Here we go! On Monday, 20 November 2023 sixteen musicians of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra and conductor Mariano Chiacchiarini, together with the production team and the stage crew, set off for Huddersfield, England. Accompanying us were the Australian composer Liza Lim and the Nigerian-Swiss composer Charles Uzor, whose works "8'46''", "Katharsis Kalkül" and "Multispecies Knots of Ethical Time" we presented at this year's Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. The day before, all three pieces had already been performed at Lucerne Festival Forward, with the world premieres of "Katharsis Kalkül" and "Multispecies Knots of Ethical Time" being commissioned by Lucerne Festival.
The journey went smoothly and at around 18.15 local time, we, as well as the instruments, safely landed on English soil. At Manchester Airport, we were met by two friendly drivers in two minibuses, who drove us directly on to Huddersfield. The lights on the bus were dimmed, the atmosphere was lively, filled with stories and laughter. About 40 minutes later, we arrived at the Briar Court Hotel just outside the city centre. Not five minutes after we had all checked in, my mobile phone was buzzing with messages from the group chat. It was time for dinner. Number one priority was a visit to the ATM, as the Bangladeshi/Indian restaurant "Grameen Lounge" a few metres up the road only accepted payments in cash. We spent a pleasant evening and enjoyed the Eastern cuisine in the English atmosphere, not least because of the lovable Yorkshire accent of the friendly staff, which was rather unfamiliar to most of us. After we had used up the restaurant's mango lassi supply and, following some curious questions from the waitress, had done some self-promotion for our upcoming concert, we headed back to the hotel at around 22.00 and said goodnight.
After a leisurely breakfast and individual work or walks in the sunny weather on Tuesday, 21 November, the shuttles took us to the St Paul's Hall, right next to the University of Huddersfield. During the dress rehearsal, it soon became clear that the church hall created a very unique musical atmosphere, which made the pieces seem both more intimate and more intense. After all entrances and exits were sorted out, all the speakers were plugged in and the final logistical details were discussed, the technical director shooed us out of the church at 17.15 in a friendly but decisive manner. It was time for the mandatory break before the concert. So, the ensemble and team set off again in search for food and returned to the church hall about an hour before the concert began. The first anticipating guests soon arrived. During admission, the ensemble and conductor waited in the tiny back room of the church for the cue from our competent stage manager.
The concert had begun.
The mood after the concert at around 21.15 was exuberant and celebratory. The mixed-age audience showed great interest in the contemporary sounds, the fusion of music and video in Liza Lim's work, as well as the sensitive communication of a tragic event by Charles Uzor. Besides the almost ceaseless hugs and congratulations, the musicians and the audience as well as relatives and acquaintances started discussing and probably also philosophising for a while about what they had heard and seen. At 21.30, the technical director's powerful voice rang out again, kindly asking the guests to make their way home. We took this as our cue to slowly break up the wonderful concert atmosphere as well. And so, personal instruments were cleaned and stowed away, while the hired instruments were left clean and tidy as received. Back at the hotel, we celebrated the successful evening in a nearby pub before the in-depth discussions continued in the hotel lobby until the early morning.
Time flies when you are having fun! Before we knew it, we were all on our individual journeys back home. The fond memories remain and the anticipation for the next reunion is high.
Sabrina Eichenberger (Lucerne Festival Academy Intern)