Friday, 8 January 2016

Article published in Manchester Evening News 31 December 2015

IT’S going to be an exciting year for classical music in 2016.

There are two imaginative and unusual festivals on the way at the Bridgewater Hall, the Royal Northern College of Music is hosting ground-breaking music theatre events, and Hallé St Peter’s and the nearby St Michael’s (another former church transformed into a community resource), in Ancoats, are opening up cultural life in the Northern Quarter of Manchester as never before.

Echoes Of A Mountain Song is the title of the Bridgewater Hall’s own spread-out festival, from February to April, taking in music both classical and folk, literary themes (including Shakespeare’s birthday), and love of the outdoors. The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, the RNCM Brass Band, baritone Sir Thomas Allen, pianist Clare Hammond and others are contributing.

‘The music and poetry of northern landscapes’ is its sub-title, and the climax is the first performance of a community opera, Get Weaving, written by Alison Prince and Andrew Keeling. It commemorates and brings into present-day focus the ‘mass trespass’ of ramblers on Kinder Scout in 1932.

In May comes the Hallé’s own festival of Dvořák, titled Nature, Life And Love. A sequence of seven concerts (May 5-21) is conducted by Sir Mark Elder, including the final three symphonies, The Golden Spinning Wheel (four symphonic poems), and the oratorio Saint Ludmilla, written for the Leeds Festival of 1886 and performed in Manchester by the Hallé (though not in the end conducted by Hallé  himself, who was ill) soon afterwards.

Actors, musicians and film will tell the story of the ‘New World’ symphony; Dvořák’s cello concerto, piano concerto and Slavonic Dances feature, too.

At the RNCM the New Music North West festival at the end of January includes the world premiere of Mysterious 44, an opera by Kevin Malone. There’s a performance by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Duncan Ward, of Icarus At The Edge Of Time, a film with a score by Philip Glass (north west premiere, 6 February). And Music Theatre Wales offer The Devil Inside, a new opera by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh, on February 16.

More new music comes from Manchester’s Psappha, with the first live BBC broadcast from St Michael’s Ancoats on January 7, Tunde Jegede’s Kora Concerto (world premiere, Hallé St Peter’s, January 15), Harrison Birtwistle at St Michael’s (January 29), Stockhausen and Ligeti (February 18) and the Contemporary Music For All Festival of New Music’s Open Score project on February 27. That’s just the beginning …


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