LAST October saw Confidential’s Jonathan Schofield reveal a sneak preview of Manchester’s newest performance space. Nestled inside the Chetham’s School of Music - the UK’s largest specialist music school - with a 482-seat auditorium boasting the ‘finest acoustic in the world’ according to General Manager Richard Hartwell, The Stoller Hall was predicted to a be a musical marvel on launching in April this year: something the announcement of its opening season confirms.
This superb hall represents an important milestone in the progressive history of Chetham’s
Beginning with a celebratory weekend from 21-23 April, bookended with the venue’s first public concert on Friday 21 and a special gala on Sunday 23, the programme continues through to autumn; when the Kuss Quartet bring Chetham’s cycle of the complete Shostakovich String Quartets to a close.
Chetham’s alumni, students and friends of the school will all be involved in the opening weekend: showcasing the diverse programming planned for the £8.7m concert hall, which is due to host everything from chamber music, choirs and full-scale orchestras to contemporary and jazz music, comedy and spoken word.
First up on Friday 21 from 4.30pm, BBC Radio 3’s In Tune will be broadcasting live from the venue, while later that evening sees alumnus and pianist Gwilym Simcock lead the hall’s inaugural concert alongside violinist Thomas Gould and guitarist Mike Walker; promising the trio’s unique fusion of jazz, classical and folk.
The new Stoller Hall cost £8.7m
Chamber music continues the following day with the Navarra String Quartet whilst, come evening, the Chetham’s Big Band - joined by comedian Ted Robbins - will be jazzing up proceedings with ‘a joyous mixture of stand-up comedy and music.’
Elsewhere you’ll find a complimentary schedule of events in the Carole Nash Hall and Oglesby Atrium; including Orchestral Life, by photographer Tom Bangbala throughout the weekend; Debussy sonatas performed by members of staff and interpreted by dancers from Hammond School and Melbourne’s Victoria College, as well as free foyer music from cellist and alumna Gabriella Swallow and her Urban Family.
The weekend culminates with the official launch of The Stoller Hall in the form of a champagne Opening Gala, attended by benefactor Sir Norman Stoller; the philanthropic Oldham businessman who donated £7.5m towards the project through the Stoller Charitable Trust, with additional support from the Garfield Weston Foundation. Others recognised for their contribution include Sir Mark Elder and the late Michael Kennedy, both of whom have been dedicated honorary seats for championing classic music in Manchester.
The Stoller Hall has been designed by Stephenson Studio architects with Arup Acoustics, and built by Sir Robert McAlpine. As well as benefitting Chetham’s student and staff, the innovative new venue is set to host around 80 performance dates per year; introducing the public to a versatile events schedule which combines leading artists and ensembles with musical and cultural promoters across the country. Spanning film soundtracks to Norwegian church music, slapstick and masterclasses to BRIT award-winners and timely debates, the inaugural season perfectly sets the tone. Other uses for the space will include conferences, rehearsals, engagement initiatives and recordings.
New and old buildings at Chetham's
Sir Norman Stoller opening Manchester University's Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre last year
Alun Jones, Headmaster of Chetham’s School of Music said: “I’ve had the pleasure of joining Chetham’s at one of the most exciting times in its history, as the opening of The Stoller Hall represents a new chapter for our entire school community. Finally, our students will have a concert hall whose acoustics live up to their world renowned musical talents; whilst the professional performance programme will bring new audiences to share in the cultural life that thrives here in the heart of Manchester.”
Richard Hartwell, General Manager of The Stoller Hall said: “This new hall is not just devastatingly beautiful but, more importantly, acoustically unrivalled, quite possibly among concert halls across the world. What’s more its acoustics are adjustable, which will allow for a huge range of performance activity, symbiotically benefiting visiting performers, audiences and the school with a 21st century concert experience.”
Stephen Threlfall, Director of Music at Chetham’s and Artistic Director of the Opening Weekend said: “This superb hall represents an important milestone in the progressive history of Chetham’s being not only its first ever concert hall but also an outstanding gift to the cultural life of the region. We’re thrilled that our current and past students and our many friends across the musical world will all feature in the christening of The Stoller Hall.”
Find out more about The Stoller Hall, and how you can support the venue, at stollerhall.com