Re-defining the string orchestra, the 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, the Ensemble reaches out to create rich partnerships across boundaries of genre, geography and musical style.
Founded in 1969 and based in Glasgow, the 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. The Ensemble’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 the Ensemble’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 Ensemble touring venues with music of the highest quality, in ways relevant to them. The bespoke four-day residencies have included: late-night events, ‘pop-up’ performances, masterclasses, coaching sessions, free community performances, collaborative cross-genre projects, and participatory events including tea dances and ceilidhs.
Committed to developing the string repertoire, the Ensemble 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.
The Ensemble’s first-class reputation attracts collaborations with world-class soloists including, most recently, trumpeter Alison Balsom; tenor Toby Spence; violinist Anthony Marwood; cellist Pieter Wispelwey and violist Lawrence Power. The Ensemble also welcomes collaborations with musicians from different traditions, performing alongside Scottish folk musicians Catriona McKay, Chris Stout, and Aly Bain; DJ Alex Smoke; Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and American bassist Edgar Meyer.
Alongside concerts in major venues in the Scottish cities, the Ensemble exploits its flexibility by performing in more intimate, unconventional or remote spaces across Scotland. In addition, the Ensemble also enjoys an established annual series at London’s Wigmore Hall and has appeared at the BBC Proms and St Magnus, Aldeburgh and Edinburgh International Festivals. Recent invitations to tour abroad include an invitation from the Scottish Government to celebrate St. Andrew’s Day in Brussels, concerts in Turkey and Austria, and tours of China and the USA. The Ensemble’s extensive recording catalogue includes EMI Classics’ top-selling CD of 2010: Italian Concertos with Alison Balsom.
As one of Creative Scotland’s Foundation Organisations, the Scottish Ensemble is proud to contribute to Scotland’s cultural stature and creative identity.