3 questions to Catherine Kontz

“The real adventure of bringing the score to life can start”

Voix des Terres Rouges: “I hope there will not be many dry eyes in the audience by the end” Photo: Tony Woodhead – T&L Portraits

Voix des Terres Rouges: “I hope there will not be many dry eyes in the audience by the end” Photo: Tony Woodhead – T&L Portraits

Catherine Kontz talks about her ambitions for two crucial music projects to take place in the grand duchy before the end of the year and in 2022.

The London-based Luxembourgish composer, who was recently appointed professor of composition at the Royal College of Music (RCM), has been “busy as popcorn on a skillet” as she puts it.  She speaks about her motivation and expectations for two major upcoming events taking place in the grand duchy, in which she will play a major role.

First, the Driwwer Drënner Drop composed by Kontz is a live music walk--commissioned by the Philarmonie Luxembourg and a part of the rainy days festival programme--that will take place on 27 November this year and invites participants to go on an unusual musical adventure from the Clausener Bréck to Neimënster. 

Kontz’s new large scale project in the context of the Esch2022, Voix des Terres Rouges, uses the instrumentality of music to explore the mining and industrial history of the Esch sur Alzette region, albeit with the participation of present day choristers, who will interpret the project via several concerts over the summer of 2022. The project adds a special touch of Catherine Rousseau, Kontz’s great great grandmother and oldest living citizen in Esch as at 1956.

What dynamic/possibilities does your recent appointment as Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music add to your diversified portfolio?

Ever since finishing my PhD at Goldsmiths, I have kept one foot in academia, and so this has not come out of the blue. It is exciting for me to join a Composition department which is as open and forward-looking as this one, and I will enjoy being a part of the diverse pool of compositional voices they have there. The exchange of ideas which happens when you teach composition and think about music is inspiring, both for the students and teachers. So, it’s really something I look forward to on a weekly basis!

Your large-scale promenade concert takes place on 27 November. What motivated you to embark on this live music walk? And what can participants expect? 

With Driwwer Drënner Drop, audiences and performers will be able to experience contemporary music in a way they may not have before. I enjoy exploring ideas which take music out of the concert hall to create something unique and special. This piece is really a celebration of group music making and will include beginners and professionals alongside each other on the performing side. It is site-specific, and has been composed with the architecture of the city with its different levels and landscape in mind--the sound will sometimes come to you from across the river Alzette, or from below a bridge, or even from out of the old fortress walls. With 140 young musicians performing on brass, woodwind and percussion instruments as well as using their voices, it will be a fun introduction to new music for the whole family and a good way to experience something out of the ordinary on a Saturday in November.                                                                                                                                             

What are your expectations for the performance of Voix des Terres Rouges, which is planned between 17 to 19 June 2022, in the framework of Esch 2022--European Capital of Culture?

It took me most of this year to compose Voix des Terres Rouges, a 53 minute large-scale work for choir and orchestra. It’s a huge undertaking and, now that the piece has gone from my head to paper, the real adventure of bringing the score to life can start. It’s hugely exciting for an amateur choir to get to sing with a professional orchestra. In this case, they will be able to discover and shape the piece with me over the course of a few months. The piece itself takes you on a real journey through time and tells the story of the Esch region in a vivid way, based on texts by Carla Lucarelli and Gilles Ortlieb. I personally find the piece quite emotional because it all plays so close to home and I hope there will not be many dry eyes in the audience by the end. The work will premier in 3 concerts in June, in Metz, Villerupt and at the Artikuss/Sanem near Esch. There is still time to sign up for the choir which is organised by Inecc Lorraine and Inecc Luxembourg. Come be a part of it! 

Click here to sign up for the choir, and head to Delano for more information about the Driwwer Drënner Drop live music walk.