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Sage Gateshead and Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia Nominated for RPS Award for Lockdown Digital Project

Posted on 1 October 2021

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World How Wide

Sage Gateshead and Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia’s digital commission ‘The World How Wide: a choral reimagining of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on the Theme by Thomas Tallis’ has been nominated in the Series and Event category in the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. This creative digital project turned pandemic restrictions into a musical opportunity.

Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia recorded individual vocal parts in their homes throughout lockdown, arranged by Chorus Director Timothy Burke. Using the pandemic’s limitations as creative inspiration, they were able to create a new and exciting project turning one of Vaughan Williams’ best-loved and well-known pieces, the Fantasia, into an extraordinary digital choral performance.

This year’s RPS Awards are vibrant evidence of a profession that, faced with huge challenge, has never stopped raising people’s spirits when the nation needed it most. From star soloists including Nicola BenedettiElizabeth Llewellyn, and Abel Selaocoe to unsung heroes and amateur musicians, the shortlists tell a story of tremendous creativity, connectivity and resilience in this most challenging of years.

The World How Wide project featured community singers, from Quay Voices – Sage Gateshead’s mixed-voice youth choir – and the World How Wide Community Chorus, comprised of singers from Streetwise Opera, Gateshead Care Home Choir, Inspiration Choir, Felling Male Voice Choir, Ryton Choral Society, and many more, showcasing local talent.

A string quartet from Royal Northern Sinfonia recorded the original solo instrumental lines, and all recordings were combined to produce the final product.

Overall, the project involved 135 singers and 650 vocal recordings totalling over 20 hours, bringing together local singers during challenging and uncertain times.

Sage Gateshead and Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia are representing the North East and its inspiring creativity with this digital project which has highlighted community engagement and resilience.

RPS Chief Executive James Murphy says: “We are so pleased to reveal this year’s RPS Awards shortlists, collectively representing the astonishing hard work, generosity and goodwill of musicians throughout the pandemic.”

The 2021 RPS Awards take place at Wigmore Hall, London, at 7.30pm on Monday 1 November. The event will be hosted by BBC Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham and RPS Chief Executive James Murphy.

The RPS Awards will also be filmed, and the recording will be available to watch on the RPS website from Tuesday 9 November. It will also be covered by BBC Radio 3.


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Notes to editors:

Project Statistics
135 singers involved
31 vocal parts
11 live online musical support sessions
650 videos amassed
10 community choirs
128 guide videos issued
1 Zoom rehearsal with Care Home Choir
20h 29m 35s of vocal recordings
300 miles travelled for video footage
10 locations filmed
4.5 hours of footage collected
15-minute final piece

Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia is proud to perform a broad range of repertoire as part of the RNS musical family. While classic choral masterpieces form the core repertoire for the Chorus, more ambitious programming has included performances of film scores, and the tour de force which is James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion.

Founded in 1973 by Royal Northern Sinfonia timpanist, Alan Fearon the Chorus has worked with many guest conductors and with every Music Director since Rudolph Schwartz, the orchestra’s second Music Director, including twelve seasons with Thomas Zehetmair.

With a singing membership of more than 50 individuals, Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia is made up of amateur musicians who work to professional standards.  Members are drawn from all walks of life and from across the North of England.

Timothy Burke is emerging as an exciting talent amongst the younger generation of conductors, gaining a reputation for expressive and vivid interpretations across a wide range of repertoire.

He read Music at Exeter College, Oxford, before training as a repetiteur at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and winning the Sir Henry Richardson Scholarship to study at the National Opera Studio. He went on to join the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme in 2006, and from 2008 until 2013 was Chorus Master at Opera North.

A passionate believer in the importance of new writing, he has, since 2013, been the Music Director at Tête à Tête, producer of the world’s largest festival of new opera, where he has premièred eleven new commissions.

His opera conducting engagements have further included La Fanciulla del West for Opera Holland Park, Le nozze di Figaro for Scottish Opera, Le nozze di Figaro and Tosca for Welsh National Opera, Christmas Eve for Chelsea Opera Group, The Barber of Seville for Opera North and Tell Me The Truth About Love for Streetwise Opera. He has also conducted Les enfants terribles for the Royal Ballet at the Barbican Hall and Will Tuckett’s The Wind in the Willows for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

His work on the concert platform has included The Night Before Christmas and Rachmaninov’s Vespers at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds, St Nicolas, Messiah (excerpts) and Der Ring des Nibelungen (excerpts) with the Orchestra of Opera North, the Opening Gala of the Bradfield Arts Festival 2015 with members of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the 2017 Summer Prom with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Opera Classics, Summer Classics with the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, the Great Song of the North with Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland and RNS @ Minimal (Music by John Adams, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman) with Royal Northern Sinfonia.

About Royal Northern 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, including La folle journée in Nantes. In recent seasons they have toured to Vienna, Budapest, Istanbul and Tokyo.

RNS has worked with many international conductors and soloists including Christian Tetzlaff, Sir Roger Norrington, Paul McCreesh, Jess Gillam, Nicholas McGegan, Mahan Esfahani, Viktoria Mullova and Jessica Cottis, and also collaborated with leading popular voices such as Sting, Ben Folds, John Grant, Mercury Rev, Field Music and Maxïmo Park.

RNS has commissioned new music by David Lang, John Casken, Tansy Davies, Errollyn Wallen and James Weeks amongst others, and runs an annual Young Composers Competition.

In order to engage with the widest possible range of artists and audience, in 2018 RNS founded its inclusive ensemble RNS Moves, and also increasingly programmes accessible and relaxed performances throughout the season.

RNS has always been actively involved in local communities and in education, performing regularly across the region in places like Kendal, Middlesbrough, Carlisle, Berwick and Sunderland. Musicians support young people learning musical instruments through Sage Gateshead’s Centre for Advance Training and through In Harmony Newcastle.