York Early Music Christmas Festival: Fieri Consort, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 11
SORRY to pour cold water on your show, chaps, but this was not the oratorio it was billed to be. Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, an Italian with Austrian forebears, described his theatrical piece of 1629, The Shepherds of Bethlehem, as a “dialogo recitativo” – a dialogue in musical speech – a forerunner of oratorio certainly, but not the real McCoy. That was still to come.
Now that’s cleared up, Kapsperger certainly made a hefty stab at dramatising the Christmas story and the five singers and four players of Fieri put up a pretty good case for it. So we had the shepherds and the angels battling for the spotlight, while the librettist – a pope-in-waiting – delivered unctuous praise of the present pope, Urban VIII, via a narrator.
What the work lacked in arias was pleasingly filled in with motets and other madrigal-style commentaries, mainly from an earlier generation of composers. So Hassler hinted at the Annunciation, Michael Praetorius’s rose bloomed again, Marenzio admired the Christ-child and Victoria evoked the mystery of it all.
Fieri bring plenty of meat to the table in this repertory. These are strong, modern voices quite without the preciousness once so treasured by early-music buffs, but smooth at the edges as well, so that their blend is exceptionally polished. Shading was less prevalent here. There was even some splendid coloratura from Hannah Ely and Helen Charlston, courtesy of Carissimi, and the instruments kept up tasty chatter behind it all.
NORTHERN Ballet return home from December 17 for the festive season in Leeds with artistic director David Nixon’s enchanting adaptation of Cinderella at the Grand Theatre.
In the Canadian-born choreographer’s
account of “the world’s most famous rags-to-riches fairy tale”, he combines
dance with magic and circus skills, as seen on tour already at Nottingham Theatre
Royal and Norwich Theatre Royal last month.
In Northern Ballet’s Cinderella,a tragic end to a perfect summer’s day leaves Cinderella with no choice but
to accept a desolate life of servitude. At the mercy of her wicked Stepmother,
Cinderella seeks joy where she can but, after encountering the handsome
carefree Prince skating on a glistening lake of ice, she yearns for another
Despite her sadness,
Cinderella never forgets to be kind and her generosity is repaid when a chance
encounter with a mysterious magician changes her destiny forever.
Cinderella is not
only choreographed and directed by Nixon, but he has designed the opulent
costumes too. The ballet is performed to an original score by Philip Feeney, played
live each performance by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. Duncan Hayler has designed the
transformative sets, complemented by Tim Mitchell’s lighting design.
Nixon says: “This
production of Cinderella, while being immediately recognisable as the famous
fairy tale, offers something different to other traditional ballet adaptations.
“We have staged our
ballet in the winter wonderland of Imperial Russia, opening up the
possibilities of this colourful world as a new setting for Cinderella to make
her journey. “Audiences will see the dancers skate on a glistening lake of ice,
stilt walkers entertaining in a marketplace and the fateful Ball held in a
He concludes: “Cinderellais ultimately the story of a young woman who must travel a challenging road
to achieve happiness and our ballet is a joyful adaptation filled with action,
magic and fun.”
Northern Ballet’s Cinderella runs at Leeds Grand Theatre, December 17 to January 2 2020, 7pm (not December 24 or 31); 2pm matinees, December 18, 21, 24, 27, 28 and 31, January 2; Sunday shows at 4pm, December 22 and 29; no Sunday evening shows. No performances on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Box office: 0844 848 2700 or at leedsgrandtheatre.com.
Cinderella production credits
Choreography, Direction and Costume
BOB Geldof’s punk old guard, The Boomtown Rats, are on their way to York
Barbican on April 25 2020 on their Citizens Of Boomtown tour.
Tickets go on sale at 11am on Friday (December 13) on 0203 356 5441, at
yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.
Next spring’s tour will complement the release of a new album, Citizens
Of Boomtown, the Rats’ first studio work
since In The Long Grass in May 1984. Full details will be announced “very soon”.
Irishman Geldof, now 68, formed The Boomtown Rats in Dublin in 1975, touring
in their early days with The Ramones and Talking Heads en route to achieving
BRIT, Ivor Novello and Grammy awards.
Lanky, lippy frontman Geldof, pianist Johnny Fingers and co became the
first Irish band to top the UK charts with Rat Trap in 1978 and made number one
in 32 countries with I Don’t Like Mondays in 1979.
The Boomtown Rats recorded six albums, The Boomtown Rats in 1977; A
Tonic For The Troops in 1978;The Fine Art Of Surfacing, 1979; Mondo Bongo,
1980; V Deep, 1982, and the aforementioned In The Long Grass two years later.
