Northern Chords Music Festival Returns to Tyneside (AD)

The Northern Chords Festival is returning to Tyneside later this month. As part of my day job, I do get to work on some pretty cool projects, working alongside some very talented people. My current project is no exception. The Northern Chords Festival is one of the North East's most prominent and vibrant chamber music festivals and was founded by North East cellist and conductor Jonathan Bloxham. Find out more about this three-day festival returning to Newcastle later this month...

What is Northern Chords Festival?

Northern Chords Festival brings together artists from around the world to play unique concerts that excite, surprise and inspire audiences across the region. It presents energetic, passionate and friendly performances by internationally renowned artists in venues ranging from intimate churches to major concert halls, overwhelming audiences of all ages and backgrounds year on year. 

As Northern Chords Festival is rapidly establishing itself as one of the most exciting northeast musical events of the year, it aims to break down some of the perceived barriers to classical music with imaginative and accessible programmes to prove that great performances can be enjoyed by anyone. It aims to attract audiences of all ages but specifically hopes to see young and new listeners at the concerts. 

Bringing the best emerging and established talent from across the world to the region, to perform eclectic and exciting programmes, Northern Chords offers a refreshing take on classical music. It is all about bringing music home and bringing music to new audiences. Introducing young people to classical music in accessible venues with inspirational musicians so that a new generation of classical music listeners can be grown in the region.

Why should I go to Northern Chords Festival?

As well as world-class talent performing on stage, listening to classical music is known to be a positive experience for many reasons boosting memory, sparking creativity, supercharging brainpower, helping you sleep and reducing stress levels. This is something I've written about before too.

When is Northern Chords Festival?

It will take place later this month on Friday 18th, Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th May 2018.

Where is Northern Chords Festival taking place?

All three concerts will be at venues in Newcastle including Newcastle University, The Mining Institute and St James’ and St Basil’s Church, Fenham.

How do I buy tickets for Northern Chords Festival?

Tickets (plus booking fee) are £12, £10 seniors, £5 students, unwaged and under 18s on Friday and Saturday and £15 / £12 concessions / £5 students/  Under 18 Free (plus booking fee) for the Sunday performance. Purchase tickets for Northern Chords.

Are there any special deals?


NHS Frontline Staff

As a thank-you to NHS staff as it celebrates 70 years, all frontline staff in the National Health Service will be eligible for a 50% discount on tickets to the opening gala show of the festival which takes place at Newcastle University on Friday 18 May. NHS frontline staff should use the discount code “FIRST” when booking online or present their NHS card at the box office.


A student night out with a difference is on offer as tickets for Northern Chords Festival to NUS Card holders are just £5 and include a free drink. This offer applies to tickets for all three concerts.

My Boys Club

My Boys Club readers can purchase half price tickets for the Friday & Saturday concerts simply by using these codes discount codes.

18th May 50% off  using PIANO 
19th May to celebrate the Royal Wedding 50% off using ROYAL. 

We are also offering a giveaway to win 2 Northern Chords Festival Passes to two lucky readers over on Twitter. Head over there for a chance to win FREE entry for 2, to all three concerts.

Is there a theme to this year’s festival?

This year’s festival is all about exploring vocal chamber music.

Who is performing at Northern Chords Festival 2018?

At Newcastle University the programme will feature vocals with a piano, with former BBC Young Musician of the Year, Martin James Bartlett performing with BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Audience Prize Winner tenor Ben Johnson. 

At The Mining Institute, the programme will feature vocals from Voices of Hope and the harp. Lucy Wakeford will be the first harpist to perform at the Festival. On the same day as the Royal Wedding, this is a perfect way to celebrate that special occasion

The final concert at St James’ and St Basil’s Church, Fenham will see an early evening performance with Voices of Hope – the northeast choir who took the title of BBC Choir of the Year in 2016. This final performance at this year's festival is of Haydn’s Nelson Mass, bringing together local musicians, world-class soloists and the fabulous world-class Voices of Hope Choir.

Ben Johnson - Tenor

Acclaimed tenor Ben Johnson represented England in BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2013 and won the Audience Prize. A former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and 2008 winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Award, Johnson was formerly an English National Opera Harewood Artist and a Wigmore Hall Emerging Talent.

