Vonnegut Collective


We are a Manchester-based chamber ensemble making new music relevant and accessible through improvisation and innovative collaborations.

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We endeavour to include a new commission in every performance and we have a particular passion for working with composer-performers who can then become part of the collective. We have recently commissioned works by:

Anton Hunter – guitarist, composer, improviser and recipient of the 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival ‘mjf originals’ commission
Tullis Rennie – composer, electronic musician, trombonist, field-recordist, DJ, improviser
Cath Roberts – saxophonist, composer, improviser
Graham South – trumpet player, composer, improviser
Norman Skipp – composer/sonic artist, video artist and online editor/compositor
Tom Harrold – pianist, composer, recipient of the 2016 BBC Last Night of the Proms commission


:Reworked is a series of varied recitals with a common approach. Part of each concert contains one or more pre-existing pieces of music from the 20th or 21st century. For the remainder of the programme we invite emerging composers to take aspects or fragments of these works and use them as a starting point to create their own brand new pieces. Through this process those original fragments of melody, harmony, colour, texture and expression from the masters of the last hundred years, are captured and given an exciting new context. As these now familiar fragments reappear and develop a life of their own, they begin to feel like old friends, giving the original works a new dimension and poignancy to the listeners and performers alike.


The education/outreach/participation side of what we do is adaptable to a variety of settings. We design and deliver creative, interactive projects suitable for primary schools, secondary schools, universities, conservatoires and different healthcare settings.

We are currently building relationships with the University of Manchester, BBC Philharmonic and Special Virtuosi. Through our workshops we provide a performer’s insight into composition: a practical, comprehensive way in for people of all ages and abilities.


As part of each of our school projects we include a recital of relevant repertoire. These concerts can be just for the school or open to the public and are entirely adaptable to the situation and the setting. We also offer presented concerts for your whole school featuring music from the great innovators of the 20th- and 21st centuries.

musicians standing in front of a light box

8 February 2018, 19.00
The Whitworth, Oxford Road, Manchester

The culmination of a four-month project with Manchester University. Composition and drama students work together to create an immersive performance of sound, speech and movement which explore the sense of ‘touch’. A collaboration with Animikii Theatre.

13 March 2018
Confronting Cardew
City University, London

A 50 minute performance including spoken word, projection, recorded sound, web-scores and live improvisation. This piece is a reflection of the collective’s experiences when tackling and exploring Cardew’s Autumn 60.

9 April 2018
Confronting Cardew
Peel Hall, Salford University

Another outing for our beloved Confronting Cardew, this time as part of Salford University and the BBC Philharmonic’s Red Brick Chamber sessions.

More here

Gary and Gemma playing in a room with red walls and ceiling

About us

The Vonnegut Collective is a chamber ensemble based in Manchester, UK. It was formed in 2014 by two members of the BBC Philharmonic with the aim of exploring new music and making it more relevant and accessible to all. Our carefully crafted recitals and education work facilitate creative music-making, story-telling and free expression through structured and improvised sound, giving everyone the chance to experience new music, their music, either made by them or for them.

The musicians

Gary and Gemma form the core of the collective. The rest of the ensemble is made up of a pool of acclaimed instrumentalists and composers who are invited to join us depending on the instrumentation required for each individual project.

Gary Farr (trumpet)

Gary studied at the Royal Northern College of Music gaining a BA degree and professional performance diploma before joining the internationally recognised contemporary music group Remix Ensemble in 2000. He has performed solo works by Berio, Henze, Turnage, Jolivet, Rebecca Saunders, and gave the first performances of Olga Neuwirth’s solo trumpet work ‘Laki’ in Paris, Vienna, Strasbourg, and Porto. Gary holds the position of Sub-Principal Trumpet of the BBC Philharmonic and is also a trumpet tutor at Manchester University and at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music.

Gemma Bass (violin)

Gemma completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Manchester, during which time she studied composition with Camden Reeves and Philip Grange, and performed regularly with Kairos electroacoustic ensemble. From there she went on to spend two years at the Royal Northern College of Music learning with Ben Holland, graduating with Distinction in 2009. Gemma is now a member of Manchester Camerata and the BBC Philharmonic. Also interested in the use of music as a therapeutic and educative tool, she regularly leads and assists on education and outreach projects for organisations such as Special Virtuosi, BlueSci and as part of her job with the Camerata.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut was an American author, famous for such works as Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. As someone with an incredibly inspirational attitude towards the creative arts, we endeavour to keep his philosophies at the heart of everything we do.

“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow. Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.”

- Kurt Vonnegut

Gary Farr
Gemma Bass