Musical Cities - Glasgow

24 May 2021

Glasgow is a vibrant city with a music scene that stretches from contemporary and classical to traditional or even techno. Let’s take a look at some of its top classical companies and venues.

Glasgow’s Britannia Panopticon is the world’s oldest surviving music hall. The city’s concert halls include the Old Fruitmarket and the Royal Concert Hall, which hosts the annual folk and roots festival Celtic Connections and is home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Several national arts companies are based in Glasgow including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and the Scottish Ensemble.

First opened in 1867, the Theatre Royal Glasgow is now home to Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet. Scottish Opera was founded by Alexander Gibson in 1962 and in 1974 the company purchased the Theatre Royal. It reopened as Scotland’s first national opera house in October 1975 with a performance of Die Fledermaus. Sir David Pountney’s relationship with WNO began with a Janáček cycle of operas starting with Jenůfa in 1975, co-produced with Scottish Opera, where Pountney was Director of Productions at the time. The series was a triumph and brought Janáček’s music to great acclaim in the UK.

Scottish Opera’s Summer 2021 programme includes an outdoor production of Falstaff, designed and directed by the world-renowned Sir David McVicar. McVicar was born in Glasgow and trained at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama as an actor, designer and director. He directed WNO’s 2009 production of La traviata, which returned to the stage in 2018. 

Flora and Violetta are at the centre of a crowd, chatting closely.

Another unmissable venue is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which houses one of Europe's most impressive art collections. It is also home to a magnificent organ and often hosts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as well as students from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the main hall.

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland started life as the Glasgow Athenaeum in 1847 and for the first 39 years, it only offered music classes, but drama was introduced to the curriculum in 1886. In 1892 the Athenaeum appointed its first professor, Emma Ritter-Bondy, believed to be the very first female professor of a UK higher education institution. It was from the Athenaeum’s School of Music that the Scottish National Academy of Music was formed in 1929. By 1944 its international standing was recognised by King George VI, making it the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. It was in 2011 that the institution became The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a name change which signified its national status and growing curriculum, with degrees offered across the whole performing arts.

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Phamie Gow (b.1980) studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. She has produced and released 9 albums of her own compositions and her War Song has appeared on several best-selling compilations. The late Oliver Knussen (1952-2018) was born in Glasgow and was one of the UK’s most respected contemporary composers and conductors. Among his best-known works are the operas Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! written in collaboration with illustrator Maurice Sendak.

Not only is Glasgow full of history and culture, but it was also recently voted the world’s friendliest city by the readers of Rough Guides. As the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music and top cultural creative city (European Commission 2019) it certainly has plenty to offer.