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Author Archives: laurastevens

  1. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1926-2022

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    We are deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. At this incredibly difficult time, we would like to send our best wishes to everyone in the Royal family, especially our Royal Patron, Prince Edward. 

    HM Queen Elizabeth II was an incredible figure. An inspiration to us all. For many years, her support of Chetham’s, and the support of our patron HRH Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, has meant the world to us.  

    At Chetham’s we are marking this period of national mourning. Our students and staff will be contributing to the Book of Condolences at Manchester Cathedral. Our students and staff will also be reflecting on Her Majesty’s contributions in our next assembly and in our pastoral time. At The Stoller Hall, all events will begin with the national anthem or a minute’s silence, allowing our audiences to join us in a mark of respect.  

    We have been deeply moved by the recollections of colleagues and students, past and present, who have met Her Majesty in recent years. As part of our national commemorations, we are looking back on those recent visits, the joy they brought to our students and the importance of those contributions to our Chetham’s community today.  


    1994

    On 1 December 1994, HM Queen Elizabeth II visited Chetham’s to open the newly built New College House building. 1994 marked 25 years of Chetham’s as a specialist music school after having been an all-boys grammar school for several years; the opening of a new girl’s boarding house was therefore a momentous achievement for the school.  

    The new accommodation block was part of a £2.5 million redevelopment programme at Chetham’s, which also included the refurbishment of classrooms and practice rooms.  

    Her Majesty met numerous Chetham’s students, many of whom were dressed in the traditional Tudor uniform, both outside on the school yard and inside the new boarding house. For many of these students, this day lives in their memories as a wonderful day filled with excitement and anticipation.  

    A photo of HM Queen Elizabeth II opening the new boarding house can still be found hanging on the walls of New College House today, as well as the plaque commemorating the official opening, paying testament to how special this occasion was to all involved.  


    2007

    On 5 April 2007, Her Majesty visited Chetham’s as part of a visit to Manchester Cathedral for the Royal Maundy Thursday service.  

    The Royal Maundy is an ancient tradition observed by the Royal family in which the ruler visits a Cathedral or Abbey to give gifts to local people who have contributed to their community and church. Early in her reign, HM Queen Elizabeth II decided that the Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, so she travelled to a different city each year for each service; in 2007, Manchester was the chosen Cathedral for the service, a great honour for the city.  

    Due to the historic connection of Chetham’s with the Cathedral, not to mention the proximity, a visit to Chetham’s was added to The Queen’s itinerary for the day. The service took place during the school’s Easter holiday, so not very many students were involved in proceedings, although a few local students came dressed in the traditional Tudor uniform to mark the occasion. Her Majesty, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, attended a reception in the Baronial Hall following the service, before heading onward to Manchester Town Hall for lunch with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress.  

    This was the last time HM Queen Elizabeth II visited the Chetham’s site.  


    2012

    On 23 March 2012, HM Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Manchester for a day touring the city opening new hospitals on the Manchester Royal Infirmary site, officially opening the MediaCityUK development in Salford Quays, and starting a Sports Relief Mile Fun Run. 

    This was a day filled with music from several Manchester arts organisations, kicked off by students from Chetham’s. As she made her way off the platform and towards the station exit, the Chetham’s saxophone choir provided her first musical experience of the day. She was greeted by Director of Music, Stephen Threlfall, who invited her to listen to the ensemble of young saxophonists, aged 12 to 18, play before making her way out of the station.  

    Later in the day she would hear music from the Royal Northern College of Music, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Salford Family Orchestra.  


    2013

    On 14 November 2013, HM Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Manchester once again to take a tour of the Co-op’s new eco-friendly headquarters before visiting The Factory Youth Zone in Harpurhey.  

    Their day in Manchester began with their arrival on the Royal Train into Manchester Piccadilly station, where large crowds waited to greet her. She was met by an ensemble of Brass players from Chetham’s on the platform, overseen by Head of Brass David Chatterton. This music continued as she walked down the platform towards the groups of well-wishers awaiting her.  


    2021

    In July 2021, HM Queen Elizabeth II visited Manchester Cathedral to unveil a plaque in honour of its 600th anniversary. The ceremony included singing from our very own Chetham’s choristers, alongside music from the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the ceremony had to be held outside but HM The Queen herself commented on how wonderful the singing sounded outside.


