As the BBC Proms season edges closer, JLife shows you to how to get into the spirit of the classical music event through Manchester-based orchestra groups.
Besses o’ th’ Barn Band
Originated in 1818 and nourishing the ability of scores of musicians since, Besses o’ th’ Barn Band is continually silencing the sceptics and proving that classical music really can be all-enduring.
As one of the oldest brass bands in existence, Besses – as the group is commonly identified – ventured on two world tours over 100 years ago. And notably, the members were honoured with an invitation by the Prime Minister, Henry Balfour, to play by royal appointment for King Edward VII at Windsor Castle.
In the present day, the band remains popular in the performance world, being regularly requested locally in Manchester as well as internationally. Harnessing the Besses’ talent is musical director and principal conductor Simon Cowen, and the diversity of his experience speaks volumes, from taking up roles within major UK symphony orchestras, including the City of Birmingham Symphony, to playing alongside the popular bands, Elbow and The Beautiful South.
Rehearsals take place in Moss Lane, Whitefield, to prepare the band which already has a strong competitive standing – it recently walked off with two trophies at the North West Regional Brass Band Festival.
For classical aficionadas seeking an insight into the city’s musical life, Manchester Camerata is an ideal solution.
Since its formation in 1972, the group – named after a collective of 16th Century musicians, writers and thinkers dedicated to the progress of arts – has emerged as one of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras, renowned for dynamic performances and innovative collaborations.
In terms of availability, for smaller events, Manchester Camerata offers anything from a solo serenade to a small ensemble, while those aiming for a large-scale showstopper can hire the full orchestra. Incorporating film scores and theatre favourites, the wide repertoire is adaptable for varied requests.
As its ties lie close to home, the orchestra also has a strong focus on communal endeavours in which its pioneering learning and participation programmes utilise music to promote positive changes across young people in schools, and health and wellbeing.
The Beethoven Orchestra
A surge of reports have revealed that performers and listeners alike are prone to the psychological boost that classical notes bring; and what better way to showcase music’s benefits than for charity?
The Beethoven Orchestra was established in 1888 and carries out concerts in aid of both local and national charitable causes. Each season it rehearses a varied programme, featuring specially commissioned work, and has been known to perform in Manchester Cathedral as well as other backdrops scattered across the city.
To make sure that the members are fully prepared for all forthcoming commitments, the rehearsal space is within easy reach at William Hulme’s Grammar School, beginning at 7.30pm during term time. New performers are encouraged, particularly violin, viola and double-bass players.
Royal Northern College of Music
In line with the premise that as well as experienced musicians, many new enthusiasts are keen to take centre stage, the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) has flourished over the years, training students to world class levels.
As part of the leading international conservatoire, pupils can undertake their preferred programme, be it as an undergraduate or graduate, which provides a platform for solo tuition, workshops, ensembles and masterclasses. The seminars and lectures are particularly flanked by the high quality teaching faculty, many of whom have international reputations in their fields.
Budding travellers will also appreciate the fact that as part of RNCM, they have the opportunity to experience different cultures under the Erasmus initiative which encourages mobility between conservatoires across Europe; exchanges can be arranged for up to 10 months.