More than 70 youngsters, all students of Chetham's Music School in Manchester came together yesterday afternoon to perform some pieces of (mostly classical) music for us as we gathered in The Whiteley Hall; the schools own concert performance venue.

These students came from The Lower School and so were all aged between 8 and 13, although from seeing them yesterday, I would say that most were towards the younger rather than the older end.

Once again I can only iterate what I have said many times before, that I am blown away by how talented and great Manchester youth performers are! What I witnessed this afternoon was nothing short of virtuoso soloists, more than competent ensemble playing and it all started to my surprise with most of the musicians forming a 60 strong choir and proving they had lovely voices too!

So yes, the concert started with the young choir - let me state once again that some of these children are only 8 years old - singing three songs to put us all in seasonal mood. Two of these were sung a cappella and one featured several solo lines dished out amongst the group. All rose to the challenges superbly and it made a lovely start to the afternoon.

To follow came pieces of classical music featuring solo instruments, accompanied by, I assume, one of the teachers at the school, Elena Nalimova. We heard Robbie Jansen play a very difficult and interesting classical piece called The Clarinet Cakewalk by Greaves. Then it was the turn of the oboe to take centre stage and Jessica Ellis played a piece by Haydn. Then followed Jacob Howard, whose playing of Jardanvi's Sonatina on the cello was just simply breathtaking!

After this, the piano took the spotlight for two pieces by Chopin. First Alijca Korjder played the haunting Nocturne in C minor, which was followed by James Chan's rendition of the B minor Scherzo, which can only be described as one hell of a white knuckle ride. Once started, you're on for the duration and it's not an easy ride!!

All five of these performers are still extremely young and yet produced music to rival any adult professional soloist, and, even more amazingly, most played without sheet music. Their skill, talent, dedication and obvious love of what they do shining through every single note!

We then heard music played by two different string ensembles. First the youngest students, a group of 22, calling themselves The Violeta Strings, played music by Corelli and took the very brave move to play this Concerto Grosso without a conductor. The decision paid off, and all went well. [Well actually, no... the only flaw in an otherwise superb concert was they failed to tune up before playing. One violin in particular being rather discordant which was rectified and they started the piece again, but sadly there was still a discrepancy over whose G was the correct one ] However, all that does it simply highlight the necessity for a leader and all to be tuned to the same note. It does not in any way diminish the talent or the music!

A short Christmas tune, not in the programme, was added here so that the Violeta Strings were joined by a young pianist and a glockenspieler {what is the word for someone who plays the glockenspiel? } and were conducted by a girl from the same class.

Then the second string ensemble, The Serenata Strings, comprising more of the older students treated us to two movements of Elgar's Serenade for Strings.

Finally it was time for the brass to take to the stage, in the form of The Junior Brass Ensemble. A company of 12 youngsters bringing the afternoon to a close with Faure's Pie Jesu and then something to get us all toe-tapping to, The Theme Music to The Great Escape followed by Cole Porter's title theme to Anything Goes.

The afternoon was run through without interval, which I think was a mistake. With just a little more thought into the organisation and running order of the items, you could surely have cut down on the number of times teachers had to come on to set up for the next performer/s moving chairs, music stands etc around the stage. Would one setting not have worked for more than one group? Could we not have had just one change over during a short interval? Further, to see piles of chairs and other paraphernalia scattered willy-nilly at either side of the stage was just a little off-putting. For such a prestigious organisation, the organisation was just a little ad hoc and disorganised!

That being said though, the afternoon was about the youngsters and their amazing talents and abilities. You were all absolutely incredible. Bravi, bravi, bravissimi tutti!!!  

Reviewer: Mark Dee

Reviewed: 12th December 2015

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