Dinis Sousa

Here for life affirming experiences

Royal Northern Sinfonia returns to the stage with full capacity audiences and a new season with a new approach

First concert features World Premiere of Oot-Ower, a new commission from award-winning composer Mira Calix and poetic filmmaker Sarah Turner

Dinis Sousa takes to the podium for first concert in his role as RNS’s new Principal Conductor joined by new leader Maria Włoszczowska and seven new players recruited over the pandemic period.

Royal Northern Sinfonia takes to the stage of Sage One this coming Saturday in a concert which marks much new for the orchestra – a new Principal Conductor in the young Portuguese star Dinis Sousa, a new orchestra leader in violinist Maria Włoszczowska, a new approach to concert programming and repertoire revealing itself, and the World Premiere of a new work Oot-Ower commissioned by Royal Northern Sinfonia to mark the return of the orchestra and audiences coming together again for the new season.

Premiering on Saturday 18 September, the new work from Mira Calix and Sarah Turner takes the ancient Northumbrian term, or Geordie term Oot-Ower meaning across, beyond or on the other side (of this period of lockdown) as its title.

Composer Mira Calix said: “In commissioning this new work, Dinis asked us to create a piece to mark this moment, this new season, for the ensemble and us all alike, by bearing witness to our recent past. I’ve endeavoured to capture its many moods in the language of music and to look beyond, out over there to our collective potential… may it be a healthy one.

“While I was writing I was mindful that our personal experiences of the pandemic have been varied; some found joy in lockdown, others great difficulty or loss, and a plethora of feelings in between. I am grateful to those who held us altogether by working on throughout. This played a big part in the writing of the work, particularly in the last movement where hopes, tensions and ambitions are set free. I was aware that this work speaks to an experience shared by audience and musicians alike as we gather in this hall for the first time in a long time.”

Filmmaker Sarah Turner added: “Our vision for Oot-Ower was to involve Sage Gateshead’s community in a collective reflection on the experience of the last 18 months. Participants were invited to submit short mobile phone films responding to the themes of inside, outside, and the return to connected living. Thoughts, emotions and ideas were then developed through more in-depth interviews and these formed the basis of the film. Words, images and sounds were patterned together to form a portrait of this transformative time.”

Also part of this coming Saturday’s concert is Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No.1 starring the young Russian cellist and BBC New Generation Artist Anastasia Kobekina and the ever uplifting Dvořák Symphony No.8.

This new season marks a change of approach for Royal Northern Sinfonia in which it will experiment with formats and repertoire creating new access points and routes for different audiences to engage with classical music and the concert experience at Sage Gateshead. Announcing concerts in smaller more regular batches also allows the orchestra flexibility to respond to the world around it.

Today tickets also go on sale for four concerts which exemplify this approach: Beyond the Score (14 October) in which Royal Northern Sinfonia adopts the Chicago Symphony’s acclaimed series of staged explorations of famous orchestral works by Gerard McBurney with actors bringing the process and history of Beethoven’s most famous work of all, Symphony No.5 to life for new audiences.

RNS Moves, the inclusive ensemble of disabled and non-disabled musicians featuring members of Royal Northern Sinfonia and friends, returns to Sage Gateshead this autumn (29 October) with a new programme of contemporary repertoire alongside traditional classical works adapted for the ensemble, and improvisations by soloists and the group as a whole. Its typically eclectic programmes highlight the group’s versatility and stretch the boundaries and expectations of classical music.

Join Royal Northern Sinfonia and Principal Conductor Dinis Sousa in the first of the orchestra’s ‘seats out’ events in the newly adapted Sage One. Premiering a new format, the audience on bean bags will enjoy an informal, relaxed evening of music in Classical Immersion (13 November), with breathtaking, hypnotic music by Caroline Shaw, Morton Feldmann, and Steve Reich.

Marking a return to large-scale collective music making, and in memory of those who have lost their lives to Covid-19, The People’s Requiem (28 November) features a massed orchestra and choir, comprised of Royal Northern Sinfonia, Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia, and over 200 musicians from the North East community to perform Verdi’s Requiem, one of the most iconic pieces of classical music of all time. Following several months of rehearsals – both online and in person – this will be a performance of which the North East can be proud, in the splendour of Sage One.

Royal Northern Sinfonia starts the new season with a substantial number of new players having run a fast-track recruitment process to ensure that the orchestra is at full capacity as it returns to full music-making in front of a live audience, also offering much-needed secure employment to musicians at this difficult time. RNS has recruited seven key roles in addition to the Principal Conductor Dinis Sousa and leader Maria Włoszczowska. Dániel Máté Mészöly joins as Sub Principal, First Violin; Eva Aronian as Section Leader, Second Violin; Charlotte Ashton as Section Leader, Flute; Helena Gourd Principal Flute, Cristina Mateo Saez, Section Leader, Clarinet; Lawrence O’Donnell, Principal Bassoon; and Jude Carlton, Section leader, Timpani.

Dinis Sousa, new Principal Conductor said: “I cannot tell you how happy I am to welcome you to this new season. It’s a season of many firsts. My first season as Principal Conductor of Royal Northern Sinfonia. The first season of our new leader, the wonderful Maria Wloszczowska. And during the summer we recruited seven new players to join this wonderful orchestra. Tonight is their first concert, and I am so thrilled we have found such a talented group of musicians for this new chapter.

“We open tonight’s concert with yet another first – the world premiere of Oot-Ower, a piece commissioned for this occasion. When we were planning this season, we felt strongly that we should find a way of responding and reflecting on the period that we have all just lived through. In doing so, we wanted to involve our community and give them a voice in this opening concert. We are so pleased that filmmaker Sarah Turner and composer Mira Calix both accepted the challenge of creating a hybrid work of film and music to open this concert, and that so many people from our community could be part of it. Even though we’ve all had different experiences, we hope everyone will find something in this work that they can relate to.”

Following the success of live streaming the orchestra over lock-down, audiences will be able to continue to access some concerts from the comfort of their own homes. In the coming months this includes Dance! with Last Night of the Proms star Ksenija Sidorova joining RNS for Aconcagua, Piazzolla’s Tango-inspired concerto for bandoneon (very similar to an accordion) on 1 October, Mozart’s ‘Great’ Symphony No.40 and Schumann’s much loved Piano Concerto with Elisabeth Leonskaja on 22 October and Sir Roger Norrington’s Norrington Presents: Dr Haydn’s London Academy which brings together several movements and works from Symphonies to string quartets to celebrate Haydn – the radical, the genius and the entertainer, on 18 November.

All this takes place to the backdrop of an ongoing financial challenge. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the venue has largely been closed since March 2020, with 80% of its income affected. This year, its income is set to be half of that in a pre-Covid year. Alongside the support of the Culture Recovery Fund from Arts Council England and DCMS, the charity again needs to raise £1m this year and £1m next year to secure its future, rebuild live music in the region and ensure music is part of everybody’s recovery.