SAGE Gateshead has marked an important milestone in its recovery from the Covid-19 crisis with the appointment of young conducting star Dinis Sousa as principal conductor of Royal Northern Sinfonia (RNS).

At this time when communities in the North-East will need music and the arts more than ever, Sage Gateshead says it wants to meaningfully respond, bringing music’s vital role in improving health and wellbeing, education and learning, and in creating positive shared experience to benefit everyone across the region.

This role is symbolised in this new appointment of the talented Portuguese conductor, who will move his base to the region to realise RNS’ contribution to this vision.

Sousa will play an active role in the musical life of the region, working alongside RNS musicians to reach new audiences – in schools, online, across the region and of course in the celebrated halls of Sage Gateshead.

“From the first moment that I conducted RNS, I immediately felt at home. The excitement of their making-music is palpable and they have a collective energy and commitment that I find inspiring. I’m honoured to become their new Principal Conductor and I’m hugely looking forward to what the future brings. As we begin to shape this new chapter we are thrilled that many new players will be joining the orchestra in the coming months, and we can’t wait to finally being able to share live music with our ever-growing community.”

Director of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Thorben Dittes said, “Dinis’s special connection with the orchestra on stage was unmistakable from the very first time the RNS performed with him. We all felt it and the audience commented to me about it afterwards. He clearly is an exceptional talent and we are very excited about the tremendous artistic potential which Dinis as our new Principal Conductor will be bringing to the North East.”

A fast-track recruitment drive to fill key positions in the orchestra will bring salaried employment at this challenging time and ensure the North-East continues to have a world-class orchestra, he added.

Over the same period Royal Northern Sinfonia will launch a massive participation project bringing community and professional singers and players together in a moment of symbolic importance when we can come back together in a concert hall with full audiences and large-scale forces on stage.

Verdi’s Requiem has been chosen to commemorate those who lost their lives to Covid-19, for what will be a spectacular and moving moment of sheer scale and spectacle of coming together in music making. Verdi’s Requiem is familiar to so many as the soundtrack of films including the epic fantasy movie 300, Battle Royale and Mad Max: Fury Road and having popped up in popular TV shows like The Simpsons.

Initial preparation for all participants will start online before moving to live rehearsals. The full project with more information on registering interest will be launched on 1 May.

Sousa, who was introduced to the orchestra through the Classical Futures Europe scheme, has performed twice with the orchestra to date, once to launch Beethoven 2020: The Next Generation in Carlisle and Middlesbrough in January of last year, and more recently at the helm in a concert of Stravinsky, Mendelssohn and music by the young American composer Caroline Shaw, as part of the Sage Live 2020 series last autumn.

The first concerts of the live performance series New Beginnings will be performed live at Sage Gateshead and available to audiences online.

New Beginnings starts on April 16 with the Dame Sarah Connolly joining the RNS and Dinis Sousa to perform Berlioz’s intoxicating exploration of love Les Nuits d’été (Summer Nights) in a programme called Dawn and Dusk, which reawakens audiences with Haydn’s Le Matin (Morning) and Lili Boulanger’s D'un matin de printemps (On a Spring Morning) in an arrangement by Iain Farrington.

On Friday April 23, Holy Moly and the Crackers will bring its unique mash of soul, rock, indie and Balkan folk to your homes from the stage of Sage One.

Royal Northern Sinfonia returns on Friday April 30 with Spring has Sprung, conducted by Paul McCreesh with Jennifer Pike starring in the incredibly popular Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. The uplifting programme also includes Delius’s On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, Thea Musgrave’s Green and Schumann’s ‘Spring’ Symphony.

The season will continue until 25 June with further announcements of programme to come.

Abigail Pogson, managing director of Sage Gateshead said, “Arts and culture will play a vital role in Covid-recovery: in re-establishing social connections, in uplifting and creating hope, improving mental health and wellbeing, in drawing people back out of their homes, and in creating jobs.

“We know the North East has been hit hard and we are ready to play a useful and active role in recovery, nurturing our region to thrive again, through music and the connections people make through it and through the civic role which we as a charity play.

“Royal Northern Sinfonia will be at the heart of this and through the recruitment we look forward to welcoming more musicians to our family, including of course our new Principal Conductor Dinis Sousa. Our mass participation project, Verdi’s Requiem will bring welcome players and singers from across our communities to join with our professional musicians together in an incredible and uplifting shared experience.

“Announcing today our first live performance series of 2021, New Beginnings, we look forward to sharing music once again with our audiences, online at first, but soon in person at Sage Gateshead, and to begin to connect and recover together.”

Sage Gateshead was awarded £2.8 million as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure its sustainable future.

Tickets will go on sale on Thursday. For further details visits