Performances aid music school pitch for Royal High

Pupils perform at St Mary's Music School. Picture: comp
Pupils perform at St Mary's Music School. Picture: comp
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Plans to turn the historic old Royal High on Calton Hill into the new home for a music school will be presented to the public this week – to the sound of performances from leading young musicians.

The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT), which is backing the proposals to return the masterpiece of Greek revival architecture to its former use as a school, will host an exhibit of its plans at Canongate Kirk on Thursday, from 5pm to 8pm.

Three performance spaces would be created, including one within the main chamber which sits behind the building’s distinctive colonnade, with performers drafted in to help visitors imagine the space reverberating with music.

Carol Colburn Grigor, who has already donated more than £20 million to the arts in Scotland, has pledged to underwrite plans to relocate the music school.

City planners are set to be presented with two competing visions for the site, which has sat largely empty for more than 45 years and has sustained damage through neglect. Separate plans from developers who have secured a 125-year lease of the council-owned site have been drawn up to turn the old Royal High, built in 1829, into a five-star luxury hotel.

The hotel plans from firms Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group have drawn criticism over two large modern wings flanking the historic Thomas Hamilton-designed property that dominates views across the south of the city.

William Gray Muir, 
chairman of the RHSPT, said: “We want to see St Mary’s Music School move to the site where it can enjoy a new, inspiring and internationally prestigious home. With the extra space it needs to expand and which the high school could provide, it can also open its doors to greater numbers of talented Scottish children.

“I would encourage local residents to come to the exhibition. Students from the music school will be performing in the impressive surroundings of Canongate Kirk and we will have a number of people available to discuss the history of both schools and the opportunities our plans present.”

Ken Taylor, headteacher at St Mary’s Music School, said: “The opportunity to move into the former Royal High School buildings not only allows us to fulfil our ambitions to expand, but will also serve to give Scotland’s only independent music school a greater and more prestigious international standing.”