December is always special at Sage Gateshead. The whole place has that fleecily warm vibe that never fails to fill you with good cheer. It also helps that their programmers adhere to that tried and trusty “something for everyone” adage. So – without further ado – let’s run through some of the highlights.
Last year Hania Rani and Dobrawa Czocher (Friday 2 December) lit up the contemporary classical scene with their incredible ‘Inner Symphonies’ album. Rani (a pianist and composer) and Czocher (a cellist) became the youngest female composers signed to the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label, and their debut opus was carved from light and shade. It’s a release that thrums with an adventurous spirit – which speaks of their personal friendship – but it’s also a release that isn’t afraid to explore darker emotions, too.
An Afternoon with Paul Smith (Saturday 3 December) looks like being a self-explanatory delight. The Maximo Park frontman is a local art-pop hero and he’s promising a surprise or two from some brilliant collaborators. He will receive sterling support on the day from Hayden Thorpe and Me Lost Me.
Eliza Carthy (Saturday 3 December) is one of the UK’s leading folk artists (with three Mercury Prize nominations under her belt) and this year she’s celebrating 30 years in the biz. Her new album ‘Queen of the Whirl’ sees her revisiting some of her best-loved songs and she’s imaginatively reworked them to stunning effect. On this tour she’ll be backed by her band The Restitution who always bring the oomph.
One of real highlights at Sage Gateshead over the past 12 months was Martha Hill’s work-in-progress ‘Dracula the Musical’. Hill was one of four artists in residence at the venue this year and her take on the Dracula story went down a veritable storm. And now, by popular demand, it’s back! (Wednesday 7 December). It’s a dark tale told with tongue firmly in cheek and is wickedly entertaining from the off. (And, hey, if you fancy dressing up in your finest gothic garb for this performance, then, rest assured, you won’t be the only one…)
One of the region’s favourite bands Martin Stephenson and the Daintees always goes down well at this time of year, and their December show (Friday 9 December) will be drawing deep from their well of bonhomie. Stephenson is a warm and exuberant live performer and he has that rare knack of making every gig feel like a real celebration. He also knows the value of a humorous anecdote or two.
Kate Rusby (pictured - Thursday 15 December) has become synonymous with Christmas concerts (including at Sage Gateshead) – and that’s probably got something to do with her five Christmas albums (do you reckon – ed.) Joining her on stage for an unmissable evening of good cheer will be her hugely talented and intuitive band of musicians including the top-flight brass quintet affectionately known as The Brass Boys.
Other party night highlights for December include Calling Planet Earth (A New Romantic Symphony featuring top 80s tunes penned by the likes of Duran Duran, The Human League, OMD, Tears for Fears, etc – Thursday 8 December) and Luther (the world’s premier Luther Vandross tribute – Friday 16 December).
There will be cabaret with The Alehouse Sessions (an insight into the music of the English 17th century tavern featuring Purcell overtures, English sea shanties and Scandinavian folk songs – Wednesday 14 December) and Curious: Winter Cabaret (the region’s champion of all things LGBTQIA+ will have performances from Ginger Johnson, Jaii Andrew and DJ Lady Annabella).
What else? Brace yourself for a special screening of Home Alone with musical score performed live by the Royal Northern Sinfonia (Sunday 11 December); screenings of The Snowman (again with the RNS doing the live honours – 22-24 December); and Gareth Malone leading a mass sing-a-long (Tuesday 20 December). Phew!
The above shows are just some of the good stuff that Sage Gateshead has lined up this December. For their full listings check: sagegateshead.com