IN an era of cancellations and enforced inactivity, it is both welcome and appropriate that one of Scotland’s newer celebrations of artistic talent will be going ahead tomorrow as scheduled.

The 2020 Scottish Awards for New Music, which were to have been revealed at the V&A in Dundee, will now be an online event, and given the robust response of contemporary musicians to the current restrictions on their work environment as a result of the medical emergency, that will be worth witnessing on your tablet, computer or smart phone, via YouTube, from 8pm. Host for the evening is broadcaster Jamie MacDougall, and violinist Nicola Benedetti heads the list of celebrity presenters.

The shortlist is pretty much a Who’s Who of the writers, players and promoters operating at the cutting edge of contemporary classical music, with well-known names like composers Nigel Osborne, Thea Musgrave and Judith Weir, Aberdeen’s Sound Festival, Chamber Music Scotland, the SCO and the Scottish Ensemble, rubbing shoulders with the geographically-adventurous youthful Nevis Ensemble, Stuart MacRae’s Scottish Opera hit Anthropocene, and fiddler Aidan O’Rourke’s year-long response to the stories of James Robertson, 365.

Nominated in two categories, “Making it Happen” and Creative Programming, is composer Matthew Whiteside for his promotions under the banner The Night With . . . A graduate in music from Queen’s University in his native Northern Ireland, with a Masters from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow, where he has remained, Whiteside’s concerts and the awards themselves, with which he has been involved since their inception, have progressed along parallel tracks.

While Whiteside has helped with the organisation of the awards over the last four years, and produced the 2019 event, The Night With . . . has expanded from two concerts in Glasgow in 2016, to four in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 2017, nine, adding Aberdeen in its reach, the following year, and a dizzying 25 in the most recent season, including a couple in Belfast. Assuming the funding Whiteside expects to secure, the next season will see The Night With . . . go international, adding a Paris date to a tour of recitals featuring violinist Emma Lloyd.

“It has always been about ‘taking a safe risk’ in the expansion of the programme,” he says. “If I think there is an audience, we’ll try it and then move on.”

Whiteside’s first gigs were in Glasgow’s Bloc pub on Bath Street and the Old Hairdresser’s in Renfield Lane. He credits Creative Scotland with suggesting the now regular Glasgow venue of Great Western Road’s Hug & Pint, where the layout has proved particularly conducive to the atmosphere new music requires.

“The idea was to approach putting on the gigs like a rock or pop concert, but with a more attentive audience.”

The success of Whiteside’s approach can now – happily under the present circumstances – be appreciated in the comfort of your own home, thanks to the recent release of a double album, Live: Volume One, which gathers recordings made in Glasgow and Edinburgh throughout the last season.

Without exception these are very well made indeed, as well as capturing the playful intensity of the music-making that was witnessed by those who were there, on the evidence of the performances I managed to attend myself.

The variety of music over the two-hours-plus captured on the discs gives a very accurate flavour of the diversity of Whiteside’s programming in what might at first seem a somewhat rarefied field. Star viola soloist Garth Knox, a former New Music award-winner, plays a work written for his Viola d’Amore by Whiteside, as well as an exquisite little five-movement suite he composed himself, and a commission by A Night With . . . from Nora Marazaite. The Hermes Experiment, which combines clarinet, harp, voice and double bass, tackles works by Whiteside’s contemporaries Ruari Paterson-Achenbach and Matthew Grouse, and Ensemble 1604, an electronics-enhanced baroque band of counter-tenor, recorders, cello and theorbo ranges from Dowland and Byrd to compositions Terry Riley and band-member Timothy Cooper.

“It is a combination of relationships I’ve sought out, and people coming to me,” says Whiteside. “I don’t have the budget to pay for international flights, so we have to gain profile by people wanting to come. But there are bigger venues in our plans.”

As well as Lloyd, the forthcoming season will include performance by bassist Malachy Robinson’s Panoramic Quartet, the New Antonine Brass Quintet, which was formed five years ago by students at the Royal Scottish Conservatoire, a programme by the Red Note Ensemble, and the first return visit by a group featured at A Night With . . . when the trio of Anna Snow, Sarah Dacey and Kerry Andrew, who have already won international acclaim as Juice Vocal Ensemble, sing a piece Whiteside has written for them.

The composer admits to some schizophrenia in his dual role as promoter and writer, and tries to distance The Night With . . . from “composer Matthew Whiteside”.

“My stuff is sprinkled through the season but it is not in every single concert. It is much easier to step back and be objective when my own work is not there.”

The other side of the coin, of course, is that both roles inform each other. The Night With . . . live album follows hard on the heels of his own most recent release, Entangled, featuring three string quartets performed by the Aurea Quartet. And no sooner had lockdown been decreed than Whiteside was sharing his own guide to self-releasing music, using the latest technology and platforms – advice that applies equally well to the spheres of pop, rock, folk and jazz as it does to contemporary classical composition.

He has searching questions about the payment system for music that is shared online, and wonders why classical music has been slow to engage with streaming, but, live gigs apart, Whiteside says his working life is not that much different from normal, only with many other people joining the online party. “It is amazing how quickly people have taken it up.”

The Scottish Awards for New Music will be broadcast on YouTube on April 14; A Night With. . . will restart with Juice Vocal Ensemble in October.