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Author Archives: alexknight

  1. Congratulations Fang: BBC Young Musician winner!

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    Chetham’s percussion student Fang has been named winner of the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition!

    The competition is the UK’s leading contest for young classical musicians, celebrating the most promising young performers.

    It has launched the careers of international stars such as Nicola Benedetti, Mark Simpson and Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

    Fang came from China to the UK to enroll at Chetham’s School of Music in 2018, to study a full range of percussion, including snare drum, marimba, timpani and vibraphone.

    His studies at Chetham’s have been supported by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bursary. Bursaries support more than 90% of Chetham’s students, ensuring entry to the school is based on musical potential, not financial background.

    In February 2020, just one month before his BBC Young Musician category final, Fang played Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody on the marimba with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra, in front of a packed audience in The Stoller Hall. He played the same piece again during the BBC Young Musician Grand Final. Watch his stunning performance here:

    Fang is a member of the China Youth Percussion Orchestra and has won prizes at many Chinese and international youth percussion competitions, including the China Youth Percussion Competition, the New York International Percussion Competition and the Tokyo International Percussion Competition.

    As a result of the pandemic, Fang has recently returned to his family in China where he will continue to study marimba, and is looking forward to performing in front of live concerts audiences once again!

  2. Good luck Fang: BBC Young Musician competition

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    Chetham’s wonderful percussionist, Fang Zhang, will star in the prestigious BBC Young Musician competition this weekend!

    Fang was the brilliant winner of the Percussion Category Finals, filmed in 2020 just before the Covid-19 lockdown. Watch that stunning performance again here.

    Now, much delayed due to the pandemic, BBC Young Musician returns for it’s long-awaited final two rounds this Friday and Sunday evening.

    The competition is the leading UK contest for young classical musicians and has launched the careers of international stars such as Nicola Benedetti, Mark Simpson and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. It celebrates the talent of some of the country’s most promising young performers.

    Join us to cheer on Fang from 7pm on BBC Four on Friday 30 April.

    The Grand Final will be broadcast on BBC Four at 8pm on Sunday 2 May and BBC Radio 3.

    Fang came from China to the UK to enroll at Chetham’s School of Music in 2018, to study a full range of percussion, including snare drum, marimba, timpani and vibraphone.

    His studies at Chetham’s have been supported by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Bursary. Bursaries support more than 90% of Chetham’s students, ensuring entry to the school is based on musical potential, not financial background.

    In February 2020, just one month before his BBC Young Musician category final, Fang played marimba with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra in front of a packed audience in The Stoller Hall. Watch his stunning performance here:

    Fang is a member of the China Youth Percussion Orchestra and has won prizes at many Chinese and international youth percussion competitions, including the China Youth Percussion Competition, the New York International Percussion Competition and the Tokyo International Percussion Competition.

    As a result of the pandemic, Fang has recently returned to his family in China where he will continue to study marimba, and is looking forward to performing in front of live concerts audiences once again!

  3. Choral Evensong from Manchester Cathedral: Live on BBC Radio 3

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    Chetham’s and Manchester Cathedral choristers will sing live on BBC Radio 3, at 3pm, this Easter Sunday.

    This Easter’s Choral Evensong will be broadcast live from Manchester Cathedral, with works by Handel, Stanford and Buxtehude.

    To listen online, or to see the full programme, visit the BBC website here.

    To find out more about joining Chetham’s as a chorister, contact

    The chorister programme is a passport to unrivalled musical experiences and an all-round education.

    We’re accepting applications to the chorister programme for students aged 8-10 years old, with full Bursary support available.

  4. A Year in the Life of… Chetham’s woodwind players

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    It’s one year since pandemic lockdowns began in the UK. As we warmly welcome students back from what we hope is the last ever school lockdown, Belinda Gough, our Head of Woodwind, looks at the positive lessons learnt, by our young musicians and our experienced team alike.

    Wow. What a year! The future arrived on our doorstep and it has been a rollercoaster.

