Keep Music Playing / 5

This week’s #KeepMusicPlaying guest editor is RNCM Head of Programming, Richard Collins. He shares some of his highlights from our concert programme that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home

As Head of Programming, it’s my role to curate a season of performances to engage and inspire students and audiences. Over the past few weeks of lockdown, I’ve had to radically rethink how to achieve this, to reach those closest to us, when we are physically so far apart.

We’re all so curiously alone. But it’s important to keep making signals through the glass. John Updike

This is why we’ve set up our regular Facebook Live concerts (every Monday and Thursday lunchtime) and the RNCM Radio show (on Tuesdays). You can find more details of these new programming strands below.

What is clear, is that our wonderful community of musicians are coming forward to share their music and knowledge. They are offering masterclasses, tuition and beautiful new music digitally, to support our students and delight our audiences. We are so grateful to all of them.

Indeed, many of these musicians were due to perform at the College over the coming months and, despite the disappointment of cancelled performances, have more than adapted, truly rising to the occasion, streaming past performances and creating new work, which I’m delighted to share with you now.

We know how important our concert programme is to both our students and audiences, as one of our supporters writes; ‘I shall somehow have to cope with not being able to visit my second home’.

We promised at the start of this crisis we would not forget you. I hope that this week’s selection of news, performances and stunning collaborations, reminds you that we are always here, making signals through the glass.

Richard Collins,
Head of Programming

Mark Simpson

One of the highlights of our Summer season would have been our In Focus with composer and clarinet virtuoso, Mark Simpson, who would have been performing alongside and coaching our students. Now firmly established on the international stage, Mark studied at Junior RNCM, retaining strong local connections as Composer in Association with the BBC Philharmonic. Watch out for more from Mark in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we are pleased to be able to share this video of Mark playing Darkness Moves, one of the pieces he was due to perform:

Scottish Ensemble // Andersson Dance

As part of our innovative Original Voices series, we were looking forward to welcoming Scottish Ensemble and Swedish collective Andersson Dance, who together explore choreographic work bringing musicians and dancers together.

We are hugely excited by this collaboration and the possibility for our students to explore their own style of playing, focusing not only on instrument technique, but also on their own body and its inherent possibilities to express itself and the music they are playing.

We hope to welcome them back soon, along with planned work for our students to train with choreographers to develop holistically as musicians and performers. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this fascinating documentary detailing their previous critically-acclaimed collaboration; Goldberg Variations – ternary patterns for insomnia. 

If watching the last film has whet your appetite for a daily dose of Bach, then we’d love to signpost you to the work of the wonderful charity Fingertips ASBL, established and run by RNCM alumni,  Chiahu Lee, Shaun Motiani and Liga Korne.

We’ve been championing their vision of using music to raise awareness and were delighted to honour them with the John Manduell Prize in 2014, a special award by the Principal of the RNCM for students who display leadership and initiative in music within the community.

In response to the current crisis, they have launched Goldberg variations by 32 pianists. The concept is simple, ‘a variation a day, keeps insanity at bay’, with a film of one variation published every day until the work is complete on 1st May. Within just a couple of days, 32 pianists were recruited from across the world to participate, many of them alumni from the RNCM. We love their sense of international solidarity and their message to ‘stay calm, stay home, stay creative’.

You can watch all the videos at and here’s one of the variations from RNCM alum, Lee Jae Phang:

Manchester International Festival Live

As a College, we place great value in artistic collaborations to broaden and inspire the working practice of our students. Manchester International Festival is built on creating exciting new work, across different artistic disciplines. Like so many of our partners, they’re finding new ways to connect with audiences over this period of extended isolation.

With this in mind, they are streaming some of their most exciting past projects, launching with the New Order / Liam Gillick show from MIF17. For this project, iconic Mancunian band New Order deconstructed and reinterpreted material from their back catalogue. The project was created in partnership with visual artist Liam Gillick and performed live with the backing of 12 synthesisers played by RNCM students. The students’ playing was fantastic, as you’d imagine, but it was their dancing that caught the attention of many!

It will stream for free at 7.30pm tonight and then be available for 24 hours via the MIF website.

Music in Isolation

As we retreat into our own homes, one joy has been the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with our record collections. This week we asked RNCM Principal, Professor Linda Merrick, to recommend a piece of music that has been providing solace during this time. She picked a timely piece, Ubi Caritas, by Ola Gjeilo and explains why it has such resonance for her right now;

‘A beautiful a cappella vocal setting of this Easter text with rich harmony that never quite resolves as you expect. Simple in so many ways and yet serene and intensely moving.’

We hope you enjoy this beautiful version, recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, by VOCE8, a wonderful British vocal ensemble, with strong RNCM connections.

Lunchtime Concerts and RNCM Radio

Much of what makes the RNCM so special is the live performance programme and the loyal audiences that come to enjoy music with us.

We know how important our free lunchtime concerts are to our community, so we are delighted to announce that we will be streaming recitals of our students playing at home at 1.15pm on Mondays and Thursdays from our Facebook page.

While our very own RNCM Radio station, which has been taking a short break over Easter, is back sharing a showcase of music, interviews and news from our staff, students and alumni. We hope you can join us on Tuesday lunchtimes each week at 1pm to experience the RNCM in your own living rooms!

Looking ahead

While much of the last few weeks have been about finding new ways to reach our community right now, we are still hopeful and optimistic, working towards a time when we can meet and enjoy music collectively again.

We are planning our Autumn Season, when we look forward to reopening, including finding ways to invite our final year students back, so they can perform one more time at College. We are also excited to share news of our next Opera production, The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček. This bittersweet, fairy tale opera, which incorporates delightful folk rhythms and melodies, is a perfect treat for Christmas and a time to be together again.

Tickets are on sale now here on our website!

A final thank you

Many of you reading this will have been contacted recently by a member of our box office team, about tickets you have booked for concerts we can no longer stage. We have been overwhelmed by the number of our patrons who have generously converted their tickets into a donation to the College.

Our students who were due to perform for us, and who rely on playing live to supplement their student loans have been hit especially hard. So far we have received over £7,500 in donations for our hardship fund, which will directly support students in dire financial need during this crisis.

To receive support from our audiences during this time has been truly heart-warming. For those who feel they can help, you can find out more here. For those who have given, or are considering giving, thank you so much.

17 April 2020