All of the recent news surrounding the Scottish vote for independence has the classical music community reflecting on the music and musicians that have come out of Scotland. NPR’s Classical Music Blog, Deceptive Cadence, wrote up a quick review of some of their favorite composers and performers. They included Judith Weir – and how could they not, as the new Master of the Queen’s Music. But there are many more composers who deserve more than just a minute in the spotlight.
Sally Beamish (b. 1956), though born in London, currently lives and works in Scotland. Her work for large and small ensembles has been commissioned widely and includes two symphonies, many concerti, chamber works, film scores, and music for theatre. She has also served as composer in residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Helen Grime (b. 1981) began studying music at age nine at the City of Edinburgh Music School and eventually continued on to the Royal College of Music. Her composition teachers included Sally Beamish and Jennifer Martin. In addition to her acclaimed career as a composer, Grime is also a highly accomplished oboist – performing as the soloist in the world premiere of her Oboe Concerto which written on commission for the Meadows Chamber Orchestra (Edinburgh) and which won a prize in the British Composer Awards. Other works have been commissioned but the London Symphony Orchestra, and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945) was a pianist and composer and a contemporary of Amy Beach. She made her American debut in 1883 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1897 she accepted the invitation of George Chadwick to teach at the New England Conservatory, and lived in Boston for the rest of her life. Her compositions, which included chamber works as well as orchestral pieces, often included Scottish folk melodies.
Anna Meredith (b. 1978) is a composer and performer of electronic and acoustic music. She has been commissioned by the BBC Proms and served as composer in residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Thea Musgrave (b. 1928) was a student of Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copland, and her compositions continue to receive international appeal and acclaim. Musgrave has lived and worked in the United States since 1972. Major works include compositions for orchestra and chamber ensembles, as well as many operas – including several that feature the lives of historic women (Mary, Queen of Scots and Harriet, the Woman called ‘Moses’).