Commissioning New Work

Commissioning New Work

Supporting and giving a platform to living composers is an important aspect of our work, and so, on behalf of Swaledale Festival, I regularly commission music from leading composers and from lesser-known ones. Most of the composers have honoured us with their presence at the Festival to hear their pieces for the first time, and our famously adventurous audience members enjoy being present at the birth of something exciting and new. 

Over the last decade or so, we have commissioned or co-commissioned works by Sally Beamish, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Hugh Wood, Alexander Goehr, David Blake, Heather Fenoughty, Stephen Goss, Roxanna Panufnik, Jonathan Dove, Michael Brough, David Gordon, Colm O’Foghlu, Graham Coatman, Ian Anderson, Gwilym Simcock, Naomi Burrell and Tim Garland, amongst others. These works will undoubtedly become part of the general repertoire and they will forever carry the Festival’s name. They have all received their first performances at the Festival, and when possible I arrange further performances as well.

We commission work from writers too; I was very fortunate to persuade the late playwright and poet Alan Plater to write a special episode of his ‘Beiderbecke Tapes’ for the Festival a few years ago, and his reading of it was unforgettable. We have also featured scripts and libretti from local writers Ann Pilling, Felicity Manning and Pete Roe.

Reeth-based sculptor Michael Kusz’s commemoration of the Tour de France visit in 2014 is an example of our visual art commissioning. Entitled ‘Re:Cycling’, the work is made from hundreds of discarded bicycles parts such as wheels, cogs, handlebars and spanners. (I had days of fun scrounging these from numerous bike shops in Cambridge!) A hundred Dales schoolchildren contributed to the design process, and I’m sure that they all feel a personal connection with what has become a much-loved artwork. Thousands of people visit the Community Orchard in Reeth every year, and most of them gasp when they see the piece for the first time. This is public art at its breathtaking best!

Whenever possible, I commission work which celebrates or reflects something from our area - perhaps the Dales landscape or a local legend or character. Many of the creators themselves come from Yorkshire too.

This year, I am delighted that Alexander Goehr has written another piece of music for us - this time a string quartet, his fifth. It will be performed by the outstanding Villiers Quartet (pictured) in Grinton Church on 7 June, alongside works by Mozart and Dvořák. Professor Goehr is planning to be present at this world premiere and I look forward to welcoming him to the Festival again.

Malcolm Creese



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