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Kirklees Concert Season to open with a Highlands state of mind

The Orchestra of Opera North will open this year’s Kirklees Concert Season in a burst of Caledonian colour, with works by Malcolm Arnold, Debussy and Mendelssohn hand-picked by Scottish conductor Garry Walker to summon the beauty and mystery of his homeland at Huddersfield Town Hall on 20 September.

Following Walker’s captivating concert of Britten, Mozart and Elgar at the Town Hall last season, Highlands of Home brings together works by composers from across Europe that evoke the landscape and lore of Scotland.

Malcolm Arnold’s Scottish Dances are all based on original folk melodies, except one, the melody of which was composed by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns. The clever imitation of the bagpipes in the first dance, in the style of a strathspey, gives a rousing start to the evening.

Debussy’s Scottish March on a Popular Theme follows. Commissioned by a descendent of the Ross clan, it is based on a clan march – perhaps a little too loosely for its patron’s liking. Its fantastical flourishes and diversions and the dramatic colouring of its orchestration are a treat for any listener though, and the martial theme finally appears at its impressive conclusion.

Having closed the 2016-17 season with a stunning performance of Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, Classical Brit Award-winning violinist Jack Liebeck returns as soloist on the composer’s First Violin Concerto, a masterpiece of string writing and one of the best loved works in the classical repertoire.

Mendelssohn’s final symphony completes the programme. A twilight visit to the ruins of Holyrood Chapel sparked vivid imaginings of Mary Queen of Scots in the German composer, but he took another 13 years to capture his “Scotch mood” in the finished work, which provides a fitting finale to the concert.

Garry Walker comments:

“I read in a German magazine once that Scotland wasn’t a country; rather a state of mind. Maybe there’s something in this.

Certainly, each of the composers takes on a different element of Scottishness to inspire their music. Arnold uses folk dances (strathspeys, reels, slow waltzes, jigs) as his starting point; Debussy seems to tap into Celtic folklore and mysticism, whilst Mendelssohn’s Scottish immersion is altogether deeper and more complicated, reflecting everything from Scotland’s changeable weather, to its troubled and battle-strewn history as well as the undoubted Romantic majesty of its landscape.

There’s also a fair bit of humour in all of the pieces, which Scots need to survive the dark winters and the necessity to pay tax.”

Dewsbury Town Hall’s Lunchtime Chamber Concert season begins with the return of Bite-Sized Gilbert and Sullivan on 19 September. Opera North Chorister Jeremy Peaker and friends perform classic songs from The Mikado, The Pirates and Penzance and more, at a new earlier time of 12.30pm (lunches available from 11.30am).

The Lunchtime Organ Concert Season at Huddersfield continues with Borough Organist Gordon Stewart’s Monday concerts on the historic Father Willis Organ. Marchand’s massive ‘Grand Dialogue’ opens a programme featuring Bach, Pachelbel and Boccherini on 24 September, and there’s a European grand tour on 15 October, starting and ending in Paris with works by Lefébure-Wely and Widor, and taking in Bach, Mendelssohn and Strauss along the way.

Tickets for Highlands of Home are priced from £13.00 – £27.00. Anyone aged 16 and under can see the concert for just £1.00, and tickets for 17 to 29 year-olds are priced at £4.00. Tickets for all Lunchtime Concerts are £5.00.


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