RNCM Celebrates Its 50th Birthday

An invitation to join Manchester’s global conservatoire for its 50th birthday celebrations
Emma Moore-Palmer
May 22, 2023

Four spectacular events are about to light up the summer as the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) reaches the climax of its 50th birthday celebrations. Through musical performances, the past, present and future of the innovative conservatoire will be reflected and in doing so will bring together internationally recognised RNCM alumni, current students and staff, as the musicians of today perform with those of tomorrow. Appearances will include pianist Alexandra Dariescu whose ground-breaking and visionary performances have drawn universal acclaim. The events will also celebrate the role that the RNCM plays at the heart of Manchester’s rich cultural scene and include a collaboration with the genre-defying energy and experimentation of Anna Meredith presented by the RNCM in association with Factory International for Manchester International Festival.

It was on 28 June 1973 that the RNCM opened its doors for the first time; formed by a merger of the Royal Manchester College of Music (RMCM) which was founded by Sir Charles Hallé in 1893 and the Northern School of Music (NSM) which began its life in 1920, together with a bold ambition for the future of music and exceptional music education in Manchester. Construction of the now iconic building on Oxford Road began in 1969 and, with Royal status granted by the Queen, the official opening ceremony was carried out by the Duchess of Kent, as the first RNCM President. Now, as well as its world-standing, the RNCM stands at the heart of Manchester’s music scene, drawing incredible musicians from across the globe and training the next generation of musicians.

The summer performances are the finale to a gala year at the RNCM. Taking place on Thursday 22 June, RNCM’s 50th Birthday Celebration captures joyful sentiments combined with youthful vigour, and promises a great party atmosphere. To reflect the breadth of performance at the RNCM the evening is staged in three parts so that it can speak to the future, whilst drawing on the past. It starts with a performance by the RNCM String Orchestra and RNCM Chamber Choir, which will include three new pieces from alumni Shruthi Rajasekar, a composer and singer whose passion is the intersection of musical and cultural identity. Embedded in between more familiar works, Shruthi's pieces seamlessly join one piece to the next, linking musical traditions from the US, India and Manchester and in themselves are a nod to the College’s global identity.

The RNCM Orchestra (Robin Clewley)
The RNCM Orchestra (Robin Clewley)

Next comes the RNCM Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by special guest alumni including conductor Alpesh Chauhan OBE who is Principal Guest Conductor for Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Associate Conductor for BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Music Director for Birmingham Opera Company; soprano Soraya Mafi who has performed with The Seattle Opera, Welsh National Opera and English National Opera; and pianist Alexandra Dariescu whose performances include London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre National de France and Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Audiences will be captivated by the performances of music from Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide amongst others.  

The evening’s final chapter will be delivered by the famous RNCM Session Orchestra who will turn up the tempo with a 1973 playlist. Tracks nostalgically taking audiences back 50 years will include Billy Joel’s Piano Man, Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground. These experiences will be enjoyed across the RNCM Concert Hall and Theatre; a reminder of the spectacular facilities that the College offers students and performers.

Wednesday 28 June promises a night to remember when vocal and opera students join The Orchestra of Opera North for a spectacular Opera Gala. Conducted by alumnus Garry Walker, the evening also sees the welcome return of several vocal alumni who have carved out incredible careers on the operatic stage. Guests include Carolina Krogius, Soraya Mafi, Linda Richardson, Kathleen Wilkinson, Andrew Greenan, Philip Smith, Christopher Turner, Elgan Llŷr Thomas and Roland Wood. Le nozze di Figaro, Carmen and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg are amongst the favourite operatic highlights to be shared.

Alexandra Dariescu, RNCM Associate Artist, Alumna and Tutor in Piano, says, “Happy birthday, RNCM. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for young musicians over the years. You’ve helped. You’ve supported. You’ve nurtured. You’ve changed lives – mine including. Together we can make a difference. We can continue to define the future of music and as we join together in a celebration of music I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years bring.”

On Thursday 29 June the celebrations continue with a light shone on the RNCM Wind Orchestra with Mikhail Nemtsov (cello) as a further expression of the vast range of the College’s musical breadth. Audiences will be treated to appearances by a number of staff alongside the student ensemble, who are marking 50 years with a musical contribution, and this includes Principal Professor Linda Merrick, who is an internationally renowned clarinet soloist. The performance will also pay thanks to the incredible legacy created by Tim Reynish MBE a pioneering figure in wind ensembles and in the development of the RNCM Wind Orchestra and many of the pieces are based on music that he commissioned.

Mikhail Nemtsov
Mikhail Nemtsov

Professor Linda Merrick, Principal, says, “We are drawing close to the culmination of what has been an incredible year for the RNCM. Proud of our place in Manchester and on the global stage, we are very much at the forefront of music education worldwide and this special anniversary has really given us an opportunity to showcase the breadth of what we do here. There is still a lot to look forward to over the coming weeks including several special events that bring staff, students, alumni and our professional partners together. I am really looking forward to celebrating with everyone and to sharing the stage with our incredibly talented musicians.”

And finally, illustrating the diversity of music in all its glory, the RNCM brings an exciting collaboration with Manchester International Festival 2023 (MIF23) to audiences on Saturday 8 July when the RNCM Festival Orchestra supports composer Anna Meredith in a greatly-anticipated performance of her Mercury Prize-shortlisted album FIBS conducted by Robert Ames. The venue will be Manchester’s historic Depot Mayfield a cavernous and atmospheric building that’s perfect for the impact that this contemporary classical, artpop, techno and experimental rock performance will create.

To find out about the RNCM’s full events programme CLICK HERE. Keep up to date with the latest RNCM news by subscribing to receive updates here or by following RNCM on social media: Twitter @rncmlive, Facebook @rncmlive, and Instagram @rncmlive.