That year, Geldof formed the Band Aid charity supergroup, co-writing the
chart-topping single Do They Know It’s Christmas (Feed The World) with Ultravox’s
Midge Ure and later organising the Live Aid and Live8 fund-raising concerts in
aid of Ethiopian famine relief in 1985 and 2005.
He played solo gigs at the Grand Opera House, York, in November 2002 to
promote his Sex, Age & Death album, and at Harrogate Royal Hall in May 2012
after releasing How To Compose Popular Songs That Will Sell in 2011. It didn’t
sell, ironically, peaking at number 87 in the British album charts.
His last stage appearance in York should have taken place in a line-up alongside
Alan Johnson MP, Nicky Morgan MP and David Dimbleby in June 2016 at Central
Hall, University of York. He was to have spoken on behalf of the Remain
campaign on the last Question Time before the EU Referendum, but recording of the
BBC1 show was cancelled after the death of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox.
It would have marked the Irish knight, famine relief crusader, dot.com
entrepreneur and rock veteran’s return to the Central Hall stage for the first
time since 1986. That year Geldof had encouraged the audience to dance at a Boomtown Rats
show despite a no-dancing rule in the contract.
“Since that day, only students have
been allowed to attend York university gigs,” he recalled in an interview in
2002. “I only invited them to dance! We were a ******* dance band, for
Christ’s sake.The student union sued us, but it was sorted out.”
How? “We ignored it! But I better not
remind them – though they would have to sue the Rats, not me!”
GILL Landry, the two-time Grammy-winning American singer, songwriter and
guitarist, is booked into The Crescent in York for February 12 2020 on his
ten-date British tour.
The Old Crow Medicine Show alumnus and founder
member of The Kitchen Syncopators will be promoting his fifth solo album, Skeleton
At The Banquet.
Released on Loose Music on January 24 2020, Landry’s follow-up to 2017’s Love Rides A Dark Horse was preceded by his November single, I Love You Too.
Recorded and produced in Los Angeles by Landry and Seth Ford-Young, who has worked previously with Tom Waits and Edward Sharpe, Skeleton At The Banquet features Landry on vocals, guitars, pedal steel, keys and harmonica, Ford-Young on bass, Josh Collazo on drums, Stewart Cole on trumpet and Odessa Jorgensen on violin.
“This album is a series of reflections and thoughts on the collective
hallucination that is America, with a love song or two thrown in for good
measure,” says Landry. who also uses the stage name of Frank Lemon, by the way.
“I wrote it from within the refuge of a small flat in a small village in
western France, where I spent last summer. I found it to be a good place for
seeing the forest through the trees, so to speak.”
Landry, originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, will open his British
dates at the Americana Music Association UK’s festival in London on January 28.
Tickets for February 12 are on sale at £12 at Earworm Records, Powells Yard, Goodramgate, York, from The Crescent or online via the crescentyork.com.
Landry will play a further Yorkshire gig at The Lantern, Halifax, on February 16. Box office: 01422 341003 or thelanternhalifax.co.uk.
Shed Seven, Shedcember Tour 2019, Leeds First Direct Arena, December 7
SHED Seven, December 7, and they must be in heaven. Sixteen
years after York’s only ever Top Ten band split – a case of Britpop crackle,
then snap – they are at a maximum high, playing to their biggest ever indoor
crowd down the A64 in Leeds, where Manchester’s Happy Mondays had to settle for
the smaller Leeds O2 Academy. You’re twisting their lemon, man.
First re-forming in 2007, going for concert gold again, the
Sheds have since made their Shedcember winter tours a regular fixture, this
year playing their record run of 23 shows between November 21 and December 21,
with Leeds Arena at the epicentre.
This has been the year when “Britpop’s meat and potatoes band”
had their Going For Gold compilation dipped in molten gold for a 20th
anniversary deluxe vinyl reissue, and frontman Rick Witter enjoyed a November
natter and a tipple-tasting session on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Overdue
respect of sorts, first from their former major label, Polydor, who had jettisoned
them while the hits were still flowing, High Hopes dashed, and then a
long-running chat-and-chomp show.
However, the Shed renaissance is built on their raucous, beer-swilling,
body-still-willing, terrace-chant live shows, peaking across the Pennines in
Summer 2018 when 8,000 gathered at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl one June
By now, their set lists have been bolstered by 2017’s
“comeback” album, Instant Pleasures, their first since 2001’s Artful work,
Truth Be Told (a record entirely absent from Saturday’s 19-song setlist).
