At school, I started playing violin because the woodwind teacher was fully booked. However, I kept at it with encouragement from various peripatetic teachers and the school music department and joined the school orchestra, did O grade music and even qualified for Glasgow schools summer orchestra one year.I was able to switch to flute just before I left school. I spent some of my student grant money on a flute and took lessons from a Mr Banks in Shawlands, who suggested I join the YMCA Glasgow Wind Orchestra. This was a different sort of ensemble playing and it took me a while to get used to it. From there I joined various other wind bands and learned to play via individual lessons and much practice. I also took up piccolo on the advice of an ex-military director of music who conducted the YMCA band for a while and insisted on auditioning its players. I also took part in various overseas trips, some more enjoyable than others.
The jump to orchestral playing happened when I was invited to the St James Orchestra (now known as Paisley Sinfonia) to play 2nd flute & piccolo. I was also asked to help out the GCO as an extra on various occasions. Eventually I had been “helping” the GCO for a solid year and was urged to audition and join. I still play with both GCO and Paisley Sinfonia and have played as an extra with Glasgow Orchestral Society as well. I still have flute lessons and have been working towards taking Trinity College grade exams.Outside of playing, I work in an independent school dealing with school fees and other financial matters, which has been useful training for becoming Treasurer of the GCO!
The old GCO line-up!
Wendy Dougan (oboe)
My musical history started in primary school playing recorder, as I’m sure many others did! I loved it I have to say. I also sang in various choirs. However, going to Bellahouston Academy was where the serious stuff began! My first orchestral instrument was the viola, and I despised it with a passion (sorry violas)!! I was then offered the French horn but wasn’t even sure what that was, so I was just told to turn up for a lesson and I’d be told what I was getting then.This instrument turned out to be the oboe, and I took to it like the proverbial duck to water! I also got piano lessons at school and sang in the school choir, something that was obligatory in our school. I got some amazing opportunities in school as our school choir was the forerunner of the SNO Junior Chorus, so we sang in various proms, including Carmina Burana and Mahler Eight. I still remember jumping in fright when the SNO Chorus started singing at our first rehearsal for Mahler Eight – the sound was massive! I also played the recorder in an orchestral recording of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and Hergest Ridge. The solo guitarist was Steve Hackett, who slouched onto the stage in ripped denims, a denim jacket and a glittery beanie hat – a tad underdressed I suspect for the neat and tidy members of the SNO!
The music department of the school was insistent that I applied to the RSAMD, something I wasn’t keen on as I suffered terribly with nerves. I was offered a place but eventually turned it down to go to University instead. The school, very kindly, lent me an oboe when I left until I was able to get one of my own which I did, thankfully in first year. I’m not sure I would still be playing if it weren’t for that kind offer.I went to Glasgow Uni in 1976 where I studied maths and music, and it was here that I first encountered the inimitable Dr Rycroft! I still remember the disappointment I caused her with my essay on Haydn, but I still passed, Marjorie!
As well as playing in the University orchestra, I also played in Glasgow Unitarian Orchestra which was an unbelievable training in orchestral playing for me. Many of the “older” generation of current professionals cut their teeth there – Willie Conway, Dougie Boyd, David McLenaghan, Justine Watts and Jane Reid, to name but a few, and it was also there that I first met my buddy Susie Gibson (nee Milne) and the dashing Douglas Gibson. You can see how young and stunning we looked at the time in the picture opposite! Ladies, note the long dresses – very much the thing at that time!
Following university and college I began my career as a maths teacher in the East End of Glasgow. It was rough, but I loved it and loved the kids, warts and all! Due to school closures I moved to the, supposedly, leafy suburbs of King’s Park where, after a few years, I was promoted into Pastoral Care, amongst other things! I can remember when I first moved to KP saying that I enjoyed it so much that I could see myself staying there for five years! Mmmm…..Five turned into twenty nine! I enjoyed most of my time there, but haven’t regretted taking early retirement in 2016. In terms of playing, I actually gave up for a couple of years not long after I started teaching as nerves became too big a deal for me, and had not been for Diane Levey’s relentless pushing at me to join GCO I’m not sure I’d have ever gone back to it! This was in the early to mid 80s, and I’ve never looked back!!! GCO has given me some great opportunities to play pieces as I’d never have encountered, some good (Scheherazade, Shostakovich 5 to name but two) and some not so good (anyone remember the Stuart Macrae commission?????), but one thing’s for sure, it’s a great orchestra and hopefully it’ll not be long before we’re back doing what we do best!Outwith playing I have a lot of hobbies, including (slowly) working at getting back into running again after a knee injury, card making,knitting and crocheting. I learned to crochet after retiring and am now an avid/ obsessive crocheter. My current projects include baby blankets for the Gibson girls’ new arrivals to be!
