Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Manchester Highs

After a recent visit to the top of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Tower, I decided that an attempt should be made to ascend the ‘new’ Hilton Deansgate Hotel in Manchester. And of course there were musical things to be done as well. So a couple of weeks later I jumped off the ‘tram’ at St Peter’s Square, just outside the City Library. I remembered my father telling me of how as a ‘lad’ he watched this building being erected. I resisted the pull of the Midland Hotel and the Moorish design of the main bar and a glass of dry white wine – it was still before 11 o’clock – and headed down the road past the erstwhile Free Trade Hall (another hotel now) and round by the old Central Station. I walked past the Great Northern goods warehouses, now a complex of retail premises, toward my destination
The Hilton Deansgate is a stunning, massive building – known locally as The Shard – it dominates the ‘bottom end’ of the finest street in Manchester. It was just after eleven now and a ‘refreshment’ was called for. I had heard that the Bar at Cloud 23 offered fine views and a nice pre-prandial sherry. The lobby had the usual crowds milling about but the lift was easy to find. Soon I was on my way up to the 23 floor. The lift doors opened. My disappointment was palpable. This was no ‘cocktail bar’ – this was a breakfast room with executives still munching their croissants. I asked a pleasant waitress/manager if it were possible to get a drink. “Residents only, Sir” he said apologetically. Oh dear... Mehercule! I then asked if I could look round and take a few photos. No problem. It was, of course, a great view – from the Pennines to the Arndale Centre, and from Salford University to Piccadilly Station, the whole of the great city was laid before me. Of course, I took lots of photos – including the infamous hole in the floor – a [strong?] glass panel with nothing but fresh air for some 200 feet below. Unfortunately, the design of the room precluded seeing due West – I had hoped to see Liverpool Cathedral on the skyline – or at least Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station. And if it had been a very clear day, I guess that Winter Hill and even the Lake District may have snuck into view. So no drink, and a little disappointed I headed down to the lobby. [I have since found out that the cocktail bar is open in the evening - with views to the West!]

There was only one way to raise the spirits, as it were- a trip to Forsyth’s. A short digression took me into a pub and then past the Opera House where my grandfather had been a part-time stage manager, and the beautiful gardens of St John’s Church. Eric Fogg, the largely underrated Mancunian composer, was once organist here.
Now, I have known Forsyth’s the music shop for some 35 odd years – and my uncle and my grandfather knew it for many years before that. And I guess that Uncle Percy probably bought his fiddle music here too. Forsyth’s is an independent, old fashioned kind of shop where the staff smile, say hello, please and thank-you. And most of them have an encyclopedic understanding of their discipline – sheet music, CDs or upstairs with the pianos and other musical instruments.
However, it was CDs and songs for me on Saturday. It did not take long to find the Roger Quilter Song Book Volume 1. In spite of Trevor Hold’s assertion that many of Quilter’s songs – especially the later ones- are untenable, I want the lot! Sheet music too was purchased- including the complete Folk Song Arrangements for solo voice and piano by Benjamin Britten. An album of Quilter's songs and Finzi’s ‘Oh Fair to See’ was purchased. Altogether it was a good little haul.

As I was paying for my goods I could hear music playing on the CD player – it was the last movement of Elgar’s monumental First Symphony – and of course this year is the centenary of its first performance under Dr. Richter. It all tied in nicely – I had mused over this work earlier as I had headed past the Free Trade Hall with the thought of a ‘snifter’ in my minds-mouth!


The Dotterel said...

Absolutely! So do I (want the lot, that is). Have you read Trevor Hold's book?

John France said...

Yes, I have! I feel quite mixed about it!