FEATURE: The Great Exhibition of the North – music programme | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Nadine Shah by Anna Victoria Best

Today’s feature focuses on the music elements of the Great Exhibition of the North

The Great Northern Soundtrack

Words: Rebecca Gregson

Our favourite Geordie broadcaster (no, not Alan Robson), Lauren Laverne will be taking over Sage Gateshead, curating an intriguing week-long pick ’n’ mix programme of live music.

We kick off with Nightmares on Wax (Friday 22nd) who brings visceral beats with support from sample-toting MC Skinny Pelembe. A Potted History of Northern Pop from self-proclaimed vinylophile Mr Drayton (Saturday 23rd-Saturday 30th) is a series of events playing full length classic Northern pop albums, complete with music quiz and prizes. Serial festival stage botherers Vessels bring their electronic wizardry on Saturday 23rd, followed by special guest DJ and radio royalty Tom RavenscroftNadine Shah, known as much for music industry activism as for her soulful songs, plays on Sunday 24th, supported by Rafiki Jazz‘s folk and roots storytelling and lush vocal harmonies. PINS (Monday 25th) bring razor-sharp indie, with support from She Drew The Gun.

Iconic nightclub World Headquarters celebrates its 25 year anniversary with an amazing live show of vintage soul (Friday 29th) featuring the Voices of Virtue Choir with full band. On the same night you can catch Róisín Murphy serving up a slice of addictive dance pop and blissfully rhythmic tunes. Your go-to new music guru BBC Introducing will present a night of emerging talent at Sage Two on Saturday 30th and Manchester’s urban super-group LEVELZbring mad MC skills and a frenetic live show on the same night. Maximo Park’s Paul Smith hosts a family-friendly DJ set, inviting dancing from uber-cool parents and children alike (Sunday 1st July) and to round it all off Kathryn Tickellbrings together the finest folk musicians as The Darkening to explore the wild and unforgiving landscape and history of Northumberland (Sunday 1st). 


Words: Claire Dupree

The majority of the Exhibition’s official musical programming centers around Sage Gateshead, with the aforementioned Great Northern Soundtrack a focal point.

Also of particular note is CoMusica’s The Bridge performances, which will exhibit the skills of young people, featuring grime, hip-hop and heavy bass lines on the Concourse (Saturday 30th June); Royal Northern Sinfonia and Nevill Holt Opera collaborate on a new fully-staged production of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro (Wednesday 4th & Friday 6th July); you can engage with Royal Northern Sinfonia again at a free sample event, aimed to introduce classical music to new audiences (Saturday 7th July).

On Saturday 28th July Folk on the Tyne offers up Concourse performances and family activities throughout the day, plus an afternoon showcase of three superb Northern folk musicians and songwriters courtesy of Folkworks and hosted by Northumbrian Pipes exponent Alistair Anderson. Expect performances from accordionist and clog dancer Amy Thatcher, pipe player Andy May and violinist, singer and songwriter Nancy Kerr. Backbone of our Land, a series of newly commissioned music and spoken word pieces about what it means to be Northern will get its debut. Chaired by Field Music’s Peter Brewis and poet Degna Stone, the project features Bella Hardy, Sarah Hayes, Andrew McMillan, Kim Moore and Dan Rogers. Topping off the night is a performance from North Eastern folk royalty The Unthanks, ably assisted by Teesside’s supreme vocal harmony group The Wilson Family and BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Young’uns. Those who haven’t quite got their fill of music can dance the night away at a late night ceilidh courtesy of Monster Ceilidh Band, who present their electrofolk spectacular to send the night off with a bang.

On an arty tip, musical artist Mark Fell will present Protomusic#1 throughout the festival, activating Sage Gateshead’s spaces with sonic structures which are based on the real world sounds of the North.

Those with youngsters may also be aware of the work of Katie Simmons (Go Jetters, Yakka Dee, Show Me Show Me and Mr Bloom’s Nursery); she’s also behind a new animation, Bridges, alongside Ed Carter and creative studio NOVAK. The animated musical adventure follows the journey of a man, a dog and their small fishing boat, overcoming a series of challenges as they navigate the River Tyne to an incident at Dunston Staithes.

Also taking the Tyne as its inspiration, Aeons will serenade your walk along riverside; pick up some headphones from the glass control room of the Millennium Bridge and listen to music from the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, composer and accordionist Martin Green (from folk trio Lau) and Becky Unthank which will be triggered by sensors along the 40 minute walk.

Manchester-based Brighter Sound are embarking on a three year programme across the North, which aims to support, inspire and showcase women in music, celebrating the North’s explosive creativity and revolutionary history. The Hexagon Experiment will feature collaborations between female artists and scientists, with highlights including music from electro pop trio Stealing Sheep, post-rockers Haiku Salut and Sara Lowes, who partners with visual artist Mary Griffiths. Keep an eye on the GETNorth website for dates and venues.

Rounding off the programme, from Monday 6th-Sunday 26th August Sage Gateshead will host their Summer Studio residencies, which offer musicians, singers and artists an opportunity to create new work and develop their skills. Free short residencies, one-to-one sessions, recording opportunities and a performance showcase make up the programme, with previous alumni including Sarah Fisher, Swine Tax, Harri Endersby, Aeyther and Katie Doherty.


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