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Author Archives: laurastevens

  1. BBC Radio 3 Manchester Week at The Stoller Hall

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    We’re delighted that BBC Radio 3 will include two concerts from The Stoller Hall as part of the Manchester Week series.

    BBC Radio 3’s Manchester Week showcases some of the very best of the city’s orchestras, venues and musicians. We are delighted to be taking part with our performance recorded at the beautiful Stoller Hall.

    Tuesday 23 March, 7.30pm – Manchester Camerata

    This eclectic programme is directed by our Leader, Caroline Pether. Caroline directs music by Schoenberg, Janáček and Mozart alongside VENUS/ZOHREH by the acclaimed, experimental and Ivor Novello award-winning composer, turntable artist and broadcaster, Shiva Feshareki.

    Full Programme:

    JANÁČEK Mládí
    SCHOENBERG Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 (version for string sextet)
    FESHAREKI, SHIVA VENUS/ZOHREH
    MOZART Symphony No.40 in G minor, K.550

    Tune in here

    Thursday 25 March, 7.30pm – Manchester Collective

    Manchester Collective will give the world premiere of ‘Talisman’, a new work written by the brilliant Freya Waley-Cohen, as part of their live concert broadcast.

    Full programme:

    JOHN DOWLAND Pavane: Lachrimae Antiquae
    FREYA WALEY-COHEN Talisman (World Premiere)
    GUSTAV MAHLER Symphony No.5, Adagietto
    WOJCIECH KILAR Orawa

    CHRISTOPHER BRYAN New Works (poems)
    JOHN TAVENER Song for Athene
    JOHN ADAMS Shaker Loops

    Tune in here

  2. Lockdown Listening, one year on!

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    Today marks 12 months since we closed our doors to live audiences, and although it’s hard to believe we’re one year on, a lot has happened since our last in-person concert with Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Guy Johnston. Our team have been working hard to keep the music alive (I’m not sure we could have got through lockdown without it!). This includes setting up our successful live stream programme, providing online access to culture for audiences of all ages, reducing physical barriers to live music and providing a safe space for music professionals to record and rehearse. I’m sure we can all agree, it’s been *quite* the year!

    Right now, we’re busy getting ready for the day we can reopen and welcome you back into our beautiful concert hall. But while we wait, our live stream concerts continue! Seamlessly marking the anniversary of their brother Sheku’s closing concert, Braimah & Konya Kanneh-Mason will take to our stage on Wednesday 24 March.

    The siblings are from one of the most gifted family of musicians. Konya has already played to royalty twice and both have appeared on numerous television and radio programmes, most recently on BBC Radio 3 and in the BBC1 Imagine documentary, This House is Full of Music, created via Zoom during lockdown.

    To say we’re looking forward to their Stoller Hall performance would be an understatement…. so we caught up with Braimah & Konya ahead of their live stream concert!

    What first got you into music? 

    Braimah: I always grew up listening to music around the house and in car journeys. I first started playing music because I saw my elder sister Isata playing the piano. This made me, like any younger sibling, want to do what Isata was doing. Therefore, as soon as she started on the violin a year later, I followed.
    Konya: Being the middle child in a very musical family, by the time I came along, music felt an instinctive choice. I was inspired by my eldest sister, Isata, who plays the piano, and I decided I wanted to play it too.

    How have you been passing time during lockdown? 

    Braimah: (Trying) to learn German, running, and cooking.
    Konya: Reading, running, and spending lots of time with my family.

    What are you listening to right now? 

    Braimah: Slowly working through the Ébène Quartet complete recordings of Beethoven’s string quartets.
    Konya: Mozart Piano concerto no.23 K.488 – Mitsuko Uchida.

    Who would you most like to collaborate or work with?

    Braimah: The list would be way too long and the brilliant thing about the modern age is that we have access to listen to many inspiring artists through various platforms.
    Konya: Having been in lockdown for so long, collaborating with musicians is what I’m looking forward to most! I would say I’m most looking forward to performing alongside RAM students again and with friends.

    Least favourite musical instrument?

    Braimah: Piganino- look it up!
    Konya: I can’t answer that… I would be upsetting a few friends if I did.

    Hopes and dreams for 2021?

    Braimah: Go to as many theatres and concert halls as is possible. Finally make the most of live performances.
    Konya: My hopes and dreams for 2021 are being able to play with other musicians again, and to get back on stage in front of live audiences.


    You can book tickets here for Braimah & Konya on Wednesday 24 March

  3. International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021

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    For International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021, we’re highlighting some of the incredible women behind the music at The Stoller Hall, including General Manager Fran Healey. Head over to our Facebook page or Twitter profile to see the other women musicians, performers, staff we’re celebrating!

