Keep Music Playing / 9

Over the past weeks we have been buoyed by messages from our supporters and alumni, with many asking how we are continuing to deliver training and projects for our students.

I am delighted to be able to share some of the work that our Orchestras and Ensembles team has developed with tutors, conductors, partner professional orchestras, Heads of School and colleagues in our Technical, Digital, Sound and Video and IT teams -enabling our students to still experience the best possible ensemble training.

The logistics of getting students from around the globe together in the same digital space, plus the technical limitations of playing together as a musical group are significant. Although, of course, we would never choose to be in this position, it has provided an opportunity to trial new ways of teaching and utilising technology creatively. One such initiative is Dr Larry Goves’ Online Composers Lab. Larry, our Senior Lecturer in Composition, is asking students to compose and perform a new piece of music in response to, and to be played for, an online video call using the Zoom platform. As Larry says, ‘This could be musical mayhem – this might be a way forward in rehearsing online – it’s likely to be a little of both’.

Below are some of the projects that have been inspiring us, and the professional partnerships we will be delivering for our students. It’s a reflection of the breadth of our new work and how openly our staff and students are embracing this new way of working. We hope you find them as inspiring and exciting as they do!

– Andrew Bayly
Head of Orchestras and Ensembles

Real World Opportunities – Professional Experience Schemes

Each year, RNCM students are invited to audition for Professional Experience Schemes with over 12 leading ensemble partners including the BBC Philharmonic, Hallé, Opera North, Manchester Camerata and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. We want to ensure that no student misses out on this early career opportunity due to the current crisis. We are working closely with all our partners to find innovative ways to continue their support including audition advice, excerpt training workshops and online auditions, ensuring students can still enter the Schemes once social distancing rules allow.

Live Isolation Performance – Opera North

Partnership work with players from the orchestra of Opera North is already underway, with conductor Mark Shanahan and three Opera North orchestra members; Byron Parish (1st Violin), Adam MacKenzie (Principal Bassoon) and Bob Ashworth (Principal Horn), working online with our conducting, instrumental and vocal students to deliver an online session based on Act 4 of Puccini’s La Bohème.

Although the Orchestra of Opera North may be temporarily separated, they have been finding ways to play together, including this fabulous version of the iconic opening to Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, created in isolation from 40 different homes, under Tobias Ringborg – conducting from Sweden.

Concert Recording – Prague Symphony Orchestra

The RNCM has some of the finest international musicians on its staff. Many are freelance musicians and we are acutely aware of how lockdown has impacted their financial security. Since lockdown began, we have been actively contracting our freelancers to deliver online projects. Instead of working towards the planned RNCM String Ensemble lunchtime concert, last month Pavel Fischer and Susie Meszaros delivered violin and viola classes, using Josef Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Choral ‘St Wenceslas’ as a starting point for musical demonstration, sharing and discussions. Here is a beautiful version of the piece, performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marek Šedivý in 2014.

Performance and Collaboration – The Untold Orchestra / Artephis

Founded in 2017 by alumni Josh Poole, Sam Davies and Rory Storm, with a host of RNCM talent, The Untold Orchestra is one of the most exciting, accessible new orchestras, based right here in Manchester.
Throughout lockdown they’ve been producing an array of uplifting music videos, including a beautiful version of Here Comes The Sun.

As well as producing new work, they’re also releasing videos of past projects, including this fabulous collaboration with Manchester jazz ensemble Artephis, featuring RNCM alumni and students. One track, Selfdom, is available for you to enjoy.

We would love you to take a look at their Bandcamp page here and consider downloading all the tracks for a real musical treat and to offer support to our recent graduates.

Isolation Performance Lantivet Duo


Alumna Anna Brigham is one half of the Lantivet Duo, with pianist Brendan Musk. In isolation together, they have been working to bring high quality music directly to people’s living rooms. Their most recent performance features a programme of Mozart, Clara Schumann, Cole Porter, Piazzolla and three new works by living composers. It is free to watch, but donations are very welcome in aid of the NHS Charities COVID-19 Appeal and to support the living composers whose works are included in the programme.

Veiled Light – Daniel Kidane

RNCM Honorary Associate Artist Daniel Kidane is one of the most exciting young British contemporary composers working today. Daniel was asked by BBC Radio 3 to write a new piece of music in response to the current crisis, as part of its virtual arts festival, Culture in Quarantine.

The short piece, Veiled Light, is inspired by the works of the Hudson River School painters and a trip to America postponed due to lockdown, and thus is a musical postcard from a place he’s yet to be. Daniel recommends that listeners ‘close their eyes and imagine a sublime expanse’ while they listen.

Daniel has also been working with the wonderful Sean Shibe, who recently wowed RNCM audiences with his extraordinary guitar playing, as part of our Original Voices concert series. Daniel wrote Continuance for Sean and he notes:

‘Continuance is a musical snapshot from confinement. A brief collaborative message to the world that reflects where we are at as creatives. Our hope is that it offers a little solace, however momentary.’

RNCM Great Big Charity Music Quiz Hosted by Pete Waterman

On sale from next week!

We’re excited to announce that we’ll be hosting the RNCM Great Big Charity Music Quiz on Tuesday 2 June at 6.30pm. Hosted by music industry legend Pete Waterman – who’ll guide you through questions covering a range of genres, spanning all eras – this special event will also include music by RNCM Junior Fellow, Chris Pulleyn, playing live for your entertainment!

All money raised will support two important causes, the RNCM Student Hardship Fund and Manchester Foundation Trust Charity. Tickets will be available to buy from next week, so please put the date in your diary now and look out for more details soon!

Thank You – £18,000 Raised for RNCM Hardship Fund

Each week we like to thank all of our supporters, who, despite everything else going on in their lives, are still showing how much they care about the RNCM and our students. We thought you’d like to know how much of a difference financial support makes to our students. Below is a recent update from one of our Junior Fellows, who is currently able to survive financially thanks to support from the wonderful Sir John Fisher Foundation.

‘Most musicians have a portfolio of different commitments and engagements, and I am no exception. I have never known a time like this, and have never been so quiet in terms of performing and working. The fellowship has allowed me to support myself, focus on supporting the School of Vocal and Opera Studies and continue to help and support musicians – which has also been my main joy and purpose. I would like to thank the foundation for their support during this time – I am immensely grateful for it.’

Sadly, not all our students and Fellows are in receipt of scholarship support and for them life is much more precarious. Our Hardship Fund is there to give them that safety net so they can continue to pay their bills and complete their studies. Every donation, however small, adds to this immensely important pot, please do click here for more information and ways to give. Your help will make a difference. Thank you.

15 May 2020