Elbow Room by Thomas Butler

ThomasButlerLoresRed Note, Sound and Music Embedded Composer in Residence, Thomas Butler‘s new work Elbow Room explores the psychogeography of cites; how we affect the city and how the city affects us.

The culmination of an 18 month residency with Red Note, Elbow Room uses composition, performance and field recording techniques to tell the story of the mid-twentieth century plan to demolish the city of Glasgow and replace it with a futuristic concrete utopia; an architect’s view of a healthier, more rational and productive city, for a healthier, more rational and productive population.

Thomas Butler said: “When I first moved to Glasgow I wondered why there was a motorway running through the city centre; that was really the starting point for this piece. Elbow Room echoes a time when Glasgow was being torn down to make way for a futuristic city powered by its inhabitants; an efficient machine with clean lines and clean living.”

Mixing period films from the Scottish Screen Archive, which extol the virtues of the Glasgow of the future, with new sound recordings made in the city and a virtuosic score featuring violin, cello, percussion, electric guitar, synthesizer, clarinet and bass clarinet, Elbow Room is a nostalgic reflection upon fantasy and reality, ideal and actuality.

John Harris, Red Note Ensemble, said: “Tom has been part of the Red Note ‘family’ since the beginning of last year, and in that time he’s worked with us many different roles – including producer, workshop-leader and even music-stand-mover (!) as part of the all-inclusive experience of his Embedded Residency. It’s now time for him to shine with us as a composer, and we’re thrilled with Elbow Room. It’s such an ambitious and thoughtful piece, and we are incredibly proud to be presenting it with him.” 

Thomas added: “In the city each generation overwrites the last and creates a layered tapestry of ways of living in constant flux. A city’s development is being told at the micro and macro level; from multi-million pound construction projects to old signs and insignia that survive long past the thing they once signified and patches of wasteland, now overgrown ghosts of their former social and commercial life.”

More than just a story, Elbow Room is an evocative, highly stylised voyage combining video footage, still images and music. Transporting the audience back to a glorified past, a time of naively optimistic urban evolution.


Elbow Room @ Summerhall, Edinburgh / 21 May / 8pm / Tickets £8/£5: 
Elbow Room @ The Arches, Glasgow / 22 May / 8pm / Tickets £8/£5:

It’s Time to PLUG in to New Music

PLUG Festival, now in its ninth year, is all about showcasing original compositions by students of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and once again Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, Red Note, will open and close this year’s festival.

PLUG is raw, edgy and exciting as students spill their compositional guts to the public for the first time. The talent is vast and the opportunities are many; no other University or Conservatoire in the UK offers students the chance to have their compositions premiered in this way and it’s a gamble that has paid off. 

RCS Contemporary Ensemble-in-Residence, Red Note, open and close this year’s festival, teaming up with new ensemble Astrid Quartet and RCS students for the opening night, Plug 1 on 30 April, which features compositions by Jay Capperauld, Lucy Hollingsworth and Tom Butler. 

The finale on 2 May, Plug 5 Go Big or Go Home, closes spectacularly with a large ensemble of players from Red Note and MusicLab performing some exciting new works under the baton of visiting Conductor Garry Walker. The programme will include a work by French composer Daniel Fígols Cuevas as part of the continuing partnership with the Paris Conservatoire.

sound Festival & Red Note commission set for first ever UK New Music Biennale

Red Note GCThe partnership between sound, Scotland’s leading New Music festival, Woodend Barn and the acclaimed Red Note Ensemble continues in a new commission from composer Stephen Montague, which is to be part of the UK’s first ever New Music Biennale.

Montague will write a new children’s work for 6 musicians and narrator based on tales sent in by children from different countries across the Commonwealth, which will be rewritten by award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris. The work will be premiered at Woodend Barn in Banchory (Aberdeenshire) in June 2014, followed by further performances at the South Bank Centre in London and in Glasgow as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations.

The work will also be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and recorded by NMC Records. The children’s stories will be sourced through one of Scotland’s major development charities, SCIAF’s, international partners. The commission was one of twenty announced by the PRS for Music Foundation at London’s South Bank Centre.

Thomas Butler appointed Embedded Composer in Residence at Red Note

Glasgow based composer and conductor Thomas Butler has been appointed composer-in-residence at Red Note Ensemble. His residency is part of Sound and Music’s Embedded project, which partners musicians with national arts organisations keen to support and develop creative practice and forge new relationships.

