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Author Archives: laurastevens

  1. Lockdown Listening…With Lara Melda

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    Lara Melda is one of the most exciting young musicians on the planet right now!

    A BBC Young Musician Winner and a debut album already under her belt, she’s one to watch in the world of classical piano! (Watch the video below of her learning to play piano with her family.)

    We caught up with Lara to see what she’s been listening to and finding inspiration in during the last year.

    What first got you into music? 

    After my mother took my elder sister and I for ballet lessons, she soon realised that neither of us had any interest in the footwork but instead were enraptured by the sound of the piano in the corner of the room, accompanying the lesson! We promptly quit ballet and my sister was the first to start piano lessons. Apparently whenever she tried to practice I would give her no peace whatsoever by trying to take over the keyboard; therefore my mum decided that I should begin also, and since that moment it’s been my passion!

    What are you listening to right now? 

    I always find comfort, especially at a time like this, in listening to my favourites – Cortot playing Chopin, Alfred Brendel playing Schubert and Maria Callas in her signature role as Norma.

    Who would you most like to collaborate / work with?

    Amongst many wonderful artists Marin Alsop stands out as a person that I would love to work with. She is a true inspiration and powerful voice to young women and musicians all around the world. It is women like Marin who pave the way for the next generation – creating a world where all artists are given equal opportunities so that we can come together to make and share music.

    How have you been passing time during lockdown?

    It has been and continues to be a very difficult time for all of us of course but I have to say that music has kept me going throughout everything – whether it be when I am playing the piano, listening to a CD or releasing my debut Chopin album (signed CDs are available on my website!

    You can book tickets here for the Lara Melda live stream with Northern Chamber Orchestra on Sunday 28 February. Available to book and watch until Sunday 7 March.

  2. Polyphonic Concert Club

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    This week we announced a brand new concert series! Taking place at independent music venues across the UK will be six beautifully filmed online chamber recitals including a percussion quartet, violinist and vocal group, performing music from Byrd and Bach to Steve Reich.

    The Polyphonic Concert Club’s first season is the first of its kind in the country, created in a response to the pause in live music concerts, caused by the pandemic. We spoke to the Club producer Greg Browning to about the inspiration behind the music.

    What is the Polyphonic Concert Club?
    The club is a collective effort between venues, artists and Polyphonic to produce quality filmed concerts for audiences who are cut off from attending live performance. We’re presenting six online recitals featuring superb musicians and a great repertoire list, streamed from three top concert spaces outside London.

    What type of musicians are involved?
    A mix of big names and rising stars, across a range of instruments, tastes and styles, from Colin Currie Quartet’s exploration of contemporary percussion and I Fagiolini’s vocal road trip around 16th/17th century Europe to Isata Kanneh-Mason’s personal selection for solo piano. The music in the series is what the artists chose to perform.

    How can the club benefit the live music industry?
    There’s nothing like live music but we can give a flavour of it and a strong impression of the musicians in performance mode, trying to connect with the public, as they are so eager to do. We all felt we needed to do something to try to keep the culture of music-going alive, at the same time as providing some much needed income for venues and artists alike.

    What are you most looking forward to when live music returns?
    The buzz before the show, the moment a bow first touches a string, the tingle factor, a drink in the pub afterwards. Sharing all that with other people.

    What music have you been listening to during lockdown?
    Alternatively, cataclysmic Mahler and serene Tallis, plus some Dave Brubeck. And, as ever with Polyphonic, a day doesn’t go by without a bit of Monteverdi.

  3. Lockdown listening…with Martin Roscoe

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    Up next in our lockdown listening series, we spoke to one of the UK’s best loved pianists, Martin Roscoe about the music that’s been inspiring him during lockdown.

    What music have you been listening to during lockdown?

    During lockdown I’ve been overdosing on Wagner (after a lifetime of addiction!) and have been particularly getting to know the earlier works better (Flying Dutchman, Tannhäuser and Lohengrin). I’ve also been revisiting Schubert’s later works, not just the piano music. I find he speaks to me more than ever before. The symphonies of Nielsen, Sibelius and and Vaughan Williams have been a constant joy, as have the Haydn quartets and Bach’s cantatas and major choral works.

