RNCM at 50

RNCM Opera Dialogue des Carmelites © Robert Workman

It’s the destination of choice for talented young musicians worldwide, but as the RNCM celebrates its 50th anniversary, it’s clear that Manchester’s global conservatoire offers something for everyone.

Located on Oxford Road, nestled between the city’s two universities, sits the RNCM: a powerhouse of innovation and creativity and one of the UK’s most thriving live music venues. This year the RNCM turns 50. It’s a significant milestone for the much-loved organisation and one that it’s keen to share with as many people as possible.

‘This is a very exciting time for us,’ says Manus Carey, the RNCM’s Deputy Principal responsible for performance and programming. ‘At just 50 years young our journey is still very much beginning, but we already have so much to celebrate. Yes, we’re recognised internationally as one of the world’s top conservatoires, but we’re incredibly proud to call Manchester our home. The music-making that goes on here – both in our unique venues and out in the wider community – is really extraordinary, and this year provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate together.’

Housing three main public performance spaces – a concert hall, theatre and recital room – the RNCM – with over 350 concerts and events each year – will be a familiar haunt to the North West’s concertgoers. For those less familiar, this special anniversary is the ideal time to step inside.

The occasion brings an expansive public programme from classical to contemporary to jazz, folk and pop that includes performances from students, staff and alumni, guest appearances from local partners including the BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, Psappha, Manchester Collective and Opera North, international composer and artist residencies, and an array of family-friendly events.

‘So much of what we do is based on collaboration and this was something that we really wanted to showcase within our 50th programme,’ says Manus. ‘Throughout the year you’ll see events that bring our 900 students together with international musicians and composers, as well as some of the amazing professional partners we work with on a regular basis. And we’re planning some great projects for young people and our local communities too.’

Supporting young musicians to achieve their musical potential is something that we’re extremely passionate about

Manus Carey

Since 1973 the RNCM has fuelled the aspirations of young instrumentalists, singers, composers, conductors, and musical entrepreneurs from all over the world. Today – embracing its home in Manchester and on the world stage – its mission is clear: to define the future of music.

‘This is something that we hope is apparent to our audiences. We have a restless mission to shape the future of music, and to instil a sense of curiosity in our students to transform the world around them, whether on the stage or out in the community.’

A continuous strand within the RNCM’s programming is new music. This year, upwards of 25 premieres by professional composers and 50 by current student composers, music creators and songwriters will showcase new and contemporary work, with Sally Beamish, George Lewis and Anna Clyne joining as composers-in-residence.

‘There’s an incredible amount of music being created at the RNCM every day across different genres, and we’re proud to provide a platform for it to be heard publicly,’ explains Manus. ‘We’re also working hard to share underrepresented music, and alongside the premieres, we’ve got over 40 performances featuring works by voices who are not often given the spotlight.

Manus Carey

‘All of this is complemented by concerts and public masterclasses from our three artists-in-residence, the renowned pianist Stephen Hough, the Elias String Quartet and Manchester Collective, special appearances from our regional and international partners, and community projects and initiatives designed to inspire young people.’ 

RNCM’s work in the community has never been stronger. Alongside its public events for children, young people, and families (which includes a Young Explorers concert series, Christmas Family Day, and Children’s Opera), is a dedication to break down the barriers to music education and make it as accessible as possible.

The RNCM50 Fund, established for this special anniversary, is raising vital funds to support the cause, with results ensuring that initiatives such as the RNCM Pathfinder and Young Projects programmes continue to provide free music education to talented musicians in need. And this summer, the Big Weekender festival promises to connect directly to the city’s young people and community, filling the RNCM with music and creativity. The event will also launch Soundcheck, an initiative providing free tickets to 14 – 18-year-olds and a 50% price deal for students.

‘The work we do in the area is so important,’ says Manus. ‘Supporting young musicians to achieve their musical potential is something that we’re extremely passionate about, and this is one of the reasons why it features so heavily during our 50th year.’

So, with a half-century milestone under its belt and a desire to drive tomorrow’s music industry, what does the future of the RNCM look like? ‘It looks very much like the future of our great city,’ says Manus. ‘Diverse, ambitious, curious, welcoming, and full of endless possibilities.’

RNCM 50th Birthday Celebration
Royal Northern College of Music | 22 June 2023

Royal Northern College of Music celebrates its 50th birthday and half a century of forging incredible careers across the music industry.

Opera Gala with Opera North
Royal Northern College of Music | 28 June 2023

Join RNCM vocal students and the Orchestra of Opera North for a fantastic evening of opera’s greatest hits.

Explore@RNCM: It’s Party Time!
Royal Northern College of Music | 2 July 2023

To mark the end of its 50th year, the Royal Northern College of Music is throwing open its doors to the local community.

Explore@RNCM: Into The Woods
Royal Northern College of Music | 2 July 2023

Join RNCM for a one-off, semi-staged performance of Sondheim’s award-winning adventure, Into the Woods.

Explore@RNCM: Late Night Sessions
Royal Northern College of Music | 2 July 2023

RNCM round off their celebrations with some of Manchester’s finest DJs taking us through five decades of music.

This article was originally published in the Oxford Road Corridor zine. The Spring Edition 2023 is available to pick up for free from spaces around Oxford Road. You can view it online here too.

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