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Author Archives: laurastevens

  1. A Mark of Respect

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    We are deeply saddened by the recent news regarding HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

    We as a venue have decided that our events will go ahead as planned during the national period of mourning. As a mark of respect each event will either start with a 2-minute silence or playing of the national anthem, and all attendees will be given the opportunity to contribute to The National Book of Condolence here. 

    HM Queen Elizabeth II – along with HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, our Chetham’s Foundation patron – have been great supporters of our wonderful organisation and shared our love for the arts. 

    We were honoured to host the Queen at Chetham’s on several Royal visits over the years’ including in 1994, 2007, 2012 and 2013. And on 23 April 2017, Prince Edward visited Chetham’s to officially open The Stoller Hall as part of its opening weekend proceedings.  

    The opening weekend was one packed with events, including appearances from BBC Radio 3, Gwylim Simcock, and Sir Mark Elder and exciting events such as Outreach concerts and a Ted Robbins jazz concert. With the wide range of events programmed in such a way to show off the versatility of the Hall’s excellent acoustics, huge audiences were drawn to the new Manchester performance venue, helping to establish The Stoller Hall’s significant cultural footprint straight away. 

    Sunday 23 April marked the Royal Celebration Opening Concert, a dynamic concert featuring two orchestras of Chetham’s students, alumni, and friends. The concert began with a brass fanfare, specially commissioned for the event, before the Chetham’s Chamber Orchestra took the stage to perform Walton and Brahms.  

    It was at this point that HRH Prince Edward was invited onstage, accompanied by Chetham’s Principal Alun Jones, to unveil the plaque that would officially pronounce The Stoller Hall as open. The atmosphere of excitement was apparent when Prince Edward stood in front of an orchestra of Chetham’s students and marked the opening of a project at the heart of the school, and this excitement carried through to the music-making, resulting in an exhilarating concert enjoyed by all.  

    The second half of the concert was made up of an orchestra of Chetham’s staff, former students, local professionals, and a few guest students, under the baton of Sir Mark Elder. This incredibly special and personal ensemble brought the concert, and the Opening Weekend, to a dynamic and sentimental close.  

    The contribution of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, to our organisation has been significant and we are forever grateful. Our thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time. If you are attending our events during this period of national mourning, we look forward to welcoming you.  

    Click here to sign The National Book of Condolence. 

  2. Celebrating Classical Music Month

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    Music venues, orchestras and ensembles across Manchester have joined forces for a major city-wide classical events programme this September, to mark Classical Music Month. 

    The programme – which features more than 30 live concerts across four venues – is the biggest city-wide celebration of classical music in recent years.  

    Manchester is arguably the UK’s leading classical music city outside London, with venues such as The Stoller Hall at Chetham’s, The Bridgewater Hall, Halle St Peter’s, BBC Philharmonic and Royal Northern College of Music regularly collaborating with world class orchestras and ensembles, including Manchester Camerata, Manchester Collective and more. 

    Fran Healey, Artistic Director and General Manager of The Stoller Hall at Chethams, says:

    “Manchester is home to many incredible concert halls, orchestras and ensembles and has built a reputation for presenting world-renowned musicians alongside emerging young talent. Classical Music Month is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to come together and celebrate Manchester’s own thriving classical and chamber music scene.

    This September there are more than thirty classical and chamber concerts taking place across the city. You don’t need to know your Beethoven from your Bach, and for those who may want to try the music for the first time there’s a series of free lunchtime concerts at The Stoller Hall.”

    At The Bridgewater Hall, the BBC Philharmonic will be performing their opening concert of the new 2022/23 season, Jonathan Scott will perform his recital on The Bridgewater Hall’s world-renowned organ as part of the Lunchtime at the Opera series, and guitarist Tom Gamble will excite audiences with a diverse and virtuosic display of his own classical arrangements, featuring music by Jobim, Dowland, Gershwin, The Beatles and traditional folk music.

    At The Stoller Hall, Manchester Camerata return with their second instalment of Mozart: Made in Manchester, delving further into the soundworld of his later operas and his most epic piano concertos. The award-winning Trio Bohémo will entertain audiences with their innovative and exciting programming, taking inspiration from The Stoller Hall’s Sounds of Nature season.  Plus, audiences can also enjoy free Lunchtime Concerts from some of the UK’s most exciting young musicians at Chetham’s School of Music.

