THERE were many reasons why last Sunday afternoon’s concert at Glasgow City Halls was a well-supported event. It was part of (in fact the sole Scottish contribution to) BBC Radio 3’s Berlioz – The Ultimate Romantic, a weekend of concerts and associated programming that was heavily promoted and an example of the broadcasting organisation at the top of its game.

Involving all of its orchestras across the UK, and the BBC Singers, it also roped in some of the most informed scholars of the composer’s life and work and was presented with great intelligence. By subtly linking the famously lovelorn Hector Berlioz to the Feast of St Valentine, the Beeb also justified stealing a march on other celebrations of the 150th anniversary of his death, which falls next month.

Then there was the presence in Glasgow of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, a rare event in itself, to perform a real Berlioz rarity, Lelio. A national choir in a way that neither the RSNO nor the SCO’s amateur chorus is, the West of Scotland members who travel to rehearsals in Edinburgh on a Tuesday evening hardly ever get the opportunity to sing for their home crowd. It is self-evident box office catnip to put an amateur choir on the concert stage as friends and family loyally turn out to hear them. Add in the local factor, as well as the opportunity for Edinburgh supporters to appreciate the chorus in the very different acoustic of the City Hall, and the chorus can claim a fair few of the ticket-buyers as well.

Of course the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which is asked to play the broadest repertoire of any of Scotland’s orchestras, has its own fan-base as well, but the other crucial factor in this programme was mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, Scotland’s other international superstar, singing Berlioz’s dramatic solo cantata La Mort de Cleopatra. It is the work with which Berlioz inexplicably did not win the Prix de Rome (at the third attempt; it took him four), and is a classic of the repertoire for a voice in Cargill’s range. Her fanbase – and we are many – would not have missed this performance, and we also know that opportunities to hear the finest voice to come out of Arbroath are going to be scarce for the next wee while.

Nicola Benedetti may be the Scottish classical musician with the highest recognition factor among the public, but Cargill is working at the very pinnacle of her profession and is as important an ambassador for music from Scotland. A regular at Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, she’ll be a stranger to the whole of the UK this Spring because of back-to-back engagements at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where she’ll be in residence for the next three months.

Initially she is in two parts of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, in the Met’s production by Canadian auteur Robert Lepage, singing Erde is Das Rheingold and Siegfried. Then in May she takes on the role of Mere Marie in Poulenc’s Dialogues de Carmelites, alongside Isabel Leonard and Karita Mattila, with star conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin in the pit. The wider world will have an opportunity to enjoy John Dexter’s production when it is relayed to cinemas as part of the Met Live in HD series on May 11.

Like Benedetti, Karen Cargill has consistently been a supporter of music education at all levels, a patron of the National Youth Choir of Scotland, whose husband Nick Zekulin runs the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and a regular presence at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. In Cargill and Benedetti, we have two remarkable role models who are using their personal success to make the case for music that those councillors who are cutting free tuition can choose to ignore only at obvious risk to their own, rather smaller, reputations.

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