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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Graham McKenzie on hcmf//'s monumental John Zorn day

Graham McKenzie, Artistic Director of hcmf//, reveals how this year’s programme will feature a first in the festival’s 36-year history: a full day devoted to John Zorn in his 60th birthday year.

Highlights of the day include the Arditti Quartet performing a new work by the iconic American composer, Zorn himself improvising on the St Paul’s Hall organ, concerts dedicated to his guitar works and his sacred vocal music, and an appearance by the New York ensemble ICE.

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