I was born and brought up in the suburbs of Glasgow, in Cambuslang, and travelled all the way to Glasgow University to study law! Actually, I did spend my 3rd year on Erasmus exchange studying French law, in French, in the city of Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne region of France, so I have ventured out a little bit in my formative years. After University I went on to qualify first as a solicitor, and then after a couple of years, and a few more exams, I started my pupillage to become an Advocate, the Scottish equivalent to a barrister. I didn’t go to University thinking that’s how my legal career would go, but I was steered in that direction by my old boss when I was a solicitor and I’m still doing it. I was called to the Scottish Bar in 2008 and have been essentially a freelancer (all Advocates are independent, sole practitioners) ever since. I specialise in employment law and am usually to be found arguing cases in employment tribunals, but we all do some other more general court and advice work as well.
David Hay (clarinet)
I started playing the clarinet through getting lessons in secondary school. I learned the recorder during 1st year, and then switched to clarinet in 2nd year. I was drawn to the creamy sound of the clarinet (when played well!) and found that I enjoyed playing it. I did Standard Grade and Higher Music and whilst I kept playing after I left school I didn’t get any more lessons and was a wind band player for many years. I’m actually relatively new to orchestral playing. I decided I wanted to take my clarinet playing a bit more seriously 10 years ago, bought my first ‘orchestral pair’ of instruments and really had a lot of lessons over several years that worked on changing my technique, which had developed some pretty bad habits. My first orchestral concert was my first concert with GCO! I joined in September 2011. I wouldn’t have had the nerve to have enquired but I had met our then-conductor Peter Jones at a party and he had suggested trying out. I was struck by how the orchestra took the music seriously but was also extremely welcoming to me. There were and are wonderful musicians in GCO, and whilst Peter at times could be a tough task master, I very much believe that joining GCO was a key stage of developing my playing further. In chamber orchestra as a wind player you are so exposed, and even if some of the parts are not as virtuosic as some of the bigger repertoire at times, they have big demands on the quality of sound that you need to make, and on your intonation and blend with the other woodwinds. This has had a big influence on the sort of sound I try to make. The first 2 or so years in GCO I still had a lot of learning to do about the basics of orchestral playing. I probably still do!
One thing that has also steadily happened is my accumulation of instruments! I started with my pair, Bb and A. I’d actually bought an Eb clarinet not long before I joined GCO, and I think I’ve only ever played Eb in one rehearsal with GCO, but I’ve played it in the wind band I still play in, and sometimes I play it with GOS. I have the world’s worst bass clarinet. Then I got a C clarinet second hand, which is actually called for pretty often in the music we play. Then I got a basset horn (actually I’ve got two at the moment but that won’t be forever!), and I treated myself to a new Eb clarinet at Christmas time last year. It’s starting to get a challenge to fit them all into my little flat!
It’s a real privilege to get to play some amazing repertoire with GCO. There are a lot of very memorable concerts. I think one of the early concerts that sticks out in respect of my development as a player was when we did Beethoven 6, which I think was really the first BIG clarinet part I had to play. The 60th anniversary Shostakovich 5 concert also holds a special place for me as I was chair of the orchestra then and it was a huge work for us and a bit of a risk artistically and financially. I’ll also remember the sound of someone creaking open a door behind us in the Bute Hall half way through Wendy’s solo in the 3rd movement. Fortunately, they realised they were somewhere they shouldn’t be and the door creaked closed again!
I’ve also enjoyed greatly the occasions when I’ve played chamber music with my colleagues, and it’s great to be able to play clarinet duet repertoire with Stephen. I also look forward to the memorable concerts still to come. I was looking forward to Tombeau de Couperin as it is technically very challenging, but hopefully we will be back to that next summer.
Me with my Dad on the day I was called to the Bar
Me on the old Bassett Horn
Every single one of these instruments is……..ESSENTIAL!
Susan Gibson (bassoon)
GCO brought me back to orchestral playing after a gap of many years. As the result of a chance encounter with Elspeth Munro, I agreed to plug a first bassoon gap for a term. In the course of that term I rediscovered my love of orchestral playing, met old friends, made new ones, and renewed a special friendship with Wendy Dougan, which dated back to the seventies and Glasgow Unitarian Youth Orchestra (which was also where I first encountered a certain tall timpanist . . . and ours is not the only marriage which owes its beginnings to a draughty old church in St Vincent Street!)
