Friday, 5 August 2016

Article published in Manchester Evening News 5 August 2016

MUSIC has long been a part of the life of St Ann’s Church in city centre Manchester, and on August 9 there’s a visit from Spanish pianist Maite Aguirre, assistant conductor at Grange Park Opera and director of the Academia de Musica in London.
Her programme at St Ann’s includes music by Granados, Ginastera and Ernesto Lecuona.

I talked to Simon Passmore, St Ann’s director of music, and his colleague, James Hume, who are responsible for the concert programme there – including not just the long-established Tuesday lunchtime organ recitals, and regular piano and chamber music recitals provided by the Royal Northern College of Music, but also performances on Tuesday evenings, Saturday lunchtime and evening concerts, and other events.

The free organ recitals were a feature of the music directorship of the late Ronald Frost, who gave over 1,000 of them, and Simon Passmore is continuing that tradition – currently working through the entire organ works of J S Bach, alongside other music.

Concerts by guest performers have been promoted for around two decades at St Ann’s: recent ones have included performances by the Pleyel Ensemble, Manchester Chorale, guitarist Frederick Lawton and organist Jonathan Scott.

Simon Passmore, who took up his post a year ago after being organ scholar, said: “James and I decided it was now time to have tickets, print brochures and make St Ann’s a proper concert venue.

“We produced a brochure listing everything. Our audience is mainly older people, but in term time there are a lot of students, too, and they get special prices just like at the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic.”

James Hume (who became the assistant music director in 2010) added: “As a venue St Ann’s is pretty wonderful. The organ is one of the best in the north west, and we have a Steinway B grand piano on loan from the RNCM.”

Their programme for autumn and winter includes the Gravity Percussion Duo (October 11), the RNCM Jazz Collective (November 15), and Handel’s Messiah (on December 3), with a chorus based on the church choir and soloists and orchestra mainly from recent RNCM graduates. That’s conducted by Simon – who points out that St Ann’s, as a setting, is probably the only remaining church in Manchester built during Handel’s lifetime. It even has some stops in the organ with pipes in them from the period, too!

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