    Also at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra will be demonstrating their mastery of some of the best known classical works, such as Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique, featuring the Hallé’s Assistant Conductor Delyana Lazarova on the podium and solo cellist Guy Johnston. Meanwhile at Hallé St. Peter’s, Hallé musicians Stéphane Rancourt (oboe) and Tiberiu Buta (violin) will perform Mozart’s famous Oboe Quartet, enchanting audiences through the unity of the Hallé’s strings and winds.

    And at the Royal Northern College of Music, the brilliant Manchester Collective have taken up residence and will be performing Michael Gordon’s cult 1997 piece Weather for amplified string orchestra, a brand-new collaboration with seminal sound artist Chris Watson, and Spanish filmmaker Carlos Casas. Also at RNCM, an exciting showcase will be taking place featuring the 2020 and 2021 winners of the college’s prestigious Gold Medal award.

    Watch the video to learn more or see What’s On.

  3. Behind the scenes at Manchester Guitar Festival 2022

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    After a hugely successful first year, we’re delighted that the Manchester Guitar Festival will return in 2023. We’ll be announcing more details of the line-up soon, and ahead of the announcements we caught up with Festival Director Fran Healey to go behind the scenes of the 2022 festival.

    What was your highlight from this year’s festival?

    I was so pleased to be able to get our first Manchester Guitar Festival off the ground, and loved every minute of it. My main highlight was seeing people come in, with their guitars on their shoulders, ready to really engage with the performances and participate in the workshops and talks that were taking place through the weekend. It was lovely to talk to the performers and hear how they had inspired one another’s styles over the years, and to be able to showcase really big names in the industry alongside local and upcoming talent – right through from Craig Ogden and Sean Shibe, to students from Chetham’s, RNCM and BIMM, and local artists like Becky Langan.

    What goes into planning a Guitar Festival?

    A lot!  It’s normally about a 2 year project, finding dates that work in Manchester, and working with artists and their agents to piece together performances that will appeal and offer an interesting variety to our audiences. The days have to hang together completely, right from opening the doors at the start of the day through to the very last goodnights at the end of the grand finale performance in the evening. Our aim is always to have something that people will feel comfortable with, as well as something that they might be able to experiment and step outside of their comfort zone to see. Music is an incredible artform that we can all relate to in our different ways, and it is lovely to organise an event like the Manchester Guitar Festival that brings people of all ages, from all walks of life, together in one place to learn and share the experience together.

    How does The Stoller Hall support musicians?

    Our ethos is that everyone starts somewhere, and we want to be a part of the journey to give performers the platform to reach new audiences and get their names out there. The Manchester Guitar Festival is a great opportunity for this. If we can build audience trust with names and music that people recognise, we can create the platforms for people to see other performers and perhaps find new favourites to follow. Whether people want to learn to play, learn to listen, or just hear and enjoy the music, it’s great to be able to bring that all under one roof in a condensed weekend of all things guitar.

    Any plans for another festival?

    Of course!  There are a small number of Early Bird Tickets available already for 2022 – hold it in your diaries – Friday 19 – Sunday 21 May 2022. The details are being worked on, but we will have performances taking place including open rehearsals, workshops and talks, local musicians, and of course some amazing headline jazz, folk and classical acts. There will be opportunities to participate, and something for everyone – all ages, abilities and interests.

    You can now look back on some of the incredible highlights from the 2022 festival below.

  4. Northern premiere: Elgar’s Early Quartet Fragments

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    Following their live stream performance during Manchester’s lockdown, the Victoria String Quartet return for their performance with a live audience. The concert will feature a northern premiere of Elgar’s Early quartet fragments, which has never been performed on a northern stage till now.

    Ahead of the live concert we go behind the music to learn what inspired the composer to write this incredible piece.

    Elgar’s String Quartet from 1918 was one of his last major works, completed at the same time as the Violin Sonata, Piano Quintet & Cello Concerto.

    Although it was his only finished work in the quartet genre, he had made numerous attempts at composing a string quartet throughout his composing life. There are at least fifteen different sketches and fragments by Elgar that survive. Some of them are very brief, only consisting of a handful of bars. More often, they have too many ‘holes’ in the music to provide a worthwhile idea of the musical substance, requiring extensive guesswork and pastiche composition to flesh them out.

