The Hallé

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Hallé Orchestra
1812 - - 292311.jpg
Antony Inglis rehearsing the Hallé Orchestra in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, with the Leeds Festival Chorus and the Moscow Militia
Founded 1858
Location Manchester, England
Concert hall Bridgewater Hall
Principal conductor Sir Mark Elder
Official Hallé logo

The Hallé is an English symphony orchestra based in Manchester, England. It supports a choir, youth choir, youth training choir, children's choir and a youth orchestra, and releases its recordings on its own record label, though it has occasionally released recordings on Angel Records and EMI. Since 1996 the orchestra has been resident at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.


In May 1857 the pianist and conductor Charles Hallé set up an orchestra to perform at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition, which it did until October. Hallé decided to continue working with the orchestra as a formal organisation, and it gave its first concert under those auspices on 30 January 1858.[1] The orchestra's first home was the Free Trade Hall. By 1861 the orchestra was in financial trouble, and it performed only two concerts that year.[2][3]

old newspaper classified advertisement with twenty lines of text in small type
The Hallé's first programme (1858)

Hans Richter served as music director from 1899 to 1911. During his tenure, the orchestra gave the first performance of the Symphony No. 1 of Sir Edward Elgar.[4]

In 1943 the orchestra was again in crisis, having diminished in size to 30 players.[2] Over the next 27 years, from 1943 to 1970, the orchestra's next music director, Sir John Barbirolli, restored the Hallé to national prominence. Together, they made many recordings, including the first recording of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 8, of which they also gave the first performance. During Barbirolli's tenure, one of the most notable orchestra members was concertmaster Martin Milner, who served in that capacity from 1958 to 1987. Barbirolli regarded Milner as his "right-hand man" and once wrote in appreciation to him: "You are the finest leader I have ever had in my fairly long career."[5]

Kent Nagano was principal conductor of the orchestra from 1992 to 1999. The orchestra moved from the Free Trade Hall to the Bridgewater Hall in 1996, as its primary concert venue. During his tenure, Nagano received criticism for his expensive and ambitious programming, as well as his conducting fees.[6] However, poor financial management at the orchestra separately contributed to the fiscal troubles of the orchestra. The orchestra faced major financial problems during the late 1990s, including a £1.3 million deficit in 1998, to the point where the existence of the orchestra was threatened with loss of funding from the Arts Council and ultimately bankruptcy.[7]

The Hallé performing at Jodrell Bank Observatory.

During 1997 there was an eight-month period when the orchestra had no executive director. Leslie Robinson served for two years as chief executive after that period, starting changes to the orchestra to start to bring under control the orchestra's financial troubles. These included public fund-raising, which netted £2 million, cutting the number of people on the orchestra board in half, and reducing the number of musicians in the orchestra from 98 to 80.[citation needed]

Since 1999, the orchestra's chief executive has been John Summers, who continued Robinson's fiscal practices to restore greater financial security to the orchestra.[8] In 2001, the Arts Council awarded the orchestra a £3.8 million grant to allow it to pay off accumulated debts and increase musician salaries, which had been frozen for 4 years.[9]

In September 2000 Sir Mark Elder took up the position of music director, having been appointed to the post in 1999.[10] His concerts with the orchestra have received consistently positive reviews, and he is generally regarded as having restored the orchestra to high critical and musical standards.[11] In 2004 Elder signed a contract to extend his tenure through 2010,[12] and in May 2009 the Hallé announced a further extension to 2015.[13] In November 2013, the Hallé announced the further extension of Elder's contract through "at least 2020".[14][15]

One of the orchestra's recent ideas was to try to find alternative stage dress to the traditional "penguin suits", but this idea did not come to fruition.[16] The orchestra has also begun to issue new CD recordings under its own label.[17] In 2017, the orchestra began a series of recordings in collaboration with the film composer, Benson Taylor.[18]

In March 2006 the orchestra was forced to cancel a planned tour of the United States because of the cost and administrative difficulties in obtaining visas for the musicians, a result of the tougher visa regulations intended to combat potential terrorist attacks.[19]

The orchestra appointed its first-ever principal guest conductor, Cristian Mandeal, in 2006. He served in this post until 2009.[citation needed] In February 2008, the orchestra announced the appointment of Markus Stenz as its second and next principal guest conductor, starting in 2009.[citation needed] Past assistant conductors have included Edward Gardner, Rory Macdonald, Andrew Gourlay, and Ewa Strusińska (2008–2010), the first female conductor named to a UK assistant conductorship.[20] In September 2016, Jonathon Heyward became the Hallé's new assistant conductor, whose duties include musical direction of the Hallé Youth Orchestra.[citation needed] The current leader of the Hallé is Lyn Fletcher. The orchestra's current head of artistic planning is Geoffrey Owen.

