IT IS one of the top festivals for new music not just in this country but worldwide.

Which is why this weekend, visitors from across the globe flooded into town for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) .

The festival got under way on Friday, just as it has done every November for the last 35 years, bringing musicians, composers and artists to the town to share the latest developments in new music.

In doing so, HCMF has won many friends and supporters, creating partnerships with musicians, artists, programmers and funders across the world.

Those partnerships were much in evidence on the festival’s opening weekend which gave audiences their first tastes of the work of its Norwegian composer-in-residence Maja S K Ratkje and of the Oslo Sinfonietta.

But there were other European influences too with the Hamburg-based Ensemble Resonanz and the much talked about Irish new music group, the Crash Ensemble whose Friday night portrait of the composer Donnacha Dennehy quickly became an early festival talking point.

They made a second appearance last night with American Originals and are expected to pack out a Bates Mill gig tonight dedicated to Irish Mavericks.

The festival’s Nordic connections are strong as they have been over the last couple of years.

Kristin Danielson, director of the Music Information Centre, Norway, said: “Embarking on our third year of co-operation with Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, we realise how exciting it is to see from what angles a festival director chooses to present Norwegian music.

“For us this is the most interesting part of such a co-operation. Graham McKenzie, HCMF’s artistic director is an incorruptible and fearless curator.

“During the last decade or so, Maja S K Ratkje has made a name for herself as one of the most uncompromising and exciting Norwegian voices, physically as a performing artist as well as a composer.”

Maja’s work will feature throughout the festival and ranges from a hauntingly beautifully soundtrack which she has created for an installation of dancing cranes with Kathy Hinde at Bates Mill to the music for Korall Koral – a baby opera which will be seen in Huddersfield next weekend.

One of the weekend’s big concerts featured almost 60 members of Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir who sang in the world premiere in Huddersfield Town Hall of composer John Surman’s piece, Lifelines.

Chairman Roger Pont said afterwards: “It was great. It’s been a huge challenge but we pulled it off.

“Now we are off to the London Jazz Festival to do it all again and where the piece will be recorded by BBC Radio 3.”

The combination of northern voices with consummate instrumentals from John Surman on saxophones and Howard Moody on piano and organ created a series of epic stories linking man and the natural elements.

Throughout the week, at venues across the town, there will be more than 50 events including concerts, installations and talks.

Today there are a number of free events including a programme of short concerts.

Highlights during the week include virtuoso violinist Irvine Arditti playing the work of John Cage plus Ensemble musikFabrik and EXAUDI in the UK premiere of composer Wolfgang Rihm’s Vigilia and London Sinfonietta’s celebration of the work of Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.

The festival continues until next weekend. Full details online at

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