Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Northern Chords Alive and Kicking; Some of the Country's Best Young Musicians Will Be Paying Homage to Composers Both Living and Dead in the Fifth Northern Chords Festival. DAVID WHETSTONE Talked to Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Bloxham

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Northern Chords Alive and Kicking; Some of the Country's Best Young Musicians Will Be Paying Homage to Composers Both Living and Dead in the Fifth Northern Chords Festival. DAVID WHETSTONE Talked to Festival Artistic Director Jonathan Bloxham

Article excerpt

IF Benjamin Britten were still alive, he would be getting a telegram from The Queen in November. Wagner and Verdi, meanwhile, would have turned 100 in the year he was born, 1913.

Anniversaries, anniversaries... and here's another. The Northern Chords festival of chamber music turns five in May and is very much alive and kicking.

This is a North East festival which throbs with the energy and enthusiasm of youth. Created by young people and featuring performances by young people, it has the infectious qualities needed by classical music, a genre too easily portrayed as fusty and outmoded.

Britten, Wagner, Verdi and indeed Northern Chords will all get a special birthday nod at the forthcoming festival, masterminded as ever by young Gateshead-born cellist Jonathan Bloxham.

This was the festival he devised partly to thank those who had overseen his musical education in the North East - before music college and the beginnings of a glittering career in London-- and partly to inspire those who might be following in his footsteps.

A third motive was to provide performance opportunities for some of the brilliant young musicians he trained with in London and who have become his friends.

Its popularity goes without saying. Festivals don't run for five years unsupported.

But Jonathan, back in the region this week for a special launch event at The Sage Gateshead, said the first festival was "a toe in the water".

He added: "So many arts events fall by the wayside, so it's very nice that the festival continues.

"Northern Chords is evolving from being a one-off festival every year to becoming a musical institution with more of a year-round presence. That's our aim.

"This year, for the first time, we have a team which includes a festival co-ordinator (Hannah Nonnenmacher) and a head of education (Lorna Wright).

"Our logo has totally changed and our website is much more exciting. It's one of the best musical websites I've seen for a very long time."

Clearly Jonathan is of the opinion that lights should not be hidden under bushels, but the website is good.

Rather more to the point, so is the music.

Quality of performance has won over the powers-that-be at The Sage Gateshead, which is happy to promote Northern Chords and make its box office facilities available "The festival has become more of a co-production with the Sage than a commercial hire," said Jonathan.

"The idea, in theory, is that in the future Northern Chords becomes part of the full classical programme.

"I think they like the fact this is something they couldn't source in quite the same way."

It's another example of the Sage nurturing and benefiting from the talent on its doorstep.

The brilliant conductor and musical arranger John Wilson, also Gateshead-born, is now one of the Sage's principal conductors. …

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