    Can you nominate a piece of music which speaks to you during this time?

    The story of Wagner’s Parsifal, in which a naive innocent is the redeemer of a society in desperate need of healing, is appropriate at this time, but it is the utterly sublime music which has been balm to my ears. I often despair at the interference of opera producers, especially in Wagner, but the DVD I have of the Met production with Jonas Kaufmann and Rene Papp conducted by Daniele Gatti is sensationally good.

    Are there any pieces that you are most looking forward to in your upcoming performance at The Stoller Hall with the Manchester Chamber Concerts Society?

    I’ve been putting together a few programmes recently contrasting the works of the four major Viennese classical composers, which I’ve particularly enjoyed planning. Beethoven’s most visceral sonata, the Appassionata, is always a huge challenge to play emotionally, but, in view of my earlier comment about Schubert being one of my current obsessions, I think I am most looking forward to the three wonderful pieces by him I will be playing on 9 February at The Stoller Hall.

    You can book tickets here for Martin Roscoe’s solo recital on Tuesday 9 February – 100% of ticket sales from this concert will go towards Help Musicians.

  4. Lockdown Listening

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    As we continue our way through Lockdown 3.0, music has an important role to play during these uncertain times. This includes our programme of Live Streams, set to transport you around the world through music and composers.

    In our brand new blog series, we’ll be speaking to our upcoming performers and partners to find out what they’ve been listening to, and we’ll be asking them to each nominate a piece of music or performance which speaks to them at this particular time.

    We asked the the team at the Manchester Chamber Concerts Society about the music that’s been getting them through the pandemic…

    What music are you listening to during lockdown?

    During lockdown I’ve been listening to the BBC Philharmonic’s Schubertiade, and streaming music festivals from at home and abroad including chamber music from the Verbier Festival and Martin Roscoe’s Advent concert with the amazing young contralto, Jess Dandy from St John’s Smith Square.

    Can you nominate a piece of music which speaks to you during this time?

    One of the pieces I’d have to nominate is Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony No.7. This particular piece represents the resilience and eventual triumph of the people of Leningrad (now St Petersburg), over the dark forces confronting them during the wartime siege. Before lockdown I visited St. Petersburg and saw this performed by the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yuri Termikanov, which was very moving.

    Are there any pieces that you are most looking forward to hearing in Martin’s performance on Tuesday 9 February?

    I’m really looking forward to watching Martin perform Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor Op.57 “Appassionata”.

    Having missed out on so many concerts for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, including the Hanover Band performing Beethoven’s Septet at The Stoller Hall, it will be great to hear a live performance of Beethoven by Martin Roscoe, who is the Artistic Director of Manchester Chamber Concerts Society (MCCS) and a wonderful exponent of Beethoven. He will also be opening the next MCCS season in October 2021 with the chamber music version of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 with I Musicanti.

    You can book tickets here for Martin Roscoe’s solo recital on Tuesday 9 February – 100% of ticket sales from this concert will go towards Help Musicians

  5. National Lockdown: An update from The Stoller Hall

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    With the country now in a national lockdown, the new programme of live jazz that we hoped to be able to start the year with will now be postponed.

    But the music lives on and we’ll continue to bring you classical performances with our upcoming live streams including the Victoria String Quartet and Martin Roscoe and The Manchester Chamber Concerts Society. We’re looking forward to the day we can welcome physical audiences back, beginning with a concert from siblings Braimah and Konya Kanneh-Mason performing absolute classics by Elgar and Grieg. You can also rewatch some of our previous concerts here.

    We’ve been here throughout the pandemic supporting musicians with a space for recordings and rehearsals, broadcasts and filming. And we’ll continue to remain open, providing a familiar space to make music and be creative during these uncertain times, with flexible packages and rates to suit any project. You can learn more about hiring our spaces here.

