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Learning & Participation

Festival of Contemporary Music for All: Day of Workshops

Booking Information

Venue: Sage Gateshead

Tickets: £13.50, Students/Unemployed £5


Important information ahead of CoMA Festival Day of Workshops

Join like-minded individuals for a day of music workshops at Sage Gateshead.

Please be advised that there are no plans to cancel this event. If anything changes all ticket holders will be contacted as soon as possible.

Mix and match your workshops. Here’s a taste of what’s in store…

For Voices

  • Work with leading composer Sir James MacMillan
  • Explore experimental vocal music from the CoMA Partsong book in sessions led by some of the UK’s leading vocal conductors
  • Be the first to sing newly-commissioned works from an international line-up of composers
  • Take part in a performance of James Weeks’ new work, specially written for the weekend

For Instruments

  • Perform brilliant works from the CoMA Open Score collection, led by some of the UK’s leading lights in contemporary music performance and members of Royal Northern Sinfonia
  • Perform experimental classic Rock Piece by Pauline Oliveros
  • Be part of James Weeks’ new work, specially commissioned for the weekend

For Electronic Artists and the Digitally Curious

  • Create an electronic music score for a short film in sessions led by composer and sound artist Mariam Rezaei

For Composers

  • Hear your music performed, and receive feedback from members of Royal Northern Sinfonia in short workshop sessions on the public Concourse.
    (Max 3 minutes in duration, written for string quartet. For consideration, please send completed parts by email to classical@sagegateshead.com no later than 15 February 2018. All works submitted are assessed by a panel headed by James Weeks, the project’s artistic director.)

Limited places in some workshops, so book early to avoid disappointment. Age 16+. Minimum level Grade 5 or equivalent suggested.

How to book

Bookings can only be made online via Eventbrite. Click here to book.

Already booked? Click here for important information about the day.


Session 1 workshop

  • 10am – 10.50am Instrumental (Hugh Brunt) All instruments are welcome to play this vividly contrasted suite of pieces by young British composer Naomi Pinnock, Four Humours, under the baton of one the UK’s most in-demand young conductors, Hugh Brunt.
  • 10am – 11.50am Vocal (James MacMillan) Double length session – full details to be announced soon
  • 10am – 10.50am Electronics (Mariam Rezaei) Mariam Rezaei will lead music workshops developing a live, improvised group composition to score silent short films using electronics. Suitable for beginners and experts.

Session 2 workshop

  • 11am – 11.50am Instrumental (James Weeks) Discover the gentle, haunting voice of veteran English experimentalist Howard Skempton in this session with his work Sirens, open to all pitched instruments.
  • 11am – 11.50 Electronic (Mariam Rezaei) See above
    Please note if you choose the 10am Vocal workshop, you cannot attend an 11am workshop

Session 3 workshop

  • 12.10pm – 1pm Rehearsal and performance of James Weeks’ new work Venetian Sky (Vocal/Instrumental) _Composer James Weeks has made a new piece especially for this weekend, suitable for singers and instrumentalists of every sort and of every level, to be performed in the amazing space of Sage Gateshead’s Concourse.

Session 4 workshop.

  • 2pm – 2.50pm Any participants (Hugh Brunt) Pauline Oliveros was one of the profoundest musical minds of the late 20th century, whose music reconnects us with our bodies and with the sound of the world around us. No instruments needed here to play this iconic work, Rock Piece.
  • 2pm – 2.50pm Vocal (James Weeks) Today marks the launch of an extraordinary collection of vocal pieces, the CoMA Partsong Project: be some of the very first people to sing some of the 12 brand-new choral works contained in this volume, led by the project’s Artistic Director, James Weeks. The 1400 and 1500 sessions will contain different repertoire.
  • 2pm – 2.50pm Electronics (Mariam Rezaei) See above

Session 5 workshop.

  • 3pm – 3.50pm Instrumental (Hugh Brunt) Two brilliant works to try out in this session – Phil Venables’ irrepressibly rhythmic Dutch Courage and Jonathan Harvey’s elegant and joyful Climbing Frame. Once again, all instruments welcome.
  • 3pm – 3.50pm Vocal (James Weeks) See above
  • 3pm – 3.50pm Electronics (Mariam Rezaei) See above

Final Showing

  • 4pm – 4.30pm (All Participants) Participants will come together to share with each other what they have learned and discovered during the workshop day.

About James Weeks

James Weeks is a composer and conductor specialising in new music. His works are commissioned and performed worldwide, and he has released four portrait albums, the latest of which is Mala punica (Winter&Winter), chosen as one of The New Yorker’s CDs of 2017. He co-founded EXAUDI in 2002, now widely regarded as one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles for contemporary music, with whom he maintains a busy international touring schedule.

He is also in great demand as a guest conductor, working regularly with ensembles such as Royal Northern Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta, L’Instant Donné, musikFabrik and BCMG. He has worked extensively with amateurs in both early and contemporary music and has been closely associated with CoMA since 2014, leading workshops and summer courses and directing the CoMA Partsong Project.

After 5 years as Associate Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, he was appointed as an Assistant Professor in Composition at Durham University in October 2017. He lives in Gateshead with his wife Sophie, a member of RNS, and his two young children.

