RNS Moves is a unique, inclusive ensemble featuring disabled musicians and non-disabled members of Royal Northern Sinfonia (RNS). The ensemble rehearse and perform here at Sage Gateshead.
“This is a real beacon of high-quality playing, unique around the world. It doesn’t matter if someone has a disability – music makes a connection to all of us and people can create on all levels.” Clarence Adoo, founding member of RNS Moves
RNS Moves was born out of a four-day collaboration with Candoco Dance Company, a world-leading professional dance company including disabled and non-disabled dancers.
“They’ve got a very simple mantra of excellence which attracted us to working with them because it’s what we were aiming to do – to create a chamber ensemble that provides excellent music-making,” says Tristan Gurney, leader of RNS Moves.
RNS was curious to explore what it might look like for disabled and non-disabled musicians to work closely together. Dancers and musicians worked side-by-side, sharing their ideas and experiences, and thinking through the specific challenges they faced in order to collaborate well and with a focus on inclusivity.
“As a group of musicians, we really enjoyed ourselves, and the challenges we had of bringing the ensemble together. Everyone who came to hear us thought it was special,” says Clarence Adoo.
The success of the collaboration depended on the musicians learning to work in new ways, including adapting to new instruments such as Clarence’s Headspace instrument (featured in video above). The project cultivated a desire in this group of musicians to lead the way with a new kind of ensemble that could break down perceptions of what is possible.
The group was launched as a more regular ensemble during the RNS Big Birthday Bash in 2018, as part of the orchestra’s 60th Anniversary celebrations.
“There are no musical limits to our repertoire, and what we can achieve or arrange between us,” Clarence says. “As a group we’ve sometimes played with four string players, an oboe player, a modern Headspace instrument (offering a kind of electronic synthesiser sound or harpsichord), a saxophone and an electric guitar.
RNS Moves has adapted well-known music as well as commissioning pieces especially for the ensemble.
“We’ve grown more comfortable with different ways of making music. One such element is improvisation which really isn’t in the portfolio of a classically trained musician. When it comes to RNS Moves, the music stand doesn’t have much on it at all and that is very challenging and quite a scary thing to do,” Tristan says.
Since the groups inception they’ve met regularly at Sage Gateshead through the year, developing their musical approach. RNS Moves have performed for audiences in both Sage One and Sage Two as well as our online audience.
Tristan Gurney says, “Sage Gateshead is a wonderful building and as a violinist, that space is your instrument because you play into the hall which acts like a speaker and amplifies the sound.”
The ensemble has auditioned nationwide to find more professional disabled musicians to join the pool of players for the group.
The next stage is for RNS Moves to perform more regularly, and to work with national and international partners on larger collaborations and commissions.