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Royal Northern Sinfonia is back!

Posted on 11 August 2020

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Musicians from Royal Northern Sinfonia, orchestra of Sage Gateshead, came together to play for the first time in nearly five months as part of two very special outdoor performances in Newcastle on Saturday (8 August).

With these performances Royal Northern Sinfonia became one of the first full orchestras in the country to perform live in front of a physical audience since lockdown began in March. Whilst the future remains uncertain, with many challenges ahead, the orchestra and its musicians are committed to bringing live music back to the North East as soon as possible.

Royal Northern Sinfonia, who played consecutive concerts to two very special groups of guests and members of the community, were reunited with their audience at a safe social distance to perform at Summerhill Bowling Club.

The first concert was intended as a thank you to the orchestra’s loyal supporters, many of whom attend Royal Northern Sinfonia concerts week in, week out, at Sage Gateshead during the performance season. The Sage Gateshead audience has been a key support to the organisation since the onset of COVID 19, regularly showing their solidarity with the charity during this challenging time, and generously supporting its Crisis, Recovery and Renaissance coronavirus fundraising campaign.

The second concert was played to an audience of local residents and young In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead musicians and their families. The closure of schools has meant that the In Harmony project, an immersive orchestral music making programme that improves the life chances of children and young people in two West Newcastle primary schools, also ceased. As a result, young aspiring musicians from both Bridgewater and Hawthorn Primary schools have missed out on live orchestral music and group playing for a significant period, making the performance even more special.

The event was carefully planned to ensure those in attendance were safe, but able to enjoy a very special experience. Reflecting the time of year, the programme was created to take the audience on an imaginary journey through a beautiful English Summer’s day by a river and included classics such as Handel’s Water Music and Elgar’s Serenade.

Musicians and those who attended were thrilled to be part of a return to live classical music. Kyra Humphreys, Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Co-Leader and 1st Violin said of the event:

“Obviously this is an extremely challenging time for Royal Northern Sinfonia, Sage Gateshead and the sector as a whole. However, we also know that it has been difficult for our audiences and the wider communities in which we work. More people than ever are facing social isolation, struggling with their mental or physical health, missing their music education, or are simply craving the incomparable magic of live music. Despite this, we have received so much support from our audiences. It has been an absolute pleasure to see so many In Harmony children here today, and to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ with this performance.”

Sage Gateshead’s Managing Director, Abigail Pogson said:

“Royal Northern Sinfonia’s first performance since lockdown began was certainly one to remember. The joy of returning to live music, for players and their audience, was palpable. One of the things we have been focussed on during the pandemic, is engaging with our audience, and talking to them about what the future of live music looks like as part of our campaign, A Future for Live Music in the North East. The thing that has come across so clearly in this conversation is that music is a huge part of peoples’ lives, and that going forward, it has a role in the recovery of the region. Today really showed that to be the case.”

Although tickets to the concert were free many of those who attended made in kind donations to the organisation’s Crisis, Recovery and Renaissance fundraising campaign, of which Sting and Dame Margaret Barbour are Patrons. For more information on Sage Gateshead’s fundraising campaign visit



For further information, interviews or images please contact:
Jackie Thompson, Marketing & Communications Manager, Sage Gateshead

Notes to Editors

  • Since opening 15 years ago, 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 is a major employer of 500 people, and has brought investment and tourism into the region, generating c. £500 million contribution to the local economy.
  • More importantly, Sage Gateshead has brought social, cultural and educational value to over 10 million people and millions more via digital and broadcast activity.
  • Since March, Sage Gateshead has been proactive in cutting costs whilst continuing to protect jobs and ensure its iconic building remains safe.
  • It has also accessed schemes including the coronavirus job retention scheme (90% of its 500 staff are furloughed); has received rate relief and tax deferral; and has converted project grants to core.
  • 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.

Royal Northern Sinfonia

Lars Vogt Music Director
Julian Rachlin Principal Guest Conductor
Thomas Zehetmair Conductor Laureate
Karin Hendrickson Assistant Conductor, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Music Director, Young Sinfonia

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of Sage Gateshead, is the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra. Founded in 1958, RNS has built a worldwide reputation for the North East through the quality of its music-making and the immediacy of the connections the musicians make with audiences.

The orchestra regularly flies the flag for the region at major festivals, including the BBC Proms, most recently performing Handel’s Water Music at Stage@theDock in Hull – the first Prom performed outside of London since 1930. They appear frequently at venues and festivals in Europe, and in recent seasons have toured to Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul and Tokyo.

RNS has always been actively involved in local communities and in education. This season the orchestra will perform across the region in Kendal, Middlesbrough, Carlisle, Berwick and Sunderland, and will once again take their Christmas by Candlelight tour to regional churches. Musicians support young people learning musical instruments through Sage Gateshead’s Centre for Advanced Training and through the In Harmony project.

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.

Every year it welcomes more than two million visitors. More than 400 concerts featuring all kinds of local, regional and international music, take place all year round. Music-making and learning activity takes place not only in the building but across the region, with 190,000 people of all ages taking part in over 10,000 music classes and workshops.

The iconic building, designed by renowned architects Foster + Partners, is home to Royal Northern Sinfonia and is a place where emerging artists are nurtured through dedicated programmes and festivals.

As a charity, the support it receives helps to ensure everyone in the community can experience the joys of music.

In Harmony is a national initiative that aims to inspire and transform the lives of children through community-based orchestral music-making. Established by Government and now funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education in conjunction with individual donors, trusts and foundations. This immersive orchestral music making programme improves the life chances of children and young people in the West End of Newcastle, by increasing confidence, wellbeing, resilience and educational attainment. By working in partnership, In Harmony helps build stronger communities, generating pride, hope and aspiration.