Manchester Classical: weekend-long festival celebrating the city’s orchestras and classical music - what’s on

Manchester Classical will fill the Bridgewater Hall with music for 48 hours over a weekend taking in everything from a famous ballet score to modern minimalism.

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Classical music will be put in the spotlight in Manchester at a weekend-long festival which will fill a famous venue with sound for 48 hours while also showcasing the city’s talented musicians and ensembles.

Manchester Classical is bringing the various orchestras and classical groups that call the city home together for a packed two days of performances at The Bridgewater Hall in June. On the main stage there will be performances of some well-known masterpieces from the orchestral repertoire as well as more modern minimalist works, while there will also be free entertainment in the foyer, film screenings, food, crafts and more.

Manchester Classical organisers are hoping that in addition to people who are already fans of classical music the weekend festival might tempt those who haven’t yet heard an orchestra play live to give it a go.

What is Manchester Classical and when is it?

Manchester Classical will bring together many of the city’s top classical music orchestras and groups on 24 and 25 June for two days packed with performances and activities in The Bridgewater Hall. Pieces will be performed in hour-long concerts on the main stage throughout the weekend, with the choice of works being performed ranging from well-known works from across the 20th century to more experimental, modern pieces.

The Bridgewater Hall, built in the 1990s, is a concert hall that is home to Manchester’s Halle orchestra and choirs.  Credit: Google Street ViewThe Bridgewater Hall, built in the 1990s, is a concert hall that is home to Manchester’s Halle orchestra and choirs.  Credit: Google Street View
The Bridgewater Hall, built in the 1990s, is a concert hall that is home to Manchester’s Halle orchestra and choirs. Credit: Google Street View

Groups including professional musicians and students based in the city will also be giving free performances throughout the two days in the foyer and the Barbirolli Room at the famous concert venue. There will be food and drink available and craft activities will also take place in the foyer.

Organisers of Manchester Classical are hoping the festival format with lots of shorter concerts interspersed with other events taking place over the two days will encourage people who haven’t heard classical music live before to come along and try it out.

The main concerts in the auditorium will be priced at £10 for adults and £2 for under-16s. Day and weekend tickets will also be available. To find out more or buy tickets, visit the Manchester Classical website.

What is the music being performed at Manchester Classical?

The Manchester Classical programme kicks off on the Saturday (24 June) with an event at 11am which is not part of the day or weekend tickets and which sees The Hallé celebrate the life and music of much-loved Greater Manchester comedian Victoria Wood. The orchestra will be joined by the Hallé Children’s Choir and special family arrangements of some of the writer and stand-up performer’s songs will be played.

At 1.30pm the BBC Philharmonic, which is based at MediaCity in Salford, takes to the stage for a lunchtime concert featuring Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, a showpiece which gives every instrument and section a chance to shine across its five movements.

The BBC Philharmonic performing live. Photo: Mark McNulty/BBCThe BBC Philharmonic performing live. Photo: Mark McNulty/BBC
The BBC Philharmonic performing live. Photo: Mark McNulty/BBC

At 4.30pm the Manchester Collective, known for its experimental and ground-breaking choices of repertoire, play an hour of contemporary music including the Double Sextet by American minimalist composer Steve Reich with a visual projection behind the musicians. There will be more modern music at 5.30pm from new music group Psappha in the Barbirolli Room.

More contemporary music comes courtesy of the The Hallé and saxophonist Jess Gillam at 7.30pm with John Harle’s piece Briggflatts, with the concert also including Ravel’s orchestral version of Mussourgsky’s piano work Pictures at an Exhibition. Then, at 10pm, day one comes to a close with violinist Daniel Pioro joining the Manchester Camerata for a sonic meditation for orchestra and two newly-arranged pieces from his latest album.

Manchester Collective. Photo: Vic FrankowskiManchester Collective. Photo: Vic Frankowski
Manchester Collective. Photo: Vic Frankowski

The Sunday (25 June) begins at 11am with the BBC Philharmonic taking audiences on a trip from Eastern Europe to the USA with Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances and the opening movement of African-American composer William Levi Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, called The Bonds of Africa.

The orchestra then returns to the stage at 2.30pm for a concert including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade and Kodaly’s Dances of Galánta.

Finally, at 5.30pm, Manchester Classical culminates with The Hallé performing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. This ballet, depicting a primitive tribal society sacrificing a young girl to propitiate the god of spring by watching her dance herself to death, caused a riot at its 1913 premiere in Paris and can still shock and amaze audiences today with its visceral power.

What has been said about Manchester Classical?

David Butcher, chief executive of The Hallé, said: “Manchester Classical is a unique event bringing together Manchester’s world-class orchestras for the first time in a packed festival of concerts and events across the weekend of 24 and 25 June.

“The Bridgewater Hall opens its doors on both days with main stage concerts, foyer shows, films, food and drink. We hope audiences across the North West and further afield will come to experience and celebrate the power of orchestral music and Manchester’s unique offer.”

Andrew Bolt, chief executive of The Bridgewater Hall, said: “I am delighted that the hall, through the support of ASM Global, will take a central role in supporting so many of Manchester and Salford’s world-class ensembles and artists in hosting this inclusive initiative, and I look forward to this being the first of an ongoing and developing city-wide festival introducing the exciting world of classical music in all its forms to the people of Greater Manchester.”