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Tenor and Radio Scotland Classics Unwrapped presenter Jamie MacDougall is the soloist for the Viennese Gala at Eden Court in Inverness


By Margaret Chrystall

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Jamie MacDougall, tenor and popular presenter of BBC Radio Scotland's classical music programme Classics Unwrapped, comes to Eden Court on Thursday with the RSNO (Royal Scottish National Orchestra) for the return of their annual Viennese Gala night. Below he answers Margaret Chrystall's questions talks about performing, presenting – and a car crash in his early career that almost ended it ...

Q You will be coming to appear with the RSNO in Inverness as the soloist for their popular Viennese Gala night at Eden Court, Jamie. What can you tell us about plans for the concert this year? What are your favourite things about this style of music?

A I’m really looking forward to singing the songs of Franz Lehar with the RSNO. I grew up with my grandpa playing the recordings of the great Austrian tenor Richard Tauber. Also my grandpa sang many of them himself in the house and in little concerts he’d give around Glasgow. So they have a lot of meaning to me. Girls were made to love and kiss and You are my heart’s delight are two of Lehar’s most famous arias, both composed for Tauber and they are so stylish they are a joy to perform. Our Viennese Gala is a fine mix of popular Johann Strauss melodies, Thunder and Lightning Polka and of course the Blue Danube, but there’s much more to our gala than a series of waltzes and polkas. There are a number of classical favourites and one or two surprises, all brilliantly played by the RSNO.

Jamie MacDougall will sing tonight with the RSNO at Eden Court's Viennese Gala.
Jamie MacDougall will sing tonight with the RSNO at Eden Court's Viennese Gala.

Q You present Radio Scotland's classical music programme Classics Unwrapped – what are the best things about doing that job? And what are your priorities when you are thinking ahead about what and who you want to feature on it?

A Presenting Classics Unwrapped on BBC Radio Scotland has given me some amazing experiences, meeting some of the world’s top artists, performers and composers. It’s also opened some incredible doors, anchoring the BBC Proms in the Park from Scotland for one and given me chances like appearing with RSNO in this dual role of presenter and singer. I think it’s important that Classics Unwrapped reflects what is happening in the classical music scene across the land… from music clubs and community-based groups to the top national and international orchestra and ensembles. Also new music gets a great platform on BBC Radio Scotland and with my long, close association with New Opera in Scotland Events (NOISE) I think that is such an important thing to shout about.

Q I was reading about the car accident earlier in your career where the effects took a while to show themselves – and the impact they started to make on your career. Can you tell us what happened and, looking back, how it affected your career. Though during that time you were given the opportunity to become a radio presenter?

A The car crash happened when I was a post graduate student in London. More than a few years ago. However its effects took four or five years to manifest themselves. I had arrived in London and almost immediately was very fortunate to get some amazing high-profile work and recordings with Deutsche Grammophonand Hyperion records. During that period I was finding it harder and harder to sing freely and the last thing I thought it could be was the effects of a car crash. Once it was sorted, it meant I had a lot of retraining to do and re calibrating of the technique and, it has to be said, my confidence, to give it another shot. I was able to keep going with my young family by being part of Caledon, the Scottish tenor group and concert and recording projects. The opportunity to present on BBC Radio Scotland was also another hugely important and helpful development. It allowed me to take time out of high-profile singing and work hard in developing my voice and technique, building up the muscles that had become so imbalanced due to the physical issues of my neck and back. It’s only in the last three years I’ve taken the tentative steps back into opera, making my debut with Scottish Opera in Ariadne Auf Naxos in 2018. Then making a return to English National Opera in 2019 after an absence of almost 20 years was a huge step for me and one I really loved. I return to Scottish Opera soon in their new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream– another dream come true to be back at my national company.

Jamie MacDougall with the RSNO at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Drew Farrell
Jamie MacDougall with the RSNO at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall. Picture: Drew Farrell

Q You have been performing in Lauder, portraying the great Harry (in Jimmy Logan's play about him) and I think you will be doing that again at Celtic Connections. Is it fun to play someone else for a change rather than singing as yourself – and what is your favourite thing about Harry?

A Performing Harry on stage has been a long time ambition. I saw Jimmy perform the play when I was 10. It started my interest and love in Lauder. It’s a huge role and one I relish. I get to be a song and dance man! Who wouldn’t love that?

RSNO return with their Viennese Gala concert.
RSNO return with their Viennese Gala concert.

Q What are your plans for the rest of this year after the Viennese Gala?

A More Lauder. It’s his 150th anniversary. I’ve been unable to secure Creative Scotland funding, however I’m hoping to take the show on the road this year. I’d love to come to Eden Court with it, so watch out! It’s also Beethoven’s big anniversary year and I’m giving a number of recitals in Germany to mark that. My radio show continues on BBC Radio Scotland which is brilliant and I look forward to more exciting collaborations with Scottish musicians and orchestras.

Tenor Jamie MacDougall is the soloist with RSNO for their Viennese Gala at Eden Court tonight (Thursday, January 9) from 7.30pm. More info: www.eden-court.co.uk Jamie performs in Lauder at Celtic Connections on Wednesday, January 22, 2pm and 8pm. More info: www.celticconnections.com


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