Glasgow Madrigirls

Glasgow Madrigirls is one of four shortlistees for the 2024 RPS Inspiration Award. We welcomed the public to vote for a favourite group here on our website from early December 2023 to early February 2024, and drew the biggest number of votes we have yet received for this award. Voting is now closed, and the winner will be announced at the RPS Awards on Tuesday 5 March at Manchester's Royal Northern College of Music. Thank you so much to everyone who voted.

Formed in 2000 by co-directors Katy Lavinia Cooper and Catriona Downie, then undergraduates at Glasgow University, Glasgow Madrigirls is a volunteer-run, self-funded choir of around 40 singers. Initially set up as an all-female group, the choir has since widened its membership to be a more inclusive upper-voice choir. With over 250 members during the last 23 years, the choir has recorded four albums as well as giving regular concerts and workshops for singers of all abilities. Glasgow Madrigirls has always taken an innovative and inclusive approach to teaching, ensuring a very high standard while remaining as accessible as possible to those who are less confident, especially in reading music. Members have the opportunity to develop their skills in singing, sight-reading, composing, arranging, and leading choirs themselves. Repertoire is eclectic, from medieval song to choral repertoire, folk, contemporary classical and pop, with a commitment to commissioning new work and showcasing music by less frequently heard composers.

Activities this year have included Madrigirls’ annual sell-out Advent Carol Concert at Glasgow University, which featured the premiere of a new work by Ronald Law, and championed women composers with a gender-balanced programme, and music arranged by choir members. The group gave a summer concert at Glasgow Botanic Gardens inspired by the life and work of much-overlooked botanical illustrator Elizabeth Blackwell, with readings from historical material and newly-transcribed 19th Century music by Glaswegian composers, plus folk music, shape-note hymns and new arrangements. 2023 also saw the culmination of a special project that celebrated the talents of group members. Three new pieces were commissioned from composer Emily Hall setting lyrics – two original poems and one translation – written by Madrigirls members. To share this work more widely, the group commissioned Madrigirls member and filmmaker Jennie Scammell to film it, including footage of bespoke linocut artwork created by Catriona Downie and printed by Rhian Nicholas, a professional printmaker and also a Madrigirls member.

‘Madrigirls stands out for its remarkable inclusivity and nurturing environment. Our directors are musically brilliant yet ego-free, and they actively mentor less-experienced members to compose, conduct, and improve our vocal skills. Auditions often prioritise those who will most benefit, not always the ‘best’ voices, and members are always supported – one transitioning to a trans man was reassured he would always have a place in the choir, also inspiring a change in how we describe ourselves – as an upper-voice, not female, choir. Through our community, ambition and quality, Madrigirls is genuinely inspiring.’
Daisy, alto and composer

‘As a member for 18 years I’ve thrived, and watched others thrive, on the creativity and camaraderie at the heart of Madrigirls. Each term offers a repertoire of exciting, innovative compositions and arrangements by members, as well as collaborations with other interesting artists. In the last year, Madrigirls has supported my own craft as a filmmaker by commissioning three films. The choir and our music have also provided vital support throughout my experience of becoming a mother, while losing my own mother. I played Madrigirls at her funeral and continue to sing our beautiful songs to my newborn.’
Jennie, soprano and filmmaker

The RPS Inspiration Award is generously supported by Presto Music.