The Albert Hall goes classical with Manchester Camerata

Susie Stubbs

The name “Albert Hall” may conjure up a grand, orchestral image – but an upcoming concert by the Camerata will be the first time an orchestra has ever played the venue.

London does things one way. Manchester another. Take the Albert Hall: in London, it’s all pomp and circumstance, royal connections and the BBC Proms. In Manchester, the Albert Hall is a former Brannigans, saved from alcopops ignominy by a couple of local entrepreneurs who turned a derelict building into one of the city’s best live music venues. This was, after all, a place whose gloriously dilapidated, Wesleyan interior was sneakily showcased during last year’s Manchester International Festival, and which has since hosted gigs from acts as diverse as Moderat, Goldfrapp and Frank Black.

The run of interesting acts continues this month as the Albert Hall plays host to a one-off afternoon session from the Manchester Camerata. On 27 April, the orchestra plays work by Mozart, Grieg’s Holberg Suite and a “witty reworking” of Bizet’s famous opera, Carmen. “As far as this concert is concerned it’s an exciting programme,” says the Camerata’s Samantha McShane. “We’re not only playing the Holberg Suite, but we have a young composer who has made a new piece based on Carmen – for us it’s typical of how we try to put the contemporary alongside the great classics.” Contemporary also comes in the form of Martynas Levickis. The startlingly talented 23 year-old accordionist is a household name in his native Lithuania (he won Lithuania’s Got Talent in 2010), and he closes the concert with what McShane and co. describe as a “short and lively performance”.

It’s the first time an orchestra will pay inside the former Wesleyan chapel

Deciding to perform at the Albert Hall isn’t a stretch for the Camerata. Although it will be the first orchestra ever to play inside the former chapel, the Camerata has form for appearing in the sorts of venues that don’t necessarily tick the “classical” box; previous concerts have been held at the Deaf Institute and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. “We always strive to perform in places you don’t quite expect,” says McShane. “It’s very different to performing at the Bridgewater Hall; being in the Albert Hall is incredible and it moves things on from the traditional concert format.” Atmospheric, intimate, and still a tiny bit rundown: yes, the Albert Hall offers a peculiarly Mancunian take on the idea of a grand music hall. But one that nevertheless lends itself to all-comers, and, as it turns out, all genres.

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