Funded by The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Embedded residencies have an extremely competitive application process, with only five places awarded in 2012-2013. Embedded is a bespoke programme offering up-and-coming composers transformational experience in terms of talent development, artistic ambition, professional practise and growing networks.

Thomas begins his 18 month residency in April. He plans to use composition, performance and field recording techniques to explore the psychogeography of Glasgow. The final distributed multimedia work will engage with the urban landscape of Glasgow and its affect on the people of Glasgow and will be performed in and around Glasgow in summer 2014.

Red Note Ensemble Spring Programme

13 Feb New Music for Strings side-by-side with RCS MusicLab, 7:30pm Music by Part, Adams, McPherson, Munday and Le Lohé

14-16 Feb Red Note and JAM (1) Music for Choir, Organ and Brass in St Andrews, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, all 7:30pm Music by Britten, Rory Boyle, Philip Cooke, Kenneth Leighton and Julian Philips

19-20 Feb Red Note and JAM (2) Music for Voices, Organ and Strings in Glasgow and Edinburgh, all 8pm Music by Pergolesi and Judith Bingham.

25 Feb Noisy Night No. 21 in the Traverse Theatre, 8pm: music for Trumpet, Flute and ‘Cello

6-8 Mar Pictures at an Exhibition Workshops for Primary Schools in Association with Peacock Visual Arts in the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

9 Mar Noisy Night No. 22 in the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 8pm: more music for Trumpet, Flute and ‘Cello!

All information on all of these is to be found on; composers should consult for the line-ups and deadlines for the two Noisy Nights (Aberdeen and Aberdeen-area composers are especially encouraged to submit for the Lemon Tree performance).

Four Scottish Premieres from Red Note and JAM

Red Note and JAM are collaborating to give four premieres across Scotland 14-20 February in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St. Andrews.

JAM’s Scottish choral performances feature the united throng of University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, St Andrews University Chapel Choir and Edinburgh University Chamber Choir accompanied by Red Note, Tom Wilkinson (organ) and feature Andrew Dickinson (tenor), conducted by Michael Bawtree.

JAM will give the world premiere of its choral commission from Phillip Cooke, who in January takes up residency at Aberdeen University.

The tour also features Scottish premieres of works by Judith Bingham and Julian Philips. The Hythe by Bingham, written for 11 strings, was commissioned by JAM this summer in celebration of her 60th birthday as a partner piece to her Jacob’s Ladder.

Leading light on the Scottish composition scene Rory Boyle’s stunning Tallis’s Light will also feature in the programme.

Tickets now available via or 0800 988 7984

The Intoxicating Rose Garden

The Intoxicating Rose Garden is a new hybrid work which takes Sally Beamish’s settings of poems by Hafez, the 14th century Persian mystic, as its starting-point. Combining music, song, dance and animated image, it explores the longing and separation, as well as the sense of belonging and completeness that are so present in Hafez’s poems: elements that somehow conflict with and complement one another in the same moment.

The animated images are based on Jila Peacock’s renderings of Hafez poetry in figural calligraphy. Red Note will be joined by the multi-faceted singer and dancer/choreographer, Michael Popper, and the outstanding young Iranian setar player Anoosh Jahanshahi, who will perform his own Songs from Hafez in traditional Persian classical style.

Tolbooth in Stirling 8:00pm, 15 November
Woodend Barn in Banchory 10:30am and 8:00pm, 17 November
Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh 7:30pm, 22 November

Red Note Ensemble Making A Noise At Social Media Week

From Monday 24th September to Saturday 29th September, Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, Red Note, are asking people to record and email clips of their favourite noises. This could be anything from a child laughing, to a coffee machine steaming milk, a door bell ringing or a champagne cork popping. All the mp3 sound clips, recorded on mobile phones, will be uploaded onto a soundcloud to create a piece of new music that reflects Social Media Week’s vision of connecting through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.

By using social media to capture and share the sounds that touch our lives, Red Note hope that Noisy Noises will demonstrate the artistic power of a connected society and showcase the noises that reflect our lives in the digital age. 

To take part in Noisy Noises please record 20 seconds of your favourite noise and email the mp3 to by 12pm on Saturday 29th September 2012. 

To hear the Noisy Noises visit

Red Note, Hear Us First

Think you know The Magic Flute? Think again…

Red Note Ensemble debut at Bath International Festival. 

Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, debut at this year’s Bath International Festival in the highly acclaimed production of Mozart’s joyously extrovert opera The Magic Flute.

