Category Archives: classical music

Michael Kennedy Orbituary

guest post by Cheryl Law

I was sad to learn of the death of Michael Kennedy, who was one of the great names in classical music journalism; documenting musical life in Manchester for some 70 years, editing the Oxford Dictionary of Music and writing acclaimed biographies of many composers, including Elgar, Britten and Strauss.  A leading authority on many aspects of British musical life, he was associated with some of the past century’s finest musicians and composers, and was a personal friend of Tippett, Barbirolli and Vaughan Williams.

Born in Chorlton in 1926, Kennedy started out as a copyboy on the Northern edition of the Daily Telegraph, but soon began reviewing concerts, returning from the Free Trade Hall and working through the night to meet deadlines.   He rose to become editor of the newspaper, and later became the chief music critic of the Sunday Telegraph, for which he still wrote well into his 80s.

The last time I saw him was at a Hallé concert. The enormous amount of respect and admiration from my colleagues for this man was entirely justified, for, apart from his enthusiastic energy for music, one of the things we all loved most about Michael Kennedy was his commitment and loyalty to the city in which he was born, and the musical life that has always thrived here.

A devoted patron and advocate of all of Manchester’s orchestras, it was undoubtedly the Hallé that was closest to his heart. Following his 1960 biography of the orchestra, he has supported it through good and bad days, and just last year sang Mark Elder’s praises, telling his interviewer: I never thought the glory days of Barbirolli would come back again, but they have”.   I’m so glad that the boy from Chorlton, who loved classical music so much, saw the Hallé on such a high. Manchester’s musical life, in which he had such faith, shall miss him.

Thank you, Cheryl, for this wonderful post.

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Unsung Heroes Of The Orchestra – Cheryl Law’s Guest Post

Mark and Jeff

The Hallé’s own Mark & Jeff

Each time I go on tour I am reminded of the unsung heroes of travelling orchestras.  They don’t take a bow, but behind every successful tour is a slick operation that happens as if by magic. It begins days before the musicians have even boarded the plane, when thousands of pounds worth of precious instruments, music and music stands are carefully packed into reinforced trunkers, loaded onto a lorry, ferry or plane, and finally driven hundreds of miles, across borders, through the night, and intostrange cities.

The drivers of these lorries are the linchpins of an orchestral tour. As well as being HGV drivers, Stage Managers of orchestras have to negotiate unfamiliar laws which prevent lorries from driving on foreign motorways or cities on Sundays, because concerts happen on Sundays too. They check the trunkers to make sure they only contain what they are supposed to, and not stray books, clothes, shoes or even wine (yes that did happen once) which might cause them delays at borders. Sometimes they don a smart DJ to move a piano mid-concert, and they probably know how many cello desks there are in a Beethoven piano concerto and how many trumpets in Strauss’s Til Eulenspiegel.

Touring is a fantastic experience for musicians, and the excitement of playing in foreign concert halls is exhilarating. However, once we leave a concert platform most of us don’t spare a thought for what happens next, but, working when the orchestra rests, Stage Managers are always one step ahead of us in our schedule. As we hunt out a “tour bar”, their workday is recommencing on stage, starting with dismantling the magnificent orchestral set. The lorry is carefully reloaded, driven through the night and, hours before the orchestra arrives, unloaded again and a new stage set, ready for another concert in another hall, and so the cycle starts again.

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Filed under Bea Schirmer, Beatrice Schirmer, classical music, Hallé Orchestra, The News From The Back Shelf

Shirebrook timelapse

Wonderful summary of the day!
Thank you, Martyn Harris of Absolute Video.

This is the performance audio:


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Shirebrook – A Living Heritage Film

The Hallé Orchestra – Conductor Jamie Phillips
Shirebrook Miners Welfare UNISON Band – conductor Mark Wilcockson
Shirebrook Acadamy Wind Band


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Shirebrook – A Living Heritage 16th July 2014

Unison band & Halle Unison band image image


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ReCyClowne 2013 – A Mission To Save Planet Earth

The performance


Hallé Education has recently completed an exciting project in the small Derbyshire village of Clowne, which aimed to raise awareness of recycling within the local community through an innovative creative process combining film and music.

Hallé Education worked with the residents of Clowne in 2011 on an incredibly successful project called ‘Heritage Back to the Future’ and we were thrilled to work with this vibrant and committed community again.

The 2013 project, ‘ReCyClowne: A Mission to Save Planet Earth’, enabled a group of students from Heritage High School to create a 15-minute film about recycling in their community, to which a soundtrack was then created.

In the early stages of the project the students, teaching staff and members of the artistic team visited Clover Nook Waste Transfer Station and Bolsover Household Waste Recycling Centre to collect recycled raw materials. These were then used to design and create a new musical sculpture, and film footage from the visits was used to create a film to educate local people about responsible recycling.

Alongside the students ALÉAtronic, the Hallé’s progressive new music ensemble, led by Hallé double bass player and composer, Bea Schirmer, then created a soundtrack to accompany the film, using the new sculpture along with orchestral instruments and music technology.

