"While Manchester might be best-known these days for football heroes like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, anyone familiar with the city's history won't be surprised to discover the Manchester Camerata, a thriving chamber orchestra, quietly going about its innovative business.
Manchester came into its own during the Industrial Revolution where its primacy in the textile trade turned it into an unrivalled centre of cotton processing. (Indeed, anyone who's read Mrs Gaskell's North and South about the uneasy relationship between England's commercially-driven north and the softer, more refined south will recognise the fictional city of Milton as Manchester.) Once the cotton trade shifted to other communities, its rise as a financial centre stepped in to confirm Manchester's place as a city to be reckoned with
The widely-admired Halle and BBC Philharmonic orchestras are both resident in the city's Bridgewater Hall, a concert venue perched on close to 300 giant, earthquake-proof springs. That's where you'll find the Camerata too, although its unique partnership with the RNCM means the ensemble maintains a second home among music students in academia.
The Camerata's relationship with the RNCM provides the platform for its Manchester Composers' Project. Now in its second year, this initiative means that the work of three student composers will be performed by the orchestra. The winning compositions will be announced at the end of a day-long workshop at the RNCM which will be open to the public. It takes place on 1 February.
The students' pieces will reflect the 'exchanges' theme of the ensemble's current season. As Manus Carey, the Camerata's Head of Artistic Planning explains, the ensemble are 'exploring cultural exchanges, diverse musical influences, and the boundaries that frequently exist between cultures. We are asking the students to come up with short pieces...which reflect the multi-cultural nature of the country in which we live'.
A quick look at its programme offerings confirms that ‘exchanges' doesn't just mean ‘east meets west', although there's a bit of that too. On 30 January, for instance,the ‘Eternal Blue Horizons' concert features Mahler and Beethoven, alongside the premiere of a new work by Bushra el-Turk, a Lebanese-British composer and co-founder of the inter-cultural Chelsea Music Academy.
Similarly, its 23 January peformance of Handel's Belshazzar includes a video jockey projecting live and recorded video behind the performers. And premieres of works that won last year's ‘Manchester Composers' Project' prove that everything old can be new again, with concerts featuring pieces by students who were set the challenge of devising a 21st Century take on one of Purcell's fantasias. (Oh and did we mention that the brilliant violist Laurence Power is playing at the Valentine's Day concert?)
Clearly, the decision to illustrate the ‘Exchanges' offering with street art was meant to evoke cultural exchange in its starkest terms and hint at what audiences can expect."
Find out more about Eternal Blue Horizons click here