Guest Blog: How National Chamber Music Day 2017 went green
Danielle Price from Enterprise Music Scotland shares some of the highlights, and a couple of challenges, they encountered in creating a National Chamber Music Day 2017 that ‘Goes Green'
We are Enterprise Music Scotland, the national body for chamber music who support, develop and connect the chamber music sector in Scotland.
As a Green Arts Initiative member, we have spent the past year or so looking at ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint. While we are only a small team of three part-time staff, we work with a wide range of stakeholders including a network of chamber music promoters and professional musicians. As well as aiming to create a more environmentally friendly office space and monitoring the carbon footprint of our touring network, we have been working with Creative Carbon Scotland to facilitate conversations about the green arts with our partners and audiences.
National Chamber Music Day Goes Green
On the 16th of September, we hosted National Chamber Music Day, an annual event which celebrates classical chamber music with free performances in public places across the country. Previous years have seen chamber music ensembles play everywhere from supermarkets to cafés and castles.
This year, National Chamber Music Day went green to explore the themes of environment, sustainability and conservation. We decided that ensembles would travel to concerts via environmentally friendly modes of transport, performances would take place in venues linking to the green theme, we would work with likeminded partner organisations who support environmental sustainability and would also aim to use best practice of minimising waste for the event. We worked with 34 musicians and 34 partner organisations to put on 27 performances across the length and breadth of Scotland.
Performing in unusual places
The Monzani Trio aboard the Edinburgh Tram
Performances took place in community gardens across the country from Peebles to Ninewells Hospital garden in Dundee. It was lovely to see concerts happening against a back drop of plants and flowers and great to learn of the sustainable food projects taking place in local towns and cities.
Our aim of highlighting sustainable transport led to partnership with several Scottish transport organisations; The Monzani Trio performed onboard Edinburgh Trams while the McOpera Oboe Duo played on the Borders Rail train between Edinburgh and Galashiels and for passengers awaiting their buses at Galashiels Transport Interchange. Trio Vocali3e gave a concert at Linlithgow Canal Centre and The Highland Collective played for passengers at Inverurie Train Station.
An unexpected benefit of ‘running’ it
This year’s green theme also provided the opportunity for NCMD to expand into a multiday event. Endurance runner/violinist Elspeth Luke along with cyclist/violinist Emily Carr-Martin undertook a four-day tour of Mull. They helped to reduce the carbon emissions of NCMD even further by running and cycling to their concert venues in Craignure, Ulva, and Salen.
Elspeth Luke and Emily Carr-Martin on their tour of Mull
We formed new partnerships with organisations who work to support environmental sustainability, conservation and heritage. NCMD sponsors, Mackie’s of Scotland, known for their commitment to good environmental stewardship invited the locals to their farm in Aberdeenshire for their Chamber Music and Chocolate event. Audiences sampled the recently launched Mackie’s chocolate range whilst enjoying music performed by the Highland Collective.
We worked with Plantlife Scotland who hosted guided walks culminating with chamber music concerts in Glen Tanar and Barnluasgan. In Glasgow, a partnership was made between EMS, Glasgow Doors Open Days, RSPB Wildfest and The Hidden Gardens to organise daytime performances by the Maxwell Quartet at St Andrews in the Square and Kelvingrove Park Bandstand as well as our NCMD finale which took place at the Hidden Gardens.
Audiences were invited to bring a picnic along to The Hidden Gardens and participate in various outdoor nature activities led by Wildfest followed by a concert from the Agnew McAllister Duo and The Matilda Brown Ensemble on the lawn. The concert also featured the first ever NCMD commission for which Matilda Brown composed the piece “His Wings” linking to the birdsong that can be heard in the gardens.
We had a fantastic response from partners, performers and from members of the public
“What a fantastic day we had today! Even the drizzle didn’t put us off…”
“The music sounded fantastic as it drifted across the wider landscape…When can we do it again!”
“An inspired concept, and an amazing event – we are absolutely delighted to have been a part of it!”
“I would just like to send my thanks for what was an absolutely fantastic concert at Inverurie Railway Station on Saturday 16th September. The music was stunning and it was a real treat to attend a concert in a local and unusual venue! If possible please pass on my thanks to the musicians – their playing was beautiful and their selection of music very engaging. Thank you Enterprise Music Scotland!”
A few hurdles
But we did come across some unexpected hurdles along the way…
We had planned for performances to take place outdoors but could not really rely on the good old Scottish weather meaning we had to think ahead and commit a bit more time to creating a backup option for each one.
With ensembles visiting two venues in one day, the logistics of planning travel using public transport proved challenging. In some cases, it was not possible due to lack of access at rural venues, heavy instruments, health issues and infrequent timetables. This proved to be an interesting exercise in looking at the challenges facing freelance musicians who wish to become more environmentally responsible.
While we wanted to embrace the green theme, we felt it was also important that the original NCMD mission statement continued to be represented which included performances taking place across the length and breadth of the country. With public transport, this was not always straight forward to organise. However, it did provide the opportunity for creative solutions such as Elspeth and Emily’s tour of Mull which in the end, expanded the event significantly.
Creating positive results
Matilda Brown at The Hidden Garden C Louise Mather
Despite a few challenges, we do feel that the benefits greatly outweighed the negatives. Our Green theme provided a strong stimulus during the creative process and influenced the way in which we planned the event. Collaborating with new partners who are not directly connected to the chamber music sector was a great asset in helping to advertise National Chamber Music Day to a wider audience. Venues all worked hard to spread the word about their NCMD performance in their local communities and it was great to see extras such as BBQ’s and picnics being added to performances.
We were also excited to find that we were successful in reducing carbon emissions for National Chamber Music Day. By encouraging ensembles to travel via public transport and car share, a 15% saving on carbon dioxide emissions per mile travelled was achieved meaning a saving of 63kg of Co2. The equivalent to leaving a TV on for more than 2 weeks!
Following National Chamber Music Day, we hope to continue to help raise awareness of environmental sustainability within our chamber music promoter and partner networks, providing practical advice as well as open discussion. We’re also looking forward to exchanging ideas with other arts organisations at Creative Carbon Scotland’s Green Arts Conference on 1st November in Glasgow.