The film

The final film of the recycling journey was premiered with its live soundtrack by the participants and a larger ensemble of Hallé players at Heritage High School during two unique performances for a capacity crowd of nearly 400 local residents on Friday 19 July 2013. A selection of orchestral repertoire was also performed by the Hallé during this concert, including Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and movements from Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin and Walton’s Façade.

The evening, conducted by the Hallé’s Assistant Conductor, Jamie Phillips, was a great success and Steve Pickett, Hallé Education Director, said of the project:

“This was a brilliant, brilliant project with a fantastic outcome. It was so good to see so many of the local Clowne folk getting their Hallé fix! A supreme effort by our very gifted double bassist, Bea Schirmer! Well done to all.”

The District and County Councils now hope to use the film in other schools and venues across the area to deliver the recycling message and showcase the talents of the school pupils.

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Bea Schirmer wins first Salomon Prize

Hallé double bass player Beatrice Schirmer has been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Salomon Prize, a prestigious new prize celebrating the outstanding contribution of orchestral players to the UK’s musical life.

Beatrice Schirmer was chosen from nominations received from orchestras across the UK. Bea, who has been with the Hallé for 19 years, was presented with her award onstage at the Hallé’s concert at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester – and live on BBC Radio 3 – on Wednesday 9 November. She receives a cheque for £1000 and will keep for one year the Salomon Prize Trophy – a soft-ground etching of Salomon made by William Daniell in 1810.

Bea was nominated by her fellow musicians and the Hallé’s management, not just for her considerable skills as a member of the orchestra’s double bass section, but for the extraordinary range of other activities which she has embraced and enriched in almost two decades with the orchestra.
The Salomon Prize citation from the RPS and ABO:
“Double bassist Beatrice Schirmer has been at the heart of the life of the Hallé for nearly twenty years. She has always given her time freely to support the individual players as well as the orchestral community. As a union representative she ensures clear communication between the players and administration as well as making sure she is always across any current issues which affect the rchestra. Beatrice is a founder member of the new music ensemble ALEAtronic and has an indefatigable passion and dedication for the Hallé’s education work. This was highlighted in last season’s community project in Clowne, Derbyshire for which she produced a full musical score as well as helping with technical and sound production. Beatrice Schirmer is an asset to her colleagues, to the Hallé and the profession. It is with great pleasure that the first Salomon Prize is awarded to her.”

Many thanks to David and Selina Marks for supporting the award.

More information about the Salomon Prize
Download the press release
Listen to Mark Elder making the presentation
rps podcast – first salomon prize presentation and interview

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Filed under ALEAtronic, Bea Schirmer, Beatrice Schirmer, classical music, Hallé Orchestra, Salomon Prize

Clowne – Back To The Future

Heritage Back to the Future was an ambitious intergenerational project that took place in the village of Clowne in Derbyshire, as a result of Orchestras Live’s strategic work with Bolsover District Council.
An artistic collaboration between the Hallé, Creative Forum and the people of Clowne, it culminated in two orchestral concerts at the newly rebuilt Heritage High School on 29 June 2011, where local young and older people performed alongside a 51 piece Hallé orchestra. Each concert featured a range of orchestral repertoire as well as the premiere of Heritage Back to the Future, a film and live soundtrack created during the project.

Orchestras live website







The Performance








The Film (with live soundtrack)


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Bluebeard – The Eighth Door (2005)

Opera North – Hallé Orchestra – ALEAtronic
Richard Strivens – Bass-baritone
Fiona MacDonald – Mezzosoprano
Iain Masson – Conductor

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ALEAtronic -“First Take”

ALEAtronic as a group have already produced a wide varitey of music, as is apparent from their debut album “First Take”.The group draw their inspiration from being exposed to a huge repertoire of classical music on a daily basis, being members of the Halle Orchestra, Manchester/UK. In addition to this ALEAtronic work extensively in the education sector with a wide variety of other musicians in schools and community workshop situations.

The individual band members’ musical and compositional preferences are diverse.

ALEAtronic are able to realise music commissions to very specific guidelines.
ALEAtronic also design high quality education workshops for all ages; schools, community, special needs.

ALEAtronic present a musical collage ranging from classical/experimental through to jazz and popular mainstream genres. From the inspiring Innocent World or the jazzy Snake to the tongue-in-cheek Imagination, there’s something for everyone here.

On first take, ALEAtronic are delighted to have been working with vocalists Yvonne Shelton, Mancunian session/gospel singer, and Eric Troyer, late of ELO Part II, now a member of The Orchestra. The album has been engineered and mixed by Dennis York, sound engineer supreme.



ALEAtronic – first take

1. PolyMath
2. Innocent World
3. Doodle 1
4. Imagination
5. The Snake
6. Doodle 2
7. Bolero
8. In Paradise
9. Cacophonia
10. Kempul
11. Imagination-Dave’s Vocal Mix

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