University of Sheffield Concerts is a home for musical discovery and understanding, bringing classical, folk, jazz and world music events to Sheffield on a scale unmatched by any other organisation in the city. We spoke to Artistic Director, Stewart Campbell, to find out about his role at TUOS Concerts and what we’ve all got to look forward to in the coming months.
Tell us a little bit about your role as Artistic Director of University of Sheffield Concerts. What’s involved and what’s your favourite part of the job?
As Artistic Director of University of Sheffield Concerts I’m primarily responsible for the programming, planning, and production of the schedule of concerts, music festivals, education and outreach initiatives, and other creative music projects that take place in and around the University. University of Sheffield Concerts is a major contributor to the city’s cultural vibrancy and one of the largest producers of music events in the region, delivering around one hundred public concerts a year. My work sees me direct creative initiatives from initial artistic conception through to delivery, encompassing artistic direction and programming. But I also look after the executive direction of the Concerts Unit, so all the behind the scenes work such as strategy and development, marketing, finance, and operations management.
Favourite part of my job – I think seeing creative ideas come into fruition. There’s a nice feeling about coming up with a project, planning something for one or even two years and seeing the end results. Collaboration too, there’s something really special about working in partnership with very different organisations and individuals to create new musical projects. The learning experience in these collaborative ventures is immensely satisfying.
The Sound Laboratory sounds fascinating, what could we expect to hear at one of these more contemporary concerts?
Our Sound Laboratory is a Sheffield destination for groundbreaking music of the modern age – electrifying performances from the cutting edge. It’s a chance to hear music from the greatest living composers working today, explore some of the most innovative music from the 20th and 21st centuries and get to grips with electronic music and sonic art in our Sound Junction series (which really is cinema for the ear). Coming up we’ve got a contemporary musical adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, a super performance combining keyboard music by 17th century Italian composer Scarlatti with experimental works by John Cage, and a mini-survey of the French musical pioneer Pierre Boulez.
The Global Soundtracks 2016/17 concerts season is soon to be announced, can you give us any clues as to what might be in store?
Global Soundtracks is a Sheffield home for the very best in world, roots, and folk music. It’s where cultures collide and adventures in musical discovery begin with inspirational music from the far-flung corners of the globe. From Scotland to Sardinia, Northumbria to New York and many more places along the way, the aim is to take you around the world in ten concerts. Upcoming performances include local folk legend Martin Simpson and one of India’s greatest tabla maestros Yogesh Samsi.
You’ve worked on a wonderful array of projects during your tenure at the University of Sheffield, which have been the most challenging and rewarding?
The most challenging and rewarding project I’ve worked on was Sounds of the Cosmos. This was an arts-science encounter that we developed in 2014. The project ventured into far away galaxies, exoplanets and distant worlds! It combined breathtaking new visuals of interplanetary odysseys by design studio Human, with Gustav Holst’s symphonic suite The Planets performed by the Sheffield Rep Orchestra, with inspirational astronomy talks by my colleague Professor Paul Crowther. The first performance turned the University’s Octagon Centre into a sudo-planetarium for the event, it then went to Doc/Fest for a sell-out performance at the Crucible, and was later commissioned by Latitude Festival. It was an enormous project, but incredibly rewarding!
Are there any new opportunities for people who enjoy music-making and singing to get involved in the Forged in Sheffield strand?
I’ve lived in Sheffield for almost thirteen years now and am tremendously proud of music making in our city. Sheffield really is a city of music-makers! Forged in Sheffield salutes our home-grown talent by providing opportunities for the community. Our outreach programmes work with hundreds of school children every year, and recently we’ve launched a new community choir for adults too. We believe singing benefits you physically, socially and emotionally. It’s a great way to build your confidence, and meet new friends in an informal setting.
Which avenues would you like the University of Sheffield Concerts to explore in the future?
We’ve lots of exciting plans coming up in the not too distant future. I can’t say a tremendous amount about these but we will be commissioning new works, touring music outside of city, and developing our platform of ‘Associate Artists’, who are really key to fulfilling our artistic vision. They curate and programme series of innovative concerts, cultivate ambition by working with our students, and supporting our work in the community, so I’m keen to build up this scheme.
And use the Now Then Discounts App to get 25% off tickets to their festive concert: A Child’s Christmas in Wales with the Ligeti Quartet on Sunday 18 December. Download the App for free on Apple and Android, just search for ‘Now Then Discounts’ in the play store.
Interview by Felicity Jackson