Tour Tales - Mytologier

A week has passed and I'm just about recovered from the amazing weekend which was the Mytologier ‘folk caravan'.

Following a series of school and community storytelling workshops, as well as a pop-up story booth from which we successfully collected almost 40 tales and anecdotes from Huddersfield locals, hcmf// took to the road. We set off in a beautiful cherry red VW camper van, with the Nordic Master of Folk Music, Poul Bjerager Christiansen; contemporary classical accordionist, Andreas Borregaard; and Welsh fiddler, Christine Cooper, on-board. Having explored oral tradition through creating and collecting stories (which will be used not only by Christine to inspire the creation of new songs to be performed at hcmf// 2013, but also by Danish sound artist, Hans Sydow, to create an exciting audio installation to be housed in the Byram Arcade during the Festival week), it was time to move on to collect and make some music.

After a non-crash course in driving a VW by Bronte Camper Hire, I was off!

The van! ? Sarah McWatt











All three folk music sessions had their own unique character. We started in Leeds with a very warm welcome into a local folk musician's home, with not only people but a dog taking part in the session! This group had some great players and a wide array of instruments represented, with fiddles, accordion, whistles, flutes, and bodhráns introducing our travelling players to tunes known and unknown, in exchange for some Nordic music.

After a few hours of getting to know each other musically, the group had some food (and maybe a few whiskeys!) to fuel the rest of the session, creating a new dance tune which merged old and new influences from British and Nordic music that we had played that evening. A pretty late night...followed by an early start, at least for me, as I kept my date with Radio Sheffield's Saturday Breakfast Show to talk about Mytologier, after a generous 4 hours' sleep!


Up next was Shakespeares Pub, Sheffield, with some really skilled players with a particular interest in Scandinavian folk, and so this group included an enchanting Swedish instrument, the nyckelharpa (not too dissimilar to a hurdy-gurdy). We had some real success composing through improvisation, producing two tunes of very different styles. We even test drove the new pieces with some of us doing some Swedish and Danish dances whilst the new music was played! The afternoon kick started a late-night session back at the home of one of the participants. You can't stop this lot!

Listen to one of the Sheffield session's compositions, entitled The Weasel here:

Christine Cooper and Andreas Borregaard ? Sarah Mc
























Lastly was the Huddersfield session at the Grove Inn, which was very much Irish influenced. After a humble start with just a few players, it livened up considerably after an hour or so (it was Sunday, after all!) with a growing crowd of not just musicians but avid listeners gathering in the bar. The tunes in this session were played at top speed, and roused occasional crowd participation, singing along with some well-known Irish numbers. After an exchange of ideas from different regions represented in the group, another new piece was created, just in time for Poul and Andreas to depart...but we couldn't part Christine from the group and she carried on playing with them as the VW sped away to deliver the Danes to their plane! Perhaps she is still there now...

Huddersfield session (c) Sarah McWatt










Each session produced original work, with four entirely new pieces being created in total, each of which will be used for the Dance Workshop which takes place at 10.30am-11.30am on Sunday 24 November, and is free and open to all - experienced dancers or, like me, complete novices.

Although based entirely in Yorkshire, the sessions provided a real tour around the British Isles for the visiting Danes, with Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England being represented musically. And thankfully they gave us Brits an unforgettable journey around the Nordic region!

When it was time to give the van back, well I'll be honest, I just didn't want to. So, if anyone is struggling to think of that special Christmas gift for me, our trusty hire company, Bronte Camper Hire, has a pretty little yellow van for sale...I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Sarah McWatt

hcmf// Learning and Participation Officer

Mytologier is a free event which takes place on Sunday 24 November and celebrates folk culture and mythology from Britain and the Nordic region, through participatory events as well as performances from some of the best experimental artists working in new music today. Please see the brochure for further details. To take part in our activities, or for further information about our Learning and Participation Programme, please contact Sarah on 01484 471 116 or at 

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Guest blog: Red Note Ensemble

We invited John Harris, Chief Executive and Artistic Co-Director of Red Note Ensemble, to blog about how they're preparing for their concerts at hcmf// 2013. What he sent is an intriguing insight into the hard work - and enjoyment - that goes into rehearsing for performance.

"The performers of Red Note Ensemble, with conductor Garry Walker at the helm, have just spent a week in the Ensemble's home city of Glasgow preparing for the first of three appearances at hcmf// this year - a programme of Bruno Mantovani's D'Un Rêve Parti, James Dillon's New York Triptych, and David Fennessy's new Red Note commission Hauptstimme for St Paul's Hall at 12 noon on Saturday 16th November. It's been a great week for the simple but gratifying reason that the work has been so solidly intensive and productive.

Red Note Ensemble rehearsals 1James Dillon, back in his home town again after an extended absence, joined us for four days to help us carefully, surgically put together his piece for its UK premiere, and it was a real pleasure to have him with us. The word "piece" feels like a rather small word for a work that, despite the relatively small forces involved, feels symphonic in its scope and scale. Like almost everything he's done, it's written at the edge of what is technically and mentally possible for the performers, and yet doing the work and travelling the distance to reach that point on the edge - particularly in the company of the composer himself - is an incredibly rewarding experience for both players and listeners.

Red Note Ensemble rehearsals 2David Fennessy is a Glasgow-based composer that we work with on quite a regular basis, and we're absolutely delighted to be able to premiere his new work for us at hcmf//. It's a new work for amplified viola and ensemble featuring Garth Knox in the soloist role; we first worked with Garth in the summer and it's great to have him back with us so soon. We had the time with David, Garth and Alex Fiennes, our sound engineer, to finesse the intricate balance that the solo viola surfs between being swamped by the ensemble and being heard above it, and to bed the piece down before its premiere next month. It's a terrific piece and we're really proud to be bringing it with us.

Red Note Ensemble rehearsals 3Bruno Mantovani's playful, punning work isn't without its awkward corners for the players and conductor too, and once again, having the time to be able to piece it together with proper precision will pay off.

All in all, a great week's work, and looking forward to bringing it all to hcmf//. In two weeks' time we embark on rehearsals for Francois Sarhan's multi-media, multi-faceted, just "multi" Enough Already, which gets its Huddersfield outing on Sunday 17 November in The LBT. Another set of challenges for us all to enjoy!"

Photo credits: Richard Greer


hcmf// tops Guardian's must-see events list

We were proud to top the list in Andrew Clements' summary of the best classical music and opera of Autumn 2013, published in the Guardian:

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