Live music returns to Leeds Town Hall with the Orchestra of Opera North

A milestone on the city’s return from lockdown and the resumption of performance nationwide, the first concert of live music at Leeds Town Hall will be a programme of Mendelssohn, Schubert and Mozart, performed by the Orchestra of Opera North and tenor Nicholas Watts, at 6.00pm on Friday 28 August.

Leeds Arts Events and Venues’ first pilot indoor concert will be key to the return of safe live music performances following the coronavirus lockdown.

Measures to ensure the safety and comfort of the audience at Leeds Town Hall will include the recording of contact details for NHS Test and Trace; a reduced venue capacity, with socially distanced seating arrangements and toilet facilities; a one-way system; and hand sanitising stations on entry and around the venue. Anyone attending will be expected to wear a face covering, unless excused for reasons of age, health or disability.

‘Everything is new and strange’, wrote Fanny Mendelssohn of her sixteen year-old brother’s Octet, ‘yet at the same time utterly persuasive and enchanting’. Scored for a chamber ensemble but played, at its young composer’s insistence, ‘by all the instruments in symphonic orchestral style’, it’s a fitting curtain-raiser for both venue and ensemble after five months of lockdown.

Tenor and former Opera North Chorister Nicholas Watts was most recently seen on the Opera North stage as Peter Quint in Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, an acclaimed performance that was enjoyed by thousands more on YouTube after the company’s tour was cut short by the pandemic. He will be joined by Opera North’s Head of Music David Cowan at the piano for a selection of songs from the first of Schubert’s great song cycles, Die schöne Müllerin.

To close the concert, Mozart’s brilliantly inventive 29th Symphony is an opportunity for the violas, cellos and basses to get reacquainted, followed by a socially distanced outing for wind and brass.

Councillor Judith Blake,Leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“After what has been an incredibly tough few months for our arts and culture sectors and city as a whole, it’s fantastic to see that a live music pilot concert will be taking place with a small audience next week. I hope people will be encouraged to go along to what promises to be a brilliant evening.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to once again thank the people of Leeds for working together as we continue in the fight against coronavirus. As we’ve started to return to some sense of normality, we can only continue doing this if everyone plays their part by following the rules set out by government.”

Phil Boughton, Director of Orchestra and Chorus, Opera North, commented: 

“After a great deal of planning, consultation and, over the past few weeks, distanced rehearsals and recordings in the Town Hall, the Orchestra is delighted to be getting back together in front of an audience for the first time since March, when lockdown brought our mainstage tour to a premature end.

“The safety of our audiences, musicians and venue staff has always been our top priority. Working through DCMS guidance in collaboration with our specialist consultants RB Health, the Association of British Orchestras, and Leeds Arts Events and Venues, we’ve implemented a raft of measures to safeguard our staff and our public.  

“Getting back to what we do best at the earliest safe opportunity, in a ‘home’ venue that has hosted the premieres of Opera North’s ground-breaking concert stagings, and most memorably our acclaimed Ring Cycle in happier times, will be a huge thrill for musicians and audience alike. We will not be silenced, and the music will play on.” 

Tickets for the concert are priced at £20.00 (standard) and £10.00 (under 18s/students/unwaged), including 10% booking fee, and will go on sale at 12pm on Monday 24 August.

Leeds City Centre Box Office will not be open in the lead up to the pilot concert or on the night of the concert, and therefore tickets must be booked via the Town Hall website: leedstownhall.co.uk or from Box Office on 0113 376 0318. The Box Office team will also be happy to answer any questions about access and safety measures.

Customers who do not have access to E-ticket facilities via their phones will be advised at point of booking at which entrance to arrive. They will be greeted by a member of staff who will register their details to facilitate NHS Test and Trace.

The concert will last approximately an hour, with no interval, and as part of the safety measures there will be no bars or refreshment stations open in the Town Hall.

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