For the past seventeen years I have been lucky enough to spend Tuesday evenings with a great bunch of people who have supported one another through thick and thin, through good times and some very difficult times, and through concerts ranging from very good to truly spectacular. Even our daughters are part of the GCO family – Clare (who took the wind playing path) has played oboe with us, and Kara (who followed in her father’s footsteps) made an appearance in the percussion section for a CLIC Sargent concert.
Now, much to our delight, our family is set to expand as Clare is expecting a baby in July and Kara in September. (Hazel has already placed an order for a viola player……). Both girls live in Edinburgh, so many trips along the M8 in store – but not on Tuesday evenings!
Douglas Gibson (timpani)
I was born and brought up on Crow Road, just a stone’s throw from the church where we now rehearse. My father was one of those lucky people who could sit down at a piano and play any tune you wished, without the need for music – a gift that he failed to pass on to me, sadly. My piano lesson experience took me as far as Grade 1, until I gave up on the lessons and looked for something else to play. That turned out to be percussion – firstly as a side drummer with the Boys’ Brigade pipe band and then at school with the Allan Glen’s school orchestra. I seemed to develop the knack of percussion playing quite easily and quickly, and in fact I was one of the first pupils in Scotland to gain a Higher Music in Percussion, when that was finally introduced in the late 1960s.
Playing at a Boys’ Brigade display where we borrowed the Allan Glen’s school timpani - hand-tuned in those days !
I was never much into pop music or dancing, and Allan Glen’s in those days was a boys-only school, so my opportunities to meet girls were few and far between, that was until I found the Glasgow Unitarian Youth Orchestra – both an outlet for my timpani-playing skills and a fount of young ladies to chat up! That was where I met a young bassoonist called Susan, of which more later. I left school and went to Glasgow University to study science, eventually emerging with an honours degree in Physics, only to go back in again to take on a PhD. Music was always there in the background, however, and by that time, I was playing with any group that would have me – even the Glasgow Chamber Orchestra under its then conductor, Sam Bor (in the McLellan Galleries, I remember). I played in the pit for musicals at the Kings Theatre, and I was lucky enough to get some dep work with the SNO. Two concerts stand out from that time. The first was a UK premiere of a piece by Polish composer Penderecki, which involved 9 percussionists – I had to improvise on 5 wood blocks at one point. The second was the infamous SNO Prom concert in the Kelvin Hall circus arena conducted by Alexander Gibson. It was Mahler’s 2nd Symphony the “Resurrection”, and at the point when the off-stage brass was meant to come in, nothing happened – Gibson was left to wave his arms to no avail. Were they still in the bar – who can say?Sadly, my professional playing opportunities then took a back seat while I had to focus on earning a living. I started working as an engineer with Barr & Stroud, the defence contractor based at that time at Anniesland Cross (where Morrisons now sits). My work took me all over the world, as we demonstrated equipment to various armies, navies and air forces. By that time, Susan and I were married, and we were lucky enough to have two lovely girls, Clare and then Kara. Both girls developed their own musical talents – Clare on piano and oboe and Kara on piano and percussion (taking after her old man!). In fact, both briefly played with the GCO, although these days they both prefer singing in a fantastic choir called the St Andrew Camerata, based in Edinburgh.I’ve always been a church-goer, and by one of those accidents of fate, I agreed to deputise on the organ at our church one day, and ended up as full-time organist and choirmaster, a job I have been doing now for over 20 years – still can’t master the pedals though! As well as running the choir, I also set up a small music group for the youngsters in our church. ICHTHUS was open to anyone who played a musical instrument. I would arrange hymns for whatever combination of players we could get. At its peak, the group had over 20 players, including 5 flutes, 4 trombones and 3 bassoons - beat that GCO!
Both Clare and Kara are married now, and indeed are both expecting their first child at the moment! (The second photo is of our family, taken at Kara’s wedding in 2017). For Susie and me, the GCO has long been a great source of enjoyment, and each concert has been a pleasure and a thrill. I was especially delighted last year when the GCO was finally able to purchase rehearsal timpani. Having just one rehearsal prior to a concert certainly focusses the mind but is definitely not good for the nerves! Sadly, rehearsals and concerts are now on hold for who knows how long, and it is one of the things that we both miss the most these days. Hopefully, we will get back to music-making together sometime in the not too distant future. I can’t wait!