    A bit about you: Hi – I’m Fran, General Manager of The Stoller Hall.  I love working in the arts – it feels like a job which isn’t really a job – more like being paid to go and have fun doing what you love, surrounded by great people!  I ended up here via a rather circuitous route – after becoming an accountant working in retail in 2002, I went to United Utilities and then Electricity North West – doing their strategic and financial planning.  After a brief spell in the travel sector working on mergers and acquisitions, in 2014 I decided I’d had enough of the corporate world – I’d run right out of passion for PowerPoint and reporting to shareholders, and decided to move into the not for profit sector.  My life is richer, but my wallet is poorer!!  My job at The Stoller Hall covers everything from strategic planning and programming right through to staff rotas, general admin, and finance.  No day is the same.

    Greatest career success to date:  I think I learnt most working at Electricity North West, where the Chief Exec at the time, Eoin Cooke, helped me to realise my potential. He gave me the confidence to pursue and develop my career.  I always aspire to manage like Eoin did – really knowing and finding the best in everyone in the team.

    Most significant challenge: The utilities and retail worlds are quite male oriented – I remember feeling uncomfortable and out of place in many meetings in the early part of my career.  It’s not an issue I see so much in the arts, but of course the music industry has its own unique challenges – not least of all in times like now, during the covid pandemic.

    Women’s Day Shoutout (person or organisation that inspires or supports you as a woman in music): Really everyone in the music industry – my colleagues in similar roles at music venues remind me that we’ve got this – and we really do this well!

    If you could make 1 change in how the music industry supports women, what would it be?: I think we do pretty well already, but I would like to see more women in technician and programming roles.  I think there is something about being a woman that means you push yourself forward a bit less than a man in a similar role would do.  Over time, I would love to see the industry supporting women to shout out for themselves and develop that confidence of equal standing.

    Hopes for the future (for you or for women in music more generally): One day, gender wont even be a conversation we need to have.  It wont be relevant.  We’re not too far off, but we’re not quite there yet!

  4. Behind the music, with I Fagiolini’s Robert Hollingworth

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    ‘Why do we do it, why put ourselves through it?’ goes the song. Making a living out of the arts was never easy: it got harder a year ago but that’s ok – we’re ‘creative’. This was the start of our conversation with Robert Hollingworth, Director of British voice ensemble, I Fagiolini. Hollingworth has also directed Monty Python whilst studying music at University Of York. During our chat he muses about the highs and lows of the last 12 months (singing in a cupboard?!) and the craftsmanship behind his latest project, the Polyphonic Concert Club.

    Do you remember late March last year? All of us on social media playing the trombone with one foot and in the bath to show that we were ‘still here’. Then came the composite performances – filmed in the bedroom, microphone dangling out of ear and singing in a cupboard to get a nice dry sound for the engineer to be able to manipulate it to sound like the Sistine Chapel. (OK – guilty but I Fagiolini’s at least had a comic element: Cake Mix)

    Then we actually met and made music (2m spacing please), the camera doing what it could, followed by the false dawn of tiny audiences in the room with us – before lockdown part deux (et trois). In the gaps, musicians and camera people started all sorts of innovations.

    But one small company (Polyphonic Films) that had been filming music for 15 years that I’m proud to be part of, took its time and is just now releasing a really beautifully filmed series of six concerts: the Polyphonic Concert Club. The idea was to be a mini-music festival with six very different artists: piano, strings, sure, but percussion quartet, rogue Baroque ensemble (Red Priest) and my own vocal group, I Fagiolini.  I suppose we’ve assembled the sort of thing that my parents would enjoy: ‘a nice mix’ but with musicians choosing the repertoire and some of their choices are blinding.

    Jennifer Pike plays a Szymanowski violin sonata that’s a revelation (I only was interested in the Mozart and the Massanet but…): then the four guys of Colin Currie’s percussion quartet doing mesmerising things with techniques and instruments that are outside most of our experience; and my own lot with familiar double-choir Bach alongside naughty Venetian Carnival pieces to absolutely searing, lump in throat laments from Elizabethan England that you didn’t know existed.

    But beyond that, it’s the care with the filming that we hope you’ll enjoy. No ‘fixed camera insto-stream’ but people looking down the lens with as much love and understanding of their craft as the musicians. This way you can really meet the performers, even see them thinking as they play, sometimes suppressing a smile (they’re not meant to ‘enjoy’ it, after all…).

    ‘Why do we do it, why put ourselves through it?…’ Because this is what we do! And we’ve created a little club feel out of this so have chosen the model of a subscription for the whole series rather than individual tickets. Trust us with this, if you can: beautiful humans, dedicated to performance their whole lives now seen up close and personal – the whole thing done in collaboration with three of our favourite venues OUTSIDE LONDON (did we say?) and all money split between those playing, filming and providing venues.


    Watch I Fagiolini as part of the Polyphonic Concert Club series on Thursday 25 March

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. 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