28 of 50

2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it.

French-Canadian conductor Jean-Claude Picard has recently been appointed Chief Conductor of the Scottish Ballet Orchestra after working with us on several productions over the last few years. He will debut in this role for the world premiere of The Crucible at the Edinburgh International Festival in August. We caught up with J-C to find out what he loves about conducting for ballet.

What attracted you to Scotland, and Scottish Ballet?

I first came to Scotland to take up my new position at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. I immediately felt at home here in Glasgow: I believe there are many cultural similarities between Scotland and Quebec.

About a year after I arrived, Scottish Ballet approached me to ask if I would be interested in conducting performances of The Nutcracker, which I accepted immediately as I was eager to conduct my first ballet and to meet with the people of this company. The experience was so positive that I was hoping they would have me back; fortunately I was re-invited the following year and from that point on our collaboration went from strength to strength.

How do you find working in Scotland and Quebec?

I’d say that it is an incredible life experience to work on both sides of the pond as I find it enriching to work in two different cultures. My maternal grandmother was born in the UK so it is special for me to work here also for that reason.

What's your favourite thing you've ever worked on?

There are a few of them, however working at Scottish Ballet for the first time had a very strong impact on me. From studio rehearsals to performance, the whole process of bringing a ballet production to life seduced me completely.

The combination of both music and movement makes ballet a powerful vehicle of art and I remember that I was quite moved when I saw/heard a studio rehearsal for the first time. Also, the positive working ambiance that Scottish Ballet cultivates quickly made me feel at ease discovering the ballet world.

What makes conducting for ballet different to the way you'd normally work with an orchestra?

The ballet conductor is part of a multi-faceted team, something that I like a lot. I also believe that the challenges of conducting a ballet are greater than a symphonic programme; aside learning the choreography up to the point where you feel it is a part of you, you have to know and understand the style of each dancer, and be ready for some micro-adjustments than can happen on the spot during a performance.

I also find ballet orchestras to be incredibly flexible and we are lucky here at Scottish Ballet to have such a great one. A ballet conductor also needs to have a natural sense of the theatrical; he needs to be able to tell a story and support the dramatic line from start to finish effortlessly. He also needs to inspire the orchestra to do so every single night. Great and inspiring music-making in the pit supports the dancers to give the best of themselves.

What's your 'get up and go' song?

Well, maybe because I’m a musician, I tend to love silence in the morning! In the summer I’ll have a cup of coffee on my terrasse and enjoy the sound of the wind in the trees. But if I really need something to help me get up and go, I think I'd choose the overture from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.