Great Britain

Royal Northern Sinfonia celebrates 60th birthday at Sage Gateshead

Thorben Dittes, RNS and classic programme director said: “We are very excited to start the orchestra’s birthday celebrations with RNS Rocks.

“It will be a big thrill to hear these bands perform their greatest hits in lush orchestral arrangements, really showing just how versatile a 21st century chamber orchestra can be.”

Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith said: “We’re really happy to be collaborating with a world-class orchestra, especially one based on our doorstep, in Gateshead.

“After having RNS play on our recent song, North By North East, it makes sense for us to try out some adventurous new arrangements that encompass the whole of our back catalogue. I’ve never liked the divisions between so-called high and low cultures, so this cultural cross-pollination is even more satisfying from that point of view.”

David Brewis, who founded Field Music with his brother Peter, said: “We’ve been incorporating orchestral instruments into our records from way back before our first album but we’ve always done it in a limited way.

“Left to our own devices we wouldn’t dream of hiring an orchestra. So this is an amazing opportunity to let our imaginations run wild and to take advantage of all of the colours and textures that a chamber orchestra has at its disposal.”

The celebrations will continue with family fun at the Big RNS Kids’ Birthday Party, on Saturday. There will be activities from 1.15pm , followed by a classical concert for youngsters at 2pm. It features excerpts from Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and Haydn’s Symphony No 6 ‘Le Matin.

The format of the event will be like the music venue’s regular Classics 4 Kids series, which takes place throughout the year, offering a family-friendly introduction to classical music with plenty of interaction between the orchestra and the audience.

RNS clarinettist Jessica Lee said: “RNS’ Classics 4 Kids concerts are such lovely events where our core repertoire is presented in a fun and informative way.

“There is a strong interactive element where the children can feel really involved. It’s so important to engage with our youngest (and hopefully future) audience and we hope lots of them join us for our big birthday party.”

The first public performance from an ensemble featuring both disabled and non-disabled musicians, RNS Moves, will be held at 4pm on Saturday. The 45-minute performance is free, but ticketed.

The ensemble is made up of members from Royal Northern Sinfonia: Tristan Gurney (violin), Michael Gerrard (viola), Gabriel Waite (cello), Siân Hicks (double bass) and Michael O’Donnell (oboe and cor anglais) alongside Clarence Adoo (Headspace, a breath-controlled electronic instrument), Steph West (harp), Adrian Lee (electric guitar) and Gemma Lunt (saxophone).

It will include one of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (re-imagined), and specially-commissioned works by composers Adrian Lee and Agustín Fernández. The Vivaldi will be arranged to include harp, electric guitar, saxophone and Headspace.

The collaboration follows on from a previous project involving RNS musicians and Candoco Dance Company, a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

Guitarist Adrian Lee said: “This project makes it possible for people from different walks of life and with different abilities to show what we can do together and for audiences to see and hear this.

“As a musician I’ve enjoyed working with Agustín Fernández and his compositional process to think about how we can draw the best out of disabled and non-disabled musicians.”

Harpist Steph West, said: “I’m really enjoying the scores I have to work on, especially our new commission LoA. As a musician with a hand deformity I have to know my scores really well so I have time to figure out how I’m going to bring the music alive with the tools that I have.”

Agustín Fernández, who is professor of composition at Newcastle University, said: “To interact with the players of Royal Northern Sinfonia is always a privilege. This project gives me a chance not only to do that, but also to engage with the eye-opening world of four guest professional musicians who have had to adapt their practice to life-changing disabilities.”

The celebrations will culminate in the Big RNS Birthday Gala at 6.30pm on Sunday.

The three-part concert, directed by RNS music director Lars Vogt, will showcase the heart of chamber repertoire, featuring the classical masters who invented the form – Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Mr Dittes said: “We are not the only ones to find Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart inspiring, and in this grand opening concert they rub shoulders with four brilliantly inventive tributes, including Prokofiev’s witty Classical Symphony.”

Before the concert there a commemorative plaque will be unveiled in honour of the late Michael Hall, who founded Northern Sinfonia in 1958.

After the concert the audience is invited to a party on the concourse and to toast the orchestra at midnight.

For more information on the full weekend programme or to book tickets visit

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