Keith Bruce

Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 5 May 2018

THREE decades after the composer himself had visited Glasgow for Scottish Opera’s performances of his opera Candide — at the invitation of his former pupil and recent returnee to the city John Mauceri — the centenary of great conductor and educator Leonard Bernstein was celebrated by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with a performance of his epic and rarely heard MASS.

For all its deficiencies, like a long list of pop and rock albums made in 1971, MASS is a piece of music that stands as a glorious reminder of more optimistic times. In what was its first professional outing in Scotland, it was given a memorable realisation with visiting experts on the work, conductor Kristjan Jarvi and splendidly-named baritone Jubilant Sykes, more than ably supported by a cohort of local talent from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and the singers of the RSNO’s Junior and Senior Chorus.

Tectonics, Glasgow City Halls and Old Fruitmarket, annually from May 2013

ALTHOUGH principal conductors of tender years are now much more in vogue, when Ilan Volkov was appointed to direct the BBC SSO at the age of just 26, it was big news. His successor Donald Runnicles had been in charge for four years when he later brought his Tectonics weekend of new and experimental music to Glasgow. Working in partnership with like-minded Scottish music promoter Alasdair Campbell, Tectonics began with a celebration of Cornelius Cardew and commissions for composers working in Scotland, including David Fennessy and Martin Suckling. Hugely popular from the start, it embraces an international perspective alongside showcasing live art from Scotland, demolishing barriers between the audience for orchestral music and rock and indie gigs with casual aplomb. Just as more conservative music fans sign up for the commercial summer festivals before any line-up is announced, those with curious ears flock to Tectonics for the thrill of surprises.

GRIT Orchestra, Celtic Connections, 15 January 2015

TWO decades into its existence, the hugely successful New Year trad and roots music festival in Glasgow needed a bit of a kick up the bum. It was supplied by a man who had died at the age of 33 a decade previously, Martyn Bennett, and a fiddler who worked with him before leading the second violins of the BBC SSO, Greg Lawson. To celebrate the music of Bennett, beyond argument one of the most inventive musicians Scotland has produced, Lawson formed the 80-piece GRIT Orchestra which brought together classical, jazz and traditional musicians to make a unique free-wheeling sound. Although the plan is that it will move on to playing its own commissions, the repertoire thus far has been Lawson’s own arrangements of Bennett’s work, specifically his Grit and Bothy Culture albums. From that Nae Regrets debut concert, the GRIT Orchestra has taken Edinburgh Playhouse (firstly as part of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival), WOMAD, and the SSE Hydro in its stride.

The Rio Club, Glasgow Jazz Festival, 29 June 2012

ALTHOUGH the presence of Government-funded national companies in the city obscures the fact, the cultural structure of Glasgow is in precarious health, with buildings in poor state of repair and companies chronically short of money. Of the blooming of the arts in the years leading up to Glasgow’s annus mirabilis as European City of Culture in 1990, Glasgow Jazz Festival, now well into its 30s, stands alone as a robust survivor. Regularly setting other benchmarks in its employment of women, on stage and off, and in giving main stage opportunities to young players as well as showcasing veteran talents, it had also repurposed the Old Fruitmarket when it was being used as a car park, and kick-started the redevelopment of the City Halls and the Merchant City. This past decade, it repeated that trick with the pop-up Rio Club in a basement at the other end of the same Candleriggs block. On this particularly memorable Friday evening its walls were sweating as the dance-floor throbbed to the funky triple-bill of The Federation of the Disco Pimp, James Taylor Quartet and Craig Charles on the decks.

Five Telegrams, Festival Square, Edinburgh, 3 August 2018

GIVEN recent UK politics, it is paradoxical that the most significant arts initiative of the decade marked the sacrifice and common cause of the First World War in Europe a century earlier. 14-18NOW was a model of cultural commissioning that reached every corner of the British Isles, brought professional artists and the wider community together as never before, and created a long list of unforgettable events.

Opening both the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and last year’s Edinburgh International Festival, at the Usher Hall, Scots composer Anna Meredith’s Five Telegrams teamed her music with the visual skills of 59 Productions in a free outdoor event that was the last in a series of such to open the Festival. Based on material in the Imperial War Museum, it was a dynamic act of remembrance that was simultaneously absolutely of Now.