top of page
  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA



previews, reviews, interviews, and recommendations with Steve Cooke

Slava Sidorenko’s piano students from Chetham’s School of Music at TLC

Review by Dr Joe Dawson

Three talented young pianists from Chetham’s at a single piano for an astonishing performance, not of Chopsticks, as one might reasonably expect, but of Rachmaninoff’s mighty ‘Valse for 6 Hands’. A triumph that set the mood for delightful works from the individuals who then performed wholly from memory: Kullak’s The Evening Bell from Amina (Year 4), JS Bach’s Prelude in Cm from Artem (year 7), and a JS Bach 3-part Invention and two pieces by Chopin from Tamara (year 4).

Chetham's School of Music is an internationally renowned independent co-educational specialist music school in Manchester. There are 300 students aged 8 to 18, approximately two-thirds of whom are boarders.

Slava Sidorenko is ideally placed as a mentor. A first-rate international recitalist and concerto soloist, he began his musical education at the age of five and went to the Special Music School in Kharkov, Ukraine. An Associated Board (ABRSM) scholarship brought him to the RNCM where he won many major awards including its coveted Gold Medal and was appointed an RNCM Ambassador. Excellent to see him sharing his experience and skills.

Older pupils went on to demonstrate progression and maturity, again all from memory. Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in B minor and Chopin’s Valse in C sharp minor were beautifully played by Mariia Savkevych (Year 10). Then a spirited performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata from Youming Ge (Year 12). Finally, commanding interpretations of Chopin’s Nocturne in B flat minor and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G sharp minor from Charles Day (Year 13).

The audience was overjoyed with the display of musicianship and gained inspiring glimpses of fine music education from this rising generation of gifted pianists.

This was concert number 1,065 since taking over from the council in 2001. The Queen’s Award-winning Toad Lane Concerts are every Wednesday 12:30 – 13:30 at the Grade 1 listed St Mary in the Baum Church, Rochdale OL16 1DZ, admission £6. Contact 01706 648872.

Jodie Prenger is to star in Gypsy in concert at the Manchester Opera House.

Preview by Steve Cooke

Early next year Hope Mill Theatre will be taking over the Manchester Opera House for one night only! In this one-off fundraising special West End and Soap royalty Jodie Prenger [from Blackpool, an actress and writer, known as Glena Shuttleworth in Coronation Street] will star as Mama Rose in the concert version of iconic musical Gypsy.

Get ready for a dazzling journey into the world of Gypsy, where dreams are big, and the spotlight is even brighter! Follow the relentless Rose as she propels her daughters June and Louise through the highs and lows of showbiz in this Broadway classic. With toe-tapping tunes, a remarkable cast, and a tale of ambition that will leave you breathless, Gypsy is a theatrical experience that steals the show. Lights up, curtains rise, and let the magic of Gypsy unfold before your eyes!

“I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the upcoming Gypsy concert! It's a dream role for anyone in the theatre world, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to bring this iconic character to life. I can remember to this day playing the overture as teenager. Tears welling in my eyes and goosebumps on my forearms.

“But what makes this concert even more special is that it is in support of Hope Mill Theatre. This fabulous theatre has been instrumental in nurturing and shaping future generations of theatregoers. They provide a platform for emerging talent and continuously push the boundaries of creativity. I can’t wait to step on that stage and be part of something so truly special.” Jodie Prenger

“As part of Hope Mill Theatre’s, Hope For the Future fundraising campaign, we are thrilled to be producing Gypsy in concert, starring Jodie Prenger as Rose. There is no denying that Gypsy is one of the greatest musicals of all time, and who else is more fitted to play Rose, one of the most iconic characters of all time, than musical theatre star Jodie Prenger.

“Staging a musical concert at the Opera House, Manchester is an exciting opportunity for Hope Mill to bring its work to a larger scale and is a first step in exploring a new model for Hope Mill productions. Manchester audiences can expect a truly wonderful evening, that will continue to support our organisation.” Joseph Houston

19:30, Sun 25th February 2024 | Tickets from £25 | Manchester Opera House

The Snow Queen

Review by Seamus Kelly

The Snow Queen presented by Wrongsemble at the Waterside Arts Centre in sale was a big hit with the young people in the audience and the accompanying adults.

The central character in the story is a young girl called Lumi, played with great style by Amy Tara. Lumi is a child who always asks questions, it is suggested that her every sentence ends with a question mark. Lumi is worried about the world; she is worried about the planet warming and that it hasn’t snowed for years, and she decides to become an activist. Her yellow anorak and pigtails are surely a nod to Greta Thunberg.

She asks her teacher about it and the teacher changes subjects and doesn’t answer. She asks her Mum what she can do, and her Mum is happy to try to answer and suggests she write to The Snow Queen who controls the weather. The Snow Queen, otherwise known as Madge, interpreted by a super-camp Richard Priestley, doesn’t bother reading or replying to letters, as she is far too busy being fabulous and majestic.

An increasingly frustrated Lumi writes again, and again, and again and gets no response.