    The six fragments chosen here are the most complete in terms of written material on the page. The first in D minor is the most extensive, and was written in 1878 when Elgar was 21. It is a complete exposition, in an early to mid-Romantic style. Elgar copied the opening of the piece as material for his opera The Spanish Lady towards the end of his life, and included the word ‘Beethoven’ on his copy. Three other fragments date from the same period, those in A minor, G major and D major. Two fascinating sketches come from Elgar’s mature period in 1907, and feature many of the composer’s stylistic traits. Both were to be included in major works. The first swings along in 12/8, with shifting chromatic harmonies and a wide arch-like phrase in the first violin.

    This music was to be used in The Music Makers in 1912 to underpin the text ‘A wondrous thing of our dreaming’. Just at the end of the sketch, a leaping theme is heard in F major, one that would become a key part of the opening movement of the First Symphony. The final fragment in F# minor–D major is almost a complete version of the end of the Scherzo and opening of the Adagio in the First Symphony. It may well be a full sketch in quartet form for that particular transition in the Symphony. It serves as an excellent precursor to the completed masterpiece of Elgar’s String Quartet in 1918.

    You can book tickets to Victoria String Quartet here.

  5. The story behind one of our most powerful programmes yet

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    Kantos Chamber Choir’s Artistic Director Ellie Slorach guides us through the story behind one of our most powerful programmes yet, ahead of their live concert at The Stoller Hall this month.

    What can audiences expect from a Kantos performance?

    You can expect top quality a capella choral music spanning the centuries – everything from Hildegard von Bingen of the 12th century through to world première performances of brand new music. You can expect elements of improvisation from the singers and seamless transitions between pieces to keep you immersed in the musical experience; we like to cross from genre to genre and style to style without a break and perhaps without you noticing at first! We like to tell a story with our performances, using the choral music as a vehicle to make you feel something or to make a statement.

    Who are the musicians in the choir?

    The musicians in the choir are professional vocalists living in the North of the UK, mostly in Manchester. As well as being excellent choral singers, they are creative performers who approach Kantos performances with incredible energy and positivity: singing with raw emotion, throwing themselves into improvisation, taking our audience on a journey.

    How do you select the programme and what will you be performing?

    Programmes can take a lot of time to develop; often hearing a single piece or talking to another artist about a piece or a composer can spark a whole programme idea. Similarly, a visit to a potential performance venue can also spark a programme idea. After the idea is there, it takes a lot of research and plenty of listening to build the full performance. In this case, for ‘In Beauty May I Walk’, the title of the programme is taken from a piece by Jonathan Dove. I was drawn to a programme celebrating all things beautiful in nature whilst simultaneously breaking the beauty with pieces that told of the devastating human impact on the climate. So, this programme kind of works in waves; building up beauty upon beauty upon beauty and then dropping a devastating message of our destruction before re-building again. In this way, it’s intended to be a positive message that focuses on what is beautiful and therefore, why we should work harder to fight climate change.

    Why is choral music still relevant today?

    Choral music is only relevant today if we keep it relevant to today. I believe that by choosing repertoire thoughtfully, thinking about every aspect of a choral performance, and constantly asking questions, we can create performances of choral music that can engage any listener, whether they are already a keen classical music fan or a brand new audience member:

    ‘Why this piece? – What is it saying within this programme? How does it work with the repertoire either side of it?’ ‘Where should the choir stand for that piece? Does it make sense to stand in ‘typical’ choir formation for this piece? Is it better to stand in a different formation for this piece?’ ‘Does this concert programme have something to say or something to make our listeners feel?’

    Favourite musician or composer?

    It changes frequently….! At the moment, it’s Hildegard von Bingen, Pérotin and The Proclaimers, but that’ll be different by the time of our performance!

    You can book tickets here to Kantos Chamber Choir on Sunday 19 June.

  6. My goal and dream is to continue to make flamenco guitar, music and culture accessible to music lovers across the UK

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    As the first Manchester Guitar Festival draws ever closer, we caught up with some of the musicians performing across the weekend. This week we went behind the scenes with Daniel Martinez as he gears up for his live concert and workshop.

