Author Archives: mikeymccusker

  1. Behind the music…with Dave Bristow

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    This week, we caught up with Dave Bristow, a man who is tipped to become one of the most original and talented jazz musicians in Europe.

    Originally from Birmingham and now based in Paris, he is the leader of the Dave Bristow Quintet – a multinational supergroup – for which he writes all the compositions.

    Ahead of the quintet performing at The Stoller Hall on Saturday 4 March, we got to know more about Dave and what he has in store for the audience in nearly two weeks’ time…

    Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, and the fantastic musicians that you’ll be performing with?

    Sure! I’m Dave Bristow, a jazz pianist and composer based in Paris and the leader of my own group the Dave Bristow Quintet. We released our first record ‘Unknown Unknown’ in February 2022, which features twelve of my own compositions and what I consider to be some of best improvisers on the French jazz scene. It was released under the French label Disques JMS. We’ve been playing shows mainly France and Belgium, but we also did a tour of Germany, Scotland and England in October of last year.

    Performing alongside Dave in this concert will be Christian Altehülshorst on trumpet (Rêve d’Éléphant Orchestra), Guillaume Prévost on drums (Nicolas Gardel, Thibaud Dufoy), Mike Green on double bass (Jamie Cullum, Dame Shirley Bassey) and saxophonist Chris Bowden.

    Needless to say, I’m really excited to be sharing the stage with these superb musicians.

    Dave Bristow also tells us about his special connection to Manchester. Although originally studying classical music at the University of Manchester between 2008 – 2011, Dave would spend most of his nights playing in jazz jam sessions around the city…

    I guess you could say it’s the city where ‘I planted my first seeds’ as an improviser. I was starting to get serious about the language of jazz and how to play it at that time – studying it whenever I could. I had my first formative playing experiences as a jazz musician in Manchester, so it’s good to be returning here on my own terms, playing my own music.

    Which musical heroes inspired you to get into jazz? 

    There were a few records that were kind of earth-shattering to me: John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’, Oscar Peterson’s ‘A Jazz Portrait of Frank Sinatra’, Bill Evans’ ‘Further Conversations with Myself’, Chick Corea’s ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’ and most of all Donald Byrd’s record ‘Out of this World’ in quintet with a very young Herbie Hancock.

    That music is super important to me – I’ve been trying to amass as many rare Herbie CDs as I can find. Lately I’m enjoying the music of Kurt Rosenwinkel, Simon Moullier, David Binney, Charlie Parker, John Scofield and Johannes Brahms.

    The pieces you’ll be playing are mainly original compositions. What kind of styles will the audience be hearing on the night?

    There’s a little of everything – samba, Latin-American influences, fast and medium tempo post-bop, Frank Zappa- tinged rhythm changes, pensive ballads, New Orleans-infused blues. Strong melodies, lots of energy!

    If you could describe how you’d like the audience to feel during the concert in three words, what would those three words be?

    Hope you enjoy! 😉

    The Dave Bristow Quintet will be performing at The Stoller Hall on Saturday 4 March 2023.

    Dave Bristow Quintet

    ‘Behind the Music…’ is our episodic blog series.

    Publishing since the return of live music in 2021, the series offers a closer look at some of the world’s most incredible musicians across the genres ahead of their performances at The Stoller Hall.

  2. The Stoller Hall announces its Emerging Artists for 2023

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    Supporting emerging talent is a huge part of our mission here at The Stoller Hall, and is a fundamental part of our live music programme.

    Our recently launched Emerging Artists Scheme supports early career artists from a range of genres and backgrounds. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be presenting events featuring diverse mix of musical genres, including classical, jazz and folk.

    Along the way, we’ll provide an invaluable platform for these artists to perform, develop audiences, capture video and audio footage, and develop marketing, fundraising and management skills to support their career development.


    We are delighted to announce that this year’s musicians include:

    Asaka Quartet

    Asaka Quartet is a prizewinning string quartet formed in 2021 at the Royal Academy of Music in London where they are currently Chamber Music Fellows for 2022/23. Yielding from China, Hong Kong and Scotland, the Asaka’s each bring with them their own identities. They pride themselves on communicating their enjoyment of making music together and sharing this with their audiences, with a keen interest in music by underrepresented composers.

    In October 2021, after playing for only a week, they were selected for the prestigious Frost Trust Advanced Specialist Strings Ensemble Training Scheme (A.S.S.E.T.) at the Academy where they were mentored by Martin Outram from the renowned Maggini Quartet. Violinist Ioan McDonald is a former Chetham’s student, and we are looking forward to welcoming her back to Manchester alongside fellow quartet members Eriol Guo Yu, Susie Xin He and Jonathan Ho Man Fong.

    Asaka Quartet will be performing live at The Stoller Hall on Thursday 18 January 2024.

    Ensemble Renard

    Ensemble Renard are a wind quintet who are passionate about bringing a huge variety of music to audiences of a variety of different backgrounds. Since 2021, they have been Fellows of the Royal Academy of Music, Tunnell Trust Award winners, Britten-Pears Young Artists and have appeared on BBC Radio 3. Ensemble Renard is Ellie Blamiers (flute), Francesca Cox (oboe), Patrick Bolton (bassoon), George Strivens (horn) and Holly Isherwood (clarinet).

    Ensemble Renard will be performing live at The Stoller Hall on Tuesday 7 November 2023.

    Helena Ricci

    Forging her own path as a visionary classical musician, Helena Ricci is a trailblazing harpist praised for her expressive, dynamic playing and captivating stage presence. Through her MUSILUX project she merges classical music with visual arts for mesmerising concerts. She has played for HM The King Charles III, appeared live on radio for Resonance FM as part of “Sounds Promising”. After the success of her single release which was featured in Spotify “New Classical Music” playlist, she is now working on her first full solo album.

