Kathryn Rudge

The fortieth anniversary celebrations of the Royal Northern College of Music include everything from marathon Beethoven performances to free events across Manchester, says Helen Nugent

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The Royal Northern College of Music is many things: an arts centre for the people of Manchester, a key national venue and a place to study of international standing. So it is appropriate that it should mark a major milestone in some style.

“In creating a programme to celebrate our 40th anniversary year, we wanted to celebrate our different facets,” says director of performance and programming Toby Smith. “We wanted to embrace the 40 free public concerts of the RNCM In The City series, including Ludwig Van – one of the largest Beethoven festivals that the UK has ever seen – and an app based on Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, which will be free to download from wherever you are in the world.”

Founded in 1972 following the merger of the Northern School of Music and the Royal Manchester College of Music, the RNCM has since welcomed more than 5,500 students through its doors. Many of its alumni have gone on to shape the national and international artistic world. Mezzo soprano Kathryn Rudge is just one of the RNCM graduates who has forged a successful career in music.
A year ago the young Liverpudlian was named as the new face of classical music by The Times. Now she has roles at English National Opera, Opera North and on the Glyndebourne tour.

“My studies at the RNCM gave me a wonderful preparation for my career,” says Rudge.

“I took my first steps on to an opera stage there and the experiences I had have provided me with strong foundations for me to build my professional career in music. I really treasure the advice, experience and knowledge the staff shared throughout my time there.”  

So what have residents and visitors got to look forward to over the RNCM’s eight-month season of events? Of the 100-plus shows on offer, the Beethoven festival promises the most. As the headline event, Ludwig Van will examine the composer’s musical legacy, from his arrangements and transcriptions to how his music has formed a pivotal influence on modern day culture.

The Beethoven programme is extensive – nine symphony days will be spread over the whole festival, the symphonies to be performed in chronological order. Nine orchestras will take part and there will be talks by leading Beethoven experts.

Within this series will sit a recreation of the famous Akademie concert of 20 December 1808. This is not for the faint hearted – it’s a four hour marathon that witnessed the premieres of both the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Fourth Piano Concerto.

For those classical music lovers with rather less stamina, the RNCM Chamber Music Festival is staging the complete string quartets, piano trios and other chamber music across three days in January.

For those people who do not care for Beethoven, RNCM In The City may be more to their taste. The free events will be staged at a wonderfully eclectic number of venues including the John Rylands Library, the Manchester Craft Centre and the Manchester Reform Synagogue.

Meanwhile, special anniversary concerts and shows will also take place during 2013, including an Opera Gala in January and, in June, An Enchanted Evening of Song with Sir Willard White, current president of the RNCM, at the Bridgewater Hall.

For the uninitiated, the glut of 40th anniversary shows should provide them with a glimpse into the work done by the RNCM and its students, and offer an introduction to some of the finest musicians of tomorrow.

Stephen Hough, another RNCM alumnus, is now a celebrated classical pianist and accomplished composer with a catalogue of more than 50 albums. He has many happy memories of his time at the RNCM and is particularly thankful for the fact that there was no “unhealthy pressure” to show immediate results.

“I don’t think we should ever underestimate the seemingly inactive time when a plant appears to be doing nothing,” says Hough. “Flourishing needs space, muscles need to be loose to perform well. Those who will end up thinking big thoughts will need to daydream sometimes.”

RNCM 40th Anniversary, at venues across Manchester during 2012 and 2013 (

Kathryn Rudge performanance

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