The Royal Northern Sinfonia is a British chamber orchestra, based initially in Newcastle upon Tyne, and currently in Gateshead. For the first 46 years of its history, the orchestra gave the bulk of its concerts at the City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne. Since 2004, the orchestra has been resident at The Sage Gateshead. In June 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title "Royal" upon the orchestra, formally naming it the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Michael Hall founded the ensemble in 1958 as the first permanent chamber orchestra in Britain. The ensemble gave its first concert on 24 September 1958 as the 'Sinfonia Orchestra', at the City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne, and gave 6 concerts in its first season, 1958-1959. Hall acted as the organisation's single leader, in effect as "general manager, secretary, artistic director, conductor, and fund-raiser", though without a formal title. The word "Northern" was added to the orchestra's name in 1959 to give the name of "Northern Sinfonia". The orchestra became an established institution in 1959, with Humphrey Noble chosen as the first chairman of the ensemble's management committee. Hall resigned from the orchestra in 1964, but returned as a guest conductor in subsequent years. After Hall's departure, Rudolf Schwarz and Boris Brott took over musical leadership of the ensemble in parallel, with Schwarz being the first titled artistic director of the ensemble. Keith Statham served as the orchestra's general manager from 1966 to 1974.
The current music director of the Northern Sinfonia is Thomas Zehetmair, who was named to the post in November 2001, starting with the 2002-2003 season, for an initial contract of 3 years and 6 weeks of concerts each season. In August 2005, he extended his contract for another 3 years through 2008. His most recent contract extension as music director is through the 2013-2014 season, at which time he is scheduled to conclude his tenure with the orchestra. In addition to Zehetmair as Music Director, the orchestra currently has as its Principal Conductors John Wilson since 2009 and Mario Venzago since 1 January 2010. Venzago's current contract as Principal Conductor is through 2013.Simon Halsey served as Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia's Choral Programme from 2004 through 2012.
The orchestra has recorded for the NMC and Naxos labels, among others.
Artistic Directors, Music Directors and Principal Conductors:
Michael Hall (1958-1964),
Rudolf Schwarz (1964-1973),
Christopher Seaman (1973-1979),
Tamás Vásáry and Iván Fischer (1979-1982),
Richard Hickox (1982-1990),
Heinrich Schiff (1990-1996),
Jean-Bernard Pommier (1996-1999),
Thomas Zehetmair (Music Director, 2002-present),
Simon Halsey (Principal Conductor, Choral Programme, 2004-2012),
John Wilson (Principal Conductor, 2009-present),
Mario Venzago (Principal Conductor, 2010-present)