Opera North and Kirklees Council are pleased to announce the return of live music to Huddersfield and Dewsbury town halls after a year of silence, with a full programme of orchestral, chamber and organ concerts for the Kirklees Concert Season 2021-22.

What can you expect? 

Opening this September, the Orchestra of Opera North’s adventurous programme at Huddersfield Town Hall ranges from a belated birthday celebration for Beethoven, to the drama and dissonance of the twentieth century, to a world premiere and new commissions from emerging composers.

Intimate chamber concerts with small ensembles from the orchestra return to Dewsbury Town Hall on Wednesday lunchtimes, concluding with a warm farewell to Leader David Greed. Under new Guest Curator David Pipe, Monday lunchtime concerts on Huddersfield Town Hall’s famous Father Willis organ include guest debuts, works by contemporary composers alongside more traditional repertoire, and the return of former Borough Organist Dr Gordon Stewart.

On September 23, Garry Walker takes the podium for his first Kirklees concert as Opera North’s Music Director, a programme steeped in the human drama of the last century. Written in the shadow of the First World War, Elgar’s Cello Concerto is performed by former BBC Young Musician of the Year Guy Johnston, one of the most exciting cellists of his generation. Shostakovich’s magisterial Fifth Symphony embodies his struggle for freedom under Soviet oppression; and Benjamin Britten’s A Time There Was finds the composer returning to folk influences in his later years.

On October7 Opera North’s Principal Guest Conductor Antony Hermus leads the world premiere of a Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra by acclaimed British composer Benjamin Ellin. Written for the Orchestra of Opera North’s Christian Jones, Gresley is a timely exploration of the rebuilding of the human spirit after great loss, inspired by the life of the railway engineer and inventor of the Mallard and the Flying Scotsman. Mendelssohn’s ‘Fingal’s Cave’ opens the concert with its thrilling sound-painting of the stormy Hebrides, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 touches down on the calmer waters of Lake Wörth, southern Austria, where the composer spent happy summers holidaying and working.

Joanna MacGregor’s peerless skill as a classical pianist has always been animated by her openness to other genres, making her the ideal soloist for Gershwin’s jazz and blues-inflected Piano Concerto, which pulsates with the syncopated rhythms of the Roaring Twenties (2 December). Pictures at an Exhibition completes the programme, with the orchestra under Sian Edwards’ baton wringing incandescent colours from Ravel’s magical orchestration of Mussorgsky’s suite.

Audiences will be anticipating this year’s festive period with more excitement than ever, with families and friends reunited and the chance to celebrate with music and singing in person once again. Opera North Christmas Concert returns to Dewsbury Town Hall on 16 December, promising seasonal sounds old and new from the Company’s Orchestra, Chorus and Youth Ensembles conducted by Chorus Master Oliver Rundell.

Huddersfield Town Hall

On December 21 in Huddersfield, the Orchestra accompanies a double bill of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler animations, The Snail and the Whale and Stick Man, on the big screen. Another festive fixture is back on December 30 in the shape of Viennese Whirl, looking forward to the new year with Strauss waltzes, some unexpected treats, and the Opera North debut of young Italian-Turkish conductor Nil Venditti, Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra della Toscana.

Howard Shelley, who has recorded of all of Beethoven’s works for piano and orchestra with the Orchestra of Opera North, had planned to conduct a combined celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth and his own 70th year in 2020. The rescheduled date (January 27 2022) will be well worth the wait, featuring Beethoven’s third Leonore overture, the Fourth Piano Concerto (with Shelley as soloist), and climaxing with none other than the Fifth Symphony.

The maelstrom of the mid-20th century is the focus on February 27, as Antony Hermus’ programme opens with Galina Ustvolskaya’s terrifically imposing Symphonic Poem No. 2. Returning to the work of her teacher, Shostakovich, Leader of the Orchestra David Greed steps forward as soloist in the First Violin Concerto. One of Bartók’s last and most popular compositions – featuring a mischievous quotation from Shostakovich’s “Leningrad” Symphony – the Concerto for Orchestra closes the evening.