These Shedcember shows are bigger, brighter in their
lighting, filmed up close on the video screens, and bolstered in Leeds by
boisterous support slots from Birmingham’s The Twang and Sheffield’s Reverend
And The Makers.
Striding on to The Magnificent Seven theme tune, it was T-shirts
for Witter and guitarist Paul Banks, Breton-striped top for guitarist and
keyboards player Joe Johnson, shirts for bassist Tom Gladwin and high-rise
drummer Alan Leach. There is still nothing flash about the Sheds, save for the
lightning bolt on Banks’s T and the glistening sheen of the regularly employed
They started with the swaggering Room In My House, the
instant pleasure from Instant Pleasures, later represented by Enemies &
Friends (the night’s one lull), Better Days, an even better It’s Not Easy and knock-out
first encore Invincible.
The Shedlist was dominated by fan favourites, from debut
single Mark, through exhilarating versions of She Left Me On Friday, Dolphin
and Bully Boy, before the one surprise as Going For Gold segued into its distant
third cousin, U2’s Angel Of Harlem, on a suitably cold and wet December day, where
by now no-one’s feet were touching the ground in the standing zone.
Parallel Lines, a cautionary tale as viewed today from the
distance of fatherhood and “day jobs” in the Sheds’ latter forties, assumed its
rightful place as the set’s extended closer. The night ended, as it always must,
with the riotous Disco Down and all-our-yesterdays Chasing Rainbows, matching
the multi-colour lighting chosen to cloak the Arena’s chameleon reptile skin.
Oh, and Mrs Craig Lilley, should you by a miracle be reading
this, you were roundly booed after Witter revealed you had made your husband stay
in, despite his ticket in his pocket. Rather than the room in your house, here’s
where you should have been tonight, both of you.
EIGHTIES chart heavyweights Go West and Paul Young will hit the road
next year as a double bill that will visit York Barbican on September 13.
Formed in 1982 by Peter Cox and
Richard Drummie, Go West scored such hits as We Close Our Eyes, Call Me and Don’t
Look Down and were voted Best Newcomer at the 1986 BRIT Awards. In 1990, their
song King Of Wishful Thinking featured on the soundtrack for Pretty
Woman, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere’s romantic hit.
After fronting Streetband and Q-Tips, Paul Young
went solo, his career taking off with the 1983 album No Parlez and such singles
as the chart-topping Wherever I Lay My Hat, Love Of The Common People, Everytime
You Go Away and Everything Must Change. He won a BRIT Award for Best Male
Vocalist and sung the opening lines on the original 1984 Band Aid single, Do
They Know It’s Christmas? (Feed The World), also performing at Live Aid at
Wembley Stadium in July 1985.
Young, 63, is a keen chef, biker and fan of all
things Mexicana, not least touring with his Tex Mex/Americana band Los
Tickets for Go West and Paul Young’s co-headline gig are on sale on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.
LOUDON Wainwright III, the North Carolina songwriter, folk musician,
humorist and actor, will play Pocklington Arts Centre on October 3 next year.
Tickets will go on sale at 10am on Wednesday (December 11), as indeed they
will for Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of authors turned musicians, making their
Pock debut on May 30.
Grammy Award-winning Wainwright, 73, will be joined by Suzzy Roche and their daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche at next autumn’s gig, the smallest venue of his 2020 British tour.
They will perform their own songs, complemented by a
selection by songwriters they admire, such as Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty,
Stevie Nicks and Baker Knight.
Over the course of 23 albums of acerbic, wry writing, Wainwright’s
songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Mose Allison,
Big Star, Freakwater, Norma Waterson, [late former wife] Kate and Anna
McGarrigle and son Rufus Wainwright.
Arts centre director Janet Farmer says: “Our auditorium is no stranger to welcoming music legends to the stage and Loudon Wainwright III is certainly no exception. We’ve previously welcomed his daughter Martha to Pocklington in August 2013, so we’re delighted to be featuring in Loudon’s forthcoming tour.
“This will be a very rare opportunity to see such a big name from the music world perform within the intimate surroundings of our auditorium.
“But with only a handful of UK dates lined up and Pocklington
Arts Centre being the smallest venue, this is likely to sell out fast, so I
would recommend you get your tickets as early as possible.”
Three Wainwright albums have been nominated for Grammy awards: 1985’s I’m Alright, 1986’s More Love Songs and 2009’s High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project, winner of the Best Traditional Folk Album prize in January 2010. Wainwright also has appeared in such films as The Aviator, Big Fish, Elizabethtown, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, for which he composed the score with Joe Henry.
Meanwhile, prepare for a different form of murder on the
dancefloor next spring, committed by fiction supergroup Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers.
