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Scottish Ensemble is the UK's only professional string orchestra. Founded in 1969 and based in Glasgow, Scottish Ensemble is built around a core of 12 string players who perform together under Artistic Director and violinist Jonathan Morton, standing up and without a conductor.
SE’s distinctive programming style habitually blends music from different ages. Formed in 1969 as the Scottish Baroque Ensemble, by the violinist Leonard Friedman, the Ensemble’s extensive repertoire spans from the Baroque to the present day.
SE seeks out unusual pieces, and has commissioned a catalogue of new works from some of the 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.
SE attracts collaborations with soloists including trumpeter Alison Balsom; tenor Toby Spence; violinist Anthony Marwood; cellist Pieter Wispelwey and violist Lawrence Power. SE 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 performances across Scotland, Scottish Ensemble presents an annual series of concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall and has appeared at BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International, City of London, Aldeburgh and St Magnus Festivals. Recent invitations to tour abroad have resulted in engagements in Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Taiwan, and China. In 2013 SE undertook an 11-date tour of the USA, performing in halls including Walt Disney Hall and New York Town Hall.
Concerts are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Scotland, and there is an ever-growing collection of recordings available. SE’s extensive recording catalogue includes EMI Classics’ top-selling CD of 2010: Italian Concertos with Alison Balsom. Most recently, Scottish Ensemble joined with prestigious classical label Linn Records to release the first in a 3-disc series.
Scottish Ensemble is also committed to a 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 Scottish Ensemble touring venues with music. 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.