RNCM PLAY Festival – Keep Music Playing

Festivals at the RNCM are often the highlight of our programme for students and audiences.

As Festivals Co-ordinator, it’s my role to develop new and innovative ways of presenting these popular annual events, which offer a unique showcase, celebrating our students’ vibrant talent. We’ve worked hard to adapt our annual programme to the online sphere and I am delighted that we’re able to present the first ever RNCM PLAY Festival – featuring a curated selection of digital projects from our students and recent graduates, specifically designed to be viewed by an online audience.

As discussed in an earlier issue of Keep Music Playing, we developed a new project, Connect and Create, to give our students the skills, tools and support to create their own digital performances. The culmination of this work is the RNCM PLAY Festival, and we’re delighted to showcase the exciting new work our students have created, which reflect the reality of their lives right now.

Running from Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 March, we’ll present four themed programmes and three headline events, featuring students across all our schools and our recent graduates, which will be livestreamed via the RNCM website. You can find the programme details below, alongside a few sneak peaks of what to expect.

We know how much our audiences have missed watching our students perform, so we sincerely hope you enjoy this very special work, designed to engage viewers digitally and still find ways to bring the RNCM into your lives.

Harriet Lane

Festivals Co-ordinator


RNCM PLAY Festival
UnHeard Hybrid Online

This sequel to the UnHeard Hybrid Orchestra project, presented at last year’s RNCM Lab Week, represents the culmination of three months of online collaboration between a group of almost 30 instrumentalists, composers, sonic artists, and visual artists. The goal was to trigger a chain of creativity; sparked by sketches from the composers, recorded by the players, remixed by the electronic musicians, and finally assembled into one cohesive vision by each composer, in tandem with visual artists, to create a beatiful  journey through collective imaginations.

You can listen to extracts from the UnHeard Hybrid Orchestra’s performance at last year’s RNCM Lab Week here.

RNCM PLAY Festival

CoMA Manchester

CoMA Manchester reformed in March 2020 (just before the lockdown started!) and currently operates as an entirely digital ensemble. The concert they’ve put together, To be held for a long time, is a window into their music making and the identity they have developed while in this peculiar setup. Through this ‘strangely stimulating experience’ the ensemble have developed their visual and sonic languages in equal measure, exploring their confined environments and finding connections, while never having entered the same space. The one exception to this is documented in the festival – the ensemble’s first and only meet up in Fletcher Moss Park, which playfully retains the individualised and meditative nature of other pieces in the concert – all connected, all apart.

Here is a recent CoMA commission by RNCM Senior Lecturer in Composition Larry Goves:


RNCM PLAY Festival

Across the three days of the festival, we’ll present four themed programmes:

Personal Stories (Thu 18 Mar // 1pm): A presentation of music which has a particularly important and personal resonance to their creators.

COVID Responses (Fri 19 Mar // 1pm): Each video looks at a different type of reaction to the pandemic, whether it’s a response to the feelings evoked during lockdown, or looking at COVID data to inspire new music.

Underrepresented (Fri 19 Mar // 5pm): Works by female composers, a subversion of gender roles in a Mozart opera, and a programme of music and poetry from composers who lost their lives in the Holocaust.

Innovation (Sat 20 Mar // 1pm): All the works in this broadcast have been selected for their unique use of digital technologies, with students building on new and existing skills to create multimedia works.

Each evening at 8pm we’ll present a headline event: CoMA Manchester (Thu 18 Mar), Amy Webber (Fri 19 Mar) and The UnHeard Hybrid Online (Sat 20 Mar).

Adrian Spillett

RNCM Alumnus Named One of the World’s Top Percussionists

We’re extremely proud that RNCM alumnus Adrian Spillett has been listed as one of the top six percussionists performing today!

Adrian became the first percussionist to win BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1998 while studying at the RNCM. The following year he formed the ensemble 4-MALITY with which he has toured extensively, and he is currently Percussion Section Leader of the CBSO and Head of Percussion at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Here is Adrian performing an extract of Mark Norman’s Clockwork with 4-MALITY:

Stoller Hall Live Stream

Manchester Song Festival

The Manchester Song Festival is back on Saturday 27 March, with a full day of live online performances and a masterclass from some of the region’s finest musical talent – including a whole host of RNCM students, staff and alumni.

RNCM Associate Member and alumna, mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge, will kick-start the festival alongside RNCM staff pianist Jonathan Fisher, performing a celebration of beautiful English songs. Jonathan also features as Artistic Director for the RNCM Songsters later in the day.

The festival concludes with a recital from soprano Katherine Broderick with violist Ruth Gibson, both RNCM alumnae, and RNCM Senior Tutor in Piano Studies Kathryn Stott. The trio will transport us from the UK to Europe through music and composers, including Bridge, Brahms and Strauss.

Full programme details and ticket information can be found here.

Here is Kathryn Rudge’s special lockdown performance for Music in Hospitals & Care.

Midnight Tales

SONO Ensemble

SONO Ensemble, featuring RNCM alumni, present a special livestream concert from the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Saturday 27 March: Midnight Tales.

The programme features Arnold Schoenberg’s magnificent string sextet Verklärte Nacht Op 4 and Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s rarely performed Suite for Two violins, Cello & Piano Left Hand Op 23.

For more information, click here.

Here is the ensemble’s first ever performance from December 2020:

Keep Music Playing
The Impact Your Support Has Made

Regular readers will be aware of the many adaptations we’ve made this year, to ensure we are following ever changing COVID guidelines and creating a safe environment for our students to train and perform in. One of the most considerable changes has, of course, been a significant investment in our digital infrastructure; from specially designed Zoom practice rooms, to the latest tech to enable us to stream broadcast-quality online concerts. Our students have truly embraced these new ways of working, as exemplified in the first RNCM Play Festival.

Much of this has only been possible thanks to donations from our wonderful supporters. Thanks to you, we have been able to offer students the highest-quality education online and to continue to connect with our audiences. We’ve also built long term resilience, future proofing the College to embrace the exciting opportunities that digital innovation brings for the next generation of musical talent.

If you’d like to find out more about our Keep Music Playing campaign and the areas of work that a gift will directly support please click here.

In meantime, we hope to see you at the RNCM Play Festival to share beautiful, innovative and personal new pieces from our wonderful students for you to enjoy.

12 March 2021