Lynne Bulmer (flute)
My musical life started on piano aged about 7, but I was frustrated because my hands were too small for all the big Romantic pieces I really wanted to play! My mother was a pianist but it was my dad with his homemade ‘stereogram’ who really inspired me with the six Classical orchestral LPs he would bring home from the library every week. My first secondary school was given 2 flutes and I ended up with one of them aged about 12. My parents divorced and I came back to Yorkshire minus the flute, but eventually got my own and started concentrating on it. I played a lot throughout secondary school (including as soloist in a performance of Bach’s Suite no. 2 in B minor complete with harpsichord continuo!) and took my Grade 8 at 16. I also played in the Northern Area Schools Symphony Orchestra which I loved and was introduced to some great repertoire there. Having decided against music college as I didn’t believe I was good enough (or tough enough) to become a professional player, I decided on a dual Music/English degree at Sheffield University, I’ve never been sure if I made the ‘right’ decision, but loved my time in Sheffield music department so much that after one year I swapped to a B Mus Hons degree and dumped English. I played in the university orchestra, various ensembles and then in the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra for a number of years after graduating.
With NASSO performing for the BBC at York University in the 1970s
With my favourite tutor Dr Roger Bullivant outside Sheffield City Hall after BMus Hons graduation
After that, life became pretty messy and I ended up giving up the flute altogether for about 13 years. After splitting up with my first husband and moving to Skipton, I needed to find some way of earning a living that would fit with being a single parent and someone suggested I look for instrumental teaching work in schools. I dug out my dusty old flute and booked some lessons with Stina Bisengaliev (Opera North) to try to remember how to play. I took a post-G8 exam and got 3 jobs - working for North Yorkshire as a peripatetic woodwind teacher, for Bradford CC as a peripatetic class recorder teacher (needed ear plugs for that one!) and woodwind teacher for a private school in Ilkley, while also teaching piano privately in the evenings – it was all pretty exhausting!
Life changed again after I got together with my second husband, and my daughter and I went up to live with him and his 3 children in the West Highlands where he was working as a GP in a remote village facing across the sea to Skye. I was offered the chance to teach flute once a week at Plockton High School and did that for a number of years as well as some other private teaching. I was also fortunate to play in ORCAL (Mahler 1, Rachmaninov 2 etc.) and to go on flute summer school courses with David Nicholson – Mr Flute in Scotland. He was very encouraging about my playing and I ended up studying successfully for the three AB Performance diplomas with him. This was no easy matter as he lived a 4-hour drive away, but David and his wife kindly let me stay the night with them in Auchtermuchty to make it possible. My accompanist for the diplomas was my husband’s cousin who is a brilliant pianist/organist/accordionist, but he lives in Birmingham so that made it all even more complicated. We love playing together and have done many performances over the years, despite the distance.
View over to Skye from our house in theHighlands (February 2004)
As our 4 children were growing up and I had more time in the day, I also began studying for a Masters in Music with the OU – something I felt I could do while living in a remote Highland village. It ended up being pretty stressful with the distances involved (trying to get hold of books etc.) but I’m still proud I managed to get through it in difficult circumstances.
By around 2010 when the children were older, I’d really had enough of remote living and was desperate to do more orchestral playing. My lovely husband began looking at jobs further south and found one in Edinburgh. I resumed private teaching work (flute and piano) and am thrilled to be living in Edinburgh, but it is not an easy place for woodwind players (too many for too few orchestras and no easy way into any of them), although I have played several concerts with the Meadows CO over the years. In 2011, I heard about Amicus Orchestra and auditioned for them successfully – I’ve played with them ever since and am now on the committee. My most memorable performance was with Amicus in 2018 when we played to a full house at the Leipzig Gewandhaus with me ‘duetting’ with Maya Iwabuchi in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy – still seems like an amazing dream and I’ll treasure that always.
Graduation May 2006MA in Music (dist)
With members of the Edinburgh Quartet- Ullapool NYOS Variations course - August 2009
As soloist with Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra
Rehearsing with Amicus in the Gewandhaus – 2018
Amicus only meets for 2 or 3 intensive weekends a year for rehearsals/concerts and I have always hoped to find more regular orchestral playing as well, so I was delighted to have been offered the opportunity to play with the GCO (even if it’s via Zoom at the moment!) after enjoying playing in two previous GCO concerts. I can’t wait to do some ‘real’ playing with you all eventually and to get to know everyone properly!
Husband Simon with the love of his life (and me)
Cycling in my Happy Place in the French Pyrenees 2018