Notable premieres

Hallé Choir[edit]

The Hallé Choir was founded with the orchestra in 1858 by Sir Charles Hallé.[25] The choir gives around twenty concerts a year with the Hallé at The Bridgewater Hall and other venues across the UK. Appearing with international conductors and soloists in concert and recordings, the choir performs a repertoire of major choral and operatic works ranging from mainstream pieces to more esoteric pieces and commissions.[26] James Burton was choral director from April 2002 to July 2009. Other guest choral directors have included Tom Seligman, David Lawrence, Frances Cooke, Ralph Allwood and Justin Doyle.

The choir's activities include individual vocal coaching, sectional and full choir rehearsals as well as social events. Margaret McDonald is the choir's vocal coach.[27]

The Hallé Choir has received critical acclaim for performances with Elder, including a Verdi centenary programme at the BBC Proms and performances of Haydn's The Creation, J.S. Bach's St John Passion and Janáček's Glagolitic Mass.[citation needed] The Hallé's CD label features the choir on its releases, English Rhapsody, Hallé Christmas Classics and Elgar: A Self-Portrait. The choir was also featured in The Hallé's 2008 recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius with Bryn Terfel, Alice Coote, Paul Groves, Hallé Choir and the Hallé Youth Choir, which won a Gramophone Award in 2009.[28] A second Gramophone Award was awarded in 2010 for the Hallé's live recording of 'Götterdämmerung'.[26] In 2011, and for the third consecutive year a Gramophone Award was awarded for the live recording of Edward Elgar's 'The Kingdom' for which Tom Seligman was the guest Choral Director.[citation needed]

Recent Hallé Choir Directors have included James Burton,Frances Cooke and Madeleine Venner.[29] The current Hallé Choir Director is Matthew Hamilton.

Hallé Youth Orchestra[edit]

The Hallé Youth Orchestra was founded in 2002, with Edward Gardner as their first conductor. The HYO regularly work with members of the Hallé Orchestra through workshops, and each summer undertake a tour.[30]

Principal conductors[edit]

Mark Elder


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-01-05. Retrieved 2015-09-14.
  2. ^ a b Ivan Hewett (7 January 2008). "Manchester's Hallé: Knees-up for our oldest orchestra". Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  3. ^ Howard Jacobson (11 January 2008). "How an orchestra changed my life". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Hans Richter". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-07-04. 
  5. ^ Clive Smart (27 June 2000). "Martin Milner: Barbirolli's right-hand man who led the Hallé through arduous times". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  6. ^ John Ezard (25 May 1999). "Nagano passes on Halle baton". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  7. ^ Richard Morrison (14 January 2004). "A city reborn". The Times. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  8. ^ "In perfect harmony". The Times. 24 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  9. ^ David Ward (21 June 2001). "Troubled orchestra gets £3.8m fillip". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  10. ^ Fiachra Gibbons (1999-06-07). "Miracle man to stir Halle giant". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  11. ^ Richard Morrison (1 September 2006). "Orchestras: these are the champions". The Times. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  12. ^ Hugh Canning (16 October 2005). "Opera: Armed for action". The Times. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  13. ^ Martin Cullingford, "Elder renews Hallé contract until 2015". Gramophone, 15 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Sir Mark Elder renews his contract as Music Director of the Hallé" (Press release). The Hallé. November 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  15. ^ "Sir Mark Elder renews contract at Hallé until at least 2020". Gramophone. 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2013-11-28. 
  16. ^ David Ward (2003-05-16). "Halle keeps penguin suits for new season". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  17. ^ David Ward (2002-05-20). "Hallé opts to record on own label". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  18. ^ "BENSON TAYLOR on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-04-13. 
  19. ^ "Visa hurdle forces Hallé to cancel US tour". BBC Music Magazine. 5 April 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  20. ^ Stephen Bates (2008-02-21). "People". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  21. ^ Pauline Fairclough (2002-04-22). "Halle/Fischer (Bridgewater Hall, Manchester)". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  22. ^ Anne Inglis and Anthea Sharma (2005-08-05). "Obituary: Christopher Bunting". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  23. ^ William Mival (2002-10-01). "Obituary: Anthony Milner". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-01. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Kennedy, Michael (1982). The Halle, 1858-1983 (1. publ. ed.). Manchester University Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7190-0921-1. 
  26. ^ a b "About us". Hallé Choir. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  27. ^ "Vocal Coach". Hallé Choir. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  28. ^ "The Dream of Gerontius". Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  29. ^ "Hallé Choir Director". Hallé Choir. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  30. ^ About Us”. Halle Orchestra, retrieved 9 May 2012.
  • Kennedy, Michael (1982) The Hallé, 1858–1983: a History of the Orchestra. Manchester: Manchester University Press

External links[edit]