Martin James Bartlett - Piano

In May 2014, at the age of 17, Martin James Bartlett was awarded the title of BBC Young Musician. His winning performance of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, with conductor Kirill Karabits and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, received overwhelming acclaim from Edinburgh’s Usher Hall audience and from those tuning into the live recording broadcast on BBC4 and BBC Radio 3.

Joseph Shiner - Clarinettist

Clarinettist JOSEPH SHINER is active in concert around the United Kingdom and internationally as a soloist. To date, he is the recipient of numerous prizes including the Hattori Foundation Senior Award, the Making Music Philip and Dorothy Green Award for Young Concert Artists, the Worshipful Company of Musician’s Prince’s Prize and the Royal Academy of Music’s Buffet Crampon Clarinet Prize. A selected artist for Making Music and the City Music Foundation, he is currently Artist-in-Residence at Lancing College and was featured as BBC Music Magazine's 'Rising Star' in August 2016.

Voices of Hope

Voices of Hope is an award-winning chamber choir based in the North East.  Founded in 2011 by Music Director Simon Davies-Fidler, Voices of Hope is the National Choir of the Year and Let the Peoples Sing 2017 finalists.  Since forming for a one-off charity concert the choir has gone on to perform at Sage Gateshead, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Cardiff Millennium Centre and Helsinki’s Musiikkitalo.  The choir has made several broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and has been televised on BBC 4.  With a keen sense of local identity, Voices of Hope regularly performs music by local composers.

Who is Jonathan Bloxham?

Jonathan Bloxham is originally from Whickham and through Northern Chords is aiming to break down barriers in a field of classical music which is still often perceived as elitist.  As well as being the founder and Artistic Director of Northern Chords Festival Jonathan Bloxham is the Assistant Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. 

Jonathan Bloxham discovered the cello while still at primary school in the North East. His talent was fostered and encouraged by the Gateshead Schools Music Service and he began to consider becoming a professional musician. At the age of 16, he left the region to study with some of the best young musicians at the world-renowned Yehudi Menuhin School, followed by the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Aged just 20, Jonathan was keen to return to the region that had nurtured his talent. In 2008 he decided to start Northern Chords, with the dual aim of bringing some of the most talented young musicians in the world to inspire more local youngsters and amateur musicians to follow their dreams and to develop their own musical talents, and to delight and excite local audiences with concerts, programmes, and musicians that they wouldn’t otherwise get to hear in their area.

2018 Northern Chords Festival Performances

Opening Gala - 7.30pm Friday 18 May 2018
King’s Hall, Armstrong Building, Newcastle University 
With Martin James Bartlett piano, Ben Johnson tenor, Jonathan Bloxham cello, Joseph Shiner clarinet, plus the Northern Chords Festival Ensemble
The programme includes: Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Warlock, Grainger, Coates

Gloriana  - 7.30pm Saturday 19th May 2018
The Mining Institute,  Newcastle
With Ben Johnson tenor, Jonathan Bloxham cello, Lucy Wakeford Harp and Voices of Hope and Mark Edwards conductor
The programme includes: Britten, Vaughan-Williams and a selection of folk songs

Troubled Times - 6pm Sunday 20th May 2018
St James’ and St Basil’s Church, Fenham
With Jenny Stafford soprano, Clare Presland mezzo-soprano, Ben Johnson tenor, Ben Nelson bass, Northern Chords Festival Orchestra,  Voices of Hope and Jonathan Bloxham conductor
The programme includes Haydn: Missa in Angustiis ‘Nelson’

Northern Chords Festival is supported by The Fidelio Trust, Talent Unlimited and many generous private donors. More information at

I am not a typical classical music concert goer. According to a Mintel report, a typical attendee of classical concerts is 50-plus, as well as being well-educated and white. I like some classical music, listen to it in the car sometimes, in the kitchen and sued to play it to my boys when they were little, however, in my limited experience, a classical music concert is a different and very enjoyable was to speed an evening. 

Pieces of music are played and sung with precision and passion and evoking a whole range of emotions in the listener. Every range of sound, rhythm and tone are explored. I find classical music relaxing (there are studies that show classical music is beneficial to our mental health) and I find myself lost I my own thoughts, as the music conjures up images in my head. It is both inspiring and enjoyable.

Have you been to a classical music concert?

Deb x

Disclosure: As part of my day job (paid) I am working with the organisers of the Northern Chords festival to help promote this year’s festival. Photography has been supplied by Northern Chords. Photo credits Kaupo Kikkas and Jamie Smith.

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