There is only one thing for it, so Lumi sets off to find the Snow Queen to ask her to fix the weather. Along the way Lumi meets a tortoise called Horton who needs to learn about recycling and rescuing waste, a Polar bear called Flash (dressed rather like a member of East17) who has far too many electricity hungry devices, plays music too loud and has far too many lights switched on. Flash needs to learn to consume less.

After helping both to improve their ways Lumi meets Oops who works at the North Pole Distribution Centre, a place where happy toy making elves have been superseded by hard driven employees sending out lots of parcels that people don’t really need. A uniform reminiscent of UPS is another visual gag aimed mainly at the adults in the audience. Oops is persuaded to change and resigns from the distribution centre to help Lumi find the Snow Queen.

The Snow Queen is not keen to help as it was not her fault that the World is being warmed. By demonstrating how she has helped people to change, and that “Small changes make a big difference, and young voices speak the loudest truth”, Lumi has made a positive impression on the Snow queen and in the end, she does of course bring snow.

The three actors were on stage throughout the whole production apart from quick costume changes by Molly Grace Cutler who showed great versatility as the teacher and Mum, as well as the three characters that Lumi meets on the way to see the Snow Queen, plus singing, dancing, and playing guitar.

This musical retelling of the Snow Queen, written and directed by Elvi Piper, addressed some important and complex issues around climate change and over consumption. Of necessity there has to be some simplification and a happy ending in a production aimed at a young audience so for me there are two main questions:

Did The Snow Queen help to get some useful messaging across young children, and is this an entertaining and well produced show? I’m confident to say yes to both.

The three actors were on stage throughout the whole production apart from quick costume changes by Molly Grace Cutler who showed great versatility as the teacher and Mum, as well as the three characters that Lumi meets on the way to see the Snow Queen, plus singing, dancing, and playing guitar.


Horton / Oops / Flash Molly Grace Cutler

Snow Queen (Madge) Richard Priestley

Lumi Amy Tara

Creative Team

Director / Writer Elvi Piper

Designer Antony Jones

Creative Producer Chemeana Lacey

Musical Director/Composer Rosie Fox

Stage Manager Heather Newsham

Lighting Design Alastair Fox

Associate Artist Edith Kirkwood

A magical craft trail will transform a historic Oldham arcade into an interactive family adventure.

Preview by Steve Cooke

The free Gifted event, created by the Oldham-based Stand & Be Counted theatre company and Oldham Coliseum Theatre, runs on Saturday December 16 with tours every ten minutes between 11am- 2pm.

It will bring a combination of surprise live performances with music, lights, projections, audio, augmented reality, and craft to the beautiful Victorian Hilton Arcade.

Everyone who attends the takeover will be invited to build a creative gift box that celebrates the act of giving and the diversity of Oldham.

Gifted is the first event in an exciting winter programme from Oldham Coliseum Theatre which will reach thousands of young people this year.

John Tomlinson, Executive Director of Stand & Be Counted which is the UK’s first theatre company of sanctuary, said: “We can’t wait to welcome people to Gifted.

“Our team, with more than 200 people from across Oldham, have been working together to invite everyone to step inside our adventure trail, to see, hear and be inspired by their community. We’ve all been learning together, sharing stories across different groups and reminding each other of the power of creativity, community and kindness. We think everyone has a creative gift, and everyone deserves a creative gift so join us for the moment we get to share this with each other.”

Gifted will be the culmination of an eight-week long project in which SBC worked with community groups and clubs. The groups included a Lego making club at Limehurst Library, Vibrant Voices Choir, Manchester City of Sanctuary and the In My Shoes Theatre Group.

Together they made shared boxes of creativity and a book reflecting Oldham’s creative communities.

On arrival at the arcade opposite Spindles shopping centre, Gifted audience members will see a giant version of the book.

Then 1,000 activity books will be available to take away or distributed through Oldham libraries.

Gifted is part of Oldham Coliseum’s partnership with Oldham-based Stand & Be Counted. It follows their successful Secret Summer audio adventure which took place in Alexandra Park and Dunwood Park in Shaw in August.

As part of its winter programme, the Coliseum team is working in association with Oldham Theatre Workshop on the enchanting show The Wrong Reindeer at Oldham Library.

The theatre is funding a schools tour of the show to reach primary school age children.

Lauren Clancy, interim Chief Executive of Oldham Coliseum, said: “Gifted builds on the success of Secret Summer and reaffirms the Coliseum’s commitment to working with and for communities in its new chapter. We’re really proud to be providing unique experiences for thousands of children across the borough through our 2023 winter programme.”

The Gifted experience will be split into four chapters, called Welcome, Hope, Celebration and Joy.

Oldham Council and Arts Council England have supported the project.

Gifted tours will run every ten minutes between 11am and 2pm on Saturday December 16 and are completely free.

Visitors should head to the Victorian Hilton Arcade next to Poundland in Oldham town centre.

Oldham Coliseum Theatre

Oldham Coliseum Theatre has a rich history in Oldham and Greater Manchester dating back to 1885.

