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Two into one

THE PLANNED merger of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, announced this week, raises some intriguing questions. Is the BBC jumping the gun on its own survey of British orchestras, launched jointly with the Arts Council earlier this year? It's a purely Scottish initiative, says the BBC, and isn't about London dictating what will happen in Scotland. Anyway, the survey will be mainly about England and Wales.

But then the Scots might have supplied a tempting model. How long before we see the Royal Opera House or the Coliseum installing the BBC Symphony Orchestra? Set it at double strength, give it two music directors for concerts and theatre work, and players would have a much better life swapping around. 'We wouldn't be appointing a new general manager at a very senior level,' comes the BBC's reply, 'if there was any intention of anything happening to it.' Then again, these are lean times, and the old chestnut of too many orchestras in London is starting to do the rounds of the funders again.

At least the Glasgow orchestra, product of parsimony though it may be, can keep redundancies down to 13 by making one large orchestra from two smaller ones. And it deserves congratulations for seizing the name National Orchestra of Scotland. Not so many months ago there was a Scottish National Orchestra, which decided to call itself the Royal Scottish instead - a move that pleased native musicians about as much as any assertion of English power. Now the RSO's players have voted this week by a large majority in favour of taking control of their own affairs and turning into a self-governing orchestra like London's. What Scotland does today . . .

Play it again

SOMETHING else the Royal Scottish Orchestra has launched is a competition for composers, sponsored by IBM and with a first prize of pounds 7,000. It will be playing works by five finalists at Glasgow City Hall on 18 September next year, and it guarantees the winner another performance in 1994. There will be workshops for some other entrants, whose 15- 20-minute offerings will be judged by three composers (Dalby, Ruders, Weir) and two conductors (Bernas, Gibson). EC citizens under 40, resident in the UK, can enter.

CODA

IN Northern Ireland, meanwhile, they're splitting an orchestra in half. The Ulster Orchestra Sinfonia is a 21-player offshoot from the Ulster Orchestra, formed to play at halls too small for the full body of musicians. It goes on tour this week (starting in Armagh on Thursday) with a something- for-everyone programme including Vivaldi's Four Seasons and John Adams's Shaker Loops. Concerts on Friday (Londonderry) and Saturday (Downpatrick) also feature a new work by Piers Hellawell, Memorial Cairns.

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