This is the group my beloved John Wilsonwished a happy birthday to, and it’s a truly worthwhile one: The Royal Northern Sinfonia has an outstanding record in community outreach in the northeast of England. It’s pleasing to think that bonny John had a childhood filled with such musical memories—makes me recall my girlhood days hanging around Northrop Auditorium and the Minneapolis Symphony, now the Minnesota Orchestra. (Will tell all about my Vietnam War-era music school/protest days sometime.)
Bradley Creswick at the upstairs hall at The Sage, the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s permanent home in Gateshead, on the south side of the river from Newcastle. That’s the Tyne and the Tyne Bridge out the window.
Royal Northern Sinfonia is a British chamber orchestra, founded in Newcastle upon Tyne and currently based in Gateshead. For the first 46 years of its history, the orchestra gave the bulk of its concerts at the Newcastle City Hall. Since 2004, the orchestra has been resident at The Sage, Gateshead. In June 2013 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title “Royal” on the orchestra, formally naming it the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
The vid above doesn’t have the entire Vaughan Williams, so here’s my Tyneside lad conducting this exquisite piece:
“The Lark Ascending”
Made in Britain, album
Ralph Vaughan Williams, composer
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
John Wilson, conductor
Avie Records, 2011
This is what I’ve been waiting for since last summer: a vidcomp of the complete annual summer concert of the greatest festival orchestra in the world, The Johann Strauss Orchestra, led by Andre Rieu, in the town square Vrijthof in their home town of Maastricht, The Netherlands, 7 July 2018.
Above: The other famous orchestra from the Netherlands, the Concertgebouw, strikes up Shostakovich’s waltz.
From their rousing entrance to the tune of “76 Trombones” by Meredith Willson (that’s two l’s, thank you) to their invariable sign-off pieces: the Maastricht city anthem; Strauss Sr’s “Radetsky March”; “An der schönen blauen Donau” op. 314 (of course!); Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz No 2; “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (from “Plaisir d’amour” by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini, 1784); Austrian composer Robert Stoltz’s “Adieu, mein kleiner gardeoffizier”; and the Rocco Granata standard “Marina” (which I used to hear every year at the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, NYC), there’s two hours here of sheer delight, drinking and dancing. It’s always a special afternoon when I get to play the entire Maastricht concerts for me and Mister Grumble, I open a bottle and dance around the room and he just grins intermittently and drinks. Will write down the playlist one of these days.
The Sage in the town of Gateshead contains three performance spaces; a 1,700-seater, a 450-seater, and a smaller rehearsal and performance hall, the Northern Rock Foundation Hall. The rest of the building was designed around these three spaces to allow for maximum attention to detail in their acoustic properties. Structurally it is three separate buildings, insulated from each other to prevent noise and vibration traveling between them. The gaps between them may be seen as one walks around inside. A special spongy concrete mix was used in the construction, with a higher-than-usual air capacity to improve the acoustic. These three buildings are enclosed (but not touched) by the now-famous glass and steel shell.
Sage One was intended as an acoustically perfect space, modeled on the Musikverein in Vienna. Its ceiling panels may be raised and lowered and curtains drawn across the ribbed wooden side walls, changing the sound profile of the room to suit any type of music. Sage Two is a smaller venue, possibly the world’s only ten-sided performance space. The building is open to the public throughout the day.