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Students premiere colossal new work

Thu 9 January 2020

In November, vocal and percussion students took part in the first ever performance of The Fish that became the Sun at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//).

Despite being written three decades ago, Frank Denyer’s epic work is such an elaborate undertaking that it had never before been performed in its entirety.

The premiere at Huddersfield Town Hall on 23 November 2019 required the combined forces of Trinity Laban’s contemporary vocal ensemble RubyThroat and percussion students alongside the renowned Octandre Ensemble, Consortium5 and male vocalists from New London Chamber Choir, led by conductors Jon Hargreaves and Holly Mathieson.

The “hour-long extravaganza” is scored for 80 existing, “found” and invented instruments – including a broom, wine glasses, a fishing rod, and marbles – requiring all 37 musicians to play multiple parts.

Anna Marmion, a vocal student on our master’s programme, described how demanding and multi-faceted her involvement was, explaining that singers had to use extended vocal techniques and add sound effects in the form of claps and stamps, whilst wearing tap-shoes.

The students worked closely with London-born composer Frank Denyer in the lead up to the performance.

On taking part in the unique performance Anna continued – 

“Being involved in the world premiere was an exhilarating and inspiring experience.  I loved working in such a high-level environment with an array of talented musicians who instilled the whole process with legitimacy and integrity. Combining the incredible imagination and creativity of Frank Denyer with the skill and professionalism of conductor Jon Hargreaves took the work off the page and made it a hugely rewarding achievement. I would absolutely do a project like this again. It has increased my confidence and broadened my perspectives in terms of contemporary music.”

Music blog 5against4 described the impact of the sold-out performance –

“.. I’m not sure anything has rendered me so speechless, so overwhelmed and so enraptured as this piece. … this work somehow made me feel connected, not only to it but to those around me – the players, the audience and the wider world – and made me appreciate in a new way how music can act as a profound force for unity.” 

The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival celebrates new music and related contemporary art forms. In 2017 it saw the world premiere of Harmonic Canon, the award-winning two-part work by Trinity Laban’s Head of Composition Dominic Murcott in collaboration with American virtuosic percussionists arx duo.

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Find out more about studying Trinity Laban on our music pages

Image credit: Brian Slater