Queen Symphony Concert, Sage Gateshead

15 February 2015

On 7 February 2015, Inspiration Newcastle was asked to be the opening act for the Queen Symphony concert at Sage Gateshead. Here are one singer’s experiences from the event.

A much younger, good friend of mine had her 40th birthday party on Saturday 7th February so when this concert was announced I was completely torn between the two. Luckily my friend is an Inspiration Choir supporter, so with her blessing, I enrolled to take part and I am so glad I did!

Leading up to the concert, we had two 3-hour rehearsals, the second one in Hall One at Sage Gateshead. With approximately 100 singers (instead of our usual 300) and a huge space to fill, we sounded strangely quiet but together with the 60-strong Royal Northern Sinfonia the sound was incredible.

Inspiration and Royal Northern Sinfonia performed six songs in the first half; ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘Here's To The Heroes’, ‘Proud Mary’, ‘Beatles Medley’, ‘Rolling In The Deep (my personal favourite) and ‘Don't Stop Believing’.

Considering we were singing to an almost packed house of classical music enthusiasts, the audience’s reaction was wonderful. The a capella introduction to ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ was a perfect start and certainly got the audience's attention! It was warmly received as was the moving ‘Here's To The Heroes’, beautifully sung by our tenors and basses. ‘Proud Mary’ allowed us to show off our choreography as well as fabulous singing voices with quite a few of the string section joining in enthusiastically with the rolling movements, which was great to see.

This was followed by the ‘Beatles Medley’. Again, beautiful, moving singing from the tenors and basses in the ‘Michelle Ma Belle’ section. We then sang ‘Rolling in the Deep’. I was blown away by the sound of the full orchestra during this and the sheer power of this perfect alto song. As a choir we sang it with total conviction and rhythm. It was fabulous to sing. Then all too soon, it was time for our final song, ‘Don't Stop Believing’. We sang with spirited enthusiasm, the audience clapped loudly and Mark Deeks, our Music Director, proudly left the stage. It would have been fabulous to sing another song but we snaked off stage feeling elated and buzzing with anticipation for the main event – Tolga Kashif's Queen Symphony, an integrated work for both orchestra and choir.

After the interval, the Inspiration Choir were invited to listen to the second half of the concert so we found our seats on Level 3 and settled down. There were lots of lovely, positive comments about the choir from the people around us. One lady said she had goose bumps listening to us and the gentleman beside her was asking about how to join!

Moments later, the Queen Symphony Chorus spread onto the risers, joined by Simon Fiddler their Music Director. Tolga Kashif took to the stage and for the next hour, he had us all totally mesmerised with his beautiful arrangements of many classic Queen songs. From the shoulders up he moved like a graceful ballerina with such expression and commitment to the orchestra who played exquisitely. As a Queen fan I was deeply moved by his arrangements, especially ‘Love Of My Life’. The Chorus surprisingly didn’t sing any of the more familiar words in Bohemian Rhapsody but did make a wonderful, moving and melodic sound throughout their sections. Tolga Kashif’s Symphony took us through six movements incorporating parts of 11 classic Queen songs with each part arousing such a variety of emotions. It was classical music at its best!

It was a real privilege to be a part of this wonderful evening. As a choir we sing with such a magnificently talented orchestra and to be given the opportunity to participate in an evening such as this was truly inspirational. Thank you to everyone who made this a really special night.

As a proud member of Inspiration, I've had some amazing singing experiences over the years. This, for me, ranks right up there with Carnegie Hall and the Boat on the Seine.

Wendy Lowdon, Alto 2, Newcastle

Photo of Inspiration in rehearsal: Denise Saunders

Inspiration Newcastle rehearsing for Queen Symphony Concert