    We are wishing all the best to the incoming HM King Charles III, who himself is of course not a stranger to Chetham’s…

    On 14 November 2002, Prince Charles visited Chetham’s as part of its 350th Anniversary celebrations of its incorporation as a school in 1653.  

    During his visit, the Prince was met by students in the Whiteley Hall, who proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to the Royal visitor. Unbeknownst to Chetham’s staff, the 6 Barbershop singers, dressed up with straw boaters, had changed the lyrics to fit in his full name – Charles Philip Arthur George.

    Director of Music Stephen Threlfall commented at the time: “I know they’ve been practising for a while but we had no idea that they had changed the words. Happily, it went down very well and the Prince seemed to find it very amusing that they managed to get all his names when singing happy birthday.” 

    Our thoughts are with our Royal Patron, HRH Prince Edward, and all the Royal Family, during this period of national mourning. 


     

  2. Congratulations to our new School Captains and Vice Captains

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    As we prepare to welcome back students for a fresh new school year, we’re delighted to confirm our new student Captains and Vice Captains.

    Taking up the mantle of the School Captain positions are Maame-Yaa (pictured centre-right) and Will (left), who’ll be leading the Captaincy team and chairing regular staff-student liaison meetings.

    Our newly appointed Vice Captains are Stella (centre-left) and Alexei (right), who’ll help highlight important issues for their peers.

    The concept of student leaders has been a tradition since our beginnings as a music school. It’s an important one that requires close working between students and staff, ensuring that the voices of all our students are heard and acted upon.

    Nicola Smith, Joint Principal

    Nicola Smith, Joint Principal 

    Nicola Smith, Joint Principal at Chetham’s, expressed her delight for the new School Captaincy appointments:

    The determination from all our student applicants to make our School an even better place was humbling to hear and impressively delivered by each and every one of them.

    I’m delighted for our new School Captains and I’m looking forward to working closely with Maame-Yaa, Will, Alexei and Stella. We know what a positive impact they’re going to make on the School and among their peers this year.

    We look forward to welcoming Maame-Yaa, Will, Stella and Alexei back in September as our new School Captains.

  3. Congratulations to our GCSE students!

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    Huge congratulations to our fabulous GCSE students, who have received a brilliant set of results today!

    Two years of hard work has led to some really wonderful and well-deserved grades for our year 11s, as well as for some of our year 10 students who took exams a year early.

    We are delighted to see a 95% grade (9-4) pass rate, with 67% of grades at grade 7, 8 or 9 .

    As with all schools nationwide, it isn’t possible to compare with the non-exam assessment-based grades of 2020 and 2021. These achievements are worthy of celebration in their own right.

    This group has overcome the challenge of studying through a pandemic, with periods of online lessons, but have clearly triumphed due to their diligence, the dedication of their teachers and the support from home.

    Our entire Chetham’s community is proud to celebrate with our students today. The future is bright, and we look forward to the sixth form journey together.

    Nicola Smith and Tom Redmond, Joint Principal

    Smiling students holding envelopes in the air

    Harry, Ben and Oliver celebrate GCSE results

  4. Standing Ovation for Chetham’s Students’ A-Levels Success

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    Congratulations to our Year 13 students, who have once again achieved a fantastic set of A-Level results!

    We are incredibly proud of our students’ individual and collective efforts to achieve grades that they have worked so hard for.

    Our 2022 leavers have achieved remarkable outcomes in an examination series where their first year of A-Level study was partly online.

    Today, their hard work, resilience and tenacity has paid off. Our students have achieved great results in a range of subjects, which will open the doors to the next stage of their musical and academic pursuits.

    Due to the changes in Grade Boundaries set Nationally because of Covid-19 disruption, it is not possible to compare results to previous years, however it is particularly pleasing to see 78.3% of the grades were at A*- B, showing that excellence and ambition is very much alive in all A-Level subjects at Chetham’s.

    A graphic with the text "78.3% of Chetham's students received A*-B grades

    A bar graph showing the percentage of A-level students receiving grades A*-A at Chetham's (56.6%), against the UK average (36.4%)

    We are so excited for our students as they begin their next steps. With many students blessed with multiple brilliant offers and choices, it looks like around 30 are heading to conservatoires around the country and the world while around 16 others are heading to such prestigious institutions as University College London and The University of Cambridge, studying subjects as diverse as Medicine and Air Transport Management.

