OSO Soloist: Gillian Blair
Gillian Blair is an award winning classical Saxophonist from the Wirral. She graduated from the RNCM with a First Class Bachelors degree in 2014 and a Masters degree with distinction in 2016 under the tutelage of Rob Buckland. Her studies were generously supported with scholarships from the Oglesby Charitable Trust, the Helen Mackaness Award and the Countess of Munster Trust. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, she was awarded the Timothy Reynish Award for outstanding contribution to the RNCM. During her studies, Gillian received tuition and appeared in masterclasses with internationally acclaimed artists including Vincent David, Arno Bornkamp, Johan van der Linden and Timothy McAllister, and studied at the internationally renowned 'European University of the Saxophone' in Gap, France.
Gillian has won first prize in competitions including the International Young Musician Competition at the Llangollen Eisteddfod, the D'addario Single Reed Competition, the RNCM Woodwind Competition, the Charles Scarratt Award for Young Musicians and the RNCM's Sir John Manduell Prize. She was a finalist in both the prestigious RNCM Gold Medal & Concerto competitions and has received awards from the Rushworth Trust, the EMI Music Sound Foundation and the Loan Fund for Musical Instruments.
As a soloist, she has performed around the country at festivals and concert series' including the BBC Proms, Manchester Cathedral, Heswall Arts Festival, the Manchester Palaver Festival and several broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. She has appeared as a guest soloist with the RNCM Percussion Ensemble, the RNCM Saxophone Orchestra and the Virr String Quartet, as well as performing concerti by Jacques Ibert and John Williams. The Commonwealth Youth Orchestra has recently commissioned a new concerto for Saxophone and Strings which will be premiered and recorded by Gillian and the orchestra next season. Gillian has commissioned several solo works, the latest of which; 'In Somnium' by Lucy Pankhurst, was premiered at the RNCM.
Gillian formed the Polaris Duo with harpist Elinor Nicholson in 2011 and they have since been exploring an eclectic range of repertoire and possibilities for this unusual instrumentation. They gave the world premiere of Andy Scott’s 'Sonata for Saxophone and Harp' at the 2012 World Saxophone Congress and have recently been featured in the Lake District Summer Music 'New Generation Artists' Concert Series. They perform regularly around the UK at venues including the Bridgewater Hall, Buxton Opera House, Warwick University and the RNCM Concert Hall.
As a member of the Borealis Saxophone Quartet, Gillian has performed regularly throughout the UK including performances at St John’s Smith Square, Kings Place, the Bridgewater Hall and the BBC Proms Festival which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. They have commissioned and premiered several new saxophone quartets by composers including Gary Carpenter and Tom Harrold and Lucy Armstrong, and a concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Strings by Lucy Pankhurst. The quartet has won competitions including the Apollo Saxophone Quartet/RNCM Saxophone Ensemble Prize, the June Emerson Launchpad Prize, the Trevor Wye Memorial Prize, the Chris Rowland Chamber Music Competition and were named ‘RNCM Ensemble of the Year 2013’. In 2014, the quartet premiered 4 new works by RNCM composers at the RNCM Gold Medal Competition, 2 of which feature on the quartet’s debut album; ‘The North’, which was released in October 2014, following their f irst international tour to Serbia. The quartet reached the final of the Royal Overseas League Competition and were selected as Park Lane Group Young Artists 2014/15, giving performances at the Royal Festival Hall and the Purcell Room where they premiered a PLG commission; 'Borexino-Borealis' by Darren Bloom. In 2016, they premiered a new work by Lucy Armstrong at St Martin-in-the-Fields and were selected as artists for Yehudi Menuhin’s ‘Live Music Now’ scheme. Most recently they have been featured as ‘BBC Introducing Artists’ on BBC Radio 3, which included a live performance and interview on the ‘In Tune’ programme with Sean Rafferty.
Gillian has performed with larger ensembles including the European Union Youth Wind Orchestra, the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, the RNCM Symphony Orchestra, the Soundscape Chamber Orchestra and she has performed, recorded and given workshops with the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Commonwealth Octet. She is a member of the Tenor Saxophone Collective, a saxophone orchestra made up of internationally renowned tenor saxophonists including Arno Bornkamp, Andy Scott and Niels Bilj. Gillian has performed as an extra with several professional orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's 'SuperOrchestra' and the Orchestra of Opera North.
For details of forthcoming performances, please visit www.gillianblair.com.
Concerts where Gillian Blair played: