Click on the "Spot the Beard" link at the bottom of Daniel's Beard's website and up pops a screen full of classical music's most iconic facial hair.

There's Brahms, obviously, and the dainty Gallic goatees of Debussy, Satie and Ravel. Arvo Part blinks shyly from behind a set of mystical whiskers and Terry Riley looks a veritable Gandalf. Purists among us might question the inclusion of Glazunov, Sibelius, Elgar, Puccini, Stravinsky and Scriabin – all impressively moustached but suspiciously clean-chinned -

The point being that if you're lucky enough to have a beard (or moustache) of similar clout you'll be granted free entry to any concert in the Cottier Chamber Project. As a marketing ploy it's zany, if vaguely discriminatory, but seems to chime in with the project's generally off-kilter ethos. This is Scotland's youngest, most genuinely grassroots and rapidly burgeoning chamber music festival. Running for only its second edition as part of Glasgow's West End Festival, the project treads an excellent line between bonkers DIY and seriously high calibre. Three things stand out on skimming the programme. First off, there's a lot of it: a whopping 28 concerts in the space of three weeks, which for an enterprise that's only a year old seems a wildly ambitious undertaking. Second, the line-up is 100 per cent Scottish. That makes it unique among our classical festivals. In fact, all of the groups participating are based in the central belt, and most of them in Glasgow.

"The West End Festival is primarily a celebration of local arts, and protecting that identity is important to us," says Andy Saunders, the project's notably clean-shaven founder-director. "Plus there hasn't really been a single platform for Scottish chamber groups until now. Looking elsewhere often seems more exotic for programmers, so local groups end up being overlooked. Part of our idea was to provide an opportunity for us to come together as a sector."

Finally – and crucially – there's the calibre of the thing. From pianists Steven Osborne to Alasdair Beatson, the Hebrides, Scottish and Red Note ensembles, the SCO strings, Dunedin Consort and Mr McFall's Chamber, Scotland's finest have signed up for a slot at Cottiers. The project is hosted by resident ensemble Daniel's Beard, a two-year-old consortium of orchestral players and freelancers who all live in Glasgow's West End. There are appearances from James MacMillan and Eddie McGuire and Jamie MacDougall narrating Liz Lochhead's Scots version of Peter and the Wolf. Needless to say, artist fees available from the community festival aren't vast. How did the organisers clinch such an impressive rostrum?

"I just phoned them all up and asked," shrugs Saunders, admitting that the flat fee offered "is less than you might earn for a solo Wigmore Hall recital". What it comes down to, he says, is that musicians "really like playing chamber music".

He goes on: "Einstein defined it as the music of friends conversing. You'll find all sorts of definitions floating around on Google: music for fewer than 12 players, music that can be played in a room, music that can be played without a conductor. But I like Einstein's definition the best."

Su-a Lee is one of Scotland's many orchestral musicians who choose to take time off to play chamber music. A cellist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and member of Mr McFall's Chamber, she articulates the appeal of the small scale in terms of its expressive potential. "When it comes to sitting within an orchestra, we ultimately take our musical direction from the conductor. So it gives us a sense of freedom and autonomy when we play chamber music. What is interesting is the dialogue and communication needed. There is no question that the more you put in, the more you get out of it; a metaphor for life."

Saunders, himself a horn player and member of Daniel's Beard, stresses another benefit of self-run chamber groups: they allow musicians to select their own repertoire. And as the Cottier programme testifies – from Purcell to Clapperton, Kurtag to Sally Beamish, Klezmer to the Kris Drever Trio – classical musicians' tastes tend to be a lot broader than the music they get to play in orchestras.

Integral to the project is Cottiers Theatre itself. Formally Dowanhill Church and famously decorated by Glasgow's star 19th century interior designer Daniel Cottier, it has a bar next door, a restaurant upstairs, some stunning stained-glass and a cracking acoustic. Its major drawback is obvious for anyone who's been to a performance there on a warm summer evening: those classy stained-glass windows aren't great at filtering out the happy chatter from the beer garden adjacent. "Cottiers is something of a work in progress," says Saunders, diplomatically. "The door, at least, is being soundproofed as we speak. The windows - well, they're highly listed. So no, they can't be soundproofed."

Does it matter? Perhaps not, according to Saunders. "Chamber music is too often associated with a specialist audience. Maybe it still has a 'precious' tag – maybe that's because it became popular through people who had big chambers with big pianos in them, which is a shame, because that kind of exclusivity couldn't be farther from what it's really about. So what we're trying to do is show people why this kind of music can be relevant to them. Embedding our concerts into a well-loved local venue like Cottiers is one part of that. Integrating them with the experience of going to a bar and a restaurant is another. So actually, the noise from the beer garden might help with the informal conversational feel we're going for. It keeps a connection between real life and the music we're playing." A silver-lining if ever there was one.

All concerts are an hour long and most start at 6.30pm, with a few late-night slots for Moishe's Bagel, the Kris Drever Trio and Mr McFall's. There are afternoon children's concerts – including Peter and the Wolf and the percussion duo Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox – and a series of afternoon talks featuring the likes of James MacMillan, Michael Tumelty and Tom Service. "Most West End Festival events start at 8pm so we didn't want to clash," explains Saunders, ever the canny diplomat. "Folk can stop on the way home from work for an hour of good music, a cup of tea or a pint, maybe some dinner. What we want to do is encourage performers and audience to have a dialogue – maybe not verbally during the actual music, but hopefully a sense of intimacy in the performance can turn into chat afterwards in the bar."

The Cottiers Chamber Project runs from June 1-22. Details at