Engaging the next generation of classical music concert-goers is the focus of the new season’s programme in Kirklees for the Orchestra of Opera North.

As the orchestra’s new director Richard Ashton says: “We always take on what audiences say to us and the main feedback over the last couple of years has been that we need to be more approachable for the family audience.

“They are a new audience and we need to make sure that we are giving them something.”

And so, when the Kirklees Concert Season 2014/15 opens in September it will offer a number of child-friendly concerts designed to foster an early appreciation for live music.

“We want to encourage people of all ages into the concert hall,” says Richard, “because it’s a very different experience from listening to music on the radio while doing the washing up.”

Among concerts with family appeal will be Classic FM at the Movies, featuring themes from Lord of the Rings, Batman and Fantasia; the annual Viennese Whirl in December, which showcases lively polkas and waltzes; and a Christmas concert.

Richard explained: “Our Viennese Whirl is always popular with families and usually sells out, and at the Christmas concert we’ll be working with a local school in Dewsbury.

“The children will join the chorus of Opera North on stage. For children to be part of a concert with a full symphony orchestra it will be an amazing experience. The power of the chorus is exhilarating.”

While new to the post of director, Richard is an old hand at Opera North. Formerly an oboist with Scottish Opera, he joined the Leeds-based company 12 years ago and until recently was general manager of the Howard Assembly Room, a small performance venue attached to Opera North and home to its orchestra.

In his previous role he organised concerts and events in the assembly room, from film screening to chamber concerts.

Richard Ashton, Orchestra Director, Opera North
Richard Ashton, Orchestra Director, Opera North
 

He is now responsible for planning the orchestra’s input to the Kirklees Concert Season, working with the musical director on the programme, and booking soloists and conductors.

He says audience feedback is extremely useful when programmes are in the planning stages.

It’s one of the reasons why the orchestra has a ‘talking heads’ slot before each performance, at which members of the audience can ask questions of conductors and soloists.

“We have a lot of people who come to these pre-performance events, they are becoming increasingly popular,” said Richard. “We want to break down the barriers between audiences and orchestra.”

The season’s first concert, Classical Greats, on Friday, September 26, at Dewsbury Town Hall will include well-known works by Haydn, Mozart and Sibelius and on October 2 at Huddersfield Town Hall the orchestra will join forces with the Chorus of Opera North for a performance of the sublime Mozart Requiem.

For details of tickets and season tickets, call 01484 223200 or visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/townhalls .

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