World-class music continues to find its way onto the stages of Kirklees’ town halls - despite Government austerity and threats to funding for the arts.
The partnership between the council and Opera North is now in its 14th year and still providing seasons of subsidised classical music concerts in Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
But the opportunity to hear a professional symphony orchestra on our doorsteps cannot be taken for granted. Putting it bluntly, bottoms on seats are needed to ensure the future of the concerts.
As Phil Boughton, Director of Orchestra and Chorus, says: “Without your support, your attendance and your commitment, there would be no Kirklees Concert Season and that is something we cannot allow to happen. Help us to keep music live in Kirklees.”
In order to encourage entire families to experience live classical music, it costs just £1 for a ticket for an under 16 and £4 for those under 30. Concerts often have a free Talking Music event at which conductors and soloists discuss the works about to be played.
The current season’s penultimate event, Distant Shores on Sunday, February 25, at Huddersfield Town Hall, has a programme of classical favourites – Mozart, Elgar and Dvorak – and every piece on the programme tells a story.
Featuring mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge performing Elgar’s Sea Pictures, five poems set to music, the concert will be conducted by Ben Gernon, formerly with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who is making his Orchestra of Opera North debut.
The afternoon concert will begin at 4pm with Mozart’s Symphony No 31, written and premiered during the composer’s stay in Paris in 1778 when he was just 22-years-old. Mozart had a very low opinion of the city and its people and was reported to have said of his unusually-large orchestration: “I hope that even these idiots will find something in it to like.” Indeed they did, and the work is still known today as his Paris Symphony.
Elgar’s Sea Pictures is a song cycle that was first performed by the legendary Clara Butt, dressed as a mermaid, at the 1899 premiere. Kathryn, who is a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (a scheme that supports rising stars) has previously worked with Ben Gernon on the cycle for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. She says: “At times the wonder of the sea is indescribable, but Elgar knew so well how to portray it through music that captures our emotions and imagination; that moment when you look out and see the horizon across a vast expanse of water and it takes your breath away.”
The concert finale is Dvorak’s 8th Symphony, a piece that is uncharacteristically cheerful and optimistic. It reflects the peace and joy the composer found at his country retreat in the autumn of 1889 and captures ‘bird calls’, pastoral themes and rousing folk dances.
Tickets for Distant Shores are £12 to £26 (£1 for under 16s and £4 for under 30s) from kirkleestownhalls.co.uk or 01484 225755. The Talking Music event is at 3.10pm before the concert.
Watch out for another Kirklees Concert Season event – The Brass Ensemble of the Orchestra of Opera North at Dewsbury Town Hall on Wednesday, February 21, for a lunchtime concert. Tickets are just £5.