My working week started in a crisp, autumnal Amsterdam on Monday, after an intensive weekend of workshops with the Nieuw Ensemble, working with four young composers on our European Composers Professional Development Programme (ECPDP).
This is my second trip to Europe since I started in post as Learning and Participation Officer four months ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to observe the young composers' workshop material. They are composing for some of the most renowned ensembles performing in contemporary music today: Nieuw Ensemble, Icarus Ensemble and Ensemble 10/10.
Once completed (after some feverish final tweaks and revisions, no doubt!), each of the 12 ECPDP composers will have their work performed by their host ensemble during our European Composers’ Spotlight taking place on the Wednesday of the Festival. The composers have boldly met the challenge of working with such professional and respected ensembles and so far have yielded some extraordinary results. I can’t wait to hear the finished pieces.
Mondays are proving busy! My week usually starts with a trip to the edge of the Peak District to see Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir (BMVC) rehearse. The 80 strong choir has been dedicating their time to John Surman’s Lifelines, a work jointly commissioned by hcmf// and the BBC.
These songs, accompanied by saxophones and piano, deal with topics such as smuggling and the industrial revolution’s effect on communities in Yorkshire, and so who better to bring these tales to life than the earthy, characterful voices of a male voice choir (a multi award-winning one at that!).
I’ve yet to experience their post-rehearsal sing-along in the pub, but I’ve been told to be expected to chip in with my lowest bass tones when I attend their preparatory residential weekend in October. I’m not sure I’ll be able to live up to that request!
We’ve been careful to make sure that this year’s Learning and Participation Programme really covers the age spectrum, from well-seasoned singers in BMVC, to babies and toddlers in our upcoming performance of Korall Koral – a baby opera during the final weekend of the Festival.
I am incredibly excited about this unique project, which has been scored by Composer in Residence, Maja S K Ratkje. The performance will take place within an inviting, tactile world, contained within a giant shell-shaped tent. This structure will house creatures from the depths of the Arctic Ocean, which on closer inspection from the audience (and we will encourage close inspection!) will reveal themselves as instruments specially crafted for this immersive undersea world.
And that’s not the half of it! There’s plenty of preparation currently taking place for annual favourites such as hcmf// shorts and Pop-Up Art School, as well as the CeReNeM Masterclass in this year’s festival.
Has it really only been four months? I feel like I’ve been here forever. In a good way, a very good way!