Special Commissions

Special Commissions

At Swaledale Festival we regularly commission music and art from leading creators as well as lesser known ones. Where possible we invite composers to attend the world premiere performances of their work.

Perhaps the most high-profile composer we’ve welcomed here is Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. He wrote a short piece which was performed by the Royal Holloway Choir and Acoustic Triangle in 2012. Richard sadly died later that year, and our commission - ‘A Colloquy with God’ -  turned out to be his last composition. It has since been performed many times by, amongst others, the BBC Singers.

The celebrated composer Alexander Goehr has composed two pieces for the Festival and he attended the first premieres of both. This year he celebrated his 90th birthday and Cambridge University, where he was formally head of the music department, put on a special concert for him, at which his 5th String Quartet (commissioned by Swaledale Festival in 2019) was performed by the Villiers Quartet.

Sally Beamish, David Blake, Hugh Wood, Heather Fenoughty, Jonathan Dove, Graham Coatman, Niamh Ní Charra, Tim Garland, John Paul Jones, Stephen Goss, Roxanna Panufnik, Gwilym Simcock, Naomi Burrell, Rachel Stott, David Gordon and Andy Scott have all attended the world premieres of their works at the Festival. We learned recently that Andy Scott has been shortlisted for a coveted Grammy Award - something which Tim Garland has already achieved.

We don’t just commission musical compositions, of course. The much admired poet, novelist and playwright Alan Plater penned an extra episode of his famous ‘Beiderbecke’ series which he read to great acclaim at a Festival event a few years ago. 

Swaledale’s own master sculptor Michael Kusz was commissioned by the Festival to create his ‘Re-Cycling’ sculpture to celebrate ‘Le Grand Départ’ in 2014 when the Tour de France came trundling down Swaledale and right past our office. Michael’s wonderful sculpture, the design of which which was partly informed by 100 local children in a series of schools workshops, resides in the Reeth’s Community Orchard where it still takes people’s breath away every day - perhaps the ultimate accolade for a piece of public art.

The Festival invited the Australian composer and viola player Brett Dean to compose a piece for the 2020 Festival which was sadly cancelled due the Covid pandemic. Brett is now writing the piece, which is entitled ‘Performance’, and he will give its world premiere, alongside his talented daughter, the mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, at St. Mary’s in Arkengarthdale on 9th June 2023.

Malcolm Creese, November 2022

Picture: John Paul Jones performing a piece he composed for the Festival with Amores Pasado

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