Manchester Cathedral winter events: Not such a bleak midwinter

Polly Checkland Harding

We preview the best of this winter’s events at Manchester Cathedral – including a brass band and a singer from New York.

It’s often strange to think about the things that have taken place in a city’s oldest buildings. In the case of Manchester Cathedral, which has stood through 500 winters and two world wars, reaching back to some of its most historic moments feels like quite a stretch. Imagine standing, for example, on its flagstones in 1787 to hear Thomas Clarkson give one of the world’s first anti-slavery speeches. More recent events are almost as surreal to think about – like when the team working on the £2.3m restoration project that finished in 2013 found hundreds of bodies hidden away beneath the Cathedral’s floor.

Manchester Cathedral has also seen Christmas come round more times than Groundhog Day – which might be why its calendar of winter events is a deft and varied way of heralding the festive season. Year round, though, the Cathedral Quarter is ideal for a lunchtime wander, with Chetham’s Library nearby for a double dose of heritage and Proper Tea opposite to offer some sustenance by way of tea, coffee and cakes. Drop in to the Cathedral itself this week, and you can catch the last of CFCCA’s Harmonious Society strand of Asia Triennial Manchester (ends 23 Nov).

Indie concerts that will shake the stained glass windows and hauntingly beautiful choral evenings

One-off events this year range from indie concerts that will shake the stained glass windows to hauntingly beautiful choral evenings. First up, New York-based singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten takes to the stage as part of the global tour of her fourth album Are We There (24 Nov, 7pm, £16.50). She’s followed by Foden’s Band at the end of the month: the Champion Brass Band of Great Britain will bring critically-acclaimed trumpeter Jens Lindemann to the Cathedral, to perform alongside Halifax Choral Society (29 Nov, 7.30pm, £15/£12 conc.).

Things begin to get Christmassey with an Advent Carol service (30 Nov, 5.30pm, free), while the start of December sees another New York-based indie offering, with rock band Augustines unleashing their intense, audience-centric performance under the building’s vaulting ceiling (1 Dec, 7pm, £15). Perhaps the highlight of this festive line-up is a performance of Handel’s Messiah by Manchester Cathedral Choir and The Secret Orchestra (13 Dec, 7pm, £15). Directed by organist and Master of the Choristers Christopher Stokes, this looks set to be a treat if you’re after some good old-fashioned classical music to see in the winter evenings. Now for a cracker joke – after all, this Cathedral must have seen enough of them over the years. So, what’s the best Christmas present ever?*

*A broken drum – you just can’t beat it.

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