• Royal Northern Sinfonia appoints new Principal Conductor, Dinis Sousa [pictured].
  • Sage Gateshead launches its first live performance series of 2021, New Beginnings opening on 16 April.
  • RNS launches fast track recruitment drive for all open positions.
  • Massive Verdi’s Requiem to bring together the whole classical music community in the North East to mark the return to large scale music making and remember those who lost their lives to Covid-19.
  • Dinis Sousa Introduction and films: https://sagegateshead.com/royal-northern-sinfonia-dinis-sousa/
  • New Beginnings season: https://sagegateshead.com/seasons/new-beginnings/

As optimism builds in the struggle to overcome the impact of Covid-19, Sage Gateshead marks an important milestone with the appointment of exciting young conductor Dinis Sousa as Principal Conductor of Royal Northern Sinfonia (RNS), the acclaimed, and UK’s only full-time chamber orchestra, based at Sage Gateshead.

This step towards recovery brings with it new hopes and ambitions for music in the North East as Sage Gateshead reimagines its future role for the region. At this time when communities in the North East will need music and the arts more than ever, Sage Gateshead 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 very much symbolised in this new appointment of the very talented Portuguese conductor Dinis Sousa 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.

Dinis Sousa, Principal Conductor of Royal Northern Sinfonia said, “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 unmistakeable 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.”

In parallel the orchestra will be launching a fast-track recruitment drive next week to fill all open positions by the start of the new season.

The recruitment process has been re-worked to include digital and in person audition rounds, chamber music and interviews as well as performing for digital work.

Instead of the usual long trial process, the successful candidates will be offered European-style contracts with an extended probationary period, providing crucial employment at this challenging time for all musicians.

On 1 May Royal Northern Sinfonia will launch a large-scale 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 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. 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.

Thorben Dittes added, “The orchestra has always felt very rooted in the region and connected to the people who live here, which was really born out through lockdown when individual musicians phoned audience members to chat and sought out opportunities to connect, such as recording a film of Happy Birthday for Irene’s 100th birthday. That connection will be incredibly important to us all as we emerge from the pandemic and we will continue to find new ways to bring our music and our talented players together with as diverse a public here as possible, which is a key part of Dinis’s and the orchestra’s future vision. One way will be the first of our large-scale participation projects Verdi’s Requiem in which we hope to bring as many as possible, hundreds, together for an incredibly moving music-led moment.”

Dinis 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.

Sousa is Founder and Artistic Director of Orquestra XXI, an award-winning orchestra that brings together Portuguese musicians living around the world, for which in recognition of his work he was awarded the title of Knight of the Order of Prince Henry in Portugal. He also works closely with Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his ensembles, having been appointed the first-ever Assistant Conductor of the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestras in 2018.

Conductor John Wilson welcomed the news saying, “I was absolutely delighted to hear that Dinis Sousa will be the next Principal Conductor of Royal Northern Sinfonia.  His ability to work with authority and finesse across a wide-ranging repertoire will, I am certain, make for some thrilling concerts in the coming seasons.”    

Jessica Lee, Chair of the Players Committee at Royal Northern Sinfonia said, “We are so thrilled to be working with Dinis as our new Principal Conductor. We have already experienced great music making with him and look forward to more exciting times ahead as we embark on this new era for the orchestra.”

Manuel Lobo Antunes, Ambassador of Portugal to the UK said, “As the Ambassador of Portugal to the United Kingdom and a lover of music, it was a source of great joy, and indeed pride, to receive the news that Dinis Sousa would be Royal Northern Sinfonia’s next Principal Conductor.

“Dinis and Royal Northern Sinfonia will undoubtedly form a wonderful musical alliance.

“I wish Dinis, and his new Orchestra, the greatest of success.”

The first concerts of the live performance series New Beginnings will be performed live at Sage Gateshead and available to audiences online. Sage Gateshead looks forward to welcoming audiences back when restrictions lift further in the late Spring/Summer.

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

On Friday 23 April the ‘fiery folk rock band’* from Newcastle Holy Moly and the Crackers will bring their unique mash of soul, rock, indie and Balkan folk to your homes from the stage of Sage One.

The RNS returns on Friday 30 April 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.

“Announcing 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.

*Louder than War