Teen’s musical composition performed for Queen at Holyrood

Notes From Scotland competitor Tom Aitken. Picture: RSNO
Notes From Scotland competitor Tom Aitken. Picture: RSNO
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EDINBURGH teenager Tom Aitken composed a piece of music which was performed in front of the Queen at the opening of the Scottish Parliament’s new session.

The 15-year-old, who attends St Mary’s Music School at Grosvenor Crescent, won a competition organised by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to put the parliament to music.

The Notes From Scotland competition, run in partnership with the Festival of Architecture 2016 and as part of the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, invited young composers to write a two-minute work for an instrumental trio, quartet or quintet reflecting on an example of Scotland’s contemporary architecture.

Tom’s Piano Quintet No1 – described as a “fast, hectic, tranquil and calm” composition – was played on Saturday when the Queen attended a special ceremony for the opening of the Scottish Parliament’s fifth session.

Tom said it was “a great honour”. He added: “It arose from an RSNO workshop and we went to the parliament and were asked to take it all in and put together a piece of music that reflected what we thought. I was struck by the three main arcs in the building and I wanted to represent that in the music, so I have three main sections in my piece.

“We were taken to the parliament on a Saturday and it was very quiet in the building. I realised that it wouldn’t be quite so quiet during the week, so there are contrasts in my piece.”

“I was struck by the three main arcs in the building, so the piece has three sections. The first is played by piano only and it’s calm and lyrical, which represents a quiet weekend at the parliament.

“The second section is fast and hectic, played by all five musicians. This middle section represents the business days of the parliament and so it forms the bulk of the work, just like the weekdays form the bulk of Holyrood’s business.

“The third section is the same music material as in the first, only with all five musicians playing. It’s more tranquil and brings the music back to a ‘quiet weekend’, reflecting the cycle of a parliamentary week.”

Tom, whose career ambition is to compose music for the film industry, watched from the public gallery as his five-minute work was played by five musicians from the RSNO. 
Ken Macintosh, presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, said: “Tom Aitken’s piece perfectly encapsulates a day at the Scottish Parliament building – there’s passion, urgency, discord, reflection and, ultimately, harmony.

“It is wonderful to see new musical talent like Tom Aitken emerging from Scotland. As the new session of the Scottish Parliament gets under way, it’s right that we provide a platform for bright, young, creative people like Tom and that we put them at the centre of our events.”