Newcastle's Victoria Tunnel set for underground music event

Newcastle's Victoria Tunnel to stage performance

Musicians in rehearsal in Newcastle's Victoria Tunnel
Musicians in rehearsal in Newcastle's Victoria Tunnel

A city tunnel is set to stage the first of five underground music events in the North.

From Mine to Tyne will be performed in the Victoria Tunnel, which runs under Newcastle from Spital Tongues to the mouth of the Ouseburn.

Manchester based composer Michael Betteridge’s From Mine to Tyne piece is the first of five compositions he is writing for the Cobweb Orchestra to perform in underground venues in the North, beginning in the Victoria Tunnel just inside its entrance in Ouse Street, near the Hotel Du Vin.

Over the next year the orchestra will also perform Mr Betteridge’s new music in the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel, York Nuclear Bunker, Cleveland Ironstone Mine, and the Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.

At the end of the project all five compositions will be linked together and performed as an Underground Symphony at Sage Gateshead in autumn 2015, accompanied by a booklet about the project, the places and the performances.

The new work for the tunnel has been commissioned as part of an “adopt-a-composer” scheme where emerging young composers are paired with exceptional amateur ensembles across the UK.

Mr Betteridge specialises in site-specific work, and has been inspired by the history of the tunnel both as a 19th Century route for coal from Spital Tongues Colliery to the Tyne and later its use as a Second World War air raid shelter.

He said: “Not only is it such a pleasure to work with such a talented, dedicated and friendly orchestra composing new music, but to be able to create this musical installation for such a historically important and valuable space is an exciting and amazing opportunity.”

Sheila Ryan, bassoonist with the Cobweb Orchestra, is co-ordinating the performance in the Victoria Tunnel.

She said: “We love performing in unusual places.

“I had visited the Victoria Tunnel a few years ago and thought it would be such an exciting and unusual place to perform.

“As the orchestra has started to rehearse this special piece we have found it deeply atmospheric and moving, starting with just tapping the keys and strings of the instruments, depicting the sound of the coal wagons and the working life of the tunnel, incorporating an old folk song, then changing to express its role as an air raid shelter with sirens and bombs, leading on to a more peaceful finale”.

Clive Goodwin, Victoria Tunnel co-ordinator with the Ouseburn Trust, said: “We usually lead guided tours for up to 15 people at a time to explore the history of the Victoria Tunnel, so this is a very unusual event that will interpret the heritage in a completely different way, and bring out the special acoustics and experience of going underground.”

The last few tickets are still available priced at £7.50 direct from the Ouseburn Trust by phone 0191 2616596 or email to Lesley.turner@ouseburntrust.org.uk. Musicians and audience will have to wear hard hats and extra supplies have been donated for the orchestra by JSP, UK manufacturers of safety equipment.

The performers also use head torches to complement an atmospheric light installation by artist Steve Messam.

The Cobweb Orchestra started 20 years ago from an evening class in Durham, and now has eight branches across the North of England.

More information about the concerts is available from www.cobweborchestra.org.uk

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