The Coliseum produced original productions which were presented in Oldham, on tour and online and included contemporary classics alongside new commissions, offering a platform for creative talent from the North West and further afield.

The Coliseum also facilitated learning, engagement, and community cohesion, providing a wide variety of theatre performances and participatory activities for people from all communities in Oldham, Greater Manchester and beyond.

Following the closure of the original building on Fairbottom Street on 31 March 2023, Oldham Coliseum Theatre is currently focused on delivering a cultural programme across the borough and working with Oldham Council on their plans for a new theatre opening in 2026.

The new building will be part of Oldham’s Cultural Quarter and will provide a more modern, accessible venue for performers, participants in our engagement programme and audiences from Oldham and beyond.

Stand and Be Counted Theatre

Founded in 2010, Stand & Be Counted is an arts charity and the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary. In the last three years, SBC has created and delivered 33 programmes of support for over 4,000 participants, all co-created with people seeking sanctuary.

Their Youth Theatre of Sanctuary, the first of its kind in the UK - regularly has over 40 participants per week.

Bringing together families from Sudan, Iran, Kurdistan, Ukraine, and Syria. SBC's production of Secret Summer was shortlisted for the Audience Impact & Innovation Award in the national Fantastic for Families Awards 2023.

Their film-meets-game production of Have Your Passport Ready, led by Syrian brothers Khaled and Mohammad Aljawad was named ‘Game of the Week’ by The Observer and likened to Netflix’s Bandersnatch by The Guardian.

‘TANJA’ was presented at Parliament to hundreds of cross-party MPs and toured the country on two separate occasions, led by Emily Ntshangase, a former Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre detainee.

Visit for more information.


Saturday 16 December

Christmas Fairey (Band)

It’s the most Wonderful Time of the Year and the time is fast approaching to start planning your Christmas preparations so there is another musical extravaganza to get you into the festive spirit!

Join What's Occurin Rochdale in the stunning Champness Hall for an opportunity to hear the WFEL Fairey Band live in concert this December and Get your holiday season off to the perfect start.

Joined by an array of fabulous choral guests, including the Rochdale Youth Choir, plus choirs from Holy Family & Cardinal Langley and the Signing Choir from Matthew Moss.

The WFEL Fairey Band is one of the most successful contesting brass bands in the world. Founded in 1937 by a group of employees at the Fairey Aviation Works in Stockport, the band achieved many musical successes under the brilliant direction of Harry Mortimer, their Musical Director for over thirty years. Since those early days, the band has won every elite band event on the contest calendar, including the National Championships of Great Britain on nine occasions and the British Open an incredible 16 times.

Get your tickets online via the link below.

Tickets from £13.50 (+ booking fee)


Champness Hall, Drake Street, Rochdale OL16 1PB

Saturday 16 December

Christmas with Cantare

Join Cantare for a concert of beautiful music in the glorious setting of Rochdale’s Parish Church.

Festive crafts and refreshments available.

Let Christmas commence!

Tickets available: From choir members

On the door (cash or card payments accepted)


Phone: Joanne Eaves 07854 116347

7.30pm - 9.30pm

Rochdale Parish Church of St Chad, Sparrow Hill, Rochdale OL16 1QT

Saturday 16 December

Rochdale Christmas Fest

Rochdale Churches Together presents Rochdale Christmas Fest.

This is a Christmas festival for the whole family to enjoy with something for everyone, much festive cheer to go round with buckets of hot chocolate to keep you warm in the winter season.

There will be Christmas crafts for the children, face-painting, plenty of carols and people to inspire us this Christmastime.

There is no need to be a ba-humbug this Christmas in fact we aim to turn the scrooges or Grinches around this Christmas with the hope that we will be sharing through the treats, songs etc.

Even for those who love Christmas we hope to Shine the real Light of Christmas this year to, so come and hear about the hope that we can all have this Christmas in a creative way.

So, gather the family and pop by, let us help you get into the mood for Christmas.

The event has been organised by all the churches in Rochdale in conjunction with a national campaign called Shine your Light.

If you would like to have more information you can call Reggie Van Dinter on 07757 262454 or email

12pm - 5pm

The Butts, Rochdale, OL16 1ES

Wednesday 20 December

Toad Lane Concerts - Rochdale's Weekly Music at Lunchtime

This week we have More than Melody Ladies Choir Christmas Special MD Jonathan Gibson, Brian Milligan piano.

The concert series has been held at St Mary’s since 2001 and was granted the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2020… during the pandemic!

Running every Wednesday, Music at Lunchtime is a weekly live classical music concert series that has been going since the 1960s. The sessions were initially run at the old Rochdale Art Gallery by the local authority, but since May 2001 have been run by volunteer-enthusiasts and artistic director, Dr Joe Dawson.


Phone Dr Joe Dawson 01706 648872

Doors open 12noon, concert starts 12.30pm - 1.30pm

St Mary in the Baum, Toad Lane/St Mary's Gate, Rochdale OL16 1DZ

celebrating creative arts and artists - an oasis of positivity supporting individual and community wellbeing.

36 views0 comments


bottom of page