Directed by Richard Williams, Mozart’s iconic music is a new adaptation for chamber ensemble and Festival Artistic Director Joanna MacGregor’s farewell performance. In the immediate vibrancy of Bath premiere venue Komedia, The Magic Flute recaptures the excitement and popularity of Mozart’s first performance in Vienna’s small Freihaus Theatre in 1791.

Set in a mythical, modern city and in a super-skyscraper, Red Note Ensemble perform with a cast of young international opera singers. The once famous but now reclusive star, The Queen of the Night, has taken refuge. Tamino, the young reporter is out to get a scoop; has Pamina been kidnapped by her father, the multi-media mogul Sarastro, and why are there trials of fire and water for Tamino and Pamina?

Originally arranged for an orchestra hidden in the pit, this chamber arrangement brings the virtuosity of Red Note’s nine brilliant players, right to the front of the stage. Apart from woodwind and strings, you’ll hear Mozart’s gorgeous music played by a sensational accordionist, capturing Wolfgang’s superb populist spirit, and Joanna MacGregor directs from a magic keyboard too!

John Harris, Director of Red Note, says, “This is going to be a lot of fun for us at Red Note. We love Joanna MacGregor, we love her virtuosity, we love the way she thinks about music and makes new things happen, and we’re incredibly excited to see how she and her team re-make Mozart’s wonderful opera for the 21st Century”

The setting moves from the dark lair of Queen of the Night, to Sarastro’s contemporary penthouse hideaway. The set spills out from the stage to the auditorium, as does the action in places, and a silver tree in the audience provides the clues to Tamino and Pamina’s last trial.

This is Mozart at its very best – sparkling, witty, and faithful to the original. Performed in English, this fast-moving, modern dress production has been acclaimed for its clarity, wit and touching sensibility. Highly recommended for all ages, this is true family entertainment with a faultless pedigree, and a delight for both newcomers and opera fans.

Red Note Ensemble, Hear us first.

Beautiful Music in Beautiful Places

14 – 23 September 2012

Beautiful Music in Beautiful Places

sensational music and light event at Tantallon Castle
new series of lunchtime song recitals in association with BBC Radio 3
guitar phenomenon Sean Shibe is Young Artist In Residence
six new venues including Tantallon Castle, Yester House and Glenkinchie Distillery
talks, walks and Festival garden openings

The Lammermuir Festival returns for its third year presenting its biggest and most diverse programme to date.  In unusual and stunning venues throughout the picturesque region of East Lothian, Scotland, the Festival runs from Friday 14 – Sunday 23 September 2012. Most exciting of all is the spectacular event at the breathtaking medieval ruins of Tantallon Castle, commissioned by the Festival as part of the Year of Creative Scotland.

‘Beautiful Music In Beautiful Places’ is the hallmark of the Lammermuir Festival. The stunning natural beauty of the region and its abundance of interesting venues provide the perfect setting. The Lammermuir Festival offers a sense of discovery: discovering music you might not have heard before, discovering new places in East Lothian, or even discovering that a place you know well is transformed when filled with music.  

This year’s Festival brings new events: a series of lunchtime song recitals, talks, guided walks and some glorious East Lothian gardens, which will be open throughout the Festival.

The programme features world-class performances of live music from renowned musicians, alongside some of the finest young artists on the scene today.  Two of Scotland’s finest orchestras return, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and we welcome back the young Navarra Quartet. The Dunedin Consort opens the Festival with Bach’s St John Passion on Friday 14 September, preceding their new recording of the work due for release in 2013.  NYCOS (National Youth Choir of Scotland) this year close the Festival with a performance of Fauré’s Requiem in partnership with Northern Sinfonia from the Sage in Newcastle, who make their Lammermuir debut.

Also making their first appearances at The Lammermuir Festival are the outstanding baroque groups Ensemble Marsyas and La Serinissima, as well as Gramophone Award-winning The Cardinall’s Musick on their year-long UK tour performing the music of William Byrd.

Rising star guitarist, Sean Shibe, is this year’s Young Artist in Residence, appearing in recital at Lennoxlove House on Tuesday 18 September, as soloist with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Dunbar on Saturday 15 September, and in concert with the Navarra Quartet at Whitekirk on Sunday 23 September. 

Lammermuir 2012 celebrates the guitar on Saturday 15 September with Dunbar Guitar: three concerts featuring the Maxwell String Quartet and leading guitarist Allan Neave, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with Sean Shibe and ending in the unexpected setting of Belhaven Fruit Farm for a relaxed and fun evening of guitar music from around the world.