    All our measures exceed the basic Covid-safety guidance to make sure our staff and musicians are safe – this includes ensuring 2 metre distancing and visible round-the-clock cleaning. Social distancing will remain necessary for the immediate future and we believe we’re amongst the safest environments out there. Read More here.

    Music and culture will play a huge role in our recovery from this crisis. We’ll be working to support the night-time economy and bringing people back into the city centre as soon as it’s safe. Please help us to keep the music alive by donating what you can to help us to continue supporting musicians here.

    Let us know on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook which of our performances you’re enjoying, we will keep you updated as soon as we know more, and we hope to be able to see you soon.

    Thank you to all who have stayed with us on this journey, we can’t wait to see you again!

  6. BBC Radio 3’s Manchester Week

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    We’re pleased to let you know that BBC Radio 3’s Manchester Week will now take place from Monday 22 to Friday 26 March 2021.

    We’ll be hosting a week of lunchtime and evening recitals live from The Stoller Hall!

    Lunchtime concerts will begin with British baritone and Chetham’s Head of Vocal and Choral studies Marcus Farnsworth who will perform live on BBC Radio 3 with James Bailieu. The week will continue with performances from British pianist Ashley Wass, violinist Jennifer Pike accompanied by pianist Martin Roscoe and bassoonist Amy Harman alongside pianist and composer Tom Poster. And our great friends at Manchester Collective have an exciting programme planned for their evening concert.

    During the week we’re also looking forward to welcoming Kanneh-Mason siblings Braimah and Konya for a live stream concert.

    We are delighted that many of these musicians will also be working with students at Chetham’s School of Music while they are with us, really making the most out of our performance and educational partnership. 

    Listen to the concerts live here

    Book tickets for Braimah and Konya live stream

    Explore the schedule here

  7. New live jazz venue and events for 2021

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    We’re very excited to announce a brand-new partnership with NQ Jazz and The Yard, so that we can bring the best in live jazz to Manchester!

    Amongst the artists involved are multiple MOBO award-winning saxophonist and composer Soweto Kinch, seminal vocalist Norma Winstone alongside long-term collaborators Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles, plus Jazz FM Instrumentalist of the Year 2016, Mark Lockheart — the renowned saxophonist and bandleader who rose to prominence with the influential big band Loose Tubes. See the full line-up here.

    In addition to established artists, the partnership will champion rising stars and develop young talent, working with Chetham’s School of Music (where The Stoller Hall is based), on a range of public Masterclasses, as well providing opportunities for Manchester’s student community to learn from leading jazz artists by working with the RNCM and the University of Manchester.

    The new venture will bring some of the UK’s finest jazz musicians to Manchester for a series of socially distanced lunchtime concerts and masterclasses, evening concerts and live broadcasts. Through a mix of live in-venue performances and high-quality online streams and performance archive, the programme will reach a global audience.

    NQ Jazz website / The Yard website

  8. Behind The Scenes With Sophie – The Apex Singers

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    Ahead of their festive performance at The Stoller Hall on Saturday 12 December, we caught up with Sophie Procter, Soprano with The Apex Singers.

    What’s it been like making music again following the lockdown?

    On Saturday 28th November, the Apex Singers sang with each other in person at Stoller Hall for the first time in 9 months! This was a very exciting, yet nerve racking prospect. During lockdown we released a series of lockdown arrangements, all of which we recorded by ourselves in our home studios. For these arrangements it was very easy for me to record my part as many times as I wanted until I thought it was perfect. If I needed, I could read the music while I sang, and I got very used to singing alone with a backing track to record my parts. Therefore, on Saturday we were thrown in at the deep end, with one morning of rehearsal with each other, before recording the live concert the next day. We had to keep in time with each other without a backing track, record it perfectly in one take and not use any music!

    How are the rehearsals going?

