The Hallé's acclaimed rehearsal, recording and educational venue
Hallé St. Peter’s
Sitting at the centre of the “world’s first industrial suburb”, the historic industrial district of Ancoats in Manchester, St Peter’s Church is a Grade II listed building, and the first permanent rehearsal space for the Hallé Orchestra in its 160-year history.
This exciting project opened in June 2013, providing a rehearsal and recording venue for the Hallé with enough space to accommodate ensembles of over 100 musicians. Crucially, it also includes an acoustically-isolated audio monitoring room for professional quality recording. Along with the Orchestra, Hallé St Peter’s is now the base for the Hallé Choir, and the family of Hallé ensembles, as well as its important education and community work.
In preparation for the construction project, Sound Space Design (SSD) worked with the Hallé Orchestra on a number of preliminary uses of the church to test various options for the acoustics and orchestra layouts. One project was particularly exciting: in preparation for a video shoot of the Hallé in St Peter’s for BBC 4’s four-part documentary “Symphony” (November 2011), the Hallé wanted to improve the clarity of sound both for the orchestra ensemble playing and for the quality of the recording. The solution was to provide sound-reflecting surfaces close to the orchestra, below the high nave ceiling of the church, and to reduce the reverberation of the space to an appropriate level. In order to conserve the historic building fabric, acoustical treatments were required to be non-invasive, so SSD and Anne Minors Performance Consultants (AMPC) designed and built a series of sound-reflecting SoundSails. AMPC developed the geometry of the Sails in line with the ceiling level of the aisles and carefully integrated them with the house lighting so as not to create shadows. Constructed of specially chosen and tested fabric, the SoundSails were indispensable for the BBC4 shoot, and were used by the Hallé for several months until the Orchestra found their own musical and acoustical balance in the hall without their aid.
In addition to the SoundSails, and in order to conserve the building’s historic fabric, other non-invasive acoustical treatments were delivered, including sound absorbing panels installed in the ceiling tailored to create a warm yet clear tonal balance, along with variable acoustic curtains on tracks against the walls for acoustical flexibility.
Guided by SSV, the team developed solutions for attenuating incoming traffic noise and outgoing orchestra sound. Natural ventilation with creative attenuation is built into benches and the bell tower, and heavy secondary glazing adds to the performance of the existing windows. SSV’s advanced modelling and auralisation of sound leaving the building convinced the planning officers that the neighbours would not be disturbed.
The venue quickly became a sought-after recording and rehearsal space and a vital part of Manchester’s culture. And, with its first permanent home, the Hallé established its own material presence in a regenerating part of the city. When not in use by the Hallé ensembles, the building’s high ceilings and original features make it a popular venue for hire, and an elegant, flexible space for a huge range of events.
Autumn 2019’s opening of Phase II of Hallé St Peter’s redevelopment has been carried out by another design and construction team – creating additional lobby and rehearsal spaces, as well as a café, further enhancing the function and comfort for the resident groups.