Seven of the region’s most brilliant musicians are going back to basics in aid of Sage Gateshead’s 10th Birthday Appeal.
The members of Royal Northern Sinfonia, based at the Sage, have volunteered to leave their musical comfort zone for a so-called Grade-1-athon.
Choosing an unfamiliar instrument, they have been set a target of December to pass the Grade 1 music exam – the traditional first rung on the ladder for an aspiring classical musician.
It is safe to say that all the volunteers will have passed the top Grade 8 many years ago on the instrument for which they have earned their place in the renowned orchestra.
But this is a tough test. It has been said it takes about 417 days – 10,000 hours – to master a musical instrument, whereas the Sinfonia’s magnificent seven have, at most, 238 days from today.
Bradley Creswick, ace violinist and Royal Northern Sinfonia co-leader, is “wrestling with a bassoon”, according to the Sage.
So far, it seems, he is on top. “I can play the first four notes of God Save the Queen,” he boasted yesterday. And the musicians only received their instruments at the weekend!
Bradley said he had played the bass recorder at school before taking up the violin and enjoyed it.
“The bassoon, along with the double bass, provides the real bass ground of the orchestra,” he said. “Having played the top line so many times, I really fancied it.”
Recalling famous bassoon music, he cited the TV theme tunes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, the children’s series Ivor the Engine, an advert for Marmite and the start of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Also embarking on the challenge are violinists Jenny Chang, Jane Nossek, Kyra Humphreys and Iona Brown who are taking up French horn, flute, oboe and clarinet respectively.
Flautist Eilidh Gillespie is to learn the viola and Steven Hudson the cello.
Supporters can sponsor the musicians or take up the challenge themselves in support of the 10th Birthday Appeal, which is setting out to raise £4m by July 2015 in order to secure £2m in extra funding from Arts Council England.