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The People's Requiem

Posted on 24 November 2021

The People's Requiem - Orchestra

A return to mass music-making as over 200 musicians from the North East join Royal Northern Sinfonia and its Chorus to raise the roof of Sage One.

Verdi’s Requiem, a tribute to those who lost their lives to Covid-19 in the North East, the UK and around the world.

Marking a return to large-scale music making, and in memory of those who have lost their lives to Covid-19, this performance of the incredible Verdi’s Requiem at Sage Gateshead features a massed orchestra and choir, comprised of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia, and over 200 musicians from the North East community.

Conceived to bring people back together in music-making to perform one of the most incredible and iconic works in the classical canon, The People’s Requiem is the result of months of online and then in-person rehearsals to create a performance for the North East to be proud of on Sunday 28 November.

Operatic passion, religious grandiosity, and powerful emotions are all hallmarks of Verdi’s Requiem, performed here by the people in commemoration of all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19. From the unstoppable force of the Dies Irae to the hushed finaleit captures the imagination of performers and listeners alike.

Principal Conductor, Dinis Sousa, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Sage Gateshead were looking for keen and motivated adult singers and orchestral musicians to join in creating a performance of the highest quality and over 300 musicians from all across the North East applied to take part.

Setting out to be as inclusive as possible, musicians of all levels were welcomed and separate rehearsals held for those who learn music by ear and those who prefer to learn using sheet music.

Principal Conductor, Dinis Sousa said: We are thrilled to be welcoming so many musicians from our local community onto our stage this weekend. To expand Royal Northern Sinfonia and Chorus with musicians from across the region has been an incredible experience so far, not only because of the intense music-making but because it’s allowed us to make new friends from all over the region. The fact that so many people wanted to take part in this is a testament to the depth and strength of music-making in the North East and I can’t think of a better piece to celebrate that than Verdi’s incredibly powerful Requiem. Join us on Sunday for what promises to be a very special occasion.”

Dr Clare Wakenshaw who signed up to take part as a viola player said: “Working with people with cancer in the NHS during the pandemic I’ve seen at first hand the devastating impact of covid, and associated restrictions, on people’s physical health and emotional wellbeing. I wanted to take part in the People’s Requiem as it felt a wonderful opportunity to join with others in our region to come together to publicly remember those we have lost and to reflect. Despite being incredibly musically challenging, and well outside my comfort zone at times, it has been an absolute and unforgettable privilege to have been able to be part of this project.”

Lucy Farrington has joined the chorus for The People’s Requiem and added: “I wanted to be in a choir again and able to sing in public after the months of restrictions. I also wanted to sing the Requiem in memory of my mother who died during the pandemic (not of Covid but the last 6 months of her life were affected by the pandemic as she lived in a care home and as such was unable to leave it or enjoy the independence she always had previously).

Ian Reavley, a local dentist who joins as a violinist for the People’s Requiem said: “What an opportunity! To play the Verdi Requiem, in the Sage concert Hall, with the RNS, whilst receiving tutoring from first class professionals. A great way to make music for the first time in 18 months.

Dinis Sousa conductor
Hye-Youn Lee soprano
Alyona Abramova mezzo-soprano
Luis Gomes tenor
Simon Shibambu bass baritone
Royal Northern Sinfonia
Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia
Massed Musical Forces of the North East

Sunday 28 November, 4pm


For media enquiries, images and interviews please contact
Susie Gray, 07834 073795
Jackie Thompson,, 0191 443 4602

More images here The People’s Requiem | Sage Gateshead

Sage Gateshead is an international music centre and renowned conference and event venue located in the North East of England. It is for artists, for audiences and for the North.

Our iconic building, designed by Foster & Partners, welcomes around 500,000 visitors each year. It is home to the acclaimed Royal Northern Sinfonia and presents around 400 events and festivals each year for a live audience of 350,000 (six million people hear our work via stream or broadcasts). Every year we support over 100 musicians through our artist development programme and we work with 30,000 children and young people as well as 20,000 adults in our creative learning programme.

As a charity we rely on financial support from Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council, Arts Council England and our donors to ensure everyone in the community can experience the joys of music.

Positioned as one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation, our continued ambition for the future is to work to significantly to increase the number and range of people connected with music.

  • *Sage Gateshead is proud to partner with Julie’s Bicycle. The organisation reports its annual carbon emissions to Julie’s Bicycle each year, is part of their Spotlight programme looking at innovative ways to monitor and reduce energy usage in its building, and engages in an ongoing dialogue with Julie’s Bicycle about how the music centre can work in more environmentally responsible ways.
  • Sage Gateshead is an international music centre for the North East and wider North. Through music, creative learning and artist development, the organisation shows what music can achieve for communities.
  • Since opening in 2004, Sage Gateshead has worked side by side with partners and the wider community to help address the complex blend of social and economic challenges the region faces.
  • Sage Gateshead continues to be a major employer and has brought investment and tourism into the region, generating c. £500 million contribution to the local economy, a sum six times greater than its combined capital cost.
  • Sage Gateshead has brought social, cultural and educational value to over 10 million people and millions more via digital and broadcast activity. The scale of its artistic, learning and artist development activity places Sage Gateshead amongst the UK’s largest cultural organisations, while reaching a substantially more socially and economically diverse audience.
  • Pre-lockdown Sage Gateshead attracted 2 million visitors; 5,000 people took part in weekly music classes; 17,854 school children experienced live orchestral music and we worked with a further 2,418 vulnerable young people; more than 2,000 adults a week took part in music making designed to tackle social isolation.
  • The North East region is one of the worst affected by Covid-19. The region will be one where the recovery is slow and hard. Arts and culture have a pivotal role to play in regional and nation-wide recovery.
  • Covid-19 presents a major financial challenge to Sage Gateshead, the iconic Foster + Partners designed NE landmark. 80% of its income has been affected, and in 2020/21 £10 million in revenue was lost. The organisation has taken swift action to overcome this crisis. 90% of the workforce was placed on furlough, significant cost savings have been sought and found, and it launched a fundraising campaign to raise £3 million to help secure the organisation during the next three years. Further challenges lie ahead; in 2021/22, Sage Gateshead estimates box office and trading income to be less than half of what would be expected in a normal year.
  • Sage Gateshead temporarily closed to the public on 17 March 2020, five days ahead of the announcement of the National lockdown. Sage Gateshead recommenced performances in October 2020 with a season of socially distanced concerts featuring Royal Northern Sinfonia and artists across genres, made available by live stream; audiences were able to be present in the hall for two weekends of those performances.
  • Sage Gateshead received a grant of £2.8 million from the Culture Recovery Fund to help it through the pandemic and to contribute to the region’s recovery