    I am a flute player from Australia via Paris and have run the famous Woodwind department at Chets for around 19 years. It’s such a treat to have worked with so many amazing young people and musicians over the years. I remember them all!

    We are really lucky to have super students (around 50 currently) who are open minded, passionate and self-driven. Our staff (a team of 20) are some of the best players and teachers at what they do… flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, recorders, saxophones, jazz & baroque. To work or study here is like a dream come true for so many of us!

    For those outside Chetham’s, you might not realise what a friendly, welcoming community this is, or realise exactly what life is like as a woodwind player at Chets. Well this year has been unusual, to say the least, but also inspiring.

    First, I have to say that during this last year of lockdown, I have been so happy to see that our Woodwind students are a powerhouse of creativity. Lockdowns and remote working have allowed us to explore how our music might change the world, to experiment with digital storytelling and to find new ways of having fun with our art!

    From the start, we decided to immerse ourselves in learning and discovering communication: as an art, an expression of ourselves, as a technical tool (digital) and as a means to bring people together, starting with us and spiralling out. We had a lot to learn! We are used to being live performers. We’re comfortable with stage work, ensemble playing and concert delivery live. But only a small handful of our students had recorded themselves for public performance before. Almost none had done so live from their own homes.

    Students have been perfecting the art of recording performances for audiences to enjoy digitally, like Matt's Irish whistle jig!

    By the autumn term, we were back on site together. But the digital skills we had developed remained crucial. Our Year 13 gathered plenty more experience. They prepared recordings for Music College auditions, which would usually have been performed live at colleges, but this year they needed to be recorded digitally. This was our challenge, but doing these on site, with staff accompanists, our beautiful venues, great sound gear… it was the chocolate box experience.

    Then, suddenly, we were at home again! Many students were back to sharing a room with siblings or practicing in a 1 metre square space alongside home working parents and siblings in online academic classes. This has been our shared experience. You know the score.

    But a household filled with music is also joyful thing. We congratulate every single student (and parent!) for learning and progressing despite these challenges. Some students even joined our school in January during lockdown; they deserve an extra level of praise for their efforts, and it’s been wonderful to have them!

    Supportive families have been crucial to our young musicians in lockdown. Shia's performances with his mum were an inspiration to the whole Chetham's woodwind community!

    In my house, my own two teenagers had to put up with flute & oboe 24/7 (my husband is Principal Oboe with the Halle, as well as teacher at Chets). My oldest tells me the oboe is all about spit and sing! My youngest invested in noise cancelling headphones. Meanwhile, our new puppy slept soundly underneath the base of an oboe bell, as well as during my high register flute exercises… but NOT at night! And don’t get me started on home wifi issues.

    But despite all the challenges, we have developed new, life-long skills. These skills will be important in the future careers of our young musicians, who will live and work and perform in a more digital age than we’ve ever experienced before.

    We learnt how to record better quality sound from home, about the optimum distance from a mic, about good light sources, about framing us and our instrument successfully, about working on camera shots without intrusive stands. We learnt how to better engage with our audience. Students figured out how to get a ‘good take’ and observe themselves from the outside rather than the inside out. That in itself, has been a fascinating journey. Then they learnt how to download and upload to various sources – a few simple words but in reality, a lot of time and frustration for many, me included!

    Our project has been to create a Soundcloud of ourselves: choosing 3 of our favorite pieces that express who we are, what we love and how we feel. Wow, this was like opening up a creative maelstrom. Our young musicians presented their ongoing work in weekly online performance classes. We laughed a lot and learnt a lot (yes me too) from each other.

    Many students went on to create full video movies with their sound recordings, with visuals inspired by their lives and the music they chose, text and scores adding context where a programme note would have in the past.

    We were “playing” and “improving” with music & sound through digitals.

