The Big Interview: Clark Rundell

Ahead of the MBNA Chester Music Festival, Music Director and composer Clark Rundell sings the praises of working hard, talented friends and the people of Chester …

Clark Rundell is a busy man. As well as being Director of Contemporary Music and Head of Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and Artistic Director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s Ensemble 10/10, he regularly conducts the RLPO, the BBC Philharmonic, Northern Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, Hallé, and the Philharmonia.

His current project is the new look MBNA Chester Music Festival, with 25 concerts over two weeks being staged in Chester’s Gothic Town Hall and its 11th Century Cathedral.

Hi Clark! Great to meet you. You’re the festival’s Music Director; what does that mean?

I really work very closely with the head of Chester Performs, Andrew Bentley, who I think I really need to give credit for completely redesigning it, I’m just helping him along really. We’re working very, very closely; the two of us have talked really closely about every programme, so I mean he is a true artistic programmer and is very aware of the needs, and what the people of Chester want, through his experience with the outdoor theatre.

“A very important thing is that the musicians really want to have a great time together”

I probably have a bit more knowledge of who the better musicians are and who would get along better. A very important thing is that the musicians really want to … have a great time together, which I think they will! So just thinking about who the personnel is so we get a team that really ‘gels’ well, [is] probably what I’ve been most helpful with.

It’s been great fun; giving some of the musicians that you admire and respect a chance to do what they really want to do! To allow them to help dictate the programme; if they’re having a wonderful time of course then the audience will share their enthusiasm and joy.

Can you tell us more about your involvement with Ensemble Deva?

The leader of the group is an absolutely, just electrifying, violinist, 26 year old Italian, who is the leader of the Manchester Camerata, in addition to him being a brilliant player, Giovanni Guzzo is his name, he actually plays a Stradivarius, which is [laughs incredulously] the most expensive and famous violin in the history of violin making! So the fact that we will have a Stradivarius being played almost every day for a fortnight in Chester is really, quite a story. It’s a P. R. E. T. T. Y big deal.

“Giovanni Guzzo actually plays a Stradivarius, which is the most expensive and famous violin in the history of violin making!”

I think if you combine that, Giovanni, with someone like Martin Roscoe, absolute, great pillars of the British musical fabric for the last couple of decades, is just magnificent, and just such a champion of everything that’s good about British music making. Putting those together will be quite fantastic.

To point another highlight, Allan Clayton, doing the two nights about Benjamin Britten … he’s a wonderful singer. He brings a real lifetime of admiration and study, in that context, it will be marvellous.

What has been your favourite part of organising the festival?

The most fun thing is getting together with the musicians; just to watch the twinkle in their eyes and thinking of the wonderful things they’d like to play, like the Brahms Sextet, which is something that string players … just the most beautiful music, but they all are getting a chance to play it. Because it’s not for string quartets, and lots of people play in string quartets, and it’s not for orchestra; so for them to get to play some of their favourite chamber music, like the final concert the Mendelssohn Octet – every string player in the northwest dreams of playing that piece.

But it’s sure difficult to get players that are good enough to play it; this is a crème de la crème group. So everyone will really love that.

You sound so passionate about the festival, it’s lovely to hear.

I am really passionate about it! I think what has happened is just really terrific. The people of Chester will really embrace this ensemble; they’ll love the fact that they play everyday, they’ll love the fact that they’ll see them going for coffee, they’ll love the fact that they can see them more than once.

And I think they’ll bond with them, in a way that the people of Chester have bonded with the actors that perform every summer for Chester Performs. People begin to get a real passion – ‘oh I really enjoyed that, I’d like to see them again but doing something different’ – and you really get a chance to do that. There’ll be a real cult following around these great players.

Who are you most looking forward to working with over the festival period?

Ohhhh I think Allan Clayton, Martin Roscoe, Giovanni, very much looking forward to working with Craig Ogden, who is a marvellous guitar player, the greatest guitar player in the world, he must be one of the top three on anybody’s list. Having an artist of that calibre will just be fantastic.

“Craig Ogden is the greatest guitar player in the world”

Can you suggest any acts in the festival that would be a good introduction to classical music?

Several. I think the opening concert with the Coronation Anthems, because it’s 60 years since the Coronation, I think people will love that. The Coronation Anthems, you know one of them is the theme music to the Champions League Final! Haha. People will recognize that, Zadok the Priest by Handel, they are fantastic and absolutely spectacular.

Probably the English Gems programme … I think for people who are new to classical music, it’s beautiful … couldn’t be more perfect for Chester.

You worked for fourteen years as Director of Jazz Studies at the RNCM. Can you tell us what it takes for a musician to succeed?

Well, it’s been said many times: it is 90% perspiration, and 10% inspiration. There needs to be a certain level of talent, but also there has to be a phenomenal level of dedication. It has to be something you really want to do.

“You can have all the talent in the world, but if it’s not something you really want to do, you’ll never motivate yourself to practice enough”

And you can have all the talent in the world, but if it’s not something you really want to do, and you don’t have the passion about it, you’ll never motivate yourself to practice enough, to get to the point to where you can really enjoy it.

Like all things, you get out of it what you put into it; if you have the dedication, and enthusiasm, then more often than not you will find the way to your dreams. I wouldn’t say it’s a smooth road all downhill; it’s tough, it’s an uphill battle, but that can also be fun. 

What’s next for Ensemble 10/10?

We’ve got some great projects coming up! We’ve got one in October, a massive festival of northwest composers. 10/10 has been such a champion of composers in the region, it’s needless to say there’s a big future in that. We’re doing three world premieres, by composers in the region, including Stephen Pratt, who teaches at Liverpool Hope University… about 30 concerts and 60 composers being featured. That will be really exciting. That will be in Liverpool Hope University early October and then we repeat it in Manchester at the RNCM.

Competition time!

Win tickets to see the Manchester Camerata with Royal Northern College of Music at Chester Cathedral (either on Friday 7th June 7.30pm or Saturday 8th June 8.30pm). Just share this interview on Twitter or Facebook; winners announced Monday morning!

The MBNA Chester Music Festival runs from Saturday 1 June-Sunday 16 June 2013

Posted on 31/05/2013 by thedoublenegative