SITE TOUR | The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s School of Music

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Work is advancing on schedule at the £8.75m concert hall in the world-renowned music school in central Manchester, due to open in April 2017. Paul Unger pays a visit.

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Main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine finished the £31m new school building within which the concert hall will sit in autumn 2012. The school did not have the funds to create the concert hall at the time but received a £7m donation from Norman Stoller at the start of 2014. The Garfield Weston Foundation has donated £1m. Stoller built Seton Healthcare, inventor of the tubular bandage, into a huge international business and started giving away money to good causes through his charitable trust in the 1980s.

The concert hall is a complex build and faces challenges to achieve acoustic quality required. Some facts and figures:

  • Building work is due to finish in October, to be followed by six months of acoustic tests to fine-tune sound quality for dozens of different scenarios, each with different instruments, numbers of players, audience, all carried out by specialists at Arup
  • £140,000, cost of a Steinway concert grand piano for the Hall, which will be stored in its own temperature and humidity controlled room below stage, and raised on its own lift for performances
  • 25,000 metres of cabling required for theatre equipment
  • 588 tonnes of concrete floor
  • 480 square metres of timber oak panelling surrounding the Hall
  • Stage will be large enough when retractable front rows of seats are removed for a full symphony orchestra
  • 500 audience seats to be installed
  • As well as traditional light and sound control room the mechanical and electrical system will allow full control from a mobile tablet device from any one of 60 sockets around the auditorium
  • 45 stage lights
  • 200 lights in total in the hall
  • 220-tonne steel frame installed, which project manager Stuart Bale said posed challenges to bring in the beams through a narrow entrance and rotate and lift into place, but was completed successfully and safely on time
  • 31 acoustic bearings underneath the steel frame holding the Hall up
  • 14 Months anticipated to complete the build
  • 2 Orchestral riser lifts
  • 1 Hydraulic stage lift
  • Project team: Stephenson Studio architects, M&E by Max Fordham, Arup on acoustics and Price & Myers for structural engineering
  • £38.75m Total cost of Chetham’s capital developments so far. Demolition of the 960s Palatine Building is ongoing to reveal Medieval courtyard and library behind

Chetham’s said of its plans for using The Stoller Hall…

The Stoller Hall’s Opening Weekend will be on Friday 21 April – Sunday 23 April, 2017.  The weekend’s events will preview the diverse programming planned for the space, which will include chamber and solo recitals, contemporary and Jazz music, comedy and spoken word.  

The core programme for The Stoller Hall will combine performances by leading artists, collaborations with musical and cultural promoters across the region, and a broad range of concert and conference events, rehearsals and recordings, to showcase the versatility of the space and to expand Manchester’s already vibrant performing arts scene.  The Hall’s home within the UK’s largest specialist music school will be reflected in an inspiring programme of engagement activity, with performances, learning and participatory opportunities for families, schools and communities of all ages.  It will provide a new home for key Chetham’s ensembles such as the Big Band and Sinfonia, offering an acoustic and audience experience to match the quality of performance from the School’s young musicians, and inspiring new generations of performers and audiences to discover and enjoy the arts.

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