Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD – Visit Now
RNCM reopens following an extensive refurb – book onto its opening programme and see its brand new, high-tech facilities.
Renovate a building properly and it can feel familiar, whilst also seeming like an entirely different space. Manchester’s Central Library is a great example as, we suspect, the Whitworth will be. The Royal Northern College of Music has, over the last ten months, quietly joined the queue: its 40 year-old concert hall has undergone a £7.1m redevelopment that includes a new balcony, lighting and raised floor. Designed by architect Ian Palmer and brought about by Styles & Wood, the project has seen 515 tons of rubble leave the building and 55 tons of steel arrive, all through one entrance.
Constructed in 1972, RNCM was an amalgamation of Sir Charles Hallé’s 19th-century Royal Manchester College of Music and the Northern School of music, a mere stripling in comparison (it was set up in 1920). Now, it is a modern concert hall with top-tech facilities – but the redesign goes beyond mere technology. “We wanted the audience to be fully immersed in the performance, as if suspended in an Escher painting,” says architect Ian Palmer. “What we have created is a spatial Rubik’s cube that will allow the college to expand its repertoire, confident of a venue that is beautiful, technically outstanding and, most significantly, maintains its unique acoustic qualities.”
The project has seen 515 tons of rubble leave the building and 55 tons of steel arrive
The venue is rolling out a diverse opening season of classical music and theatre – all in the run up to a grand, celebratory weekend in March next year. The redesign launched yesterday, with Shubert’s Winterreise song cycle performed by baritone Sir Thomas Allen and pianist Joseph Middleton. Later this month, the venue will host two Shakespeare-themed evenings; the first features Hector Berlioz’s King Lear Overture and Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet alongside his Piano Concerto No 3 in C major Op 26 (14 Nov, 7.30pm). For the second, soprano and world-renowned early music specialist Dame Emma Kirby performs examples of Shakespeare in song (22 Nov, 7.30pm)
There’s also traditional Irish song, in the form of a live performance by Cara Dillon of her new album A Thousand Hearts (15 Nov, 7.30pm). The King’s Singers in collaboration with RNCM’s Chamber Choir looks to be a particular highlight; the programme for the evening includes both madrigals by Thomas Morely and Thomas Weelkes, and a send up of the British monarchy with a dash of Irving Berlin for good measure (20 Nov, 7.30pm). On the opera side of things, Franz Léhar’s operetta The Merry Window has a longer run than most, perhaps due to the popularity it’s retained since its 1905 premiere in Vienna (3-13 Dec).
December also sees the return of the Northern Dance Orchestra, formed by the BBC in 1956, but which had its last performance 40 years ago: the RNCM Big Band will be playing some of their most-loved hits (10 Dec, 7.30pm). It’s a one-off revival of a band whose music has been silent for as long as the concert hall has been filled with sound – and is thus a fitting look back to a time when this revamped building was brand new.