Page last updated at 15:10 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 16:10 UK

Charting Glasgow's musical past

Glasgow has been named a world centre of music by Unesco, the United nation's cultural organisation.

Here, the BBC Scotland news website looks at the city's long musical heritage and vibrant modern music scene.


Glasgow's first venue for large gatherings and concerts was the City Halls, which opened in 1841. It played host to the likes of Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens and William Gladstone.

St Andrews Halls opened its doors in 1877 and was home to most of Scotland's classical music for nearly a century.

Madame butterfly
Madame Butterfly was Scottish Opera's first production

The Glasgow Choral Union (GCU) was founded in 1844 to give fundraising concerts for charities. It dominated concert life in Glasgow for 50 years with its choral concerts, orchestral concerts and chamber music.

It had an impressive roll of visiting soloists and conductors, such as Sir Arthur Sullivan in 1876 and Sarasate in 1889. George Henschel sang in 1890 and violinist Joseph Joachim came a year later.

Scottish Orchestra was formed in 1951 after a choppy passage into existence, which began more than 100 years earlier with the GCU.

In the early 1890s the orchestra struck out on its own in direct competition to the GCU. After a disastrous outcome, they reunited and ultimately became Scottish Orchestra.

There was no national opera company in Glasgow until the middle of the 20th Century.

However, throughout the 20th Century, Glasgow was regularly visited by touring companies such as the Carl Rosa Company and the D'Oyly Carte. Big Opera stars such as Patti and Tetrazzini were also regular visitors.

Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995), who had studied in Glasgow, set up Scottish Opera in 1962. He was working with the Scottish National Orchestra (SNO), and he founded Scottish Opera with the SNO in the pit. Its first production was Madame Butterfly.

Glasgow City halls
The freshly renovated City Halls in Glasgow

Gibson brought major international talent to Glasgow and staged productions such as the Ring Cycle, Les Tryens and Cosi fan Tutte.

Both Scottish Opera and SNO recorded extensively and toured internationally.

Gibson also brought the best international work back to Glasgow, giving the first performances of works by Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle, Berio, Henze, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Schoenberg and Stockhausen.

The main venue for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is now the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, which opened in 1990. The Theatre Royal is home to Scottish Opera.

The City Halls and The Old Fruitmarket reopened in 2006 after a major refurbishment, providing a base for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.


Folk clubs boomed in the 1960s. Many musicians of that period became international artists, including Ewan McColl, Jean Redpath, Dick Gaughan, The Clutha, The Whistlebinkies and the Boys of the Lough.

Glasgow is now the centre of the Scottish folk music industry. It is home to the Celtic Connections festival, which was founded in 1994 and is now an annual event with 100,000 people filling 10 venues.

The three-week event focuses on the roots of traditional Scottish music.

Artists who have appeared inlcude Clannad, Capercaillie, Runrig, Eddi Reader, Billy Bragg and The Clan Gregor Society Pipe Band.

Glasgow also hosts the International Jazz Festival (one of the biggest jazz festivals in Europe) and the World Pipe Band Championships, which typically attracts several hundred bands from all over the world.


Small music venues started to pop up all over the city throughout the early 20th Century and helped launch some of the first stars of Glasgow's popular music scene, such as Will Fyffe (1885-1947) with his signature song "I belong to Glasgow".

Franz Ferdinand
Home-grown talent Franz Ferdinand have played the Barrowlands

The two legendary rock venues were the Apollo and the Barrowlands, hosting performers such as Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

The Apollo, known as Green's Playhouse until 1973, started hosting music gigs in the 1960s. In 1985 the crumbling building closed its doors with a final gig by Paul Weller's Style Council.

Originally built in 1934, the Barrowlands started life as a ballroom and is still a major concert venue. It is renowned for its excellent acoustics and sprung dance floor, and has been repeatedly voted "the best venue in the world".

It has also provided a platform for home-grown talent including Primal Scream, Travis, Franz Ferdinand and Deacon Blue. It is among Glasgow's four top pop and rock venues, which also include the Carling Academy, the ABC and King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. The latter was the venue where Oasis were first spotted and signed in 1993.

The SECC and the Clyde Auditorium and Hampden Park football stadium also regularly host some of the world's biggest acts.

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