The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is all set to enthral the Chennai audience with a spectacular performance of classical music, its first ever in the city, on March 29. Divya Kumar has the details

It’s one of the biggest ever undertakings by a British orchestra in India. The celebrated BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) will embark on a three-city tour of India, beginning with its first ever performance in Chennai on March 29.

The 78-year-old award-winning orchestra, together with the Madras Seva Sadan, will present a special evening of classical music and cultural exchange at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall.

“We are thrilled to be coming to Chennai as part of our ambitious tour,” says Gavin Reid, director of the BBC SSO. “Our concert looks set to be spectacular, with big-screen image projections complementing some stunning orchestral music.”

The orchestra will be led by conductor James MacMillan, one of Scotland’s eminent composers (his powerful works such as Veni, Veni, Emmanuel (1992) have been performed by orchestras the world over). They will also be joined by the glamorous young Scottish violin prodigy Nicola Benedetti, who was named Best Female Artist at the 2012 Classical BRIT Awards and BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004.

The musicians will remain in the city for a couple of days, conducting workshops and demonstrations for children, while the proceeds from the public concert will go towards the Madras Seva Sadan.

“Getting involved with local communities is an element of music making I have dedicated so much time to, and I'm thrilled to join another organisation equally serious about exposing this music to all parts of a community,” says Benedetti, who was recently appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for her charitable work.

This visit to India is the centrepiece of the orchestra’s activities ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow, and has been organised in partnership with the British Council and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“The Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s tour of India (accompanied by students from the Royal Conservatoire) will create ground-breaking musical collaborations and help build stronger links between India and Scotland,” says Rob Lynes, director of the British Council, India. “While our historical ties are strong, this tour, by engaging with young people at every stage, will make those relationships relevant to a new generation.”

Notes from the conductor

Tell us a bit about the pieces the orchestra will perform under your conductorship at the concert.

In our main concert, the symphony will be the 4th by Tchaikovsky, the great 19th century Russian composer. It is dramatic and glorious, with some wonderfully touching and entertaining music in its middle movements. The concerto is for violin and orchestra, in A major, by Mozart. It is one of the most beautiful and beguiling concertos by this composer. We start our concert with the Hebrides Overture by Mendelssohn which was written after the composer visited Scotland. It is very evocative of the land and seascapes of the North of our country.

We will also be performing concerts for children, in which a series of short, famous pieces of classical music will be explained by a marvellous animateur, Paul Rissman.

What are some of your goals, in terms of cultural exchange, during this visit to India? How important, in your opinion, are such global initiatives?

We are bringing some of the most important music from the classical canon to perform in India to entertain and delight our Indian hosts. We will also meet many young Indian musicians and composers. We hope to encourage them in their musical endeavours. It will be a great opportunity to share perspectives on different kinds of music.

Tell us a little bit about your musical equation and collaborations with Nicola Benedetti.

Nicola and I are from the same part of Scotland — Ayrshire, just South of Glasgow. A few years ago, she asked me to write some music for her and we became friends. I conducted the orchestra on her second CD. She has become Patron of my new festival The Cumnock Tryst, and will perform there this year.

This three-city tour is a major undertaking… what has your experience of putting all of it together been like

All the important planning has been done by the excellent management team at BBC Scotland. I have been in discussion with them over the last year or so, on matters of repertoire and outreach. I am particularly excited about meeting and working with some young Indian composers, whose music we will rehearse and workshop for them.

The performance will be held at the Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall at 7 p.m. on March 29. The mandatory dress code is black tie/ Indian formals. For donor invitations, call 32456000 or email admin@smvrch.com.