Vonnegut Collective


We are a multifaceted ensemble, making new music and telling stories through creative collaborations with artists from a broad range of genres.



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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

September 2018
Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera
Anthony Burgess Foundation

We are delighted to be rejoining Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera this year, welcoming young performers into the collective in a side-by-side learning and performance opportunity. Alongside some fantastic tutors and directors, we will be exploring new and innovative ways of incorporating movement and action into the roles of instrumentalists in opera. The project culminates in performances of brand new works by young composers in the second week in September. More details to follow.

The Feral Project

Kaspar Hauser, a feral-child of 19th century Germany, was revered and despised by the locals of the time and has been a much debated character by historians ever since his death. Focussing on the legitimacy of his 17-year captivity and the infamous events of his life after his first appearance, through to the puzzling nature of his untimely death, audiences will glimpse the fantastic life behind the eyes of a born enigma.

The legacy, identity, life and death of Kaspar Hauser will be brought to the stage with a new and distinctive combination of Vonnegut Collective’s improvisational music and Animikii Theatre’s expressive and embodied physicality.

15-17 February 2019
Time is Different Here...
Talliston House and Gardens, Essex

A collaboration with Gavin Osborn and Rachel Graff, exploring time and tale through unique experiences in sound and space. More information coming soon. In the meantime explore the project website 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