By Dr Joe Dawson
Number One Riverside has been many things since it opened in 2013. Council offices, customer service, central library, conference centre and café, all that we might reasonably expect, plus energy efficiency, of course. Additionally, it hosted Dippy the Dinosaur and worked as a field hospital where several Rochdalians got their Covid jabs.
But the week before Christmas, passing Santa must have dropped some magic dust to transform its cathedral-like proportions into a recording studio worthy of the BBC Philharmonic and BBC Radio Manchester’s Christmas Concert.
It was also the debut of the Phil’s new Irish conductor Karen Nì Bhroin. She raised the baton with aplomb in the brilliant Christmas Overture by Daniel Whibley who also arranged the closing medley - was it he who adorned his double bass with a Santa hat?
The Winter Largo from Vivaldi’s Seasons, directed by the lead violinist as soloist, was a musical delight. As were other seasonal classical pieces by Tchaikovsky and Mozart, demonstrating why our ‘BBC Phil’ is regarded as one of the finest UK orchestras.
They also accompanied beautifully arranged numbers by Wallington with local pop singer, Prima, and the Musical Theatre Choir from Rochdale Music Service. The parents in the audience were thrilled that the youngsters could be part of such a marvellous experience.
Presenters Anna Jameson and Asma Younus enthusiastically linked the performances with the thoughtful theme of ‘Make a Difference’, including readings from other members of BBC Introducing, and interviews with a Ukrainian support representative from Bolton, Rochdale Music Service staff, and also with the Deputy Leader of Rochdale Council, Cllr Janet Emsley.
The need for minimal retakes testified to the professionalism of all concerned.
It will be Broadcast 4 times on BBC Radio Manchester on Friday 23 December at 13:04 and 22:04, Saturday 24 December at 17:04 and Sunday 25 December at 12:04; and available for 30 days via BBC Sounds.