FEATURE: NEW YEAR NEW ARTISTS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Heisk

Sage Gateshead have once again announced a superb line-up of rising stars to perform at their annual New Year New Artists mini-festival, taking place from Thursday 17th-Sunday 20th January.

The fourth outing for the festival will bring some of the most exciting contemporary musicians from the folk, jazz, indie and world music spheres to perform in the venue’s hallowed halls. Nurturing and developing talent is a big part of Sage Gateshead’s remit, and the New Year New Artists showcase provides an ideal opportunity for us mere mortals to witness part of the process.

It’s often beyond the scope of music fans to consider how these exciting new artists craft their work to begin with; arriving fully formed and polished, presented in a well-rehearsed package, fans rarely get an insight into initial ideas, creative processes and the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into crafting a musical project.

In my various guises as magazine editor and devisor of workshops for bands who are looking to better promote themselves, I occasionally get an insight into these earlier processes and, as part of the 2018 Summer Studios programme, I witnessed first-hand the work that goes into getting ready to unleash a new piece of music. The Summer Studios residencies are part of Sage Gateshead’s Talent Development programme, and offer musicians from all genres and backgrounds the opportunity to take advantage of the venue’s superb rehearsal facilities. Musicians were also offered tailor-made one-to-one clinics with professionals from the likes of Sony Music, i-D Magazine, Prolifica Management and little old me. Live session videos were created by Tyneside Cinema’s Northern Stars and portrait photography by Ian West was also provided.

This investment in new talent not only benefits the musicians themselves, but also the venue’s programme scouts, as Tamsin Austin, Director of Performance Programme at Sage Gateshead, explains: “Summer Studios is a great opportunity to get to know some of the brilliant, unsigned talent we have in the North. It’s an open call, so we hear acts that we might not have otherwise come across and it’s a slower paced opportunity for us to get to know artists outside of the gig/touring cycle.”

Four alumni from Summer Studios will perform at New Year New Artists; our cover stars Katie Doherty & The Navigators will launch their new album, And Then, as part of the festival’s opening night on Thursday 17th January. They came together during 2017’s residency programme and Katie explains that having the time to hone their skills and shape their direction was invaluable. “Time and space to create are luxuries we don’t often have and can’t always afford if you’re a freelance musician. Summer Studios gave us both of those things and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have an album now if it wasn’t for that time.”

Also part of the 2018 residency were fiddle player Grace Smith (Monster Ceilidh Band) and concertina player Sam Partridge (Pons Aelius), who spent a week composing new music and making plans for their new duo which takes an explorative approach to traditional English music, and their hard work comes to fruition as Katie Doherty’s support. Also performing that night will be rising folk star Holly Clarke, who reached the semi-finals of BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award in 2016, and spent her Summer Studios residency concentrating on her new solo project. “As a traditional singer and musician, having this platform to perform is so important. The folk scene in the North East has a strong following and exposing my music to that scene is really going to help me in my career. Sage Gateshead has been a big part of my education in folk music, so it’s special to be a part of this.”

There are so many exciting innovations and ideas forming in music at the moment and it will be great to experience some of them live at a festival like this

One of the supreme benefits for music fans of New Year New Artists is the variety of music on offer. Friday’s performance will see Royal Northern Sinfonia teaming up with brilliant young saxophonist Jess Gillam, whose performance at this year’s BBC Proms wowed audiences. “It’s fantastic to be a part of a celebration of music and artists showcasing musicians from all styles – classical to indie and folk to world!” She enthuses. “There are so many exciting innovations and ideas forming in music at the moment and it will be great to experience some of them live at a festival like this.”

Also on Friday, emotionally charged songwriting and heavy grooves come from experimental jazz group Vels Trio, plus another Summer Studios alumni group, purpleshirt, in support. The three-piece team math rock with upbeat jazz to provide a performance that’s guaranteed to thrill. Also on the bill are Slow Loris, who blend jazz, metal, hip-hop and electronic music into an exciting and stimulating new sound.

Saturday afternoon sees yet more young talent perform. Respected baritone Josep-Ramon Olivé opens the afternoon’s proceedings, followed by the youngest ever winner of the BBC Young Musicians competition, trombonist Peter Moore; Santoor player and vocalist Kaviraj Singh combines complex rhythms and an innate musicality in what’s sure to be an afternoon highlight, and comes with the GemArts stamp of approval; there’s also a performance from internationally recognised harp soloist Anaïs Gaudemard; vibrant folk from sextet Heisk, whose sound combines punchy riffs with a root in Scottish traditional music; and leading young piano group Amatis Trio top the bill with their concert in Northern Rock Foundation Hall.

Saturday night will see a BBC Introducing curated stage, which will shine a light on more emerging talent. Confirmed so far is the huge vocal talent of soul songwriter Beth Macari and highly acclaimed London-based band Another Sky, whose glitchy Radiohead-meets-Four Tet sound is topped off by the unnerving vocals of Catrin Vincent, who has been rightly lauded for her lyrical prowess and stunning voice. More artists are due to be announced, providing even more opportunities to witness some of the UK’s most exciting musicians on their way up.


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