Scotland treats its musicians like ….

Scotland treats its musicians like ….


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2021

From a new indictment by former MEP Hugh Kerr:

There has recently been quite a lot of chatter in England about the lack of opportunities for British musicians, especially singers, to appear in public with British companies and orchestras, and this is perhaps a good time to cast a spotlight on the classical music scene in Scotland.

Sadly, that spotlight shines on an even greater discrepancy between Scottish institutions and Scottish musicians. The current excellent digital seasons being streamed by the SCO and the RSNO reveal a noticeable lack of Scottish accents at any point in the programmes. Almost none of the introductions by members of the orchestras or the soloists are by Scottish musicians, and this invites the question ‘Where are the Scots?’ ‘Are they all at the back desks or down the line?’ With the notable exceptions of Ms Cargill and Ms Benedetti there are no publicly recognised and lauded Scottish instrumentalists, singers or conductors? This situation has gone on for decades now and can’t just be excused by the famous ‘Scottish Cringe’, by which we mean that very Scottish desire to avoid the limelight and to appear self-deprecating…

Read on here.



  • Pierre says:

    I’m glad to hear more and more regions recognizing that not enough light is shone on local talent – I think we as a whole, the classical music industry, have a lot to gain from this perspective. Local talent (for example, a musician who’d studied in that region’s conservatory, will generally attract a broader public, opening up classical music to a larger audience, without necessarily having to compromise on the music itself.

    Let’s not forget that in order to achieve phenomenal artistry, a musician needs, time and time again, opportunities to present its interpretations to the public. Give your local youth a chance, with quality coaching, and that youth WILL grow into artists of a comparable stature to the best. On another level, with this homegrown approach, I imagine we might return to a less globalised form of playing, with more regional “flavors”. Win win scenario, no?

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    There is of course the excellent Edinburgh City Organist John Kitchen MBE

  • JussiB says:

    Where are the Scots? A more culturally appropriate question would be – “Where are the blacks, muslims, asians, trans, and latinx?”

  • Dick Carter says:

    Blood and soil separatism is never a good look.

  • Nick2 says:

    This is so very sad, the more so when you compare the situation today with the great days when Alexander Gibson was in charge of Scottish Opera and what was then the SNO. David Ward, Bill McCue, Ian Wallace, Catherine Wilson, Pat Hay, John Lawson Graham, Claire Livingston, John Robertson, Phyllis Cannan, Roderick Brydon and later Isobel Buchanan, Margaret Marshall, Evelyn Glennie and a host of others would grace the stages, opera podiums and concert halls of Scotland. Indeed Sir Alex saw it as his mission to promote Scottish artists as much as to bring the best of the world to Scotland. How he is missed!

    • Gregor Tassie says:

      The board were determined to get rid of Alex Gibson because they thought he was spending too much time at Scottish Opera, but they also got rid of Jack Thomson after just two years, they prefer foreign conductors, of course we all know why someone called Leo Stokes renamed himself as Leopold Stokowski, and he wasn’t the only British-born musician to a foreign, perhaps more cultured name…

      • Gerry McDonald says:

        I’m afraid your Stokowski one is a well disproven myth!

        • Anon9 says:

          Wikipedia says that his first wife was the American pianist Olga Samaroff, born Lucy Mary Agnes Hickenlooper! And that Leopold Anthony Stokowski changed his middle name to Antoni to sound more Polish. You can see how the myth arose.

      • V.Lind says:

        It was widespread in ballet. Think of Edris Stannis and Alice Marks.

  • Patrick John Gordon Shaw says:

    All sadly down to the lack of importance the dictatorial SNP attach to the importance of the Arts to the health of Scots!

  • Jimmy Mac says:

    The only Scottish cringe I’m aware of is the butt clenching one when Jamie McDougall appears at the opening of a bag of crisps to over do the granny’s Heilan Hame accent with couthy gags that die a death.

  • M McAlpine says:

    And the SNP likes to kid people it is farthing the interests of Scottish people! What a joke!

  • Iain says:

    Not that long ago my uncle, also Scottish and not uneducated, commented on concerts at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall: “It’s nice to have these things for the ladies”.

    Sadly, I don’t think his opinion is unique.

  • Hamish McCunn says:

    It’s a poorly researched article by an amateur musician from a blo that describes itself as posting ‘perhaps some gossip’ posted as clickbait by Norman. A few posts above is
    There are some good points in there, but only because the spread is so wide that it would be impossible not to get *something* right. Luckily, actual trained professionals are aware of them and working to fix them.

    I don’t really get it though. If you’re genuinely concerned, why not make sure that your articles are based in truth?

    • Christopher Clift says:

      By coincidence with your comment beginning with the impression that the whole article has been poorly researched, I commented in the journal which featured it, (by Hugh Kerr):

      “Just curious to know whether the author has researched the nationality of players in the BBC SSO and RSNO, or whether he is judging the state of affairs purely on their voices, or their names?”

  • SVM says:

    Kerr makes some valid points, but we need to keep in mind that:

    *the population of the entirety of Scotland is significantly lower than the population of London;
    *using the “Scottish accent” (which, by the way, is not a singular monolith — even if restricting oneself to the urbanised areas of the Central Belt, there is enormous diversity *among* accents that are evidently “Scottish”) as a proxy for defining a person as “Scottish” is a very imprecise criterion (some Scots adopt Received Pronunciation); and
    *a lot of Scots (with or without a “Scottish accent”) move south (there are plenty of musicians with “Scottish accents” in London).

    Having said all this, I think Kerr is right to express concern about the marginalisation of classical music in the education system (a problem that is not unique to Scotland).