New York-style piano bar to bring live music and cocktails until late
“The idea is you come in and you can just relax. You know you’re going to be taken care of. It’s about kicking back and enjoying the music, ” says Dale Bassett, founder of Manchester's newest live music venue, Sonata Piano and Cabaret Lounge.
“If you want to have a party on a Saturday night, that’s great, there’s plenty of places to do that. You can go to pretty much anywhere on Deansgate. But sometimes you just want to sit down, have a chat, not be overcrowded and enjoy some music.”
I tell you what, it’s a damn good Martini.
That statement will resonate with a lot of people in Manchester. Sometimes you don’t want to queue 10 minutes for a drink and then get it spilt down you by a fellow sardine in da club. Sometimes you just want to chill out, be it a weeknight or a weekend.
If that’s a bit of you, Sonata Piano and Cabaret Lounge, which opens its doors to the public on Thursday is worth sniffing out.
Another subterranean haunt in the King Street area
First things first, add Sonata to your King Street wunderground list. A thriving subterranean scene surrounding King Street that currently includes the likes of Wood & Co, Corbieres, Saltdog Slims, Arcane, Sam’s Chop House and at a push, The Gas Lamp. The soils off Deansgate are fertile for underground drinking and Sonata will be no different.
Tucked down St Ann’s Alley down from Mr Thomas’s Chophouse, Sonata has transformed a former Boots stockroom into the sort of moody piano bar you’d see in a film. Stairs and dark corridors lead to a surprisingly large space.
Small, round tables in the middle, banquette seating and square tables along the side. Holds 82 covers overall. Atmospheric but not crammed in.
Front and centre is a white, digital Yamaha Baby Grand. Dale assures me it makes a lovely sound.
“We’ve invested a lot in the bespoke sound system which we had designed, the piano and the mics because the music is the focus. It’s got to be good. Above the stage, there’s a special acoustic lining on the ceiling.”
He also took one for the team getting the piano down.
“Let’s put it this way, I’ve still got the bruises. There aren’t enough massages in the world.”
Sonata has been 18 months in the making. A former musical theatre student, Dale left his job in education to set his dream piano bar up and alongside an emphasis on live music, the bar will serve classic cocktails and nibbles. Table service is another feature to ensure guests can relax and kick back.
Drinkers can expect the classics done well made with Manchester Gin’s range of spirits. There’ll be signatures too but nothing over the top. “I tell you what, it’s a damn good Martini.” Dale says. Another family-run indie, C & O Wines in Timperley will be supplying the wines whilst beers will be courtesy of Radcliffe's Brightside Brewing Co.
Giving voice to an overlooked part of the Manchester music scene, listings for Sonata’s opening weeks are now available on its website. Dale is keen to emphasise that he wants the offering to be eclectic. Names already include West End star Alex Young, iconic cabaret star Paulus, Olivier Award-winning composer Richard Thomas and comedian and singer Sooz Kempner.
Whilst the venue is called a piano and cabaret bar, Dale says he’s trying to find something for everyone, catering to those turning up on a random night as much as those booked in for specific events.
Jazz singers and pianists are locked in, as are pop and rock artists who’ll bash out the classics for a Saturday night singalong vibe. Folk and RnB will also be represented on the bill.
“We’ve got some really exciting people coming out of the Royal Northern College of Music who have already been on BBC introducing. But we’ll have some real veterans too as well as some musical theatre and a few cabaret acts.” Dale says.
Having swapped his own musical theatre dreams for what he playfully describes as “a proper job and earning some money”, Dale knows the importance of venues like this to a city’s music scene.
“The funny thing is, one of the guys performing here on the first night we’re officially open, he’s a very experienced cabaret performer and producer from London. He saw me at an open mic about 20 years ago and gave me my first professional gig.” Dale says.
“That was the catalyst for me going to drama school and going on to perform. So the up-and-coming thing is really important to me. It’s about giving people a platform who might not usually get one.”
Drop-ins are welcome for events with table bookings also available on the website. Saturday reservations are already disappearing so booking over the weekend is advised. A weeknight cover charge of £4 is planned, going up to £8 at the weekend. Sonata will be open until 1am throughout the week opening until 2am on the weekend.
“There’s amazing talent out there,” Dale says. “It’ll be really nice to give people the opportunity to see it.”
Sonata Piano and Cabaret Lounge, St. Ann's Alley, Greater, Manchester M2 6AJ
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