Keep Music Playing / 18

When lockdown struck, I started out enjoying being at home, but soon had a feeling that it might not keep me wholly inspired…

As a Principal Study Singing Tutor for the Popular Music programme and the Director of Palm Arts, which includes the AMC Gospel Choir, my professional schedule is usually pretty packed. A life full of musical possibilities. Yet lockdown brought me a very unexpected new opportunity, when a former colleague, from my days as a music workshop leader, got in touch looking for an addition to her team at Manchester’s temporary critical care Nightingale Hospital. My skills as a teacher, choir director, producer and performer, (plus a former life as an accountant!), could all be put to good use as a Project Support Officer in the Hospital Wellbeing Team.

My role was to assist with the induction of new staff, devising training and building their confidence to work in the eye of the pandemic storm. My performance and mentoring skills have never felt so important. We came together – a group of highly skilled professionals, drawn from different walks of life, some students, some coming out of retirement, as well as professionals loaned from various NHS authorities who collectively wanted to make a difference. The excitement, open spirit and camaraderie of the Nightingale team is something I won’t ever forget. While my colleagues may not forget me walking through the hospital singing!

Since the hospital was decommissioned in July, I’ve continued in my quest to find projects which support and inspire others. I’m currently devising a training course for graduates to lead online singing classes for children. I’m also hugely excited to be able to share my expertise as a music director with a new virtual training course for choral directors who would like to broaden their skills and formal musical training. Find out more here.

I’m looking forward to teaching again in the Autumn Term and being able to sing with others. These months we have all been apart reinforce what we already know in our hearts, that to be a part of the collective experience of music making, to join together, is to be a part of something very special.

– Audrey Lawrence-Mattis, Principal Study Tutor and Choir Director

AMC Gospel Choir

I founded the AMC Gospel Choir in 1993 and since then we’ve had the pleasure of performing in venues as eclectic as international concert halls, stadiums and festivals including Glastonbury on the Hacienda Classical tour, intimate clubs, and some very lovely weddings!

In recent years we have worked in partnership with Manchester Camerata and here is a short film about my musical background, inspiration, and our professional collaboration:

While we sadly can’t perform on stage any time soon, we can sing on your TV! Tune into BBC Songs of Praise on Sunday 16 August to see AMC Gospel Choir in action, singing in the glorious Trentham Gardens in Stoke-on-Trent.

How to play

Ever been curious about how chamber music groups work on repertoire? For a fascinating insight into the rehearsal process for a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet, tune into BBC Radio 4’s How to Play.

The show includes interviews with the Elias String Quartet, the RNCM’s ensemble in residence, featuring Deputy Head of Chamber Music, Donald Grant and the Emmeline String Quartet, College alumni, currently mentored in the ground-breaking RNCM String Quartet Studio.

Here is a short clip of the quartets rehearsing together at the RNCM for the Mendelssohn Octet concert back in November:

The Sir John Manduell Prize

Samuel Snowden

Every year, the prestigious Sir John Manduell Prize is awarded in the name of RNCM Founding Principal to promote and reward entrepreneurship. This year we are delighted to announce the winner is Samuel Snowden, a Welsh Bass-Baritone, who has just completed his final year of undergraduate studies. Samuel is an active participant in many College ensembles and is a founding member of Project6, a male voice sextet that has performed extensively throughout the North West. As a soloist, Samuel regularly organises concerts in aid of Nightingale House Hospice, raising over £1,500 to date.

Since Covid-19 struck, Samuel, along with his family, has performed a song every evening, keeping friends entertained while apart. On 27 June they reached 100 songs. Throughout this time, Samuel has also volunteered, making PPE for local businesses at the Wrexham PPE Hub. We’re hugely proud of his achievements both in music and the community and are delighted that he’ll be returning to the RNCM to study for a Master’s in September.

Here is Sam performing O Magnum Mysterium by Brian A Schmidt with Project6 at the Whitworth Art Gallery last year:


Art-rock band Sylvette are RNCM Popular Music alumni using innovative technology on a student budget. Check out the video for their latest single Kelpius, taken from their album Stiller than Still, which uses machine learning to create wonderful animations of the band:

RNCM reopening news

Our students have adapted brilliantly to the last few months of learning online, and we have been pleased to hear they have felt well supported by the College. While the opportunity to innovate and try new ways of working has been exciting, there is no doubt that our students are missing the sense of community and connection that comes from being able to work together in real life and for some these months have been very challenging.

We are now working to ensure that we can get as many students as possible back into the building to work together safely again. We have put in place significant changes to our timetable, performance programme and the building itself, to support this. We are spending the coming weeks building, screen fitting and mapping out safe routes around the College. Some of the work – such as the conversion of existing studios into ‘glass box’ spaces, safe for vocal, wind and brass students – are now becoming costly building projects.

Additionally, the need for many of our staff to stay shielded and the ongoing use of online teaching has meant that we have had to heavily invest in technology to support this new way of working. Much of the tech is hugely exciting and will not only support our staff and students now, but also future proof the College, enabling us to deliver broadcast quality teaching and masterclasses internationally.

The costs though are significant and come at a time when we are losing income from our box office and catering operation. Sadly, it’s an area for which we have been offered no government support, yet it has huge financial repercussions for us. In the past months our amazing community has made a transformational impact on the lives of our students by donating over £35,000 to support our Student Hardship Fund campaign. We have been humbled by your desire to help, and so thankful. In the coming weeks, we will once again ask for your support as we look for help with the huge costs of reopening the building. If you are able to support this vital work, helping us to make the building ready to welcome back our students safely, enabling them to come out of isolation and make music together again, we would be incredibly grateful. Please look out for news in an upcoming email. Anyone interested in finding out more about how they can help today please contact [email protected].

Toby Hughes – shaping the future of music

Congratulations to double bass alumnus Toby Hughes, who has just been named one of classical music’s bright young stars by Classical FM. Here you can enjoy a beautiful performance of Bottesini’s Elegy: performed by Toby, with pianist Gamal Khamis, playing together in the stunning 12th-century church, St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London:

Bottesini's Elegy

Double Bass virtuoso Toby Hughes joined by pianist Gamal Khamis play Bottesini's 'Elegy' in the stunning 12th-century church St Bartholomew the Great. (thanks to the wonderful City Music Foundation)

Posted by Classic FM on Friday, 8 March 2019

Find out more about Toby here. 

Thank you

Every week our amazing community of music lovers and supporters have been giving, to ensure that every one of our students can receive support during these hugely challenging times. We are so very grateful! Thanks to each and every one of you and until next time, keep the music playing.

7 August 2020