RNCM Big Weekender 2015: Four days of surprising live music

Susie Stubbs
Black and blue photo of Courtney Pine

From Stockhausen to Courtney Pine via a big band, opera and electronica, here’s a weekend in which to rediscover RNCM.

The Royal Northern College of Music is sometimes overlooked when it comes to Manchester and music. It’s partly location – halfway up Oxford Road and in a building that, despite numerous attempts to jazz it up a bit, doesn’t have the street presence it deserves. And it does deserve that presence. This is, after all, one of only nine conservatoires in the UK, whose students come from all over the world and whose technical kit-out was boosted recently by the £7 million refurb of its main concert hall.

It is that refurbishment that’s behind the weekend’s Big Weekender, four days of intense musical activity up at RNCM. Kind of like an extended sampler of what the college programmes and teaches day in, day out, over the four days you can expect everything from live jazz to opera, and symphony orchestras to big bands.

It’s kind of like an extended sampler of what the college teaches day in, day out

Highlights include an intimate show from jazz pioneer Courtney Pine (8pm, 22 Mar, £20), who appears alongside the Mercury nominated and MOBO award-winning pianist, Zoe Rahman, experimental electronica, a screening of Ken Russell’s 1974 biopic, Mahler (2pm, 22 Mar, free), a performance of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis (2.15pm, 22 Mar, free), Benjamin Britten’s spellbinding take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream (7pm, 21 Mar, £23), a light projection inside the building by Urban Projections (7pm-late, 21 Mar, free) and a full day of family activities on the Saturday (11am-4pm, most activities free).

Performances take place across the entire building, from a Saturday night jazz party in the bar to events in lecture theatres, library, that revived concert hall and even on stairwells and landings. All in all it’s as much a chance to discover the building and the breadth of what RNCM does, as it is an interesting, eclectic musical weekend. Highly recommended.

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