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RNS 60 @ 60 Unveiled

Posted on 3 January 2019

As we celebrate Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 60th Anniversary Season, we also want to celebrate our audience, their favourite music, and their memories of RNS.

What is the exhibition about?

Each portrait depicts a member of our audience – whether they have been attending concerts since the orchestra was formed back in 1958, or whether they have only recently joined us – listening to their favourite piece of classical music.

By the end of the 60th Anniversary Season, there will be 60 selected portraits on display in the exhibition.

As well as listening to their favourite piece of music, each audience member talked to us about their favourite memories of the orchestra. These have included funny anecdotes from concerts and memorable performance experiences. They also talked about what they are most looking forward to throughout this season.

Arthur and Vanessa

Arthur and Vanessa listened to The Nutcracker: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, though Vanessa’s favourite RNS concert was hearing RNS on tour with guitarist Craig Ogden in 2016. To Vanessa RNS is “a group of cool professional musicians, who are very kind and put a lot of effort into performing, which makes them very inspiring.”

How did it come about?

We launched our RNS 60 @ 60 Portrait Project in July 2018, calling for volunteers from within our audience. We transformed our Squires Seminar Room into a photographer’s studio and invited our audience members to listen to their favourite music while Michael, our photographer, captured their emotions on camera.

While it was only natural for some of our audience to be nervous at first, with Michael’s excellent work they were soon relaxed and had a wonderful time!


Peter, along with his wife Lillian who was also photographed, chose to listen to music that was played at their wedding back in September 2016 as it evokes such happy memories. Peter was most looking forward to hearing Handel’s Messiah (15 December) as he is a self-proclaimed Handel junkie!

Who is the photographer?

Michael Olatunji is a visual artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne who specialises in fine art, urban photography, and portraiture.

His inspiration stems from a love of nature, people, and travelling.

For more information, and to see more of his work, head to his website:


Irene chose to listen to Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite as it reminded her of her childhood. She has happy memories of watching The Snowman with RNS a couple of years ago and says “Every time the music stars, my eyes well up!”. For Irene, “RNS is a local and world-class orchestra who offer something for everyone.”

Where can I see the full exhibition?

The first batch of 20 portraits has been on display on the West Side of Sage One, Level 1 and Level 2, since September 2018.

The second group of 10 more portraits were installed in December 2018 on Level 3. Watch out for more in the New Year!

You are welcome to visit the exhibition, free of charge, any time Sage Gateshead is open. Simply head up to Sage One or ask one of our Customer Experience Team members for help. The portraits are on display on the balconies of Sage One.

How can I get involved?

If you love RNS and would like to get involved in the next photography session, please contact Vicky James on