Parr Hall

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Coordinates: 53°23′17″N 2°35′49″W / 53.388°N 2.597°W / 53.388; -2.597 The Parr Hall is the only surviving professional concert hall venue in Warrington, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.[1]

Location[edit]

The Parr Hall and Pyramid Arts Centre are located in the Cultural quarter of Warrington town centre, in Palmyra Square.

History[edit]

Parr Hall was designed by the local architect William Owen in 1895.[2]

Originally it was built for the people of Warrington by Joseph Parr. Warrington Musical Society gave the first concert.

The hall has hosted concerts and organ recitals from leading orchestras and cathedral organists over the years.

The Rolling Stones performed at the venue on 25 November 1963, The Moody Blues on 1 March 1965 and The Who on 22 March and 11 October 1965. The band James - having sold out concerts at much larger venues - played the Parr Hall on 20 December 1991 to record a promotional video. Other notable artist such as Feeder, The Courteeners, Beady Eye and Arctic Monkeys have played at the venue, and Jools Holland is a regular performer.

The Parr Hall has also hosted many famous comedians including Andy Parsons, Jimmy Carr and Andi Osho.

It has also been home since 1992 to the Warrington Scouts Gang Show.[3]

The Warrington Male Voice Choir have been regular performers at the Hall for the past 100 years.

The Parr Hall was the chosen venue for the first Stone Roses concert since 1996 when the band announced a last-minute show on 23 May 2012. The gig was free of charge for fans, and the tickets were sold via a wristband system at the venue from 4pm on the day.[4] Fans needed to produce either a CD inlay cover, record sleeve, official band T-shirt or a ticket for the Reunion Tour shows at Heaton Park when arriving at the venue.

Cavaillé-Coll Organ[edit]

The Parr Hall is home to one of the few surviving pipe organs in the UK that was built by the great French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (1811–99).

The organ (in 1870) displayed in the demonstration hall of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in Paris prior to its delivery to Bracewell Hall.

The magnificent organ was originally built (about 1870) for Mr John Turner Hopwood - partner in the London music publishing firm of Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew Ltd - and installed at Bracewell Hall, Barnoldswick, Lancashire (demolished 1950).[5][6][7]

The organ in Ketton Hall near Stamford; The Musical Standard, 1 April 1893.

In about 1883 the organ was then moved by Mr Turner Hopwood to Ketton Hall, Rutland (demolished 1920s).[8][7]

Finally, the organ was bought by Warrington Corporation and installed in 1925 in the Parr Hall, still with its original specification.[7]

In 1969 the Warrington Corporation decided that a £9,000 restoration of the instrument was not a viable proposition. But following a publicity drive by local people who formed the Cavaillé-Coll Organ Retention Committee the Corporation agreed to retain the organ if the money could be raised. The Corporation generously added to the sum raised by the Committee to ensure that essential maintenance work went ahead.[9]

In late 2006 Warrington Borough Council decided that the modern needs of the venue and its continued viability meant that a new home would be sought for the organ. Sheffield Cathedral was a potential new home for the organ, but by September 2011 it was clear that the Cathedral authorities would be unable to raise the substantial sum needed to move and restore the organ.[10] Subsequent discussions have taken place to consider the instrumnet's move from the Parr Hall to St. Mary's Church, Warrington.[11][12]

In 2015 the national-heritage significance of the instrument was recognized by the award of a Grade 1 Historic Organ certificate by the British Institute of Organ Studies, the UK's amenity society for the pipe organ.[13][7] In 2017 the future of this wonderful civic instrument remains uncertain.

Luckily several CD recordings of the organ have been made, notably in recital programmes by the former Chester Cathedral organist Roger Fisher and in concert with the Warrington Male Voice Choir, and an energetic Facebook group exists to maintain awareness of this culturally significant slice of civic England's musical life.[14]

Pyramid Arts Centre[edit]

In 1989 the borough council also saw a need for a better arts and theatre complex so re-developed the old courthouse next door into The Pyramid Arts Centre. The Pyramid, opened in 2002, hosts various classes throughout the year for people interested in discovering the arts. Pyramid also hosts a monthly Comedy Store Event, local band nights as well as having a varied programme of weekly classes. One of its studios was named in 2011 after the late Pete Postlethwaite.

Other Theatres in Warrington[edit]

In the past there were several other theatres/concert venues in Warrington but most have either been shut down, demolished or turned into pubs and clubs. The last proper theatre to close in the town was the Crosfield Centenary Theatre, originally run by Crosfield Chemical Company (now PQ Corporation), demolished in 1991. The land where this theatre stood is now a vacant fenced off patch of grass at the end of Sankey Street, due to local rules only allowing a theatre to be built on it.

Lysander Community High School has a studio theatre which has hosted some notable productions.

Birchwood High School has a theatre which has hosted productions by WAspS Drama Group, a group for people in Warrington with Asperger's Syndrome. Also Birchwood High School stage has seen performances from Britain's Got Talent winner George Sampson, who was a pupil at the school.[15]

Great Sankey High School also has a notable performance venue.

The new Warrington Collegiate has a new theatre, near Buckley's Restaurant on the Winwick Road Campus, and this has brought about many exciting productions by the drama students in Warrington, including The Rocky Horror Show, which later went on to perform at the finals of the National Training Awards, and a one-off showcase at the Royal Horticultural Halls, London[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Historic England, "Parr Hall, Warrington (1310063)", National Heritage List for England (NHLE), retrieved 1 December 2012 
  2. ^ Pollard, Richard; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2006), Lancashire: Liverpool and the South-West, The Buildings of England, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 614, ISBN 0-300-10910-5 
  3. ^ "The Warrington Gang Show". Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "The Stone Roses - Official Website". The Stone Roses. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  5. ^ 'The French Connection', OneGuyFromBarkuck. Online resource accessed 28 April 2017
  6. ^ 'Bracewell Hall' Lost Heritage: England lost country houses complete list
  7. ^ a b c d ''Lancashire Warrington, Parr Hall, Palmyra Square', The National Pipe Organ Register. Online resource accessed 28 April 2017.
  8. ^ 'Ketton Hall' Lost Heritage: England lost country houses complete list
  9. ^ Information from programme notes accompanying Roger Fisher plays the Cavaillé-Coll Organ in The Parr Hall, Warrington, a CD-recording of works played in 1984 and 2011; Wealden Studios WS221
  10. ^ Gary Skentelbery. "Organ deal falls through". Warrington Worldwide. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  11. ^ 04 July 2015: Finding a suitable home for Warrington's splendid organ, The Daily Telegraph, retrieved 10 July 2015 
  12. ^ Robert Beale. 'Preserving the Cavaillé-Coll organ at Parr Hall, Warrington' Cheshire Life 28 September 2014. Online resource accessed 28 April 2017.
  13. ^ 'Historic Organ Certificate Scheme' The British Institute of Organ Studies. Online resource, accessed 28 April 2017.
  14. ^ 'Warrington Cavaillé-Coll Organ', Facebook. Online resource accessed 28 August 2017
  15. ^ Gary Skentelbery. "Dancing George is a perfect role model". Warrington Worldwide. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  16. ^ Warrington Collegiate News[permanent dead link]