University of St Andrews: Laidlaw Music Centre hits the high note

The University of St Andrews officially marked the opening of its world-leading Laidlaw Music Centre this weekend (Saturday 2 April).

Open to staff, students and the local community, the state-of-the-art £12.5 million Laidlaw Music Centre will become an integral part of the St Andrews cultural quarter, attracting world-class performers and recitalists from around the globe.

To mark the occasion invited guests, including donors to the project and the local St Andrews community, were treated to performances by Diva Opera alongside Music Centre staff and student performers, hosted by Jamie MacDougall, one of Scotland’s leading artists.

Group stands outside music centre new building
Pictured outside the Laidlaw (left to right) are Robert Fleming (Director of Development), Martin Griffiths, Scott Williamson (Trustee, McPherson Trust), Susanna Kempe (CEO, Laidlaw Foundation), Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE (Principal and Vice-Chancellor), Lady Campbell, Lord Campbell (University Chancellor), Michael Downes (Director of Music) and Jason Flanagan (Architect, Flanagan Lawrence)
The Laidlaw, as it is affectionately known, is the first building dedicated to music in the University’s 600-year history, creating new opportunities for young people to connect with performing arts, providing an intimate performance venue, a flexible rehearsal space, and a high-tech recording facility.

Central to the state-of the-art facility is the oak-lined McPherson Recital room, one of the world’s first chamber halls with a moveable floor as well as a 9m reverberation chamber. The impressive moveable floor allows the space to be configured for a variety of performance requirements, from symphony orchestras to chamber music recitals, at the push of a button.

The world-leading Music Centre’s facilities include three rehearsal rooms, ten practice rooms, a recording suite, and a library. The building provides first class facilities for talented students, many of whom engage in music at the highest level in parallel with their main academic studies.

A student cellist plays in front of a group of people in a music room
Invited guests enjoy a cello performance by Andrew Stirling in the Reading Room
Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews, said: “The Laidlaw Music Centre is at the heart of the St Andrews cultural quarter, bringing international music and world-leading performances to St Andrews, while simultaneously creating opportunities for students and the community to connect with the performing arts.

“Music and the arts allow us to examine what it means to be human, to voice and express ourselves, and to bring people and ideas together. St Andrews now has the pre-eminent location to nurture and support people to develop their passion for music and host inspiring national and international recitalists.”

Lord Laidlaw, who donated £4 million to the project which helped turn the vision of a world-leading music centre into reality, added: “All of my philanthropic projects are designed to create a lasting, transformational impact on people’s lives. As a keen lover of music, and particularly of opera, I am delighted to have contributed to this state-of-the-art, custom-built Music Centre, which will provide first-class facilities for talented students as well as create new opportunities for young people and the community to connect with performing arts. I believe it has the potential not only to transform the musical life of the University of St Andrews, but also to contribute to Scotland’s cultural and social value.”

Dr Michael Downes, Director of Music at the University, added: “The Laidlaw Music Centre, in a short space of time, has already become an integral addition to the St Andrews cultural quarter, palpably enhancing the enjoyment of listening to and the making of music. It is already clear not only that the building enriches the experience of current students, but also that it will attract outstanding musicians to come to St Andrews, developing opportunities for the wider community to experience truly outstanding facilities and performances.”


The audience watches a recorded message from Lord Laidlaw who was unable to attend in person in the McPherson
The Centre, designed by architects Flanagan Lawrence, was funded with philanthropic support from donors including the McPherson Trust, Sir Ewan and Lady Brown, and Lord Laidlaw.

Jason Flanagan, Partner at Flanagan Lawrence Architects, added: “It has been a privilege to be given the opportunity to design the Laidlaw Music Centre. Our approach was two-fold. First, to design the rehearsal and performance spaces from the ‘inside out’, where the acoustic drives the design, culminating in the oak-lined MacPherson Recital Hall, the first hall of its kind to feature a reverberation chamber. In parallel we were designing from the ‘outside in’, exploring the civic presence of the building in its historic context, whilst forming a calm backdrop to the beautiful trees in the arboretum.”

A video overview of the Laidlaw Music Centre with interviews is available to download and to watch on YouTube.

University of St Andrews

Founded in the 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English-speaking world. The University of St Andrews is one of Europe’s most research-intensive seats of learning. It is one of the top-rated universities in Europe for research, teaching quality and student satisfaction.

Today, under the leadership of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sally Mapstone, the University’s strategy is to broaden its global influence, with a focus on diversity, building a culture of entrepreneurship, research excellence and social responsibility. The University has set an ambitious target of carbon net zero by 2035, ten years ahead of the Scottish Government’s 2045 target.

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