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Review: Orchestra North East at The Sage Gateshead

AS THE Durham Sinfonia, this "band" of amateur orchestral players performed in some august venues and with famous soloists and conductors.

The Sage and the Tyne Bridge

AS THE Durham Sinfonia, this "band" of amateur orchestral players performed in some august venues and with famous soloists and conductors.

But the stakes were pretty high on Sunday night.

As signified by the name change, the 80-strong Orchestra North East wishes to reflect the region rather than a single city.

Discounting appearances in an accompanying role, this was ONE’s debut in Hall One of the Sage, a world-class venue where the world’s best orchestras, notably the resident Northern Sinfonia, have performed.

It would have been understandable if nerves had been jangling before a concert which also attracted the orchestra’s biggest audience.

But if they were, you wouldn’t have known.

Beginning and ending with lyrical English musings, and with a home-grown premiere full of sparkle and sex appeal in between, the concert was a delight throughout.

Exuding confidence under the experienced baton of Tim Reynish, the orchestra did full justice to Delius’s English rhapsody, Brigg Fair, and to Elgar’s Enigma Variations – both perfect summer fare.

In between, Emma Johnson – a one-time BBC Young Musician of the Year – shone in a performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, a work she has made her own.

Switching from red dress to a more adventurous number in pink and turquoise, she and the orchestra changed the mood for the first North East performance of Will Todd’s Jazz Concerto for Clarinet, which the Durham-born composer wrote specially for her.

With its sinuous harmonies and fizzing tempo changes, it was a challenge that was met with aplomb. Todd joined the players on stage for the long ovation.

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