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Big Royal Northern Sinfonia Birthday Gala

Posted on 13 September 2018

A gala concert followed by a party on the concourse at Sage Gateshead will mark Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 60th birthday season later this month.

The Big RNS Birthday Gala takes place on Sunday 23 September and will be the culmination of a weekend-long celebration, which also includes RNS Rocks (where the orchestra performs the best North East music with Maximo Park, Field Music and Martha Hill), the Big RNS Kids’ Birthday Party and RNS Moves (the first public performance by this new ensemble featuring both disabled and non-disabled musicians).

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

Thorben Dittes, Director of RNS and Classical Music Programme, 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 RNS Birthday Gala will be an unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honour of the late Michael Hall, who founded Northern Sinfonia in 1958, followed by an opening fanfare on the concourse.

The concert will feature the orchestra’s new artist in focus, harpsichord pioneer Mahan Esfahani, as well as soprano Sarah Tynan and the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Thorben added: “For this special anniversary season we have selected three artists in focus, whose work will be showcased in various guises across the year. All three are stunning musicians and they each bring something special to Sage Gateshead.

“Our first is Mahan Esfahani. Nobody has done as much this century as Mahan to revolutionise perceptions and change the image of the harpsichord. We are excited that he will be performing at such a special concert in a joyful French concerto.”

After the concert the first of the season’s new ‘Encore’ commissions will be unveiled. Sage Gateshead has commissioned three composers (Errollyn Wallen, Tansy Davies and William Marsey) to write encores to be performed by the orchestra at the end of selected concerts during the season.

Finally, the audience is invited to join RNS musicians and the team for a party on the Concourse with the Mini Big Band and a glass of fizz to toast the orchestra at midnight.

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


Full programme for Big RNS Birthday Gala, Sunday 23 September:

5.45pm Unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honour of the late Michael Hall who founded Northern Sinfonia in 1958, Concourse.

6pm Opening fanfare, Concourse.

James Weeks conductor Royal Northern Sinfonia Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia

James Weeks Venetian Sky Apotheosis After Tiepolo (2018)

Venetian Sky is a work for any performers – singers, instrumentalists of any type – and was written to be performed at the CoMA Festival of Contemporary Music for All 2018. The imagery of the piece is taken from the ceiling frescoes of the Venetian painter Tiepolo, such as the celebrated example above the staircase of the Würzburg Residence, which presents various mythological or symbolic figures in states of Apotheosis or Triumph, rising up into a blue infinity of sky through clouds and sunbeams. Venetian Sky is a musical Apotheosis, similarly evoking the euphoria, exhilaration and disorientation of Tiepolo’s vision as well as the purity, emptiness and remoteness of the upper regions of the air.

6.30pm Concert, Sage One.

Lars Vogt conductor Mahan Esfahani harpsichord Sarah Tynan soprano Royal Northern Sinfonia Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia

Beethoven Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Fauré Pavane Mozart Laudate Dominum Mozart Exsultate Jubilate

c. 7.15pm First interval (60 minutes)

Time to enjoy a meal in our Brasserie or Café.

Poulenc Concert champêtre
Prokofiev Classical Symphony
Big Birthday Encore:
Errollyn Wallen Fondant

c. 9.10pm Second interval (30 minutes)

Haydn Symphony No.6 ‘Le Matin’ Brahms Haydn Variations

Notes to Editors

The first instalment of our 60 @ 60 Audience Portrait project will be on display outside Sage One (west side, Levels 1 and 2). Please take the time to have a look and read some of our audience memories of RNS over the years.

The RNS 60 Exhibition on the Concourse will give a flavour of some of the key events and faces from the first decade of Northern Sinfonia from 1958 – 1968. This exhibition will develop over the season, until the whole history of the orchestra has been covered. Thanks to Alan Fearon (RNS timpanist for many years and founder of Chorus of RNS) for his work in making this exhibition possible.

Royal Northern Sinfonia

Lars Vogt Music Director
Julian Rachlin Principal Guest Conductor
Thomas Zehetmair Conductor Laureate

Royal Northern Sinfonia, Orchestra of Sage Gateshead, is the UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra. Founded in 1958, RNS has built a world-wide 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 the Edinburgh Festival and the BBC Proms, this year performing Handel’s Water Music at The Stage @ the Dock in Hull – the first Prom performed outside of London since 1930. They appear frequently at venues and festivals in Europe, and last season toured in South America, China and South Korea.

RNS has worked with conductors and soloists Christian Tetzlaff, Olli Mustonen, Reinhard Goebel, Katrina Canellakis and Nicholas McGegan; a host of world class singers including Sally Matthews, Karen Cargill and Elizabeth Watts, and collaborated with leading popular voices such as Sting, Ben Folds, John Grant and Mercury Rev.

RNS has commissioned new music and has always been actively involved in local communities and in education. Musicians support young people learning musical instruments through Sage Gateshead’s Centre for Advanced Training and through In Harmony, a long-term programme in Hawthorn Primary School in which every child in the school learns a musical instrument and plays in an orchestra.

For more info visit

For further information, images, interview requests, competition or review tickets please contact:

Emily Taylor, PR & Communications Manager, Sage Gateshead
E. T. 0191 443 4617 M. 07793 762 879