Simply Red Note, RCS, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Three stars

I'M probably going to say the wrong thing here (that'll be a change, eh?) but I found some of the new pieces unveiled in the opening concert of the RCS's week-long festival of contemporary music, Plug, given on Tuesday night by the Red Note ensemble, absolutely charming. The expressions "charming" and "contemporary music" might not have occurred previously in the same sentence.

Still, It's a matter of both fact and music that there was some beautifully-poignant composition in Jay Richards' Isonzo, where even the triple-time sway and martial references didn't detract from the reflective core of the piece. And Robert Allan's exquisite evocation, I am forever staring at the sky, did exactly what was suggested by the title, with its light, weightlessly-delicate orchestration for mixed ensemble: a real gem. And so too, in a different way, was Nicholas Olsen's evocation of timelessness in the first movement of his Echoes of Empire, which had the genuine sense of a distant past in its first movement and an appropriately-pastoral feel to its second.

Though Oonagh Marnane's JUX was close to archetypal minimalist models, and felt as though it missed an exit point, the slow progression of the music's heartbeat and pulse was impressively-controlled.

And while the big-boned gesturalism of Thomas Brown's 'tell it like it is' essay in self- confidence, titled Unabashed, was clever enough, what was really effective was when he turned it on its head and did it all subversively. As ever, the playing of Robert Irvine's Red Note band made the night sing and the music fly. Holly Mathieson and Andrey Rubtsov shared conducting honours.