Yeoman of the Month May 2015 – Fraser Langton

I was 12 years old and watching The Simpsons when I saw Lisa Simpson play a tune on her baritone saxophone. I loved the jazzy sound it made and instantly decided that I wanted to play that instrument. While my school offered free music lessons, my music teacher had just loaned out the last sax. As compensation, she handed me a shiny black case. Inside was a clarinet.

I came from a non-musical family but I’d always been drawn to creative activities and would spend hours as a 9-year-old child recording myself singing tracks such as Hey Macarena from 80s/90s Top of the Pops CDs! Fortunately, my passion for cheesy pop tracks was soon replaced with total enthrallment for the clarinet. I’d spend hours experimenting with the different keys and noises you could make. At the same time, I started listening to classical music. Each month I would buy a new CD, choosing at random. I think the first was a disc of Baroque Recorder Concerti. I still own the CD!

My musical interests flourished at Runshaw Sixth-Form College, and with the help of the faculty there, I decided to apply to music college. I initially had my heart set on the Royal Northern College of Music but after auditioning for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), on something of a whim (I liked the bright colours of their prospectus) and being offered a scholarship, I decided that was the institution for me.

As soon as I walked into the building, I loved the energy at the RCS and felt so welcomed by everyone there. It’s interesting having a family that knows very little about your world. It’s a unique and remarkable way of life, and I’d spend my term time honing my skills and learning amazingly difficult pieces of repertoire only to go home and be asked to play the theme tune from Coronation Street! I won most major prizes while as a student at the RCS and graduated in 2012 with a distinction in Masters of Music Performance and the Peter Morrison Prize for excellence and overall contribution to college life.

I perform a wider array of stuff than most people who come out of college. The clarinet is quite unusual in that there are several auxiliary instruments such as the bass clarinet and E flat clarinet. Being a clarinettist isn’t just about playing the B flat clarinet in solo recitals, and I’ve really focused on being as versatile as possible in order to get more work and boost my career. This has been helped hugely by organizations such as the Worshipful Company of Musicians (WCOM) and the Wolfson Trust who helped fund the purchase of my bass clarinet.

Through the WCOM, I’ve had the chance to perform at the Wigmore Hall and St John’s Smith Square. I’ve also performed as a soloist at venues including London’s Fairfield Halls, Edinburgh Festival and Banff summer music festival in Canada. In February 2016, I’ll be back at St John’s Smith Square to premiere a new work for clarinet, viola and piano, which I am commissioning award winning Scottish Composer Rory Boyle to write. Soon after that I will be recording my debut album, a CD with Delphian Records, who won the Gramophone magazine Label of the Year award in 2014. The CD will be a celebration of Rory Boyle’s 65th birthday year and include works by him for the clarinet encompassing a 40 year compositional period, including the new trio! The piano player will be James Willshire who I have performed with as a duo since 2012 when Rory introduced us and suggested we should play together.

I also play in the Northern Lights Wind Quintet . We are all graduates of the RCS and have played concerts at prestigious festivals such as St. Magnus. We are actively involved in the Live Music Now! scheme (on which I have also worked as a soloist since 2009), undertaking outreach and community work. Working with severely handicapped and disadvantaged people can really test your mettle and has dramatically improved my stage confidence. It’s hugely rewarding when on those rare occasions someone tells you that they haven’t seen a particular child smile for two years until now.

I also have a busy orchestral freelance schedule including working with Scottish Opera with whom I’ve just finished a production of Jenufa by Janacek. I regularly with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Ballet too. I am aiming to be a full-time orchestral musician and I’m currently on trial with the BBC Philharmonic for the position of second and principal E flat clarinet. I’ll be back performing with them in May to do a great programme, which includes Prokofiev’s fifth symphony. I’ll then be off to St Magnus International Festival, Orkney’s midsummer celebration of the arts, in June to perform with a new ensemble called the Assembly Project.

You can find out more about Fraser at fraserlangton.co.uk .