PLUG 2012: Promises of a Bright Future for Contemporary Composition

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  One of the UK’s most exciting new music festivals returns this April (CG)

PLUG 2012; photo credit: Ken Dundas

This spring, as it has done for the past seven years, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland hosts a contemporary music festival, called PLUG, that brings together established and staff composers with the innovative new minds of future composition. Billed as “one of the UK’s most exciting new music festivals”, this year’s contemporary music celebration promises to meet and even exceed our expectations. And there’s no shortage of big names to draw in the crowds.

Among the featured artists this year are the renowned composer Richard Ayres, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor Ilan Volkov, bassist Mario Caribé, the Scottish Ensemble and Red Note. Performances to look out for include Plug 6, which will feature staff composer Alistair MacDonald, whose work Mitaki (for string ensemble and live electronics) will be premiered by the Scottish Ensemble led by the dynamic Jonathan Morton. Works by MacDonald’s students will also feature in this concert.

Plug 8 brings Ilan Volkov back to conduct the RCS MusicLab following last year’s successful collaboration in the Fruitmarket. Plug 9 is a celebration of this year’s guest composer Richard Ayres. This lunchtime concert gives us a chance to hear selection from his chamber music output (ahead of the BBC SSO’s Composer Focus on his work the next day at City Halls) played by the energetic and charismatic Red Note ensemble.

The festival will come to an end with Plug 10 in an evening dedicated to the Royal Conservatoire’s cutting-edge collaboration with the Paris Conservatoire, aptly titled New Auld Alliance. This year’s Craig Armstrong Prize will focus on this collaboration, in a nod towards Armstrong’s award-winning career as a composer. The winner of the Prize will be announced in this final concert.

But that’s not all. This year staff and students have been composing Postludes for PLUG (following the Sequenzas, Piano etudes and Glasgow Lieder that featured in previous festivals). The Postludes are intended as musical reflections on works written for previous festivals –  a great way of providing an intertextual narrative to the festival as it cements its identity as Scotland’s foremost contemporary music bonanza.

PLUG 2012 promises an eclectic and inspirational array of musical experimentation – proof if any were needed that PLUG is really Scotland’s most innovative and forward thinking forum for contemporary music. It runs from 23-28 April 2012 at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. For full programme details, tickets and more information visit or call 0141 332 5057)

Christina Guillaumier