Now in the 16th year of their unique partnership, Opera North and Kirklees Council are set to bring another year of world-class orchestral, chamber and organ music to the district with the 2018-19 Kirklees Concert Season.
Conductor Garry Walker opens the orchestral season on 20 September with a programme inspired by his homeland, from the reels and flings and of Malcolm Arnold’s Scottish Dances to the majesty of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, inspired by a twilight visit to the ruins of Holyrood Chapel. Having closed the 2016-17 season with a stunning performance of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, violinist Jack Liebeck returns as soloist on the composer’s first violin concerto, one of the best-loved works in the classical repertoire.
Commemorations of the centenary of the Armistice are woven through this year’s programme, beginning on 18 October with a screening of the barnstorming 1927 film Wings, with composer Carl Davis CBE conducting his own soundtrack. Winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture, Wings was directed by pilots John Monk Saunders and William Wellman, and its exhilarating combat sequences – filmed from planes flown by the actors themselves – are further animated by Davis’s dramatic 1993 score.
Former Music Director of Opera North Richard Farnes returns to conduct the Company’s Orchestra, Youth Chorus, Young Voices and Children’s Chorus in the world premiere of Will Todd’s Songs of Love and Battle on 22 November. Todd’s micro-opera, commissioned for Opera North’s youth ensembles, depicts the conflicting emotions of war through the words and poems of Maggie Gottlieb. Picking up the themes of loss and separation caused by conflict, Górecki’s breathtaking third symphony, the ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ follows, with the Orchestra joined by soprano Fflur Wyn.
Part of the Lunchtime Chamber Concert Season at Dewsbury, Songs of Love and War (14 November), features poignant reflections on the conflict from composers including Ravel and Elgar, performed by Leader of the Orchestra of Opera North David Greed (violin) and acclaimed pianist Ian Buckle.
As Huddersfield’s Christmas preparations get underway, a double bill of Julia Donaldson favourites The Gruffalo’s Child and The Highway Rat with live orchestral soundtracks (13 December) offers the perfect panto alternative for all ages. Following the success of The Gruffalo, Stick Man and Room on the Broom in previous seasons, the Orchestra of Opera North returns to perform more magical René Aubry scores along with the enchanting animations.
Garry Walker is back on 20 December to conduct the Chorus of Opera North, Opera North Youth Chorus and Opera North Young Voices in the Opera North Christmas Concert at Dewsbury Town Hall, a much-loved Kirklees festive fixture. Britten’s Ceremony of Carols brings together the young and female voices of Opera North Youth Chorus and Young Voices, and the second half features the Chorus accompanied by the Orchestra on a miscellany of festive classics and of course, audience carols.
Dispensing more Advent treats, the Brass Band Christmas Spectacular lunchtime concert comes to Huddersfield Town Hall on 10 December and Dewsbury on 12 December. Borough Organist Dr Gordon Stewart is joined by the Huddersfield Boys’ and Girls’ Choirs on 20 December for a programme of festive music from around the world as part of his lunchtime concert season on the legendary Father Willis organ.
The old year is seen out in stately Habsburg style with the time-honoured Viennese Whirl in Huddersfield Town Hall on 29 December, promising polkas, waltzes and marches from the Strauss family, plus a few surprises.
Echoes of the Great War resound into the New Year with Music of Consequence (24 January 2019). Ravel’s extraordinary Piano Concerto in D Major, written for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I, will be performed by award-winning French pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. Shostakovich’s profound final symphony, the 15th, follows, with its quotes from the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, which itself will open the concert.
Dutch conductor Antony Hermus takes the podium on 24 February for three distinctly Russian works ranging from the romanticism and nationalism of the 19th century to the turmoil of World War II: Lyadov’s darkly expressive tone poem Kikimora evokes a mythical evil sprite; Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 is an homage to the spirit of man composed at the height of the Second World War; and brilliant Russian-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg makes his Kirklees debut with Tchaikovsky’s electrifying First Piano Concerto.
Following her revelatory UK début at this year’s Kirklees Concert Season, Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska returns for this year’s finale on 4 April. Lutosławski’s intense Musique Funèbre is followed by Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs, the composer’s gloriously transcendent swansong, woven through with reflections on life and death. Bruckner’s 7th Symphony remains one of his most popular works, its great Adagio partly a song of farewell to Wagner, the Austrian composer’s idol.
The Lunchtime season at Dewsbury Town Hall also sees the return of Jeremy Peaker and friends with Bite-Sized Gilbert and Sullivan (19 September) and a visit from our condensed, comical Whistle Stop Opera taster on 10 October. Opera North’s Principal Percussionist Chris Bradley reunites University of Huddersfield alumni from the last 30 years on his second journey through the World of Percussion; and Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano is the centrepiece of a concert on 20 February. David Greed and Ian Buckle’s second concert of the season is a celebration of violin music to mark Opera North’s 40th anniversary on 27 March.
Borough Organist Dr Gordon Stewart will be back at the Father Willis organ to delight his lunchtime audiences in Huddersfield with another season of virtuoso recitals. Special guests include Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla (12 November), the much-loved presenter of BBC Radio 2’s The Organist Entertains Nigel Ogden (3 December), Andrew Dewar of the American Cathedral in Paris (4 February 2019) and Tom Osborne, Co-Principal Trumpet in the Hallé (11 March).
Anyone aged 16 and under can still see evening orchestral concerts for just £1.00, and ages 17 to 29 can get a ticket for £4.00 (excluding Christmas and New Year events). For more mature music lovers, Opera North’s popular programme of music and singing activity, Sing ON, continues every Monday from 2.00pm to 3.30pm at Batley Central Methodist Church. For more details, contact Hayley.McColl@operanorth.co.uk.
Tickets can be booked via the Box Office on 01484 225755 and online at kirkleestownhalls.co.uk, or by following the links above.