    Before I arrived to the rehearsal on Saturday, I knew that I needed to get my part thoroughly memorised so that I did not need to use sheet music, and all I would have to do during the rehearsal was concentrate on getting used to singing with the group again (rather than remembering my part!). I spent hours trying to get my part perfect, however when I walked into Stoller Hall I was still worried that I didn’t know it well enough, as I would get some phrases in the wrong order. All my worries went away when we started to sing with each other, turns out I knew my part perfectly! I had forgotten how much easier it is to sing with people in person, how you take leads from different people’s parts to sing your own, which is so much harder to do with a backing track.

    What was it like being back on-stage again with the band?

    Despite the comfort of singing in person with The Apex Singers again (compared to singing in my home studio) there were a few new challenges that we all had to get used to before we recorded the concert. One of them being the 4-meter distance we had to stand away from the person we were next to, for safety reasons. This meant that the closest person to me was one of our altos, Niamh, a whole 4 meters away. Lydia, the other soprano, was miles away on the complete other side of the stage to me. The main challenge that this posed was making sure we were all in time and in tune with each other, as it was more difficult to hear each other’s parts. We always perform with microphones and in-ears, so this definitely helped us hear each other and stay together. We were so fortunate to perform at Stoller Hall, with their extended stage and amazing safe performance space with incredible acoustics (much better than my bedroom recording studio!).

    Another challenge, for me at least, was stamina. I had forgotten how tiring singing was, having not done it for long periods of time in over 9 months. It was definitely a good type of tired, but by the end of two solid days of singing and performing, I was well and truly in need of another weekend!

    You can book tickets here for The Apex Singers concert

  9. Meet Our Makers

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    With so many indie makers lined up for our Stoller Makers’ Markets this weekend, we wanted to go behind the scenes and introduce you to some of those we can’t wait for you to meet.

    First up, we’re excited to see Kelly Quinzel, a textiles artist and illustrator from Manchester who designs greetings cards, prints, and jewellery as well as her own original artwork.

    If you’re looking for unique posters and prints, Glen Cutwerk’s designs have appeared on posters, clothing, record sleeves, magazines and websites.

    With a range of traders, our markets will give you the chance to shop local this Christmas and support Manchester’s independent makers.

  10. Around the world in 80 Concerts… via live Broadcasts!

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    As lockdown number two comes st(r)eaming around the corner, we are revising our plans once more.  Whilst we’re hugely disappointed that we can’t welcome people back into our building just yet, many of the things we had planned for November and December can, and will, still happen. And those that can’t happen just now will still happen, but just not yet! 

    We will continue our planned musical exploration around the world through concerts which will now be live streamed through our new Stoller Hall Broadcasts programme.  

    Having already started in the UK with the British Horn Society we will hop over the channel to Europe, with Murray McLachlan’s recital of Beethoven Piano Sonatas, celebrating the renowned German composer in Beethoven’s 250th birthday year. Once you’ve booked your virtual seat here you will be able to watch live from 7.30pm on Wednesday 18 November.

    You can catch up on previous live streams through our Broadcasts content hub. The British Horn Society this weekend was brilliant, and the two concerts performed on Sunday are available to watch here.  The fabulous live stream we did with Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe just a couple of weeks ago is also still available to watch here, as well as our tremendous Birthday Concert. Not to forget, of course, the Song Festival which was bang on theme, with the stunningly beautiful recital by Roderick Williams and Christopher Glynn, themed around …. you guessed it…. Songs of Travel! 

    We will keep going, and we will bring you the finest music from our beautiful space.  And we will welcome audiences back in person again just as soon as we are able to.   

    In the meantime, we continue to plan for our future seasons, and we continue to connect with our audiences and communities, to try and support one another through what is possibly the toughest time our industry has faced.   

    If you are able to make a donation to help us, every penny donated goes to the entire industry. Your incredible support is helping us to provide recording, rehearsal and filming space for performers and young musicians during lockdown. It is also ensuring we’re all still here, ready for you again as soon as we are able to open the doors once more. Donate here.

    For now, though, stay well, stay safe. Watch out for announcements about more virtual, online, around the world travels – on our website and social media channels. You can also sign up to our mailing list here.


    Photograph: Sara Porter Photography