“Ca the yowes” (Call the Ewes). A Scottish tune that’s been running through Richard Rodney Bennett’s mind for some time. It’s also the inspiration for his new cello concerto, Reflections on a Scottish Folk Song, which premieres on 9 March as conductor David Parry leads soloist Paul Watkins and the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Queen Elizabeth Hall. The concerto was commissioned by the Prince of Wales in memory of his grandmother, the Queen Mother, who spent her childhood in rural Scotland. Bennett recalls that during his meeting with Prince Charles, “We talked about his grandmother a lot. I wanted to know whether she had any favorite Scottish folk songs. There weren’t any in particular, but it turned out she loved Edwardian music hall songs. She used to sing them to her grandchildren as she tucked them in bed at night.”
Bennett’s Reflections premiere isn’t the only highlight this month. The composer turns 70 on 29 March, and celebrations abound including a BBC Concert Orchestra’s performance of films scores and a Wigmore Hall evening of “A Richard Rodney Bennett Songbook.” Next month, birthday events continue as the BBC Singers and Chorus join the BBC Symphony for a special portrait concert conducted by Stephen Cleobury and Martyn Brabbins. Bennett’s next premiere occurs on 28 May as clarinetist Nigel Hinson performs Ballad in memory of Shirley Horn, accompanied by Nick Oliver.