Friday, 29 May 2015

Exclusive Music Hall recital by trio of Aberdeen’s top music students

Alison Ewan
Aberdeen Performing Arts’ (APA) Culture Café lunchtime series is to end the season on a high note with an exclusive recital by three of the University of Aberdeen's most accomplished undergraduate students.

All three are winners of the university’s annual prestigious Ogston Prize, awarded to an outstanding undergraduate musician, and whose judging panel this year included world-renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber.

And taking the stage for the 1pm recital on Wednesday, June 10, will be the two 2015 winners, percussionist Ellen Smith and violinist Alison Ewan, alongside the 2014 winner, pianist Maria Vilberg.

“We are thrilled to be able to showcase the
amazing talents of these three very fine young musicians,” says APA director of programming and creative projects Ben Torrie.

“All three are outstanding in their own right, and to be able to bring them together at the Music Hall is both a privilege and an honour.”

A fourth year single honours music student at Aberdeen University, where she is an active member of the Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble and the Drums and Pipes of the Aberdeen Universities’ Officer Training Corps, Ellen started orchestral percussion lessons at 14, and has participated in many diverse musical ventures such as the Scottish Brass Band Championships and the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s Spring Academy.

After graduating she intends to embark on a Masters course in Percussion Performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

“For me, music allows a person to feel the whole spectrum of emotions, sometimes all one piece of music,” says Ellen. “It would be a privilege for me to make a career out of conveying what I feel the music says to me to audiences and allow them to interpret my music themselves.”

And Alison adds: “I love music because it opens up the soul and allows me to express emotions as well as create an atmosphere of fun and excitement in an audience. I especially love the story each different piece tells, and how every person’s imagining of that story is always so different from another.”

She began playing violin at 12, and since accepting a place at Aberdeen University to study classical violin, has continued to play traditional music, playing at various large events, including playing solo fiddle with the Scots Military Band in the Royal Military Tattoo and in her own band at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In the next few weeks, Alison will make solo appearances in Perth as a guest artist at a fiddlers rally, as well as at a youth festival in Norway to both perform and teach. 

She has also been nominated to audition for the prestigious Boise Scholarship in London, to help aid her further studies as she takes up a place to study a Masters course in traditional music at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September.

From Estonia, last year’s Ogston Prizewinner Maria switched from singing to playing the piano after hearing Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor performed live.

She has participated in many competitions and masterclasses; has also performed in festivals in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Latvia and has been offered a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to start The Master of Performance degree in September.

“My main achievement to date is a postgraduate offer from Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester which implies a whole new stage of my musical education and career,” says Maria. “The biggest dream however, is performing F Chopin's Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante or his second concerto with an orchestra in front of a big audience with my mother sitting in the first row!!”

Tickets for the lunchtime recital cost £8 and are available online at, by phone at 01224 641122 and at Aberdeen Box Office at the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre.

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