    Nicola Smith Joint Principal said: “Chetham’s offers both a specialist music education and an outstanding academic curriculum. This year’s results show the determination our young people have to succeed. On behalf of the whole Chetham’s community we wish all our leavers much good luck for their next adventure!”

    Nicola Smith and Tom Redmond, Joint Principals

    Join us in congratulating our Year 13s today and watch out for the hashtag #chetsresultsday on social media as students share their own successes!

    Student celebrates A Level Results

    Congratulations Saul!


    Chetham’s offers an exceptional academic education alongside its unparalleled music programme. Although there are no academic criteria for entrance, Chetham’s students regularly celebrate outstanding A-Level results and progress to leading conservatoires and universities across the world. Our teachers work hard to help each student reach their full potential, and students’ success is supported by small class sizes, a motivated teaching team, and a school community which encourages hard work and high achievement.

  5. Q&A: Jordan Brooks, soloist for Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra

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    On Friday 8 July 2022, more than 200 of our incredible young students will perform for Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at The Bridgewater Hall. Jordan Brooks will perform the solo for Korngold’s violin concerto. We caught up with Jordan ahead of the concert.

    Tell us about your background prior to starting at Chetham’s?

    I grew up in Cape Town South Africa and started violin lessons at the age of 7 at the Beau Soleil Music Centre. I went to Westerford High School from 2017 and also joined the youth development program of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra where I was concert master of the youth orchestra. From 2017-2020, I was fortunate enough to perform solo recitals in many different venues in Cape Town, I participated in chamber music festivals, won a couple of competitions and played solo with the Cape Town Philharmonic.

    What first inspired you to play the violin?

    When I first saw the violin on TV I was very fascinated by the sound and shape. When I started violin I could not stop playing on it. At that time, it was still strong hobby and it was slowly becoming a passion. What really inspired me was when I watched a performance of Sarah Chang playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto. That was when my eyes opened and showed me that the violin can do many things. This motivated me so much as I wanted to get to that level of playing. The more I practiced, the more connected I felt to my instrument.

    Tell us about some of your favourite memories of your time at Chetham’s?

    There are many! Musical ones include: collaborating with Manchester Collective, participating in all the music courses, and doing interesting chamber music projects with the Barret Due Institute in Norway.

    Jazz and curry nights have been the best socials of the year. Muck up day was definitely a highlight too.

    How important do you think Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra is for developing the future generations of world-class musicians?

    Performing with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra gives many students the opportunity to play standard orchestral repertoire. It  improves vital listening and communication skills. And it gives students a taste of what orchestral life could be like if as a future job.

    Orchestral playing can sometimes be more challenging than solo playing. As a string player, playing in a string section requires heavy amounts of listening for intonation as a collective and not as an individual. The entire string section needs to look synchronized in bowing, as well as what part of the bow they are playing. It is very pleasing to an audience member to see such unity. To an extent, these factors help with individual solo playing too.

    What advice would you give to younger students at Chetham’s?

    Enjoy every moment of your time at Chetham’s. Cherish the friendships you have. Embrace every musical experience that comes up, and consume as much information you can. Remember to not be too hard on yourself and remember to express yourself as confidently as you can as a musician.

    Tell us one musical piece that you would love to play again and why?

    I would love to play the Schoenberg Verklarte Nacht with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra strings. We played it during the last summer music course. It was one of the most challenging works for string ensemble and everyone played with passion and commitment. The energy in the room was electrical and bought tears to a few audience members.

    Tell us how you’re feeling about your upcoming performance in The Bridgewater Hall?

    I am extremely excited and humbled to perform in The Bridgewater Hall. I am also a little bit sad as it will be my last performance at Chets.

    Why did you choose the Korngold violin concerto?

    Korngold’s violin concerto is a piece of music filled a variety of unique aspects. It is a concerto that merges the composer’s 20th century Hollywood film music influences with Western Classical music ideas, one of them being a concerto with a fast-slow-fast structure. These two ideas combined create a space for endless amounts of expressivity and opens the imagination of the performer and the listeners. The Korngold concerto allows me to play to the extremes of my instrument. It is the best piece to show who I am as a musician.

    What are your plans for next year/the future?

    I will be studying at The Royal College of Music. There are also a couple of exciting musical projects which I will be part of in UK and in South Africa.

    Tell us what audiences should expect when you take to the stage with Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra?

    A musical journey of your own imagination!


