Where musicians are seen and not heard
The Sage in Gateshead, a marvellous pair of concert halls now six years old, has a purpose-built rehearsal space with a glass wall facing onto a public walkway.
That means passers-by and pleasure seekers can watch musicians work together without hearing a single note. The effect is both edifying and (literally) disconcerting.
It allows crowds of school children to watch the process without disrupting it. On the other hand, to see music in the making without hearing it is an unsettling form of sensory deprivation. You keep having to give yourself a reality check.
If felt the same as checking my mails in Starbucks on one of the window seats while, beyond the pane, another coffee consumer was smoking obsessively. He was within a finger’s length of me, yet I could not (thank goodness) smell a thing.
The same principle is applied in the Sage’s teaching rooms in the ground floor, but for different reasons. Anyone walking past can see the pupil-teacher interaction. That knowledge allows parents to be assured that kids are safe in a one-on-one teaching situation, an essential pre-condition in these troubled times
What I did hear was the first part of a Northern Sinfonia string ensemble concert led by Bradley Creswick, an aptly introspective account of Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night with breathless pianissimi that showcased the hall’s immaculate acoustic sensitivity.
They make great music in Gateshead. Here are some pics of the hall, outside and in.