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Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia

For 40 years the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia has been an integral, ever-present part of the Royal Northern Sinfonia musical family, drawing on talented and committed singers from across the North of England.

Choruses allow an orchestra to present the great, stand-out works from history: Mozart’s Requiem, Bach’s Passions and Haydn’s Masses, and performances of these have formed the core repertoire for Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia. However its role in Sage Gateshead’s classical programme is altogether more ambitious, matching the breadth of repertoire of the orchestra itself. Regular performances of the classics are frequently placed alongside modern masterpieces, and the chorus now regularly features in both our Sage One and Sage Two series.

Former Royal Northern Sinfonia timpanist Alan Fearon founded the chorus and led them until summer 2014, playing a crucial role in the choral and vocal strategy at Sage Gateshead. The chorus has worked with many guest conductors and with every Music Director since Rudolph Schwartz, the orchestra’s second Music Director, including 12 seasons with Thomas Zehetmair.

From 2004 to 2012 renowned choral conductor Simon Halsey led the chorus as Principal Conductor Choral Programme. They performed for the first time with Lars Vogt last season, and Hugh Brunt was appointed as Chorus Director in 2016.

Amongst the recordings the chorus has made are Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Mozart’s Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ operas Sir John in Love and Riders to the Sea, Bliss’ Pastorale, and Songs of Northumbria.

Hugh Brunt Chorus Director

Hugh Brunt is co-Artistic Director and co-Principal Conductor of the London Contemporary Orchestra, winner of the Ensemble category at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2015. Since 2008, he has led the LCO in innovative programmes at UK and European venues and festivals including the Roundhouse, Barbican, Royal Opera House, Open’er Festival (Poland), Royal Festival Hall, Victoria Hall (Geneva), Village Underground and Latitude Festival, and live on BBC Radio 3. He is Chorus Director at Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Recent and upcoming engagements include Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Orchestra of Opera North, Rambert Dance Company, Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, BBC Concert Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted numerous premieres by leading young composers Francisco Coll, Shiva Feshareki, Martin Suckling, Gabriel Prokofiev, Emily Hall, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Edmund Finnis.

He conducted the string and choir arrangements on Radiohead’s new album A Moon Shaped Pool. A collaborator of composer and guitarist Jonny Greenwood, he conducted his scores for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. In the past two years with the LCO Soloists he has premiered seven short works by Greenwood and conducted the first live screening of the Academy Award-winning There Will Be Blood. Other collaborative work includes Beck, Imogen Heap, Belle & Sebastian, Actress, Matthew Herbert, Boiler Room and Foals. He has conducted and orchestrated Jed Kurzel’s scores to Macbeth and Assassin’s Creed.

Hugh studied at New College, Oxford, where he held a choral scholarship, and at the Lucerne Festival Academy under Heinz Holliger.

Join the Chorus

Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia always welcomes new members. Current members come from all kinds of backgrounds, all age groups and with varying levels of previous experience – read on to hear more from members themselves on what being in the chorus means to them.

“I’ve sung with choirs at various times in my life and also presented a regular choral series on BBC Radio 4 called Voices in Harmony. I really missed it when shift work as a BBC news reader forced me to stop. Now retired, I have the joy of talking gardening on Sunday afternoons on Radio Newcastle’s Garden Mania show and singing in the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonias rehearsals on Sunday evenings. Choral singing is incredibly therapeutic; it brings you alive and cheers you up. Being in the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia alongside fantastic professional musicians and learning such a wide range of choral music, is challenging, demanding and exciting. The rehearsals give you a wonderful insight into the music and the exhilaration you get when a concert goes well is a huge morale boost, there’s nothing quite like it.” Marian Foster, Retired BBC presenter/producer

“I joined the Sinfonia Chorus in January 2006 after growing up in a Children’s Choir. It was refreshing to join an adult choir and have the opportunity to sing such fantastic and famous pieces of music. The Sinfonia orchestra and choir has an excellent reputation around the North East, which is how I came to hear about the choir! The choir is friendly and it’s a joy to sing with such talented musicians, I would recommend it to anyone!” Katie Jane Innes, Student at Newcastle University doing PGCE in Secondary Mathematics and Graduate of Newcastle University School of Mathematics

