Supernatural Songs

Sage Gateshead’s celebratory film of the North East to commemorate the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels
December 1, 2022

Sage Gateshead has partnered with Newcastle agency NOVAK to create a special concert film reflecting the Lindisfarne Gospels, which have been on display in the North East for the first time in nearly ten years.

The film features audio and visual moments from a live performance by Royal Northern Sinfonia of Tavener’s Supernatural Songs earlier this year, with renowned vocalist Dame Sarah Connolly.

Visuals from the film follow the journey of the Lindisfarne Gospels, transporting audiences through its rich and remarkable history across the North East landscape.

Sage Gateshead’s Supernatural Songs, is a special concert film by Newcastle-based studio NOVAK celebrating the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East and featuring music from Royal Northern Sinfonia. The30-minute-long film follows the journey of the Lindisfarne Gospels, transporting audiences through the stunning North East landscape and into the iconic illustrated pages of the Gospels.

This film joins the many local initiatives which have commemorated the native return of the Lindisfarne Gospels. The manuscript, has been on loan from the British Library, was originally created on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and represents the golden age of design and craftsmanship in Northumbria. It has survived in almost perfect condition for over one thousand years and can be admired for a couple more days at the Laing Art Gallery, until Saturday 3 December.

Earlier this year, Royal Northern Sinfonia presented Music and Spirituality, a concert-series inspired by these North East-wide celebrations. At the centre of this programme was a performance of John Tavener’s rarely-heard work, Supernatural Songs, conducted by James Weeks and featuring renowned vocalist Dame Sarah Connolly, a champion of Tavener’s music. A live recording of this performance provides the deeply spiritual and meditative audio backdrop to the film.

To accompany this performance, Sage Gateshead commissioned a brand-new film work by Newcastle-based studio, NOVAK, taking inspiration from the Lindisfarne Gospels and Tavener’s music. Projected behind the orchestra on stage, the film follows the journey of the Gospels across the North East from their creation to their final resting place. Each location has been paired with a musical movement, capturing the mood of various key moments in the Gospel’s history.

Adam Finlay, Director of NOVAK, said: “It was an enriching process to respond to the story of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the music of John Tavener’s Supernatural Songs, and the outcome was a film that showcases the history and artistry of the gospels, and of the landscape we call home, in all of their collective glory. We’re very pleased to share the final product.”

Rachel Williams, Head of Digital at Sage Gateshead, said: “We’re delighted to be a part of the many and varied celebrations of this remarkable manuscript across the North East. It has been brilliant to work collaboratively with NOVAK to tell the story of the gospels across multiple mediums, and the result is a stunning ode to the iconic pages which like ourselves, are rooted in the North.”

The Lindisfarne Gospels are renowned for their exceptional designs and craftsmanship, much of which is inspired by shapes and patterns found within the natural environment. As a reflection of this, using aerial photography, a sweeping bird’s eye view reveals the varied textures and beautiful abstractions seen in the landscape, alongside the built environment of these locations.

Water plays a pivotal role in the story of the Gospels, and scenes of the North East coastline bookend the performance. Water brought the monks from Ireland who established the first monastery on Lindisfarne, which provided the bedrock for the creation of the Gospels. Lindisfarne itself is strongly defined by the fact that it is a tidal island, cut off from the mainland twice daily by water. And it was the water that brought the Vikings, who caused the monks to flee the island, taking with them the Gospels and the remains of St Cuthbert.

Viewers are invited on a journey of visuals and music that offers the perfect opportunity to sit back and reflect on this unique work of art and the beautiful land it comes from. Supernatural Songs is available to watch until February 2023 and can also be found at