Charles Avison (1709-1770) was an organist and composer of Newcastle Upon Tyne, whose grave is in St. Andrew’s churchyard. He wrote over 80 concertos, attracted great musicians of the day to the town and worked with other great figures such as William Herschel (violinist in Avison’s orchestra and later became the great astronomer) William Shield (his pupil from Whickham and whom we owe the memory of Auld Lang Syne) Ralph Beilby (the Newcastle glass enameller of fame and bass player in Avison’s orchestra) and Thomas Bewick, who as a young lad engraved the concert tickets.
Avison spent most of his life in Newcastle and began the town’s reputation for culture and celebration through his concerts in the Bigg Market. He put Newcastle on the map as a centre for music and culture and became a highly respected figure in the 18th century.
Sadly, and probably because of his loyalty to Newcastle, his fame waned after his death and his work has been largely neglected and forgotten.
The Avison Ensemble was formed by Newcastle born cellist and musical director Gordon Dixon to perform, record and publish the works of Charles Avison, and bring to public attention the rich and varied cultural life and unique heritage of Tyneside.
Although Newcastle City Council restored Charles Avison’s gravestone for the Tercentenary celebrations, it has tilted over the years and now requires professional cleaning and restoration in order to remain legible and to be appropriately preserved. This is more than conservation:
After scoping and establishing interest with local stakeholders, NCCC wishes to :
(i) Add a sensory information board and QR code technology in the grounds so that the deaf-blind community can equally understand their heritage (links with project 2)
(ii) Redress the ground subsidence (restoring the gravestone to the original angle).
(iii) Restore the stone and commemorative plinth (by removing the lichen and moss from the lettering via professional cleaning) together with the symbolic plants surrounding the grave.
(iv) Bringing together our local partnerships in education, heritage, local government and conservation – and collaborating specifically with Newcastle University (Music department) and the Charles Avison Society.
The desired outcome(s)
(i) As a pastoral antidote to the pressures of COVID 19 - on completion, NCCC hosts the Avison Ensemble and Newcastle Music Society to deliver a public concert in the grounds to raise awareness of a forgotten musical treasure, educating whilst celebrating local heritage, and promoting wellbeing.
(ii) The Northumbria Deaf/blind will be equally included by having direct access to their cultural heritage.
(iii) Local tourism, historians, musicians, educators and local people will all benefit from the fruition of this project.