2019 is our 50th anniversary and we are championing some of the people who help make Scottish Ballet a great place to work. Each week we will introduce you to a different career at Scottish Ballet and the person behind it.
For over 33 years, Richard Honner has conducted many performances for Scottish Ballet. In his role as Head of Music, he also works on arrangements, interprets the work of composers for productions, directs the recording of performances if needed, and auditions performers for the Scottish Ballet Orchestra. On top of this, Richard has been a guest conductor for San Francisco Ballet and Opera Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, and is a longstanding guest conductor for Hong Kong Ballet.
Richard isn't shy of a challenge, and his final major project with Scottish Ballet will be to arrange the music for Christopher Hampson's The Snow Queen. As we bid him a fond farewell and wish him all the best in retirement, we caught up with him to hear more about his journey with the company.
Tell us about your journey with the company
Out of the blue I was asked to conduct some Nutcracker performances during the winter season 1985/6. I was invited back for the following Spring season and then to join the Company in August 1986. I did not expect to stay for more than a few years but gradually the responsibilities increased and with them the enjoyment (especially foreign touring) and before I knew it 33 years had flown past.
What was it like working on the arrangement for The Snow Queen?
The challenge was greater than arranging Hansel & Gretel because the scenario was new and finding suitable music largely from the operas of Rimsky-Korsakov meant a lot of research. Having found music that Chris Hampson felt was appropriate to his choreographic needs it had to be edited and arranged to make a satisfying score both from a musical and a dramatic point of view.
What was your instrument before you took up conducting?
At The Royal College of Music my first study was the bassoon. However I was also a competent pianist and gradually becoming more interested in opera I was engaged as a repetiteur and later a staff conductor working for several opera companies, the last of which was Scottish Opera – hence being a resident of Glasgow.
Is there a style of music you prefers most to direct? Is it different to the style of music you like to listen to?
Generally my listening is anything written up to the mid 20th century but in the course of my time with Scottish Ballet I have been challenged to work on scores written after that – I can’t say that I have always enjoyed that challenge but it’s been good for the soul!