MUSICIANS from Royal Northern Sinfonia came together to play for the first time in nearly five months as part of two special outdoor performances in Newcastle.

Royal Northern Sinfonia was one of the first full orchestras in the country to perform live in front of a physical audience since lockdown began in March.

The orchestra of Sage Gateshead, who played consecutive concerts to two 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 a thank you to the orchestra’s loyal supporters, many of whom attend Royal Northern Sinfonia concerts 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 residents and young In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead musicians and their families. In Harmony is an orchestral music-making programme, delivered by Sage Gateshead, that improves improve the life chances of children and young people in two West Newcastle primary schools.

The closure of schools has meant that In Harmony has 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 first 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 was an absolute pleasure to see so many In Harmony children and to have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ with our 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. These performances 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