“I’ve sung in the chorus for ten years as a full member. I was born and brought up in the North East and have been singing since the age of twelve, when I joined my local Choral Society. I’ve also sung with Cambridge University Music Society and the Bach Choir. Singing at the level demanded by the Northern Sinfonia Chorus is an amazing and intense experience, and you have to leave all your worries at the rehearsal door as there’s no time for lapses in concentration! I especially love the last few rehearsals before a concert, when the conductor gives us his or her interpretation of the music – that’s when it really comes to life. It’s also great fun being in the chorus ‘ for example, having a party backstage with the cast of Don Giovanni DURING the final performance, or having last minute rehearsals on the bus on our way to a concert!” Nick Forbes, Chief Executive of a local health charity and Leader of Newcastle City Council

“I’ve been singing with the chorus for three and a half years and I love every minute of it – both the social life and the singing! Although I enjoy all the performances, my favourite so far has been Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” at Easter 2008, with Handel’s “Messiah” in December 2005 a close second.”
Amy Maguire, Medical student, Newcastle

“To sing with a world class orchestra in a world class concert venue on my doorstep is the most amazing experience and makes me proud to be a Geordie in Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia!”
Ellen Murphy-Clarke, Alto

“The concert I’m most looking forward to in the 17/18 season is the Weihnachts Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio) – I am from the Netherlands, where it is as popular as the Messiah is in the UK, but I have never sung it. I’m looking forward to hearing the reactions from the audience and the other chorus members.”
Milja Spruit, Alto

“Singing with Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia was always something I considered doing, during my 30 years playing French horn with RNS. I wasn’t actually sure that I would ever manage it, either for practical or economic reasons, but lo and behold, I have now performed with them for most of my first season of semi retirement. At boarding school I led the choir and I loved singing treble and hearing all the harmony around me. Similarly, I now love being in amongst the harmony and hearing the wonderful line delivered by the sopranos in CoRNS. Using the voice box after working all my professional life on the French horn embouchure is fascinating. The vocal chords are more spontaneous than the deliberately formed and developed embouchure. I have huge admiration for our choral director Hugh; I judge his rehearsal technique and approach to be just right and I wish I had been steeped more in choral music at an early age. When studying at the Royal Academy of Music, I admired fellow students who had singing as their first study and who could sing so accurately, usually at sight. Thanks to my horn playing I am certainly better at this than I was then, but there is always room for improvement, obviously!”
Chris Griffiths, Tenor and former Principal Horn with Royal Northern Sinfonia

“Singing with Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia is such a special experience; an indulgent ‘me-time’ that I continue to cherish since joining the dizzy heights of the soprano section 7 years ago. I came across the Chorus when browsing the Sage Gateshead website, desperately searching for a singing opportunity. As a busy working Mum, wife and part-time student, I realised that after 5 years of not singing at all that I really missed it and very much needed to find an outlet. I hastily signed up for an audition, something I had never done at this level before, and was delighted to be offered a place. I can wholeheartedly say that the first time you sing with the chorus is wonderful; a fantastic experience. I remember thinking at my very first rehearsal for Durufle’s Requiem “Wow! This lot can really sing.” For a minute or two I just wanted to listen to the richness of sound around me. I count it a privilege to be able to sing with such a group and when joined with the outstanding talents and skill in artistry of Royal Northern Sinfonia, the sense of pride is immeasurable, particularly in the awe-inspiring venue of Sage Gateshead. Special moments for me have included my all time favourites of Macmillan’s Seven Last Words from the Cross and Allegri’s Miserere, along with anything by Morten Lauridsen. The larger works such as Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Requiem will always hold a special place in the heart too. Working under the leadership and direction of world class conductors and musicians is amazing. Hugh, the chorus director has a keen ear and eye for detail. The way in which a piece of music is explored, rehearsed and refined is precision engineering and musical crafting at its best, inclusive of advice around vocal technique and maintaining good vocal health. I am very much looking forward to the 17/18 season, there are lots of exciting and new things ahead, inclusive of Star Wars and MacMillan’s St Luke Passion. I love the challenge, I love the partnership and connectedness, and I love that it’s what I do to help maintain good health and wellbeing. Thank you Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia.”
Fiona Thompson, Soprano

“The thing I love about being in the chorus is being part of such a talented group of people. It’s a great experience performing at some fantastic venues like Sage Gateshead, and Durham Cathedral. It also really helps me keep my voice in shape and has increased my range and versatility as a vocalist. This experience of being in such a creative environment has broadened my musical knowledge and abilities. The music is very challenging , but when you hear the finished result, it’s worth all the hard work that’s been put into it. One of my biggest highlights was performing with the chorus at Hong Kong Arts Festival several seasons ago.”
Jenny Moore, Soprano

For more information about the Chorus of Royal Northern Sinfonia, and how to join, please email singing@sagegateshead.com