Rock star Sting performed songs from The Last Ship with the help of 700 schoolchildren from Gateshead and Newcastle.
Seven hundred schoolchildren brought a lump to Sting’s throat as they sang along with songs from his latest album, The Last Ship.
The youngsters, from schools in Gateshead and Newcastle, gathered for a short concert by Sting and his band at Sage Gateshead but they were by no means a passive audience.
Having been coached by their teachers, they were ready to augment the sound produced by the professionals on stage.
"Wow!" said the Wallsend-born star after the opening number, the title track of The Last Ship - the album which accompanied Sting’s stage musical of the same name.
"I am so honoured that you have learned my song and then sung it so well. That’s an incredible thing for me.
"I come from here and before I was a singer I was a schoolteacher and I taught songs to people just like you. That was a very, very big moment for me and I really am deeply honoured and grateful. That was brilliant."
Encouraged, the children then gave an unaccompanied rendition of another song on the album, August Winds.
The concert was a warm-up for three big concerts being performed by Sting at the Sage this weekend in aid of the venue’s 10th anniversary appeal aimed at securing its future activities.
The concerts - one last night and two today - were billed as a chance for Sting’s North East fans to hear a selection of songs from The Last Ship.
But it will be surprising if any of them moves the singer in quite the same way as the short schools performance.
After taking questions from some of the children, Sting, a veteran of many concerts around the world, confirmed that he had felt emotional on stage.
"It’s surprising how those innocent young voices just add something to it," he said.
"It’s actually quite difficult to sing when you’ve got something in your throat. I was telling myself, just calm down and focus on the words.
"Having been a schoolteacher myself I know how hard it is to get kids to sing that way. That was a lot of work from the teachers and the kids so I’m deeply proud of that - it’s a memory I will have forever."
Jimmy Nail, who joined Sting on stage, said some of the children wouldn’t have been born when the journey of The Last Ship began.
The Geordie actor and singer came out of retirement to perform on the album and appeared on stage in The Last Ship as the shipyard foreman - until he was replaced in the role by Sting himself before the show closed on Broadway.
"I was usurped," joked Jimmy.
"You can’t replace Jimmy Nail," retorted Sting, explaining: "The producers asked me to go in the play to help sell tickets, which it did.
"But I could only stay in for six weeks because I had a contract to go on tour with Paul Simon. I had two rehearsals and Jimmy gave me his blessing.
"He said, ‘I’ll support you and I’ll give you notes (theatre-speak for advice) every night.
"His first note said, ‘Be taller’. Jimmy is 6ft 5ins."
Sting said that although the show closed on Broadway, it was still "morphing and evolving".
"There’s a production of it in Scandinavia this coming season and another in Salt Lake City - and we’re thinking about how we could bring it here at some point," he said.
Telling a story of shipyard workers on Tyneside, the songs of The Last Ship should hit home with North East fans hearing them performed live for the first time.
(c) The Chronicle by David Whetstone