Manchester music education institution opens world-class Stoller Hall

A world-class music school in the northwest of England now has a professional 482-seat concert hall that boasts state-of-the-art design by Manchester-based stephenson STUDIO and acoustics by ARUP.

The famous Chetham’s School of Music welcomed a host of dignitaries to the new Stoller Hall for its opening weekend in April, topped off by the Royal Opening Celebration Concert attended by His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, patron of Chetham’s School of Music.

Alun Jones and His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Patron of Chetham's School of Music, at the Royal Opening Celebration Concert at The Stoller Hall. Photo © Sara Porter
Alun Jones and His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Patron of Chetham’s School of Music, at the Royal Opening Celebration Concert at The Stoller Hall. Photo © Sara Porter

At the gala opening concert, HRH Prince Edward expressed his thanks to all of Stoller Hall’s supporters. The hall cost GBP8.7m (€10.3m) to complete – with a very generous GBP7.5m donated by Sir Norman Stoller through the Stoller Charitable Trust. Additional support came from the Garfield Weston Foundation, via the Encore Campaign, as well as individual supporters via schemes such as the Round of Applause, Naming a Seat, Sponsoring a Wall Plaque or Naming Rooms, made available across the building.

Speaking to the audience, HRH Prince Edward, said: “I know it has been a long-held dream to have a concert hall here and I want to thank everybody who has made that possible and seen it through, particularly the Stoller Charitable Trust, and to Sir Noman and Sheila, we do appreciate it. It’s a great pleasure to come back and open another of your buildings.”

HRH Prince Edward then unveiled a new commemorative music stand, for which the students and staff from the school performed a specially commissioned fanfare, a gift from Sheila Stoller to her husband Norman.

The opening weekend programme showed a range of what is to come at the music venue with performances by Chetham’s Chamber Orchestra conducted by Stephen Threlfall, and an Orchestra of Special Guests, joined by pianist Paul Lewis and conducted by Sir Mark Elder. The programme included Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario (Walton / Palmer); Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 2 in B-flat major and Ginastera’s Variaciones Concertantes.

Chetham’s benefitted from a new school building in 2012, with a space left blank for the then proposed concert hall to fill. That space now adds panache to a number of top-flight flexible arts venues in Manchester suitable for recitals, chamber and orchestral music, jazz, folk, pop and spoken word as well as recordings, conferences and rehearsals. Venues in the Greater Manchester and Salford region attracting international and national artists include RNCM, The Bridgewater Hall, Band on the Wall, The Lowry and HOME.

As a musical offering Stoller Hall, which was constructed by Robert McAlpine, is part of wider professional performance offering at Chetham’s, along with the 100-seat Carole Nash Hall, 500-capacity Oglesby Atrium, and 600-year-old Baronial Hall (now part of Chetham’s Library); and a series of ensemble rooms accommodating up to 60.

Sir Mark Elder at The Stoller Hall. Photo ©  Sara Porter
Sir Mark Elder at Stoller Hall. Photo © Sara Porter

Setting the tone, performances this month include a quartet series featuring Vasara String Quartet and Chetham’s Staff String Quartet (10 May); Carducci Quartet (7 June); concluding with Kuss Quartet (12 October).

Next weekend, from 12 – 13 May, film composer and accompanist Neil Brand will lead a two-day event exploring film music, with a special strand for families on 13 May explore how sound and laughter combine in Slapstick for Kids.

June welcomes violinist Chloë Hanslip and Northern Chamber Orchestra, who will perform Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No 2 and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, as part of the Mind Music Campaign raising money for dementia charities.

Chetham’s International Summer School & Festival for Pianists will make its inaugural outing at Stoller Hall this summer. The fortnight of music introduces a ‘festival within a festival’ with four evenings of concertos from Leon McCawley, Noriko Ogawa, Peter Frankl and Leslie Howard (19 – 20 August).

A week later the Manchester International Concerto Competition for Young Pianists returns with Manchester Camerata as the orchestra for two evenings of concerto works performed by its six finalists, whilst a varied line up of solo recitals includes Peter Donohoe, Craig Sheppard, Jason Rebello and John Lenehan.

The new concert hall is a welcome step into the future for the famous music school, which hit international headlines in 2015 following a series allegations of historical sexual abuse at the school in the 1980s. |