    What music will you be playing at the concert and how have you chosen it?

    I will be playing my own compositions that form part of my production ‘Art of Believing’. I composed this body of work in 2017 over a couple of months and presented it in October of that same year to a sold out audience in Edinburgh‘s Lyceum Theatre. It all happened so quickly and naturally; from the composing, to the decision to present it, to recording a live album… it just flowed, it was a really special time.

    What attracted you to the flamenco guitar as an instrument?

    From a very early age I was surrounded by music, my father plays the guitar and the piano (not professionally) and my uncle plays classical guitar, the lute and is a teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Music of Cordoba where I studied for 14 years. At the age of 7 I already knew I wanted to be a flamenco guitarist as I had fallen in love with the emotion and the harmonies of flamenco guitar. My parents nurtured this love I had for music and learning to play and I truly believe I have them to thank for such a great start in what’s turned out to be a wonderful music career so far.

    What do you wish more people knew about flamenco guitar?

    My goal and dream is to continue to make flamenco guitar, music and culture accessible to music lovers across the UK! I still feel it’s a relatively unknown art form in this country and nothing makes me happier than showcasing my guitar and spreading awareness of this beautiful music.

    What does it mean to you to perform as part of the festival at Stoller Hall?

    It’s fantastic to form a part of Manchester’s first ever Guitar Festival! Really happy that I will there to see the first edition and hopefully this will be a brilliant yearly guitar event we can all look forward to!

    What’s next for you?

    We are embarking on our 2022 ‘Art of Believing’ tour and actually the guitar festival is our first weekend! We will be visiting many cities including Poole, Exeter, London, Bristol, Swansea, Cardiff, Norwich..to name only a few! Then in February 2023, straight after our last concert of the tour in London’s Sadlers Wells, I will be presenting my second production ‘Andalucia’ with a Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh‘s Usher Hall.

  7. 5 minutes with Rochdale fingerstyle guitarist Becky Langan

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    Becky first shot to notice appearing on a talent show on TV channel Sky Arts and is now an established solo musician. The inaugural Manchester Guitar Festival is celebrating all things six-stringed at The Stoller Hall – and Rochdale percussive fingerstyle guitarist Becky Langan cannot wait for her show and workshop. Becky has established a name for herself in the music scene after originally coming to public prominence appearing on Sky Arts television programme Guitar Star in 2016.

    What are you most looking forward to at the first Manchester Guitar Festival?

    She said: “It’s quite surreal, I didn’t expect to be in this position, playing on stage alongside these really well known musicians from around the world. I’m just going along with it.

    “I can’t wait for the festival. I went to play at the venue and it’s absolutely beautiful.

    “I’m excited because I haven’t been on stage much with the pandemic. This is a really nice gig and a nice way of getting back into things. It’s going to be good.”

    How did you get into percussive fingerstyle guitar playing?

    Becky first picked up a guitar aged 11 and for the first few years learned chords and strumming and was particularly interested in folk music and playing the blues.

    However, she discovered what would turn out to be her own musical path when she came across a video online aged 14.

    That was her introduction to percussive fingerstyle, which features a huge range of techniques and musical ideas including tapping the strings with the fingers, experimenting with alternative tunings, providing both melodies and rhythms and using the body of the guitar, all done by a single performer.

    Becky said: “I didn’t know the style existed until I saw a video of a guitarist called Andy McKee online. At first I questioned whether he was a robot, I had never seen anything like it.

    “I just started writing from there. I’m basically a self-taught musician and play by ear. I really enjoy writing and with this style of playing there’s more freedom and creativity.”

    Becky will lead a workshop on Saturday 20 May at 4pm, followed by a performance at 6.30pm. You can learn more and book tickets here.

  8. The healing power of music

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    Classical music felt like a lifeline for many of us in the pandemic, keeping our spirits bright. But its potential to fuel, fortify and restore is far greater than that and has now been recognised in a new report. Music for Dementia and UK Music have joined forces to publish a new report which outlines a blueprint to use music to help improve the nation’s health and wellbeing. The report also spells out the support needed from a variety of sectors to ensure its recommendations come to fruition.

