This Center, rather than the market square of the quiet Aberdeenshire town, is Ronald Center, the remarkable composer who lived, worked, taught and composed there for many years, dying in 1973 with his work relatively unheralded. Deveron Arts, based in the town, has joined forces with several interested composers and musicians, and slowly but steadily worked on bringing his work further into the foreground of Scottish music.
It is work that is, at times, not easy to play or to understand, but at the forthcoming Sound festival in the north east of Scotland, another act in the revival and rediscovery of the composer, who died early at the age of 60, will be performed. At Sound audiences will hear, for the first time, in two separate concerts, a performances by Emily White's Isla Quartet of what may be this slightly mysterious composer's most radical piece, his Third Quartet. Strangely, it has only ever been played once before, and then not all of its seven movements, in Bogota in 1979. These Sound concerts, on November 16 and 17, will feature the entire piece played in public for the first time.
The programme will also feature the premiere of the String Quartet No 7 by the composer David Ward, who has also had the job of transcribing Center's Third Quartet and is devotee of the composer. As is the BBC broadcaster James Naughtie, who was a pupil of Center, and who will be speaking on the night of the first concert, near Huntly.
Center was born in Aberdeen in 1913, where he studied piano with Julian Rosetti and organ with Willan Swainson. He worked in the city as a soloist, an accompanist, a teacher, a church organist and a choral conductor and, aged 30, he moved to Huntly, with his wife Evelyn, a soprano. There, he taught music in the Gordon schools for six years, before devoting himself to composition full time, his income supplemented by private tuition. His works have been recorded, and broadcast, notably The Coming of Cuchulain in 1944. His first String Quartet was recorded by the Saltire Quartet in 1995, and White's Isla Quartet played and recorded (on the Center of Huntly CD) the Second Quartet in Huntly in 2008.
White, the violinist and trombonist whose work in Huntly as part of its ongoing The Town is The Venue arts project run by Deveron Arts led to that CD and concert in 2008, believes his work is "extraordinary". That previous celebration of his work was the culmination of her 15-month residency and research project. The first composer-in-residence with Deveron Arts, White used her time to research the work of the earlier composer, and among the pieces she worked on during her research was the score of Center's never-performed second string quartet.
Now she is on to the third, an enthralling but devilish piece, she says, when she speaks to The Herald on the phone from her home in England.
"To a small group of people Center is well known, and to those people his work is very important. But really he is barely known. We have just been practising his Third Quartet and it is really extraordinary. His songs, actually, are really beautiful - he was a pianist and his piano parts are really lovely because of that."
She adds: "There are some almost Steve Reich-like moments in the Third Quartet, quite ahead of his time. In those days to be writing an almost minimalist work is so interesting."
Ward also believes the work, and the composer, are overdue serious consideration. He says: "To say he was a modernist . . . well, how modern is a modernist? But for rural Scotland, I do think he was extremely unusual. The Third quartet is extraordinarily difficult to play, but I think he did not care. He does some extraordinary things with double-stops for example. When I teach composition, there are some things like that I advise not to do under any circumstances."
White says: "He was living in this minute place, this tiny place, but making this extraordinary work, that if it is not minimalist with a capital M, is pretty close. And it was being written in the 1950s in this Scottish town, not London in the 1970s or New York."
White adds: "Of course he should be better known. I don't know where he stands in the whole grander history of music but in Scotland he should definitely be celelebrated.
"But I have to say, some of this music is so hard to play, and some of it almost unplayable. If you try and play all the notes he has written, it is pretty difficult."
Ward says of the piece: "There are suggestions of folk-song and dance and a lot of physical energy. It is a very personal mix, but I'd be surprised if it doesn't communicate directly to the audience, despite the challenging musical language and the awkwardness of some sections for the players."
He adds: "It's an astonishing piece to have been written in Huntly in the 1960s, or possibly early 70s, by a fairly reclusive composer."
The furiousness of some of Center's writing and what both Ward and White refer to as his "minimalism" lead me to wonder whether Center can be called one of Scotland's "secret modernists".
"I am not certain of the term's meaning," says Ward. "but I suppose the modernist composers of the time when Center wrote his Third quartet would include such people as Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Berio and so on," he says.
"Measured against these he was old-fashioned, using techniques that had been much in vogue in the 1920s and 30s, plus some recognizable Scottish folk elements. However, measured against what one might expect from a composer who rarely left rural north east Scotland, it's a different story."
Center did not only write for strings - there are 10 surviving 'art songs' and 26 Scots song arrangements in his catalogue. Ward believes his greatest work might be his Piano Sonata and a choral piece, Dona Nobis Pacem.
And his reputation is undoubtedly growing. Recently, Ward was contacted by a professional pianist, Christopher Guild, who has created a CD of his works [on Toccata Classics], including his Piano Sonata, which is being considered a "first instalment". Guild says: "The music is an intriguing blend of Prokofiev, Britten, Ravel and Shostakovich (to name only a few influences), but with an inherent Scottishness in the ruggedness of its writing."
And the elusive composer himself? Ward suggests he could be a prickly customer, a reclusive man very much of his own mind. Naughtie remembers a "hard task master" who could be "gentle and tough in equal measure" and has mourned his "tragically early death". At least now, forty years on, some of his music can now be enjoyed - and assessed - but the public at the Sound festival.