When visiting Glasgow in the last few years I’ve regularly stayed in the west of the central grid, on the edge of Sauchiehall Street. Arriving this week, my first time here since the fire at the School of Art last June, an eerie calm was perceptible. With several wrecked or structurally unsound buildings around the former library site, the whole central area has effectively been pedestrianised, or at least seriously traffic calmed. Added to the strange atmosphere was something like pathos. Imagine all the fundraising, the goodwill and the effort of reconstruction following the 2014 fire, literally going up in smoke in another, much greater fire last year – for which the cause is not yet known.
At the other end of Renfrew Street, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which I was visiting this week, is all in one piece. The variety of the students I meet here (both as composers and people) is extraordinary, and cheering. The institution has taken great steps forward (and added many other performing disciplines) since I first taught here thirty years ago.
My favourite bit of the week was my visit to the RCS production of Cymbeline – in Glasgow, Chinese, American accents and even one Englishman, playing the fatuous aristocratic youth Cloten. The talented actors also devised, sang and played all the music; there was a particularly beautiful madrigalian setting (by Cloten himself I think) of Hark Hark the Lark. I learned that the Drama department now consider it essential for trainee actors to have playing, singing and movement skills as part of their stage studies. Musicians and composers take note.