Actor Robert Hardy, well known for his roles as Siegfried in All Creatures Great and Small and Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films is also a highly respected historian.  He was a personal friend of Patrick O’Brian, author of the famous seafaring novels which include ‘Master and Commander’. The concert on Sunday 16 September features excerpts read by Robert Hardy, interspersed with music from the books by Mozart, Boccherini, Haydn and Dittersdorf, performed by the Raeburn Quartet.

A new series of lunchtime recitals has a theme of ‘The Seasons’ devised and performed by Joseph Middleton, an already highly acclaimed young accompanist. He has assembled a cast of four exciting and charismatic young singers: Sophie Bevan, soprano; Andrew Kennedy, tenor; Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-soprano and Marcus Farnsworth, baritone.  The lunchtime recitals are presented in association with BBC Radio 3 and will be broadcast in February 2013.

Saturday 22 September is The Lammermuir Festival’s Handel Day.  We look at several aspects of this great composer, his early career in Italy and his charming organ concerti.  Close to the anniversary of the Battle of Prestonpans (21 September) we conclude with a fascinating programme curated by Rob Howarth around music linked to the Jacobite rising: Getting a Handel on the Jacobite Rising.

For the third year running, The Lammermuir Festival presents a spectacular site-specific music event unique to East Lothian. One of Scotland’s most significant historic sites, Tantallon Castle, set against a stunning natural landscape looking out to the Bass Rock, is the backdrop for a brilliant music and light show.  The Lammermuir Festival has commissioned writer Aonghas MacNeacail and composer William Sweeney to create a new work which will bring the building, its story and East Lothian’s extraordinary past alive.  The music will be performed by Red Note Ensemble and powerful images will be projected on the castle’s walls using state-of-the-art technology, brought to us by Culture Creative, renowned for their recent stunning light show in Belfast for the Titanic centenary. This event is part of Year of Creative Scotland.

The Lammermuir Festival visits fifteen performance venues, including six new for 2012. They range from churches to historic private houses and from a distillery to the ruins of Tantallon.  The Festival brings a rare chance to see inside some fine houses not normally open to the public: Yester House, where Hebrides Ensemble perform on Monday 17 September, was home for many years to composer Gian Carlo Menotti and his family still lives there.   Lennoxlove House, where Sean Shibe plays on Tuesday 18 September, is the home of the Duke of Hamilton, Scotland’s premier peer; and Winton House in Pencaitland has among its many points of interest an impressive collection of fine art, including works by Van Dyck and Canaletto.

Two rather different 2012 venues are Glenkinchie Distillery and Belhaven Fruit Farm.

The Lammermuir Festival’s premier venue is St Mary’s Church, Haddington, which is one of the finest remaining active medieval churches in Scotland.  St Mary’s, Haddington hosts five performances, including the opening and closing concerts of the Festival.

This year the Festival presents a series of talks giving an insight into the event including Artistic Directors Hugh MacDonald and James Waters; Young Artist in Residence, Sean Shibe; the Dunedin Consort’s John Butt and La Serenissima’s Adrian Chandler.

Mercat Tours offer two guided walks, suitable for all ages, discovering the history and stories of Haddington, including the famous East Lothian witch trials.
Four of East Lothian’s finest gardens are open during the festival: Johnstounburn House, Humbie; Broadwoodside, Gifford; Shepherd House, Inveresk and St Mary’s Pleasance, Haddington.
East Lothian is renowned for fine produce, and the county has a great range of excellent places to eat and drink. We have on offer for ticket holders a pre-concert, two-course meal at £9.95 for lunchtimes or £13.50 for evenings. Book in advance on or 01620 825674. 

Other offers are the Royal Mackintosh Hotel, Dunbar offering a free glass of wine with a two course meal throughout September and October by showing The Lammermuir Festival brochure; and the Waterloo Bistro, Haddington who offer two courses for £12.95 from 5.00pm – quote WAT/LAM when booking.

TICKETS: 0131 473 2000. In person from The Hub, Edinburgh or in person from Hilary’s Deli, Court Street, Haddington.

TALKS: free of charge but tickets available in advance and on the door 30 mins before event

WALKS: to book.

FESTIVAL GARDENS: Tickets £5 must be booked in advance or 0131 473 2000. Note: St Mary’s Pleasance, Haddington is free.