    Helena Ricci will be performing live at The Stoller Hall on Wednesday 13 March 2024.

    Phoebe Rayner

    Mezzo-soprano Phoebe Rayner is a H R Taylor Charitable Trust Scholar studying at the Royal College of Music with Amanda Roocroft. She is a 2022-23 Britten Pears Young Artist specialising in contemporary music and the development of new works. She has a passion for contemporary vocal repertoire, premiering works by Professor Rachel Beckles Willson, Philip Grange, Cee Haines, and various student composers within the past year.

    Phoebe Rayner will be performing live at The Stoller Hall on Wednesday 13 September 2023.

    Smorgaschord Collective

    Smorgaschord Collective is a group of ambitious musicians who come together to collaborate and create, with a strong emphasis on the new and the unusual. Their aim is to try to cut away from ‘normal’ formalities of musical experiences, and establish a fresh, energetic environment. The Collective features another Chethams’s alumni, Sebastian Black.

    Smorgaschord will be performing live at The Stoller Hall on Tuesday 6 February 2024.

    Our Emerging Artists Scheme is generously supported by The Haworth Trust.

  3. Bouncing into 2023 with a Spring in our step!

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    Fran Healey, Artistic Director and General Manager at The Stoller Hall ushers in a new programme of events for 2023

    Fran Healey, Artistic Director and General Manager at The Stoller Hall

    Can you believe we’re already talking about Spring 2023?  Warm weather …. longer daylight hours …. fresh plans ….. and a whole season of lovely new performances we’ve lined up for you! 

    The most exciting thing for me in our Spring 2023 season is the knitting together of our ethos of learning and participation with our series of performances and events.  We are working closely with artists throughout the season to create truly enriching opportunities for audiences, and to help early career musicians launch themselves into successful and enduring careers, all the while mindful of our younger audiences and making sure they have opportunities to engage. 

    Our family programme continues with Izzy Gizmo – based on the book by Pip Jones, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie – we will bring the story of this intrepid young adventurer to life with original music and a performance full of wit, invention, songs, and of course lots of opportunity to join in!  Our musical journeys for pre-schoolers also continue with our Stoller Story Sounds workshops – the Snowbear’s Story and Dandylion and the Sad Stem – these will be sure to have the whole family up on their feet and singing along. 

    Our classical season features more of the world’s most amazing chamber musicians.  Brought to you in partnership with the Manchester Chamber Concerts Society, as well as the continuation of the epic Mozart Made in Manchester project with Manchester Camerata, and even incredible classical music stars and household names, like Riopy and the Ayoub Sisters. 

    We are bringing great names from comedy and TV too – Babatunde Aléshé of I’m A Celebrity fame, and TV vocalist Tommy Blaize who you will surely have all heard on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing over the last few years.   

    Jazz and folk a plenty too of course ….. Dave Bristow, Philip Lassiter, Chris Wood …. to name but a few. 

    Maybe even more incredibly, we also have events on sale right through to next Autumn.  Have you ever seen the Young ‘Uns?  If not, I really do promise they are not to be missed.  And our Guitar and Medieval Festival plans are coming along a-pace – more on those soon! 

    Without our audiences, our venue has no soul, and we feel privileged to have incredibly loyal audiences and advocates for our venue.  We love hearing your feedback – it is essential to our journey and to making sure the Stoller Hall is right for you.  Please keep it coming!   

    We hope to see you soon…

    Fran x 

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  4. Behind the music…with Steven Isserlis

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    We sat down with one of the world’s greatest living cellists, Steven Isserlis, who will be making his long-awaited return to Manchester with pianist Alasdair Beatson on Monday 3 October 2022.

    Steven says:

    I am very happy to be back in Manchester […] and we will be playing Mendelssohn’s Variations Op.17 – a gem of a piece. And another gem by Mendelssohn’s close friend, even teacher at some point, Ignaz Moscheles [with his Cello Sonata Op.21] that was actually dedicated to Schumann.

    Steven Isserlis will also perform what he describes as “the greatest love songs for cello and piano”, in his arrangement of Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro for Piano and Cello in A-Flat Major, Op.70. Eagle-eyed classical music fans will know that this Schumann classic was originally written for Horn, however Steven remarks that Schumann himself did specify that it could also be played on cello. His return to Manchester concludes with Brahms’ Cello Sonata No.2 in F major, Op.99, regarded as one of the great cello sonatas of the romantic period.

    Steven Isserlis has been steeped in music from birth. His grandfather was the Russian pianist and composer Julius Isserlis, while older branches of his family tree have a direct line to Felix Mendelssohn himself. Steven has communicated through music from an early age, and the references within his upcoming programme at The Stoller Hall can be seen as a fitting tribute to the deep musical heritage that runs within the Isserlis family.

    It is perhaps the culmination of his musical lineage and remarkable encounters with some of the very best that has enabled him to become one of the most internationally acclaimed musicians of our time – so much so, that he has been bestowed the honour of playing two Stradivarius cellos throughout his career.

    But instead of basking in the international acclaim, Steven Isserlis remains a humble educator choosing to continue sharing his intrinsic and extraordinary skills with young musical protegés across the world; with a quest to break down the metaphorical boundaries that many people assume to exist in classical music:

    Anyone new to classical music performance: go in and enjoy it! Classical music really is for everybody. And I think the more you know it, the more you love it and the more you need it. […] It comforts, and it shows us glimpses of a better world.

    Steven Isserlis and Alasdair Beatson will perform live on Monday 3 October 2022. Tickets are now available via The Stoller Hall website .