THERE’S a breath of fresh air in Manchester over the coming weeks. The Bridgewater Hall’s spring festival of the outdoors, Echoes Of A Mountain Song, begins on February 6 and continues into April.
It’s a themed series of concerts and supporting events, with the main performances from hall regulars Manchester Camerata, the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic, but there’s a wider aspect too, with the RNCM Brass Band and celebrity singer Sir Thomas Allen on the classical side, plus a range of events including poetry reading and folk music.
It’s all about the call of the hills and moors, the art they have inspired, and the anniversary of the ‘mass trespass’ on Kinder Scout in 1932.
The climax comes on the weekend of St George’s Day (April 23-24), with a concert to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday – April 23 is also the 400th anniversary of his death, and you can bet his alleged ‘Lancashire lost years’ will be played up to the hilt – a celebration of Emily Brontë, and finally the premiere of a specially commissioned folk opera with a predicted cast and ensemble of hundreds.
First off is Manchester Camerata’s concert on February 6, with Gábor Takács-Nagy, which begins with a work called Kinder Scout, by English composer Patrick Hadley, who died in 1973. There’s poetry, too, with Will Ash reading George Meredith’s poem The Lark Ascending before Jennifer Pike plays the violin solo in Vaughan Williams’ ever-popular piece inspired by it.
Then come The Walk To The Paradise Garden, from Bradfordian Delius’s opera, A Village Romeo And Juliet – the ‘Paradise Garden’, incidentally, is a hostelry, which fits the concept – and finally (stretching ‘northernness’ to its limit) Mendelssohn’s ‘Scottish’ symphony. Gábor Takács-Nagy conducts.
The Hallé and Sir Mark Elder range far and wide on February 27, including Delius’s Song Of The High Hills (about Norway), Stravinsky’s Four Norwegian Moods, Rachmaninov’s Three Russian Songs, and finally a trip to the sulphurous nether regions to counter-balance all that fresh air, in Tchaikovsky’s Francesca Da Rimini.
The whole is the inspiration of Peter Davison, artistic advisor of the Bridgewater Hall. “The hills and moors are an inescapable presence and, for generations of Mancunians, have been a place to walk and experience wild nature,” he says.
“It seems to be a fundamental human need to escape urban sprawl and the life of the factory. Being able to access wild places symbolises our desire for freedom of expression.”