    Students mixed fun with serious. I had young student roller skating in their garage to disco lights playing a Gosseck Tambourin; saxophonists playing to local cows and sheep, trying to communicate with animals; and a student multitracking bassoon arrangements of their favourite Nintendo game soundtracks. We had one student explore the ability to use their music for climate activism, creating their own ‘Earth Cry’ in a 1980’s rock style; another produced a short movie staged in mini-Acts on ‘the present, past and future’, based around Stravinsky’s 3 pieces for Clarinet.

    Among all this, there were many really high quality performances, as you would expect from our artists of the future: like Ibert flute concerto recorded onsite, then edited with visuals from the student’s walk with her family during the first snowfalls over Christmas.

    Importantly, during the past year we have remembered why we do what we do and the value of sharing and communicating our musical selves. It kept us all going: students, staff, and hopefully(!) their families.

    We also did a huge amount of all the daily drill stuff that comes with being a woodwind player. Believe it or not, we like this! Weekly scale classes online in small groups, orchestral excerpt classes and yes even weekly reed classes online. Great tools are essential, take infinite hours and years to refine and allow us effortless freedom of expression. Quality in our ears and hearts. Meeting each other online kept us inspired on the low days, laughing on the good days and hopefully helped our southern sliding intonation.

    There were also the breathing classes (Belinda’s Breath Class) where we learnt to move in space and time, link breath with movement for a real understanding of pulse (i.e., movement through space and time) whilst learning how to be calm and present and powerful. Say that in one breath!

    So it’s not often that we can say we changed the world, but this year we did. It’s incredible to suddenly be back in the same room as other people, we cherish that privilege now, but we won’t throw away the skills we learnt while we were apart. They’ll stay with us forever.

    Belinda Gough, Head of Woodwind

    Apply Now:

    Inspired to join us? We are accepting applications from students for the 2021/21 academic year. Read our Admissions page or get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

    Woodwind Bootcamps:

    This March, young musicians aged 8-18 are invited to join Chetham’s tutors for a free online ‘Bootcamp’ to get back into practice as we come out of lockdown. Check out our What’s On pages and register now for top tips from our friendly, expert team. 

  5. Beautiful and poignant memorial plans approved

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    Today, plans were approved for a memorial to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing attack. The memorial, called The Glade of Light, will be located outside Chetham’s, in the area between our land and Manchester Cathedral.

    Chetham’s Joint Principals, Nicola Smith and Tom Redmond, said:

    “The Glade of Light is a beautiful, poignant memorial to the victims of 22 May 2017. We welcome the memorial’s approval today.

    “The Manchester Arena bombing, which took place just metres away from our busy boarding school, is something none of us in the Chetham’s community will ever forget. Once again, we are thinking of the victims and their families today.

    “Thank you to our partners and friends at Manchester City Council – with whom we have worked closely on the finer details of the planning scheme – for their collaborative approach to the memorial design, something which is so important to every one of us in the city.”

  6. Autumn-Winter Term Concert released on YouTube

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    A bit of social distancing isn’t enough to stop the music at Chetham’s!

    A concert featuring performances from our autumn-winter term has been released on the Chetham’s YouTube channel, to celebrate the end of a truly unique term.

    Featuring remarkable pieces from socially distanced musicians, ensembles and chamber groups across the school – specially recorded during one week of concerts in October’s Music Course – the concert is now being broadcast for the first time.


    Chetham's Autumn-Winter Term Concert, 2020

  7. The Stoller Hall and Chetham’s Library receive Culture Recovery Fund grants

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    The Stoller Hall and Chetham’s Library have been awarded £150,000 and £66,000 respectively, as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure they have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary has announced today.

    The Stoller Hall and Chetham’s Library are among 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced today as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England.

    The Stoller Hall – at Chetham’s School of Music – opened in 2017 and has been hailed by critics as the UK’s finest music venue acoustically for classical chamber music.

    The concert venue, which also hosts leading folk, jazz and contemporary music performers, has been closed to audiences since March. The £150,000 fund will enable the venue to plan a full Spring 2021 programme of live events, welcoming audiences back to the venue.

