Re-defining the string orchestra, Scottish Ensemble inspires audiences in the UK and beyond with vibrant performances which are powerful, challenging and rewarding experiences. Known both in the UK and internationally for its versatility and ambitious programming, Scottish Ensemble reaches out to create rich partnerships across boundaries of genre, geography and musical style.
Founded in 1969 and based in Glasgow, Scottish Ensemble is the UK’s only professional string orchestra, built around a core of 12 outstanding string players who perform together under Artistic Director Jonathan Morton. SE’s distinctive programming style habitually blends music from different ages, offering new perspectives and making unexpected connections. Performing standing up, the individual players bring an energetic and passionate dynamic to every performance, both in the concert hall and in SE’s comprehensive programme of education and outreach activities.
Its work in this area was developed further in 2012 with the launch of the City Residency programme, aiming to engage communities around major Scottish Ensemble touring venues with music of the highest quality, in ways relevant to them. The bespoke four-day residencies have included: late-night events, masterclasses, ‘pop-up’ performances, coaching sessions, free community performances, collaborative cross-genre projects, and participatory events including tea dances and ceilidhs.
Committed to developing the string repertoire, SE seeks out unusual pieces, and has commissioned a rich catalogue of new works from some of the brightest voices working in music today. In recent years, these have included composers such as Sir John Tavener, James MacMillan, Sally Beamish, Martin Suckling, John Woolrich, Craig Armstrong, Luke Bedford and Thea Musgrave.
SE’s first-class reputation attracts collaborations with world-class soloists including trumpeter Alison Balsom; tenor Toby Spence; violinist Anthony Marwood; cellist Pieter Wispelwey and violist Lawrence Power. SE also welcomes collaborations with musicians from different traditions, performing alongside Scottish folk musicians Catriona McKay, Chris Stout, and Aly Bain; DJ and electronic producer Alex Smoke; Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and American bassist Edgar Meyer. Most recently, Scottish Ensemble has collaborated with one of Scotland’s leading artists Toby Paterson in an ambitious, cross art-form project bringing together music, art and architecture.
Alongside performances across Scotland, SE presents an annual series of concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall and has appeared at BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International, City of London, Aldeburgh and St Magnus festivals. Recent invitations to tour abroad have resulted in engagements in Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Taiwan, and China. In 2013 SE undertook an 11-date tour of the USA, performing in prestigious halls including Walt Disney Hall and New York Town Hall.
SE’s extensive recording catalogue includes EMI Classics’ top-selling CD of 2010: Italian Concertos with Alison Balsom, and the first in a three-disc series on highly respected label Linn Records, comprising Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, was released in February 2015.