Craig Armstrong was born in Glasgow and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he won many prizes and awards. He has since progressed to become one of the world's most sought-after and respected composers and arrangers. In contemporary pop music, Madonna, U2, Björk and Massive Attack are among the acts to have benefited from his talents, but he is also a skilled and experienced writer for theatre and film.
Amongst his many credits are the scores for the Baz Luhrmann hits, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (for which he received the Anthony Asquith BAFTA Award and an Ivor Novello for Best Original Score) and Moulin Rouge (for which he received a Golden Globe Award and the American Film Institute Award). Other films that he has composed music for include Ray, which won a Grammy for Best Soundtrack; The Quiet American; Love Actually; The Bone Collector and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
Orchestras to have commissioned work from him include the Northern Sinfonietta, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, who premiered his concert work 'When Morning Turns To Light' in December 2002. He also collaborated with author Ian Rankin to produce a new short opera for Scottish Opera’s 5:15 series.
This year, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama issued its first Craig Armstrong Composition Prize, for the best composition submitted in its annual Plug Festival for new music.
I see music as a positive force in life. I cling on to the beauty of music, because life can be very difficult. And so for me the purpose of music is that it is an uplifting thing, it comes from the spiritual side of people.
Billy Connolly CBE (sometimes known as 'The Big Yin'), was born in Govan in 1942 and is a comedian, musician, presenter and actor. Before he became a performer, Billy was as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, giving it up to be a folk singer with his groups, the Humblebums (who took to the stage just before Yehudi Menuhin in an Edinburgh Festival concert) along with Gerry Rafferty of Baker Street famie. Connolly’s first solo album, Billy Connolly Live!, was a mixture of comedic songs and short monologues that hinted at what was to follow, but it was his next album, Solo Concert, that would prove to be his breakthrough. He has since released over 25 albums, and has been at the top of the UK Singles Chart, and remains popular for his comedy songs.
A close friend of Michael Parkison, Connolly holds the record for the most appearances on Michael's chatshow, Parkinson, probably due to his forthright comedic style – unusual when he debuted in the 1970s, and he became successful throughout the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada.
Now known, perhaps, primarily as a comedian, Connolly began his comedic career integrating music with the jokes, and he was seldom without his banjo; as characteristicly Connolly as his shaggy hair, sometimes colourful beard and bad language.
As well as his own television series, (World Tour of Scotland; England, Ireland and Wales; World Tour of New Zealand), Billy has appeared on many others as a guest star, including An Audience With…, Comic Relief, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Connolly in Performance, and the televised performances of Live Aid and Freedomfest: Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Celebration.
My definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.
His movie credits include Mrs Brown with Dame Judi Dench, for which he was nominated a BAFTA, Beautiful Joe, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Man Who Sued God.
In November 1998, Connolly was the subject of a two-hour retrospective entitled Billy Connolly: Erect for 30 Years, which included tributes from Dame Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Eddie Izzard.
Billy now lives in Aberdeenshire with his wife Pamela Stephenson, after some years abroad. He has received honorary degrees from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the University of Glasgow.
Without arts programmes there's only reality TV, and reality TV needs the arts to show it what reality is.
Stéphane Denève was born in 1971 in Tourcoing in France and assumed the post of music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) in 2005; in 2011 his contract will end, when he moved to the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is recognised as one of this generation’s leading conductors and has been universally praised for his performances and innovative programming. He has a particular affinity with the music of his native France, and has conducted works by Grétry, Debussy, Ravel, Berlioz, Roussel, Fauré, and Poulenc. In recent years, with the RSNO in Glasgow, he has also premiered a number of works by the contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson.
He studied at Paris Conservatoire, and worked as conducting assistant to Sir Georg Solti with the Orchestre de Paris, Georges Prêtre at the Opéra National de Paris, and Seiji Ozawa at the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto.
In his first season with the RSNO, he led the orchestra at the 2006 BBC Proms concerts in London, and its first ever performance in France. Denève and the RSNO have made several commercial recordings for the Naxos and Chandos labels, including of Albert Roussel and Guillaume Connesson. He described his first meeting with the RSNO in 2003 as ‘love at first sight’, and the orchestra has received growing and unanimous praise for its performances under his leadership.
Other orchestras he has worked with include the London Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, BBC Symphony and Danish National Symphony; the Philharmonia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and in opera at La Scala, Milan, conducting Gounod's Faust, as well as appearances at Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, Netherlands Opera, La Monnaie, Opéra National de Paris and Cincinnati Opera.
Denève enjoys close relationships with many of the world's leading solo artists, and has performed, among others, with Natalie Dessay, Nina Stemme, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Piotr Anderszewski, Leif Ove Andsnes, Lars Vogt, Nikolai Lugansky, Emanuel Ax, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Nikolaj Znaider, Pinchas Zukerman, Leonidas Kavakos, Hilary Hahn, Vadim Repin and Gil Shaham.
Thanks to them [the RSNO] ... I feel that I can go for the music right away, they know me so well and know what I want. I'm extremely happy with the results ... the balance is very, very positive. I adore making music with them.
Alex Kapranos is the lead singer and the guitarist of the Glasgow band Franz Ferdinand. His middle name, Paul, comes from Paul McCartney, on whom his mother had a crush on at the time of Alex’s birth. Alex was born in Gloucestershire, but moved to Glasgow in 1984, attending Bearsden Academy, then studying at Strathclyde University.
Before finding fame with Franz Ferdinand, Alex played in some of the most popular bands on the Glasgow scene, including The Karelia, The Amphetameanies and The Yummy Fur.
Franz Ferdinand, comprising of Alex, Nick McCarthy (guitar, keyboard, backup vocals), Paul Thomson (drums, backup vocals, sometimes guitar) and Bob Hardy (bass), saw chart success after their second single Take Me Out reached Number 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 2004. The band went on to win the 2004 Mercury Music Prize and two BRIT Awards in 2005 for Best British Group and Best British Rock Act, as well as awards from NME, Q, and the Ivor Novello Award in 2004. They have also received several Grammy nominations.
Outside of Franz Ferdinand, Alex has written a weekly column for The Guardian, which detailed his eating habits whilst on tour with Franz Ferdinand. The articles were later compiled and published as a book entitled Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand. He later read it on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week programme. He also acts as producer for indie rock group the Cribs, and narrated a BBC Scotland documentary on the recovery of Orange Juice singer Edwyn Collins.
We [Franz Ferdinand] definitely see ourselves as a Glasgow band above anything else, ... one of the great and inspiring things about Glasgow is you have all these characters who did things and they did them their own way.
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