    The Stoller Hall is launching a programme of live stream online concerts from the venue this Autumn as part of a new Broadcast series. The Culture Recovery Fund will enable the venue to programme further live stream concerts for audiences, keeping the music alive for audiences and performers while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place.

    The funding also allows the venue to support the wider music industry by remaining open as a world-class recording and rehearsal space for artists.

    Fran Healey, General Manager of The Stoller Hall, said:

    “After months of uncertainty, we are overjoyed today. This funding will help protect our special venue, secure the jobs of the core team and help us to play our part in the culture sector’s long road to recovery. As a live music venue in the heart of one of the UK’s biggest cities, we’re a vital part of an ecosystem which includes musicians and concert audiences. We exist together, or not at all.

    “This funding will help us to programme socially distanced events and live stream concerts to keep the music alive in the short term, prepare for our full relaunch as soon as it is safe to do so, and solidify our future as one of the greatest classical chamber music concert halls in the UK.

    “Our financial struggle doesn’t end here. Until we resume full scale public events there is still a shortfall from ticket sales that we need to fill, but this funding is a major boost to our survival.”

    Chetham’s Library – located on the same Chetham’s site as The Stoller Hall – is Manchester’s oldest building, dating back to 1421, and a registered museum. Next year will mark the 600th anniversary of the medieval building’s construction. It is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world.

    The lifeline £66,000 funding will allow the specialist team to continue to conserve Chetham’s Library’s priceless collections and medieval buildings for future generations, while planning a new public programme once tours are able to resume again.

    Fergus Wilde, Chetham’s Librarian, said:

    “This announcement comes as a huge relief – and also an important turning point. With no public tours or reading room access since March, this has been the longest period of public closure in Chetham’s Library’s history. But we can now begin to plan for the future. This funding will help us develop our new public programme as we plan to welcome back visitors, once it is safe to do so. We can also continue to provide vital, specialist care for our irreplaceable collection and our historic site, conserving our priceless heritage for future generations.”

    Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

    “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery.

    “These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

    Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said:

    “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”

  8. Congratulations GCSE students!

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    Congratulations to Chetham’s GCSE students!

    This results day, 97.5% of grades were awarded A*-C, with 58.2% of grades at A*/A.

    The figures represent an outstanding collective result and some equally outstanding individual achievements with students taking a number of qualifications early.

    Alun Jones, Principal, said: “We offer all our public examination students every congratulations.

    “I also reiterate my strong belief that statistics, great as they are, tell only a fraction of the Chets story – our students have so much to celebrate and be proud of musically, academically and personally each and every day.

    “Well done everyone.”

    2020 GCSE results are based on ‘Centre Assessed Grades’ (CAGs), rather than Ofqual’s standardised grades using an algorithm.

    Chetham’s grades are in line with our school’s performance historically and are a terrific reflection of Chetham’s students’ “Excellent” independent study skills, as acknowledged by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate (ISI) in our last inspection.


  9. Watch: Chetham’s students collaborate to celebrate 40 years of specialist music education

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    To mark the 40th anniversary of the government’s Music and Dance Scheme (MDS), young musicians from the UK’s five specialist music schools are set to release the results of an unprecedented collaboration, written and performed during lockdown.

    A new virtual orchestra brings together around 80 young musicians – aged 15 to 18 – who currently study at the UK’s five specialist music schools: Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, The Purcell School in Hertfordshire, Wells Cathedral Music School in Somerset and the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey.

    This is the first time that five separate orchestras, located hundreds of miles apart, have been able to collaborate so successfully, and on such a large scale. Lockdown has not stopped these exceptionally creative young performers from creating something special.

    The pupils recorded their own individual parts of a new piece, specially written for them by Gwilym Simcock, who has been critically acclaimed at home and abroad as one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers working in Europe today. He has toured extensively with the cream of British and international jazz artists; and he has performed with orchestras, choirs, big bands, dancers, and with musicians from diverse backgrounds including the classical, jazz, folk and rock traditions. His debut album “Perception” was nominated for Best Album in the BBC Jazz Awards 2008 and his 2011 album “Good Days At Schloss Elmau” was one of the twelve nominees for the Mercury Music Prize.

