,000 from funds dedicated to growing the country's "cultural economy".
Helen McVey, executive manager of EMS, sees Chamber Music Matters as "a sign of developments to come".
She added: "We make professional live music happen and we want to celebrate our musicians, our audiences and ask the big questions on the future of the classical music industry."