ALL that Northern Sinfonia players knew seconds before 2pm yesterday was that their afternoon rehearsal had been delayed for an announcement.
Minutes after 2pm, as Royal Northern Sinfonia players, their delighted cheers rang around Hall Two of Sage Gateshead.
Nigel Sherlock, Lord Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear, had dressed in his finery to announce that the Queen had awarded the orchestra a ‘Royal’ appellation.
“From this very time you are to be called the Royal Northern Sinfonia,” he said. The orchestra, founded in 1958 by Michael Hall, who died last year, is the first to be honoured in this way for more than 20 years.
As well as joining a select group of orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and the Royal Scottish National, it becomes the first chamber orchestra awarded the Royal tag.
A chamber orchestra has fewer players and its own particular repertoire – although the Royal Northern Sinfonia annually proves its versatility in many genres and concert formats.
The Lord Lieutenant, after declaring himself a fan of the orchestra since his student days, told the musicians: “The achievements of the Northern Sinfonia over the years, and particularly the latter years, have been noted within the UK and internationally.
“Now you have an extremely strong international reputation and this has built over the years.”
He added: “May I be the first to congratulate you all for the individual parts you played in this fantastic achievement.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and very, very proud. What a regional asset you are and a national asset. I hope there will now be a bigger spring in your step.”
The region’s professional orchestra has been resident at Sage Gateshead since the building opened in December 2004, with the Queen performing the official opening ceremony the following year.
Anthony Sargent, general director of the Sage, said: “We’re thrilled beyond words by the recognition for the truly exceptional musicians of Northern Sinfonia.”
Bradley Creswick, violinist and leader of the orchestra for the best part of 30 years, said: “This is no doubt one of the proudest days in the history of the orchestra.”
Speaking from her home in Exeter, Brenda Hall, widow of Michael, said: “This is wonderful news. Michael was always very proud of the orchestra. I think I’ll have a little glass of Champagne on his behalf.”
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