A mini-guide to classical music events in and around Cheshire

Clonter Opera Auditorium

Clonter Opera Auditorium - Credit: not Archant

Music writer Robert Beale reveals the five fabulous events he’s most looking forward to from this autumn’s concert, opera and ballet offering and highlights the best of the rest

Northern Chamber Orchestra, Macclesfield Heritage Centre

October 31, 7.30pm www.ncorch.co.uk; 0161 247 2220

The Northern Chamber Orchestra could be called Cheshire’s own orchestra – it performs in Warrington and Halton, and elsewhere, as well as Macclesfield – and its major series is at the Heritage Centre (the historic old Sunday School building) on Saturday nights through autumn to spring. If you missed the opening concert on September 26, with Cheadle Hulme-born violin soloist Jennifer Pike, catch up with this one in which Nicholas Ward both leads the orchestra and plays solo (Tchaikovsky’s Mélodie) and Ben Hudson is soloist in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto K191. And there’s a Haydn symphony to start and Dvorák’s glorious Serenade for Strings to finish. The NCO plays without conductor, which gives its excellent performances special intimacy and electricity, as well as being historically appropriate for much of the classical repertoire.


Opera Gala at Clonter Opera Theatre

November 14, 7pm www.clonteropera.com; 01260 224514

If you have not yet discovered Clonter at Swettenham Heath (near Holmes Chapel, Jodrell Bank and Congleton) – the ‘Glyndebourne of Cheshire’ – here’s a very good chance to do so. Part of the established round-the-year programme is the autumn opera gala, with well-loved arias, duets and some musical theatre numbers. There’s a 70-minute supper interval in Glyndebourne style, and you can bring your own picnic or order a complete supper, a picnic hamper or a basket of canapés – and there’s a licensed bar. In fact, Clonter goes one better than Glyndebourne, because it has space to accommodate every member of the audience with a place at a table, under cover, including picnickers. No soggy sandwiches here! Some of the best emerging young opera singers can be heard at Clonter, where musical standards are very high.


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Chester Music Society, Chester Cathedral

November 21, 7.30pm www.chestermusicsociety.org.uk; 01244 500959

A performance of Benjamin Britten’s St Nicholas – about the original Santa Claus – and the world premiere of Philip Cooke’s oratorio, Noah’s Fire. Britten’s cantata tells the story of the patron saint of sailors and children (including the ‘pickled boys’, whom Nicholas brings back to life just before they are to be eaten) and includes audience participation in two traditional hymns. Noah’s Fire, commissioned from Philip Cooke and librettist Ben Kaye in celebration of Chester Music Society’s 70th anniversary season, is set in medieval Chester. Using the combined forces of the society’s choir and youth choir, with the cathedral choristers, it tells of a Chester guild who present the story of Noah for the Mystery Plays … when disaster strikes and the set is destroyed by fire. Featuring Philip Sheffield (tenor), Robert Rice (baritone) and Liverpool Sinfonia, the performance is directed by Graham Jordan Ellis.


John Rutter and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

December 5, 7.30pm www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk; 0161 907 9000

Any concert by the Hallé, BBC Philharmonic or Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester or Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool is worth putting among the top choices, but I’m going for a London orchestra marking a real first. Who doesn’t know John Rutter’s sparkling Christmas music for choirs? This year marks his 70th birthday, and he will host and conduct, making his Bridgewater Hall debut. He’s joined by star soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, Manchester’s own organ virtuoso Jonathan Scott, Chetham’s Chamber Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Music includes his Star Carol, Shepherd’s Pipe Carol and What Sweeter Music, plus excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, the Sinfonia from Bach’s Cantata no. 29 and Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker.


Messiah For All, Bollington Arts Centre

December 8 7.30pm www.bollingtonartscentre.org.uk; 01625 261933

How about doing some singing yourself? If you’re a singer, there’s nothing puts you in the mood for Christmas better than a d-i-y Messiah, and there are several around the region. For this one you join with Bollington Festival Choir. Handel’s Messiah has been the inspiration for charitable performances, especially at Christmas, since the days when he conducted it himself at the London Foundling Hospital (whose work is continued by the Thomas Coram Foundation today). Singers of all ages and abilities are invited to sing Handel’s oratorio in this annual event, with proceeds this year to the Macclesfield branch of the national charity which supports those with Parkinson’s Disease, their families and carers.





Sophie Rosa and Ian Buckle

St Wilfrid’s Grappenhall, October 15, 7.30pm www.liveatstwilfrids.co.uk; 01925 263183

Sophie also appears also in St Mary’s Church Hall, Sandbach, on 30 September, 7pm: www.sandbach-concert-series.co.uk

Cheshire’s own Sophie Rosa, winner of the audience prize in the Manchester International Violin Competition 2011, and pianist Ian Buckle play Elgar, Brahms, Gershwin and Wieniawski.


Martin Roscoe & Moricosta String Trio

Holmes Chapel Leisure Centre, October 3, 8pm www.themusicsociety.org.uk; 01477 537 769

North West based Martin Roscoe is one of the most admired and accomplished pianists performing today, and the Moricosta String Trio met while members of the BBC Philharmonic: together they play Schubert, Schumann and Fauré.


Welsh National Opera in I Puritani

Venue Cymru, Llandudno, October 27 7.15pm www.venuecymru.co.uk; 01492 872000

Bellini’s English civil war drama, the most entertaining of all bel canto operas, is conducted by Carlo Rizzi and directed by Annilese Miskimmon (also performing Handel’s Orlando on 28 October, and Sweeney Todd – see below – on 29-31 October).


Zelkova Quartet

Bollington Arts Centre, October 28 8pm www.bollingtonartscentre.org.uk; 01625 261933 – also at the Walton Hall, Warrington, on 30 September, 7.45pm: 01925 265146

The prizewinning string quartet founded in 2010 at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, perform Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms.


Opera North in The Barber of Seville

The Lowry, Salford, November 10 and 12, 7.15pm www.thelowry.com; 0843 208 6000

The first part of the story of Figaro – with Rossini’s bubbling music – in Giles Havergal’s evergreen production and with virtuoso comic performers Alastair Miles and Eric Roberts.


Welsh National Opera in Sweeney Todd

Liverpool Empire, November 13-14, 7.15pm www.liverpooltheatres.com/empire.htm; 0151 702 7320

Stephen Sondheim’s macabre and, in the view of many, most operatic musical, from Wales’ biggest company.


English National Ballet in Le Corsaire

Liverpool Empire, November 18-21, 7.30pm (and 2.30pm Thurs & Sat) www.liverpooltheatres.com/empire.htm; 0151 702 7320

Far and away the top arts event in Liverpool this autumn, this is a superb production of a classic full-length romantic ballet, with ENB’s full company and orchestra, which won the Manchester Theatre Award for Dance earlier this year.


St George’s Singers

Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 21 November, 7.30pm www.st-georges-singers.org.uk; 01663 764012

The Poynton-based choir directed by Sheffield Cathedral organist Neil Taylor host Chetham’s Chamber Orchestra (conductor Stephen Threlfall) and sing Mozart’s Mass in C minor (K427) with soloists including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately – Kevin ‘Lewis’ Whately’s daughter.


The Fibonacci Sequence

St Mary’s Centre, Chester, 9 December, 7.30pm www.chestermusicsociety.org.uk; 01244 500959)

The Fibonacci Sequence, one of the foremost chamber ensembles in Britain and named after Leonardo of Pisa (known as Fibonacci), a great mediaeval mathematician, play music by Mozart, Rossini and Schubert – including the perennially popular ‘Trout’ quintet.