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Review: Now We Are Ten at Sage Gateshead

The iconic Sage Gateshead threw a party to celebrate the completion of its first decade and music critic Rob Barnes was there



They said to expect the unexpected and a night of surprises – and Sage Gateshead delivered.

To celebrate the 10th birthday, staff laid on Funfair, a feast of the most varied entertainment both inside and outside the building. There were clog dancers, sword dancers and fire-eaters – and this was outside before the party officially started.

The audience was then ushered inside en masse for a son et lumière experience to match the best.

Using the concourse as a huge ‘big top’, there were gymnasts, a zip-wire, percussion artists using the building’s structural elements as their drum kit and torch-bearing window-cleaners abseiling down the outside, all suffused by the most wonderful lighting and sound effects.

Hall One then played host to Hawthorn Primary School’s Symphony Orchestra comprising children aged seven to 11. What a tribute to the In Harmony project which is helping one school in Elswick through the magic of music.

How many other schools could boast the direct involvement of world famous cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, trumpet player Alison Balsam and Royal Northern Sinfonia in their music curriculum?

Crowds enjoyed the Tenth Birthday celebrations of the Sage
Crowds enjoyed the Tenth Birthday celebrations of the Sage

The children played captivatingly, including part of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and a work composed by one of their own, Stephen Deazley, called Tuba Train, complete with sound effects.

Partygoers could then choose between different genres of music, all championed by Sage through their education programmes and being played in its various performance spaces.

The excellent 13-strong Folkestra played their traditional music with ease and confidence to a packed Northern Rock Foundation Hall, Jambone filled the concourse with their jazz and kraut rock duo Warm Digits upped the volume with their own brand of new electronic music, including a version of Greg Lake’s I Believe in Father Christmas.

Ed Carter’s Barographic provided a unique soundscape and visuals, the atmospheric pressure readings in the building having been converted by the Gateshead artist into a score for traditional and electronic instruments.

From the Hall One stage, departing general director Anthony Sargent offered a moving thank you to all who had been part of the successes of the past 10 years, explaining how Sage Gateshead’s various activities had boosted the local economy.

This prefaced a second performance of a multi-media work by composer Jonathan Dove and film director Philip Shotton tracking the construction of Gateshead’s landmark building through film footage and music scored for piano and orchestra.

The Sage on its tenth birthday
The Sage on its tenth birthday

This was actually an updated version of the original of 10 years ago, now including performances by some of the young musicians and singers from the Sage’s own music programmes as part of the climax to the work.

Royal Northern Sinfonia, with guest pianist Rolf Hind and conducted by Brad Cohen, provided a mesmerising and memorable work of sound and vision.

To complete the major party offerings, renowned vocal chamber group the Hilliard Ensemble gave their penultimate concert from the balcony outside the Northern Rock Foundation Hall.

They will call time on a career spanning 40 years this weekend, so this was a last chance in the North East to hear some of the greatest exponents of early music.

Now We Are Ten was a fitting way, after a decade, to demonstrate the sheer breadth of Sage Gateshead’s music and performance provision for all ages and levels of ability.

Here’s hoping it will continue to be a huge inspiration to many in this region, delivering the unexpected along the way.


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