The season ends with a journey deep into the imagination led by Garry Walker (April 7). Britten’s haunting setting of six poems sharing the theme of night, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, is sung by Nicholas Watts, whose Peter Quint in Opera North’s recent The Turn of the Screw was a masterclass in menace. On the horn, Richard Watkins first performed the work in 1983 with the original singer, Sir Peter Pears. He later spent a decade as the Philharmonia’s Principal Horn – a seat first occupied by Dennis Brain, for whom the fearsomely difficult part was written. Inspired by a terrifying account of death in the Atlantic written by William Golding, Mark Anthony Turnage’s Drowned Out boasts the direction ‘Very nasty’ on its score; and one of the greatest English orchestral works, Elgar’s Enigma Variations, brings a magnificent, reflective conclusion to this intense programme spanning the twentieth century.

Opera North’s Minute Masterpieces competition 

Throughout the Season’s orchestral concerts, successful entries to Opera North’s Minute Masterpieces competition will receive their premiere performances. Open to emerging composers from all backgrounds and traditions, Minute Masterpieces offers the chance to write 60-second works for full symphony orchestra, which will also be recorded by the ensemble. For more details, visit operanorth.co.uk

Lunchtime concerts

Lunchtime concerts at Dewsbury throw the spotlight on members of the Orchestra of Opera North and some distinguished guests including Kathleen Ferrier Award-winning soprano Katherine Broderick (October 20); singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Alice Zawadzki, whose background takes in classical violin, gospel, jazz and folk (January 19 2021); and sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun (February) 16, whose phenomenal Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra received its premiere at Huddersfield just before COVID struck. There is more from Shostakovich on November 10, when his Octet is paired with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.

The final concert of the Chamber Season will also be the final Kirklees performance of David Greed as Leader of the Orchestra of Opera North. From his appointment at its inception in 1978, he has steered the ensemble to international acclaim, and will bow out with Opera North’s performances of Wagner’s Parsifal in June 2022. On March 16 at Dewsbury, he’ll be joined by special guests and colleagues for a celebration in stories, laughter and music of a long and brilliant career.

Guest curator David Pipe

Under new Guest Curator David Pipe, the Monday Lunchtime Organ Concerts include a Huddersfield debut for Katherine Dienes-Williams (Guildford) on October 18, presenting Elgar and Bach alongside contemporary composers Nico Muhly and Pia Rose Scattergood. David is joined by the Huddersfield Catholic Youth Choirs for a globetrotting Christmas Concert (December 20) and Jeremiah Stephenson of All Saints Margaret Street, London (January 24) presents another wide-ranging programme including works by Canadian organist-composer Rachel Laurin and African American composer Florence Price. Leeds City Organist Darius Battiwalla’s eclectic programme for January 31 opens with Nigerian composer Fela Sowande’s festive Obangiji, and former Borough Organist Dr Gordon Stewart returns for his first concert in Emeritus role on February 14, joined by Hallé trumpeter Tom Osborne in Mendelssohn, Morricone and more.

Garry Walker, music Director of Opera North, said: “I’m delighted to be, at last, back in Kirklees and able to bring this great selection of programmes to our beloved audiences. We’ve missed you

I’m particularly proud of the variety and balance of the overall season, which will show off the flexibility, excellence and virtuosity of our Orchestra and Chorus. I feel there’s something here for everyone.

“The last year has been incredibly tough for us all – for Opera North, for our audiences and for our communities – so it is with a real sense of enthusiasm that we return to live music making with audiences.”

Colin Parr, strategic director responsible for culture, Kirklees Council, said: “After a tough year, we are extremely pleased to be welcoming back live music to Huddersfield and Dewsbury Town Halls. With an exciting programme confirmed from September, we can’t wait for concert-lovers from across the borough to finally return and hear their favourite music.

“We hope this will mark a key point in time for the restart of live music in Kirklees, building up to the Year of Music in 2023, which aims to shine a spotlight on the richness and diversity of music today, bringing in all communities, formats and genres.”

When do tickets for the events go on sale?  Tickets for all events will go on sale in July, a little later than usual to allow for alignment with Government guidance as the path out of lockdown continues. For more details on the programme and updates on booking information, visit Kirklees Concert Season.