Royal Northern Sinfonia is a British chamber orchestra, based initially in Newcastle upon Tyne and currently in Gateshead. For the first 46 years of its history, the orchestra gave the bulk of its concerts at the City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne. Since 2004, the orchestra has been resident at Sage Gateshead. In June 2013, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title 'Royal' on the orchestra, formally naming it the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Michael Hall founded the ensemble in 1958 as the first permanent chamber orchestra in Britain. The ensemble gave its first concert on 24 September 1958 as the 'Sinfonia Orchestra', at the City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne, and gave six concerts in its first season, 1958-1959. Hall acted as the organization's single leader, in effect as "general manager, secretary, artistic director, conductor and fund-raiser", though without a formal title. The word 'Northern' was added to the orchestra's name in 1959 to give the name of 'Northern Sinfonia'. The orchestra became an established institution in 1959, with Humphrey Noble chosen as the first chairman of the ensemble's management committee. Hall resigned from the orchestra in 1964 but returned as a guest conductor in subsequent years. After Hall's departure, Rudolf Schwarz and Boris Brott took over musical leadership of the ensemble in parallel, with Schwarz being the first titled artistic director of the ensemble. Keith Statham served as the orchestra's general manager from 1966 to 1974.
The most recent music director of the Northern Sinfonia was Thomas Zehetmair, who was appointed to the post in November 2001, starting with the 2002-2003 season, for an initial contract of three years and six weeks of concerts each season. Following contract extensions in 2005 and 2011, he concluded his tenure with the orchestra at the end of the 2013-2014 season. Other conductors on the orchestra's roster currently include as its Principal Conductors John Wilson since 2009 and Mario Venzago since 1 January 2010. Venzago's current contract as Principal Conductor is through 2013. Simon Halsey served as Principal Conductor of the Northern Sinfonia's Choral Programme from 2004 through 2012.
In May 2014, the Royal Northern Sinfonia announced the appointment of Lars Vogt as its next music director, effective September 2015. Vogt serves as music director designate for the 2014-2015 season, in his first formal orchestral post. In November 2014, the orchestra announced the appointment of Julian Rachlin as its new principal guest conductor, effective with the 2015-2016 season.
The orchestra has recorded for the NMC and Naxos labels, among others.