Northern Ballet replaces live orchestra with recorded music in upcoming shows
12 February 2024, 10:10
After months of negotiations, Northern Ballet has confirmed plans to replace its live orchestra with recorded music on a number of its touring productions.
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Northern Ballet has confirmed that multiple productions in its upcoming season will be performed to recorded music, after making the difficult decision to replace its live orchestra, the Northern Ballet Sinfonia.
The company first declared this as a possibility in September 2023, when it announced it was entering negotiations to survey the use of live music in touring productions.
Quoting an “incredibly challenging financial environment”, Northern Ballet said that inflation and increased costs mean that its historic tours have become “unsustainable”.
Instead, the company have negotiated with Northern Ballet Sinfonia and the Musicians’ Union regarding a reduced number of live orchestral performances, with some of its touring productions in 2024 to be performed with recorded music.
Northern Ballet 2023/24 Season Announcement
“As a Company touring widely with a large number of dancers, musicians and other staff, we have been particularly exposed to inflation in all areas of operation,” Northern Ballet’s statement read.
“Live music remains central to the artistic vision of Northern Ballet and we are working to ensure that our Sinfonia will perform with us on our national tours as much as is possible.
“We are very conscious of the uncertainty and distress these ongoing negotiations are causing for Sinfonia members and the Company at large and would like to thank the players as well as the MU for their cooperation during this difficult time.”
The company also shared that it is “actively fundraising and lobbying key stakeholders on this issue to ensure that future audiences in towns and cities across the UK will be able to experience large scale ballet accompanied by live music.”
The day after Northern Ballet’s announcement, the Musicians’ Union (MU) shared a statement on social media to clarify: “The Musicians’ Union position is that all ballet and opera must have live music at the centre of the productions.
“The MU has not agreed with Northern Ballet that use of recorded music in some of its productions is an acceptable situation.”
The MU said they are continuing to work with Northern Ballet, with MU Orchestras Official Morris Stemp adding: “Investment is needed right now from Arts Council England whilst a longer-term funding solution is put together to bring the artform to towns and cities in the form that is vital to the experience – with live music at the heart of the production.”
Additional fundraising efforts have meant that the company can secure its live orchestra for the full spring tour of Romeo & Juliet, which begins in Leeds in March. However the autumn tour which visits London, Southampton, Canterbury and Newcastle will use recorded music.
All performances of Beauty and the Beast at the Leeds Grand Theatre in June will feature a live orchestra, as will the touring production of Jane Eyre in spring 2025.
A festive production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol won’t feature a live orchestra at all, and will be fully performed to recorded music.
Founded 55 years ago in 1969, the Northern Ballet is based in Leeds city centre, where it occupies a purpose-built dance facility shared with Phoenix Dance Theatre – the largest dedicated space for a dance facility outside of London.