Earlier this year my friend Betty told me about her trip to The Monastery in Manchester. I had never heard of it but as soon as I read on the website :
“Manchester’s magnificent Monastery is Pugin’s architectural masterpiece. It sits alongside the Taj Mahal and the ancient ruins of Pompeii as having been listed in the 100 most endangered sites in the world, with a rich heritage that should never be lost.“
I knew I must visit and who I would ask to come with me. So, Ann and I decided on a date – the Monastery is only open on the afternoons of certain Sundays and Mondays – Sunday 12th July. On checking the website I found that Gorton Monastery would be closed for a ticketed event that day.
This event sounded pretty good so we bought tickets and combined our visit with a morning at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House which I had visited before.
The July concert was a Summer Proms performance by the Gorton Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Spanish conductor Juan Ortuño. There was also a guest appearance by mezzo-soprano Sophie Radley. The concert included typical “proms” music: Vaughan-Williams’ ‘English Folk Song Suite’ and Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations plus selections of songs from operas and Arne’s ‘Rule, Britannia’, Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1’ and Parry’s ‘Jerusalem’. There was some fun audience participation in the latter three pieces.
Fast-forward to November when an email notice arrived in my Inbox telling me about the Gorton Philharmonic Christmas Concert at The Monastery. A quick call and we booked and last Sunday found us yet again in the magnificent surroundings of Pugin’s masterpiece enjoying a truly Christmassy atmosphere of music and singing in which there was much audience participation – every other piece was a well-known Christmas carol for us all to sing. A perfect start to the Christmas season.
I wonder whether I’ll get to one of their concerts again next year. I hope so!
Wish I had known about this place all those years ago when I was at college in Manchester….although then it may not have been such a glorious building as it is now. Just the place for a Christmas concert.
Hi Fran, in 1989 the Franciscans left the Monastery and it went into rack and ruin. In 1996 a trust/charity was set up to try to raise funds to save the place. It opened for business as a venue for weddings, concerts etc in 2007. So, probably when you were at college the Monastery was not somewhere that anyone could have visited – either occupied by monks or left to decay. Now, as you say, it is glorious!
What a beautiful building in which to hear a concert! I had tickets to attend Haydn’s Creation at the National Cathedral a few months ago, but I fell ill and couldn’t make it. I’ll have to see if there’s another concert there when my schedule clears a bit.
[…] written about my encounters with Augustus Pugin here and here already. His designs and architectural style are generally what I would call Over The Top. […]