    Jordan will perform, with 200 of his fellow students, for Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at The Bridgewater Hall on Friday 8 July.

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  6. Like mother, like daughter: A Q&A with alumna and parent Claire Skipsey

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    For our students, Chetham’s School of Music is the first step on a musical journey that lasts a lifetime. To celebrate Mother’s Day, we spoke to Claire Skipsey who studied at Chetham’s from 1988 –1993 and now, nearly 30 years on, her daughter is studying here too!

    Chetham’s is the UK’s largest specialist music school and the only one based in the North of England. Every year we welcome over 300 talented students from around the world and offer places based purely on musical potential and never the ability to pay; almost 90% of our students receive some form of financial support and a quarter do not pay any fees.

    We asked Claire some questions about her time at Chetham’s

    What does Chetham’s mean to you?

    I have extremely fond memories of my time at Chet’s. I gained a place at the age of thirteen, moving across from my local secondary school. Music was always the subject in which I excelled and Chet’s enabled me to explore this to the full. I had great teachers, a good variety of ensemble and solo opportunities, and vast amounts of performances in some beautiful venues. I also loved the small class sizes and as a result was pushed academically. I always felt there was a real family feel to the school.

    What was the best thing about your time at Chetham’s? Do you have any favourite memories?

    Some of my favourite memories are from the music courses. I adored being a part of a massed choir and progressing to the orchestra in my senior years. I vividly remember my final concert at Chet’s, performing the 1st trumpet part of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra.

    I also have really fond memories of the Christmas Music concerts in Manchester Cathedral. I loved playing the brass descant parts which soared over the top of the choir in the Cathedral acoustic.

    I was a day student for most of my time at Chet’s and have fun memories of lots of the characters in day house and of the lovely Dr Donald who ran the house. We had lessons on what was called “ the bomb site” (where New College House is now located) in mobile classrooms.

    I made a fantastic circle of like-minded friends at Chet’s, many of whom I’m still friends with today (via the power of social media).

    What are you doing now?

    I went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music. I then joined the Royal Air Force Central Band and toured the world for five years. I am currently Leader of Music at a secondary school on the outskirts of Bradford. I also teach brass privately and have had many students who have gone onto study at Chet’s and the major music colleges. I still perform, but for fun these days. I currently play with the Hammonds Brass Band, who have just qualified for the National Brass Band Championships at the Royal Albert Hall!

    Tell us a little about your family link with Chetham’s – from being a student here yourself to being the mother of a current student.

    With both myself and my daughter’s dad being very musical, we encouraged her to play from quite a young age. She took to playing the cornet really quickly and had a real thirst for doing well in music exams and performing in ensembles.

    When looking at secondary schools, Chet’s was always my preferred option for her and when we looked around she stated “this is the school I want to go to”.

    How do you feel that your daughter is following in your footsteps?

    She is at a school that she will always be very proud of!! I have no doubt that she will come out of Chet’s a fantastic trumpet player and with great academic results.

    How do you two share your passion for music?

    We love to perform duets during the weekends and in the holidays. We both love to play in brass bands and often do this together. We also both share a passion for musical theatre. She loves to perform on the stage – I prefer to just watch these days!

    How would you encourage other parents to get their children into music?

    I think music is a real gift in a child’s life, it offers so many transferable skills that are invaluable. I think the best way of getting children enthused by music is making it fun! Take them to listen to concerts and shows aimed at kids. Get them lessons on their chosen instrument/voice and encourage them to join ensembles, compete in competitions, play in concerts, and complete music exams. Not only will they feel a huge sense of accomplishment and gain confidence, it will leave them with skills and a love of music that will continue for the rest of their lives.

     

    We also asked Claire’s daughter some questions.

    What’s your favourite thing about being at Chetham’s?

    Playing in all the different groups and playing lots of styles of music. One day I’ll rehearse a brass quintet, the next day jazz and orchestra. I’ve also recently switched from cornet to trumpet, which I am really enjoying.

    Do you and your mum make music together? 

    My mum taught me up until starting at Chet’s in September 2021. We both have a love of brass bands and we really enjoy playing duets and watching musical theatre shows together when I’m at home.

    Photo: Claire’s daughter, a current Chetham’s student, holding a framed photo of her mother from when she was a student here herself. 

     

    Don’t forget that former students of Chetham’s can sign up to our alumni newsletter to hear more stories like this from other alumni.