    Established in 1981, the UK government’s Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) allows talented young performers to fulfil their potential, regardless of their financial background, by funding world-class specialist training at one of the UK’s famous five specialist music schools. The scheme has provided a vital for many of the country‘s finest classical musicians, such as Martin Bartlett, Nicola Benedetti, Jacob Collier and Steven Osborne.

    Composer Gwilym Simcock is himself one of many acclaimed musical graduates from the MDS funded system, having studied at Chetham’s School of Music.

    His new piece of music, called Union Overture and Celebration, was specially composed for this joint project. The piece will be broadcast for the first time at 10am on Wednesday 19 August, simultaneously launching on the YouTube channels for all five of the specialist schools:



    Union Overture and Celebration, composed by Gwilym Simcock, performed by Chetham's students alongside young musicians from the UK's other leading music schools.


    For more information visit:


    Gwilym Simcock said:

    “Union Overture was an exciting project for me, that drew upon the unique set of skills that students learn at the specialist music schools in the UK. The piece was written in two weeks, and then the students had just two weeks to learn and record their parts, before I combined them together into the finished recording. The skills required for the musicians to do this are ones that they’ll need for the rest of their careers in music, and there really aren’t any better places in the world than these fantastic musical institutions here in the U.K. for them to learn their trade in such depth and to such a high standard. I really hope that audiences enjoy the piece, and the hard work all these students have put in to make it possible.”


    A spokesperson for the five MDS schools said:

    “The UK’s five specialist music schools all have celebrated youth orchestras, but never before have we collaborated together like this. Now is a special moment, as we join forces and begin to mark the 40th anniversary of the UK government’s MDS funding. This support has been vital to so many of our finest classical musicians. We must now do even more to widen this access and we hope new performances like this will start to raise broader awareness of the scheme.” 

  10. A Level Results: Well Done Chetham’s Students!

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    UPDATE: Monday 17 August

    Following the Government’s decision to award students their Centre Assessed Grades, we are delighted to confirm that Chetham’s wonderful A Level students have now achieved 82.5% A*-B, rather than the 73.4% A*-B reported last week. A special congratulations to all those students whose grades are affected.

    (Please note that no grades will be downgraded as a result of this change.)

    Thursday 13 August:

    Chetham’s A Level results are proof of an outstanding response – by students and teachers alike – to the unprecedented Covid-19 challenge this year, according to Principal Alun Jones.

    Chetham’s students were awarded a 100% A Level pass rate, with 73.4% of the grades at A*-B.

    Alun Jones, Principal, said:

    “Regardless of the monumental challenges we have faced together this year, our students have continued to flourish academically, as well as musically.

    “Every year, Chetham’s students’ impress us with their ability to juggle the demands of their world-class musical education alongside their academic studies – to achieve some of the best academic performance levels in the country. This year is no different.

    “We congratulate each and every one of them for their results.

    “Thank you also to our incredible team of staff, who work tirelessly in normal times, but since March have also delivered thousands of hours of bespoke remote learning for our students.

    “The pass rate statistics validate that brilliant effort, but they tell only part of the Chetham’s story. Our university candidates have chosen to read courses ranging from theatre production at Bristol Old Vic and Music Production at LIPA, to Forensics, Biosciences and Medicine at Peterhouse Cambridge. As ever we have a number of students heading off to read Academic Music at fabulous universitites, including Oxbridge, RHUL, KCL, and York. We are extremely proud of every student and we wish them the very best for the future!”

    As public examinations were cancelled this year due to the pandemic, our students’ results are based on ‘calculated grades’.

    ‘Centre assessed grades’ for each student’s subjects are based on evidence of performance, and departmental assembled evidence.

    The Examination Boards then standardised all grades using a statistical model developed with Ofqual which took account of previous national results in each subject, the prior attainment of our students this year compared to previous years and our school’s results in each specific subject in recent years.