    The Power of Music report sets out four key recommendations:

    • The appointment of the UK’s first Power of Music Commissioner to champion and coordinate all the work in this area – setting up a new Government taskforce and a Life With Music Consortium to spearhead positive change.
    • A major public awareness campaign to show how the power of music can change lives, improve health and bring communities together – supported by a new online information platform, development of which is being led by Universal Music UK.
    • Support frontline workers by providing better training on the role of music in health and care – in particular by establishing an accessible training module to help practitioners understand how best to use music as part of the care they provide in their work setting.
    • Extra funding to help make music accessible to all delivered by new investment partnerships between Government, industry and philanthropists.
    If you’re a student in full time education or under 18, our ticket pricing scheme makes it easy and affordable to access great music.
    There are lots of great ways to save money on tickets with our ticket offers and concert packages!

    STUDENTS AND YOUNG PEOPLE UNDER 18

    £3 – £5 for all main season concerts (excluding external promoter concerts). You can buy a student ticket if you are a full time student or aged under 18 and have valid ID.

  9. FEE FREE FRIDAY IS BACK

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    To celebrate the launch of our new Spring/Summer Seasonwe are removing all booking fees for 24 hours on Friday 22 April 2022. You don’t need to do anything – just book as usual and save up to £2 on every ticket you buy before midnight!

    This includes every event in our live music programme, such as Manchester Guitar FestivalHermeto Pascoal and Emeli Sandé.

    If you want to get in touch, give us a call on 0333 130 0967 from 10am – 5pm on Friday 22 April 2022 or email boxoffice@stollerhall.com.

    Why not take a look and see What’s On at The Stoller Hall? And make sure you sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page for the latest news and events.

  10. Hollie Harding – Melting, Shifting, Liquid World

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    We’re getting ready for a very special performance next week, one which brings together a classical masterpiece, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, with a live string ensemble performing Hollie Harding’s Melting, Shifting, Liquid World. We caught up with the composer to learn more…

    HH: Hi, I’m Hollie Harding. I’m currently studying towards a PhD at Trinity Laban in Composition. I also teach there on a course called Listening to the 21st Century. I recently had my final piece performed at The National Maritime Museum. It was called Melting, Shifting, Liquid World.

    HH: A huge part of the piece was thinking about climate change and ocean pollution. Melting, Shifting, Liquid World was an immersive, site-specific piece written for performance at The Great Map at The National Maritime Museum. I wrote it for the Head of Strings, Nic Pendlebury, to play on electric viola, and Trinity Laban String Ensemble. There was also an electro-acoustic tape part delivered to the audience over bone-conduction headphones.

    TSH: What exactly are bone-conduction headphones?

    aftershokzheadsets.jpg

    HH: They’re quite different to normal headphones. They send sound via micro-vibrations through your cheekbones and straight to your inner ear. And they leave your ear canal unplugged so you can hear other sounds as well.

    TSH: What is it like to put on the bone-conduction headphones?

    TSH: It certainly requires you to actually engage with it properly and find the sweet spot for you.

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    HH: Bone-conduction technology was developed originally for the army so that soldiers could hear instructions as well as the environment and they’ve since been put into commercial use by the company AfterShokz, primarily for cyclists and for runners so you can listen to music or podcasts while you’re doing your exercise.

    TSH: Why have you chosen to present the music in this way?

    HH: My PhD research is looking at space and physical action as elements of musical performance and how that can influence composition. So within the piece I was playing with the idea of layers of sound around the listener. The aim of that was also so that every listener, or every audience member, had a unique experience depending on where they decided to place themselves.

    TSH: Could you tell us about the costumes that the performers were wearing?

    HH: I knew quite early on that I didn’t want the performers to be just wearing standard concert dress, so I got in touch with the costume department at Laban and I ended up collaborating with four costume designers. We had two research and development days where they showed me textiles that they’d made out of recycled plastic. They wove plastic bags and up-cycled plastic into netting that was donated by fishermen.

    HH: I want to raise awareness of the issues, which is why I did the piece. I’m not doing it as a gimmick. It’s so complicated. As I was saying about plastic bottles for aid for refugees, how do you even begin to pick and choose between saving a person or saving the planet. I want to get people to think about this huge beast of a thing that we’ve got to deal with.

    You can  book tickets to Trinity Laban String Ensemble on Wednesday 23 March here.