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Royal Northern Sinfonia to pay homage to Queen - the band

Composer and arranger Tolga Kashif is to conduct the region's professional orchestra in a performance of his The Queen Symphony


The Queen bestowed the title Royal Northern Sinfonia on the region’s professional chamber orchestra and now it is to perform the work of Queen.

But not Her Majesty... nor even, strictly speaking, Freddie Mercury, Brian May and Co.

The Queen Symphony is a mammoth classical work by composer Tolga Kashif inspired by the music of Queen.

Written for a 71-piece orchestra and chorus, it is a work in six movements.

These are based on 12 melodies from hits including Radio Gaga, The Show Must Go On, Another One Bites The Dust and, as you would imagine, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Staff at Sage Gateshead say the audience is likely to be “astounded” by the breadth covered by this symphonic interpretation when it is performed there on February 7.

Composer and conductor Tolga Kashif
Composer and conductor Tolga Kashif

The work would surely have been appreciated by Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, who once said he “would like people to put their own interpretation” on his songs.

He was drawn to classical music, as seems clear from his epic Bohemian Rhapsody and his successful collaboration with opera star Montserrat Caballé which resulted in their 1988 album, Barcelona.

Tolga Kashif, who will be in Gateshead to conduct the Royal Northern Sinfonia and the Inspiration Choir in this North East performance of the work, took him at his word.

The Londoner, who is of Turkish-Cypriot descent, studied at the Royal College of Music and made his professional conducting debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

It was this orchestra which premiered the Queen Symphony at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2002, receiving a standing ovation from a 2,000-strong audience which included Freddie Mercury’s mother, Jer Bulsara, and also Queen drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Brian May.

After that concert May heaped praise on the work, urging: “Imagine a composer of the imagination and daring of a Tchaikovsky, a Holst or a Mussorgsky. Imagine him let loose with the entire Queen catalogue of melodies, atmospheres and textures, and a vast orchestra and a huge choir.

Roger Taylor, Brian May, Jer Bulsara and Tolga Kashif at the premiere of the Queen Symphony on November 11, 2002
Roger Taylor, Brian May, Jer Bulsara and Tolga Kashif at the premiere of the Queen Symphony on November 11, 2002

“Then you’ll be close to imagining where this work begins. This is something monumental and quite outrageous.”

In 2003, the year after the premiere, the Queen Symphony was nominated in the Album of the Year category in the Classical Brit Awards.

Subsequently it has been performed all over the world by different orchestras.

Tolga Kashif, who spent two years composing the Queen Symphony, is no stranger to the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

In the same year that the Queen Symphony was a Brit contender, he directed the orchestra – then without its ‘Royal’ prefix – on a UK tour with his friend, opera singer Lesley Garrett.

As a warm-up to the main event the Inspiration Choir will perform hits by the likes of The Beatles, Adele and Simon and Garfunkel.

The concert takes place in Hall One, Sage Gateshead, on Saturday, February 7 at 7.30pm. Tickets from 0191 443 4661 or via www.sagegateshead.com


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