THE idea of combining some of the biggest dance hits of the nineties with a classical orchestra has proved to be an inspired one, writes JOHN ANSON.

In less than two years, Hacienda Classical has become one of the most in-demand events at festivals around the country.

This coming weekend, Hacienda Classical will return to Lancaster’s Williamson Park for the inaugural Highest Point Festival when Graeme Park and Mike Pickering, DJs at the famous Hacienda club in Manchester, join special guests and members of Manchester Camerata to close the event.

Tim Crooks will be conducting having played a crucial part in the success of the project.

A former classical violinist, Tim is in demand as both arranger and conductor with orchestras around the world.

“I’ve been involved in Hacienda Classical since the early planning stages,” he said. “I was asked by Graeme and Mike if I thought it would work and I knocked up a couple of tracks for Graeme, Mike Pickering and Peter Hook for them to listen to and we took it from there really.”

After an initial concert, demand for Hacienda Classical has just grown and grown.

“I thought it would be successful in Manchester as the Hacienda had such a big following in the city,” said Tim. “What took me by surprise was it has had such a great response all over the place and we are selling out shows everywhere. There is just such a huge appreciation of what the Hacienda was and we’re tapping into that spirit of the 1990s.”

Hacienda Classical features classic songs such as Voodoo Ray, Ride on Time and New Order’s Blue Monday although a whole new set will be revealed at the Highest Point Festival.

“It is almost all new material,” said Tim. "It’s going to be a brilliant show this year. We have got some exciting guest artists who I’m really looking to forward to working with.”

Asking classical musicians to play dance music may seem an unlikely proposition.

“It’s not that different to what is known in the business as a muddy field gig where you go and play the 1812 Overture and whole load of popular classics in the open air,” said Tim. “So in some ways the musicians are very used to that kind of context.

“Some of the players love it and others hate it - it’s a real Marmite gig. But the benefit of the Manchester Camerata is that it’s essentially a freelance orchestra so what you have is an orchestra that really wants to be there and be involved in the project and that really shows on stage and it helps the whole thing to work brilliantly.”

Whether it is a classical piece or a dance anthem, Tim said that the principals involved are the same.

“Musicians appreciate music that has been put together well whatever genre it is in. You can very quickly spot good music if you are a trained musician,” he said.

“Some of the tracks worked like a dream and all I had to do was listen and essentially transcribe what was originally there but then some of the tracks are much more minimal and synth based. They caused a bit more of a problem so you need to get a bit more creative at that point.”

On stage it’s Tim’s job to keep the whole show together.

“With this show, it’s very different from conducting as we know it,” he said. “The show runs on a click track so I don’t have to generate a time code and the sound is balanced by a front of house engineer so I often wonder why I’m needed,” he laughed. “I think it’s probably in case anything goes wrong!”

Hacienda Classical will headline the final night of the Highest Point Festival which runs from Friday, May 18 to Sunday, May 20. For the full line-up and ticket details visit