My late father was a musician and, at 16, the youngest at that time to be accepted into the Royal College of Music in London.
We were blessed with many stories and anecdotes from my Dad’s life as a professional musician, over the years, but I remember two life tips he gave me in particular:
Never learn to drive – you’ll never stop paying out on cars
At some point in your life, move to London.
I have, thus far, not adhered to this. He’d clearly not spent enough time in Manchester ☺️
Last Sunday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Northern Chamber Orchestra’s 50th Anniversary Season Finale at the beautiful Stoller Hall.
Set up in 1967, the Orchestra not only presents an annual series of 8 concerts a year at the Heritage Centre in Macclesfield, it is also the ‘orchestra in residence’ at Buxton Festival, and of course now plays too at Manchester’s Stoller Hall – the scene of the aforementioned Finale.
A word on the Stoller Hall, I hang my head in ignorant shame and admit that not only had I not attended any concerts at this venue previously, I didn’t even know of its existence and had only attended classical music concerts in Manchester at the Bridgewater.
I could be forgiven slightly (oh go on, forgive me massively), when research tells me that the Hall only opened its doors last year in April.
Part of the School of Music that requires little introduction, Chetham’s, the Concert Hall can be found opposite the steps to another great musical concert institution, the Manchester Arena, and across from Victoria Station.
Audiences take their seats below ground level, in a hall which is architecturally breathtaking and, I understand, acoustically astounding.
I’m no acoustician (yes, it’s a word), but every stroke of the violin bow, every note of the woodwind, every percussionist’s ‘beat’, indeed didn’t feel as though it stopped at the listener’s ears but resonated throughout the body, immersing you in the music played before you.
And so to the music played before me and my plus 1 that afternoon.
The pieces played were:
Overture Zauberflote – Mozart
Cello Concerto – Elgar
Symphony No. 5 – Beethoven
The highlight, it must be said, was the Cello Concerto, the centre of such being internationally renowned cellist and, indeed, the Orchestra’s President, Raphael Wallfisch.
A beautifully toned instrument alone, we were taken through a captivating and deeply expressive performance by Mr Wallfisch, the mood of the piece clearly felt throughout this wonderful musician, his body language and facial expressions anticipating and matching each strain.
Speaking of wonderful musicians, whilst the Cellist took literal centre stage, the rest of the Orchestra more than shared the limelight and reasons for myself and fellow concert-goers’ captivation and awe.
Bookended by the overture to Mozart’s Magic Flute and the forceful, rousing Beethoven’s C minor Symphony, the concert and indeed 50th season came to a rapturous end, with the applause pushing the acoustics to their limits (I’m basically saying it was loud).
I’m sure my Father would agree that not all roads need lead to London, and that Manchester more than holds its own in all matters of culture, not least in the wealth of opportunities to hear such musicianship both in the City Centre and across the region.
Speaking of which, your next opportunity to experience the Northern Chamber Orchestra is on Friday 25 May, in West Didsbury – more details here.
I’m still with my Dad on the not driving thing. I mean, where would I want to go?