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The People's Requiem Celebration

“Now I just want to sing more.”

The People’s Requiem delivered a memorable and meaningful musical experience to the region last autumn. Our open-access project, including learning by ear, united 200 orchestral players and choral singers with Royal Northern Sinfonia and Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Marking a return to large-scale music-making and honouring those who suffered from Covid-19, it concluded with a performance of the thundering, iconic piece of classical music, Verdi’s Requiem. Principal Conductor Dinis Sousa conducted in Sage One at Sage Gateshead on 28 November 2021.

The People’s Requiem featured a massed orchestra and choir, comprised of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia, and over 200 musicians from the North East community.

Following several months of rehearsals – both online and in person – the players and singers told us why they got involved:

“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. “

 “This represents inclusivity at its best. It is a fantastic opportunity to join in a big choral work mixing amateur and professional singers and players from the North East, to remember and honour those who died from Covid.”

“My father died in July 2020 and my wife’s father died in June 2021. Whilst neither death was Covid-related, due to the pandemic neither funeral was as large as would have been expected in normal times. I really wanted to take part in this project as my way of paying tribute to both men.”

 “Why did I want to take part? Simple. To sing Verdi’s Requiem which is magnificent. To sing in Sage One which is fabulous. To sing with the Royal Northern Sinfonia which is a privilege and an honour.”

“Having had Covid back in March 2020, long Covid has significantly impacted my health and what I’m able to do on a daily basis. I had hoped initially that I’d be fully recovered by the time of the project; it’s going to be a longer road than that. But taking part has helped me process some of what has happened to me over the last eighteen months, as well as to us as a society; to grieve for loss, both personally and more broadly; and as a person of faith, the musical choice and spiritual element has also been important. Finally, music helps me retain that sense of self, and feel more like myself, even if the body and mind aren’t working as they should / used to just now. Singing with everybody, I’m me again.”

Ashley Bayston, also known as Lewylady, loves nothing more than to sketch the environment around her. Having not sung in a formal choir for over ten years, and after two years of isolation, the time felt right to return to Sage Gateshead last autumn to join in with The People’s Requiem, capturing all in sight along the way.

Ashley found the experience exciting and scary and gladly welcomed the vibrational energy of working with others creatively. One moment that particularly stands out is an enchanting rehearsal at All Saints Church in Newcastle, and the first time she heard the orchestra play the music together. She prefers to draw instruments than people, and her delightful sketches offer an intriguing insight into her experience.

Enjoy the video of her work below.