DANCING cranes and a miniature opera staged in a desk.
Both were on my weekend wish list and if you aren’t tuned in yet, it’s time to get switched on. Yes, it’s November so it’s Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
And there’s no hanging about. You have to come out of the blocks pretty fast. Ten days, 60 events. No shirkers please.
In under 48 hours, I’d clocked up three installations, two receptions, five concerts or performances, umpteen on the hoof quick interviews and it has to be said, far too many scribbled, shaky looking notes on the way.
By Monday night my programme book already had the dog-eared look of the serious festival-goer. And there was a problem. Work was getting in the way.
There was nothing for it. Plan B. I’d have to wait until another weekend for a second serious assault on the festival programme.
Weekend two (ready for starter’s orders later today) offers a baby opera written for tots under three staged tomorrow in a shell-shaped tent or a series of 10 miniature masterpieces each written on a postcard and played in a series of venues across the town on Sunday.
But first, there’s just time to have a quick look back at those first dizzying few days and remind myself just what it is that makes hcmf one of those events you just wouldn’t want to miss.
First of all of course there are the musicians and composers from across the world who come here to make extraordinary music.
What they also create is a fantastic buzz about the town, an atmosphere that makes you feel as if most of them were simply picking up the threads of conversations left unfinished last November.
For that’s one of the really striking things about hcmf. It’s about the friendships, the partnerships and the relationships, as well as, of course, the music.
It wasn’t difficult to spot faces I’d seen last year, and the year before and the year before that. And yes, there was even the same outbreak of headgear which signalled the Europeans have arrived.
Why is it that so many more of our continental cousins have the confidence to sport berets, fedoras, trilbies, cloche hats, woolly wonders of all colours and taste levels?
I was wondering about that as I made my first visit to Bates Mill to see Kathy Hinde’s Dancing Cranes which fly to a soundtrack by the Norwegian composer Maja S K Ratkje.
Sadly, her delicate animated cranes and Maja’s stream of sound couldn’t compete initially with the excited babble of dozens of festival-goers. So I promised to return when the launch party spirit had dampened down.
On a quiet Saturday afternoon, the lure of those beautiful cranes and their journey proved irresistible.
Five, white cranes fly relentlessly in the annual cycle of migration. Driven by nature, their compulsion to survive sees them at their most active as they battle south.
Maja’s music plays out their solitariness, their tussles with the elements, their determination and their serenity.
As tiny motors propel the stark purity of Kathy’s origami creations ever onwards, the black silhouettes thrown across the blue skies of the video behind them speak of the darkness and loneliness of the journey. It’s a graphic reminder of the two sides of any creature’s passage through life.
Utterly charmed, I realised I’d spent 40 minutes sitting on a window ledge with just the cranes for company. I’d have been there still but the chaps from Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir might not have forgiven me. I’d promised them I’d pop in to the Town Hall and hear them sing in Lifelines, a piece written for them by jazz saxophonist John Surman.
They reckoned it had been a great experience, hard work, a bit of a challenge. Bit of an understatement lads. But they did a great job. And if anyone wondered what male voice choirs were up to these days. Anything you’d want to throw at them, I’d say. Great job Bolsterstone.
One of the other best finds for me at this festival though were Crash Ensemble. I don’t know about anyone else but somehow, for me, the idea of minimalist and Irish music doesn’t quite seem to go together. But then try mixing something that has elements of a symphony orchestra and a rock band. And well, you’ll still be nowhere near.
Crash Ensemble are just something else. They were worth turning out for. Twice. I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t make their third concert.
That’s hcmf for you. Now what are the dates next year? Anyone got a diary?