I thought to myself "Here’s the composer for us"

Jamie Sansbury, MD of the Glasgow School of Art Choir on meeting composer Shona Mackay for the first time

They say that Scotland’s a small country, and the adage was – perhaps – proved true at the launch of the Adopt a Composer Scheme 2016/17 in September this year. Two representatives from the Glasgow School of Art Choir, me (Musical Director) and General Manager Kate Hollands, travelled down to London wondering if we would be the only Scottish ensemble represented at the event. Upon arrival I recognised two people in the room, and only two. As did Kate. Both were there representing another choral ensemble, and both were from (yes, you’ve guessed it), Scotland. The West Coast of Scotland.

Enter Shona Mackay; a wonderfully smiley woman who was clearly as delighted to be there as Kate and me. Shona wandered over and introduced herself. The brogue in which she spoke was from the West Coast of Scotland. I mentioned my experience of having proved the adage of Scotland as a small country true by recognising the only other Scots in the room at the time we arrived. We laughed and introduced ourselves: where was Shona from? Glasgow, where else?

I sensed a theme developing. Not only because both Shona and the GSA Choir are based in Glasgow, but because Shona’s artistic practice involves multi-media and film-making. I thought to myself, “Here’s the composer for us. Fingers crossed we get to ‘adopt’ Shona, that she’ll be delighted with her ‘adopted’ ensemble, and that we can get her along to a rehearsal as soon as possible.”

Life is often far from simple, and the things we hope for don’t always come true. However, I’m delighted to say that the first month of our ‘Adopt a Composer’ Experience has been tinged with a sense of fate and serendipity and the process is working like a dream. We all know by now that the GSA Choir and Shona were indeed paired, and very swiftly after that wonderful launch in London she appeared at one of our rehearsals. You can read about Shona’s experience that evening on her blog. I am thrilled she thinks so highly of the choir after only one rehearsal and we can’t wait for her to return for a workshop in a few weeks’ time - where she’ll be ‘laying down the ground rules’ instead of me.

Ideas are taking shape as we get closer to that workshop, and Shona has sent an illuminating electronic survey to choir members in order to get to know them and their musical tastes and ideas a little better in the interim. I have to say, the response from the membership has been terrific; to the survey, to the project as a whole, and particularly to Shona. I like to think that any new member of the choir feels welcome as soon as they step into the auditorium in which we rehearse: Shona has been welcomed with open arms by all our singers and it was clear, from that first rehearsal, that both composer and ensemble are going to enjoy the experience tremendously.

Maybe the shared brand of humour, often quoted as unique to Glasgow, has bound composer and singers together. One thing’s for sure though, we seem to have made a perfect match.