This year is a very special year for MUSICON: it is 50 years since we held our first concert, in October 1969. Since its humble but ambitious beginnings, MUSICON has risen to become an institution in the musical life of the city. We have hosted some of the world’s most recognized artists and orchestras and put on more than 500 of spectacular events, with programmes spanning from the middle ages to pieces that are fresh off the press – embracing performers and music from every continent of the world. This diversity reflects the expertise of the staff in the Music Department, which is going from strength to strength. This year alone, we are welcoming musicians from the Netherlands, Norway, India, and Korea, as well as some of the finest groups the UK has to offer.
To celebrate our 50th anniversary season we will be welcoming the return of some dear friends, starting with the world-leading contemporary music group the Ives Ensemble. Over a series of three concerts, they will be celebrating music from Durham with pieces by no less than six Durham-based composers, alongside some of the most engaging and thought-provoking works of the 20th and 21st centuries. They will also be playing the first of three works from MUSICON’s 50th anniversary call for scores – an invitation to UK-based composers to submit works and come up to join us in our celebrations. The second concert of the season will see John Snijders, the pianist of the Ives Ensemble, don his other musical hat, as a scholar of nineteenth century music. This concert will be a rare opportunity to hear three well-known classics in a guise that may seem unfamiliar to much of our audience. Snijders’ research will allow him to perform these pieces with a degree of musical freedom that would have been wholly appropriate at the time they were written, yet may seem both peculiar and invigorating to a contemporary audience – why not come along and decide for yourself?
As 2019 draws to a close, we will be treated to a performance from Korean percussionist Kim Junghee and his son Jo Jonghun, recognised as keepers of 'Intangible Cultural Heritage, the highest cultural honour in the nation. Having performed to a rapturous audience in Durham ten years ago, we are delighted to be able to host these musicians again, on one of their rare European visits.
In the new year we have a wealth of musical offerings, starting with a welcome return of one of the world’s most acclaimed vocal groups, EXAUDI – in collaboration with the Durham Vocal Festival. Fresh from recording their already seminal CD of Gesualdo’s late madrigals, they will be treating us to some of the most exhilarating pieces from this intensely emotive and virtuosic repertoire. Thereafter, we will receive a visit from the groundbreaking Alpaca Ensemble, who will be enchanting us with a thought-provoking and striking programme of works from the last few years, all of which take a different approach to exploring the idea of music in space.
As we approach Holi - the Indian festival of colours - we will be celebrating the arrival of spring in three concerts with some of the most exciting figures in the Hindustani classical music scene. In the Indian arts, spring is celebrated as a time of new life, playfulness and the appreciation of beauty, Whatever the weather outside, immerse yourself in our celebration of the coming spring with superb exponents of the classical raga tradition. When summer is just around the corner, we will be welcoming back our dear friends the Brodsky Quartet, for a programme rarely heard but truly wonderful masterpieces from the romantic era.
We are delighted to invite you all to join us in the celebrations of our 50th season!
Dr Eric Egan
Chair of Musicon