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New brass work to feature at virtual Harrogate festival

Monday 20 July, 2020

Following the cancellation of more than 100 events for its summer season, Harrogate International Festival has commissioned a new brass band piece inspired by the pandemic by composer David Lancaster.

Eclipse was scored in five days and represents the darkness and danger facing the arts in the present climate, while also remaining hopeful. As part of the project, Harrogate International Festival has brought together musicians from around the world – from young players starting out on their journey to professionals at very top of their careers – for a collaborative world premiere led by acclaimed virtuoso trumpeter Mike Lovatt, whose recording career includes the James Bond films, Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Downtown Abbey and more.

David told British Bandsman: “The lockdown has proved to be a difficult time for all musicians, particularly for freelance performers, and the members of bands and choirs unable to work together. The impact on composers (who often work alone, in any case) has been significant for different reasons. All performances of my pieces since mid-March have been postponed or cancelled and the uncertainties surrounding concerts have meant that performers, venues and festivals have been reluctant to make any firm plans for the future. Commissions have all but dried up and the all-important deadlines – which provide so much motivation to get pieces finished – have also disappeared. Most of all, I miss the interaction and discussion with other musicians that takes place in planning meetings and rehearsals, and in the ‘post-mortem’ after performances, when so many ideas are nurtured and developed.

“I was very pleased to hear from the Harrogate International Festival with the idea for this piece; put simply, it wanted a fanfare-like piece which could be recorded remotely by many brass players, locally and worldwide, that could be re-assembled in the studio to make a ‘live’ performance. We chose the title, Eclipse, to represent the idea that the festival couldn’t take place this year – the concert halls, theatres and community venues had ‘gone dark’ – but that next year, the light would return and the festival and all its bright lights could resume. I wrote quickly and in fact the piece was finished in less than a week. It isn’t really a conventional fanfare and I suppose there’s a hint of melancholy which reflects the current mood but the ending is triumphant, and I hope that will serve us well when this piece is performed live, in front of an audience, when the festival returns in 2021.”

More than 120 brass players from all over the world, including several leading professional players, are involved including players from bands in local area.

The premiere is due to take place on Friday, July 24, as part of the festival’s virtual HIF Weekender line-up, featuring performances with acclaimed musicians including distinguished cellist Steven Isserlis, the Navarra String Quartet, multi-award-winning concerto violinist Tasmin Little and Tehran born harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. 


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