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Composer Ken keen to come home; Arts Hesketh can't wait to make his mark around city in new Philharmonic Hall role.

Byline: Joe Riley

KENNETH Hesketh says he can live with the branding of his new job, but that the real challenge and joy will be in the detail.

From next month, the 39-year-old Kirkdale-raised musician has been declared as the Liverpool Philharmonic's 'composer in the house', a rather pretentious and tortuous way of saying resident composer.

The job is initially for two years, completely enveloping Capital of Culture and including two major commissions for the full orchestra, as well as various other pieces for associated musical ensembles and choirs.

And for Kenneth, it is a case of coming home.

He set out as a boy chorister at Liverpool Cathedral, his first piece a carol submitted to organist and choirmaster Ian Tracey at the tender age of 12.

Twenty seven years on, the former St Margaret's school pupil, has raised an international profile (with the help of two years in America and two in Berlin), which has seen him tackle most classical genres including symphonies and one opera, The Overcoat, based on a story by the Russian author Gogol.

Ken gave up listing opus numbers years ago, but reckons the output must now run to 10 pieces for either wind or brass; another 30 concert hall works, and more than a dozen miscellaneous choral settings.

The major work for the Phil's 2007/8 season, Like The Sea, Like Time-actually a line from a poem by the Chilean Pablo Neruda - satisfies on several counts.

It's four-movement framework is substantial (35 minutes) and apart from full orchestra, it engages a tenor soloist, main choir and youth choir.

The audience journeys from the world of ancient Greek gods though to poetry by the likes of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman (a writer widely sourced by the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams).

The other main repertoire commission opens the season on September 14.

A Rhyme For The Season lasts for just four minutes.

The format uses a series of musical 'rhymes' in the form of matching or complementary phrase endings, just as syllables and words match in poetry

Kenneth Hesketh says he found his own "true voice" in his early 20s.

Prior influences had included the French late-Impressionist Henri Dutilleux, as well as Ken's Scottish elder contemporary Oliver Knussen, who, in turn, championed the young composer.

Ken had assimilated the nuts and bolts of score writing by sitting amid the Merseyside Youth Orchestra as a pianist and percussionist (the same insights given to Simon Rattle to become a conductor).

It was Rattle, while directing the City of Birmingham Symphony, who had suggested Ken for a Berlin-based scholarship, and it was the late Sir Charles Groves in Liverpool, who had helped launch a career in composition.

The Phil job is much more than a series of premieres.

"It allows me to spend time around rehearsals, meeting members of the audience, giving pre-concert talks, and also working at the university and schools," says Ken.

And he adds: "I will only be limited by the amount of work I can fit in."

Kenneth Hesketh. Liverpool Philharmonic September 14.


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2007
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