About James MacMillan

James MacMillan is the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation. He first attracted attention with the acclaimed BBC Proms premiere of The Confession of Isobel Gowdie (1990). His percussion concerto Veni, Veni Emmanuel (1992) has received over 500 performances worldwide by orchestras including London Symphony Orchestra, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics and Cleveland Orchestra. Other major works include the cantata Seven Last Words from the Cross (1993), Quickening (1998) for soloists, children’s choir, mixed choir and orchestra, the operas Inès de Castro (2001) and The Sacrifice (2005-06), St John Passion (2007) and St Luke Passion (2013).

He was featured composer at Edinburgh Festival (1993), Southbank Centre (1997), BBC’s Barbican Composer Weekend (2005) and Grafenegg Festival (2012). His interpreters include soloists Evelyn Glennie, Colin Currie, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Vadim Repin, conductors Leonard Slatkin, Sir Andrew Davis, Marin Alsop and Donald Runnicles, and choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. His recordings can be found on BMG/RCA Red Seal, BIS, Chandos, Naxos, Hyperion, Coro, Linn and Challenge Classics.

Recent highlights include premieres of MacMillan’s A European Requiem, Stabat Mater for The Sixteen and a Trombone Concerto for Jörgen van Rijen with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

About Mariam Rezaei

Mariam Rezaei (b.1984) is a writer, performer and improviser and works predominantly with the piano, voices, turntables and electronics.

She is Composer in Residence at the Literary and Philosophical Library, Newcastle, Artistic Director of The Old Police House (and Ensemble) and Bradford Scratch Orchestra.

She completed and was awarded her Doctoral degree in the Philosophy of Composition For Turntable and Ensemble at Durham University in May 2016.

In 2013, Mariam was awarded Best Newcomer 2012 Award at the Journal Culture Awards and in 2014, the ‘Enhancing Communities Award’ from Stonewall and Newcastle Pride, for her work directing LGBT community choir, Northern Proud Voices.

For the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, she composed for a 14 turntable ensemble of young people, NOISESTRA, to perform with Apartment House at Sage Gateshead, 2012 and Edinburgh 2013. She was invited by Ilan Volkov as a guest improviser for the BBC Proms 47 2012, the John Cage Centenary Celebration and performed ‘Jig Hop’ with Kathryn Tickell and Folkestra for the BT River of Music Opening of the London Olympics 2012, Trafalgar Square.
Notable instrumental commissions include Olavsfestdagene in Trondheim, for conductor Ilan Volkov, INSiiiDE, Tectonics Festival 2014, Tel Aviv, Israel, ANX, Tectonics Glasgow 2015 and Milk///,Tectonics Oslo 2016. ‘Stolen Voices’, a collaboration with Rebecca Collins and Johanna Linsley and BBC Radio 3 Free Thinking Festival 2017 broadcast ‘SEAR’ with new ensemble SWARMFRONT. Mariam also worked with NOH Theatre, composing and performing live with Noh Theatre at Kings Place, May 2016. The Old Police House Ensemble and Bradford Scratch Orchestra have several local and national performances in preparation for 2017-18. All film performances have sold out and Mariam recently received a commission from Tilda Swinton to perform a live film score of ‘Metropolis’ at Glastonbury 2017 on main stage Pilton Palais Cinema. She was recently commissioned by Tectonics Mosaic/Cresc. Festival, Wiesbaden, and composed and performed with Ensemble Modern, TOP///.

Mariam is Artistic Director of TOPH, now based at Workplace Gallery in Gateshead. TOPH are a producing mixed arts space and are currently touring across the UK.

About Hugh Brunt

Hugh Brunt is co-Artistic Director and co-Principal Conductor of the London Contemporary Orchestra, winners of the Ensemble category at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2015. Since 2008, he has led the LCO in innovative programmes at UK and European venues and festivals including the Roundhouse, Barbican, Royal Opera House, Open’er Festival (Poland), Royal Festival Hall, Victoria Hall (Geneva), Village Underground, Latitude Festival, and live on BBC Radio 3 at the BBC Proms.

Recent and upcoming engagements include the New York Philharmonic, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Orchestra of Opera North, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, BBC Concert Orchestra and Royal Northern Sinfonia. He has conducted numerous premieres by leading young composers Francisco Coll, Shiva Feshareki, Martin Suckling, Gabriel Prokofiev, Emily Hall, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Edmund Finnis.

He conducted the string and choir arrangements on Radiohead’s 2016 album A Moon Shaped Pool. A collaborator of composer and guitarist Jonny Greenwood, he conducted his scores for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, and wrote additional arrangements for his latest film with Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread. With the LCO Soloists he has premiered seven short works by Greenwood and conducted the first live screening of the Academy Award-winning There Will Be Blood. He conducted and orchestrated Thom Yorke’s first feature film score, Suspiria, directed by Luca Guadagnino, due for release in 2018. Other collaborative work includes Beck, Imogen Heap, Belle & Sebastian, Actress, Matthew Herbert (most recently on Sebastián Lelio’s films A Fantastic Woman and Disobedience), Boiler Room and Foals. He has worked with Jed Kurzel on his last four film scores: Macbeth; Assassin’s Creed; Alien: Covenant and Jupiter’s Moon.

He studied at New College, Oxford, where he held a choral scholarship, and at the Lucerne Festival Academy under Heinz Holliger.