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Student Feedback

I was fortunate enough to be involved in the Birtwistle project as one of the conductors. Having never conducted this sort of repertoire before, the learning curve has been particularly steep, for which I'm extremely grateful. Working alongside professional conductor, Patrick Bailey, I was able to assist him on his half of the programme, as well as receiving mentoring from him on mine. I learnt a huge amount from Patrick (and also from Sir Harrison himself), as did the players. This festival was a terrific opportunity for student instrumentalists to take on challenging new works, as well as iconic works of the late 20th Century and I think a similar event would be extremely beneficial in the future.

Ben

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It goes without saying that the Birtwistle Festival was a boon for New Music in Cambridge. There hasn't been anything quite of this scale in the four years I have been a member of the Faculty, so it was a delight to see it come to life and be so well received. When I heard about the scale and nature of the project, I was extremely excited but also nervous to see how it could be pulled off - in spite of Birtwistle's stature as a composer of his generation, his 'modernist' label has been known to turn off audiences - so, I came into the project bearing in mind the BBC's recent decision not to broadcast the Birtwistle part of the NYO's Prom this year, and was overwhelmed to see a full King's Chapel for all three of the events on the Saturday. The size of the audiences was to the credit of the vast amounts of publicity that went out (in which I played a minor, but not insignificant role, of handing out posters to various colleges and spreading the word on social media). Not only did this consolidate the efforts of all those who had planned and realised the festival, but it acted as a 'beacon of hope' for young composers; those of my peers who had their works performed in this festival were able to capitalise on the ambience and have a good turn-out for each of their respective premieres, which is a huge challenge facing composers of my generation. The highlight of the festival for me was my chance to experience Sir Harrison first-hand; I was extremely honoured to have been chosen as one of a selection of students to have a one-to-one lesson with him. I presented him with my chamber opera which was premiered earlier this year, and had in mind that I would discuss his attitude to text-setting, following from works such as The Ring Dance of the Nazarene and The Minotaur. He was an incredibly insightful teacher, and in the half an hour I spent with him I learnt more about speech rhythms and their importance in operatic characterisation than I could have imagined possible in the timeframe. He was highly encouraging; his parting comment was to 'write more opera, much more opera'. To hear unabashed enthusiasm from one of the greatest living British composers again gives me a lot of hope for the future of composition!

Rhiannon

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Great Support
I am a PhD Student studying Composition in the University of Cambridge. I was asked to write a piano work for the Sir Harrison Birtwistle 80th Birthday Festival. This commission was a great support for me. I had a strong motivation while writing a piece for such a large scale festival. It also encouraged me to have an ambition to complete a very fine music.

Great Musician
In the festival, my work was performed by a professional pianist Nicholas Hodges. He gave me invaluable opinions in terms of notations and my music. I am convinced that experiences I achieved working with such a professional musician would help me improve my knowledge about music and it brings developments of my future works.

Great Feedback
During the festival, auditorium was filled with numerous people. Audiences gave me diverse kinds of feedbacks after the concert. As there were many students and fellows who study different subjects in the university, their views were considerably various. Getting such varied views would affect me to broaden my musical horizon.

Great Programme
As an audience, I was overjoyed the whole concerts of the Birtwhistle Festival. The programmes consist of compositions of diversified styles written by composers of different generations. It was great to compare each work with others and to expect the next stream of contemporary music. Great Future I think the Sir Harrison Birtwhistle 80th Birthday Festival was educational events for young composers in some aspects as well as important celebration for Birtwhistle's 80th birthday. The Festival gathered numerous audiences and their great interest. I believe that this shows a positive future of contemporary music in the UK.

Jae-Moon

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My main involvement was that I composed and had a piece performed by the Arditti Quartet in the Birtwistle festival. This was a great experience, and I learnt certainly learnt a lot from their dissection of the piece, both instrumental-technical elements and things to do with layout and presentation. I also attended the concert that evening (as a steward) of the Arditti quartet performing Joy Lisney's newly commissioned composition, and a number of other great pieces, and the BCMG concert in Kings College Chapel. It was a great experience to hear such a collection of new music by peers, legends like Birtwistle and by tutors/supervisors at the college, and was overall a great learning experience for me.

Lluis

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I was honoured to have a work of mine was performed alongside Secret Theatre at West Road and spent the entire weekend perpetually star-struck. It was incredible just to be able to see figures such as Oliver Knussen and of course Harrison Birtwistle in the flesh. It was a strange and surreal experience, and at times quite shocking: there was a particularly weird moment when Anssi Karttunen and Nicolas Hodges walked onto the stage and I realised they were the two guys in the pub that we were chatting to the night before! It was of course an incredible opportunity to meet wonderful musicians: it was particularly wonderful to meet and work with the conductor Patrick Bailey who I hope to one day to meet again. The highlight of the weekend was meeting Harrison Birtwistle himself. I will never forget meeting him in Cafe Nero, and will never forget the impression he has left on me. He was extremely kind and offered advise that will stay with me. It was a pleasure to take part in what was truly a celebration of these central figures who have shaped the UK contemporary music scene.

Alex

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As a new PhD composer at Cambridge University I was asked to write a piece for one of the concerts celebrating Harrison Birtwistle in his 80th year in the recent "Secret Theatres" festival. I had the opportunity to meet and speak to one of the world's foremost living composers, as well as the chance to hear my music performed by one of Europe's finest contemporary music ensembles (the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, conducted by Oliver Knussen). The quality of programming and music-making over all three days was terrific and the festival itself was an unforgettable experience.

Patrick

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