Harrogate Theakston Old
Peculier Crime Writing Festival stalwarts Mark Billingham and Val McDermid, together
with Chris Brookmyre, Luca
Veste, Doug Johnstone and Stuart Neville, will put down their pens and pick up guitars to “happily murder”
much-loved songs by The Clash, Elvis Costello, Hank Williams, The Beatles,
Talking Heads, The Jam, Johnny Cash
and many others “considering legal action”, apparently.
Between them, the writers have
sold more than 20 million books worldwide and won every major crime-writing
award. Now they swap page for stage to discover if the sword/axe is
mightier than the pen after all.
So far, their set list of
killer tunes has survived in tact at Glastonbury Festival, Cornbury
Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. Now
they must rock in Pock.
“The very concept of crime
writers putting their own killer spin on well-known songs is simply brilliant,
so we can’t wait to bring them to Pocklington for what promises to be a
thrilling night of live music literally like no other,” says Janet Farmer.
Last month, the arts
centre played host to a sold-out evening of poetry readings, questions and
answers and book signings by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, when Pocklington School
students were among the audience.
Tickets cost £44 for Wainwright, £23 for The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
York Symphony Orchestra (YSO)/Venn; Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, December 8
YORK Symphony Orchestra’s newish conductor Edward Venn likes to take risks – and with the largest work on Sunday’s menu he was notably successful.
Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony overtly moves from tragedy to triumph. Beneath the surface, it is heavily laced with irony: Stalin’s Great Purge threatened the composer himself. The performance reflected this.
The violins quickly recovered from a tentative opening and thereafter never looked back. The central march accelerated majestically and the change to the major key was nicely controlled, before a chilling close with celeste to the fore. The scherzo provided just the comic relief we needed, Claire Jowett’s solo violin leading the way.
With the brass side-lined, first the strings, then the woodwinds conjured a rapt, almost religious, intensity in the Largo, typified by the trio of harp and two flutes. The finale’s mounting crescendo, with brass back in the fray, kindled anger rather than triumph, despite the brief oasis of calm. It was a splendid achievement, owing much to Venn’s impressive familiarity with the score.
Earlier, as soloist in Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Cara Berridge displayed beautifully rounded, resonant tone. But in a work notorious for its stop-go pitfalls, she and Venn too rarely took the same view of the music. The result was tuneful but episodic, too many trees and not enough wood. The orchestra sustained a respectful diffidence. Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave had made a bold, brash curtain-raiser. But the Shostakovich was something else.
BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby has released her fifth
album of South Yorkshire carols and original winter songs, Holly Head, so named
on account of her love of Christmas music.
As with her fellow festive collections on her Pure Records label, 2008’s Sweet Bells, 2011’s While Mortals Sleep, 2015’s The Frost Is All Over and 2017’s Angels And Men, it is being promoted by a Kate Rusby At Christmas tour with Kate’s regular band and brass quintet.
Songs range from the Rusby original The Holly King, to a
cover of John Rox’s novelty Christmas number Hippo For Christmas, via the
carols Salute The Morn and Kate’s sixth version of While Shepherds Watched and
God’s Own Country variations, Yorkshire Three Ships and Bleak Midwinter
Now part way through her 14-date concert series, Kate answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions ahead of Yorkshire Christmas shows at Leeds Town Hall on December 13 and York Barbican on December 18.
Christmas albums, Kate. Five! That must surely be a record? What keeps drawing
you back to make another recording for the Yule season?
“I know, five albums, how on
Earth has that happened?! It’s also album number 18 of mine, which I can’t
believe either. Where have all those years gone? I still love making music and
touring, so that time has whizzed by in a flash.
“The Christmas side of things began for
me in the ‘pub sings’ around South Yorkshire. We were taken along as kids; our
parents would be in the main room singing away, while us kids were sat with the
other kids in the tap room, colouring and drinking pop, unaware that the carols
and Christmas songs were seeping into our brains!”
“It was only when I’d started touring around the country, I realised the ‘pub sings’ are quite specific to South Yorkshire and people were unaware of these amazing songs we have.
“They’re mostly songs thrown out of the churches by the Victorians as they were thought to be far too happy! Ha! Those who loved singing them took them to the pubs, where you could combine a good old sing with beer and a natter, and there the songs have remained and kept alive, being passed down the generations.
“I decided to start the Christmas tour
to take the songs out around the country to show them off and share them out
again. It’s just perfect when we go back to a town again and they’re singing
the songs back to us. It brings me such happiness. Like, ‘my work is done
Christmas albums keep coming too…
“There are so many songs still to go at, I’ve no idea how many I’ll end up doing. I am a Holly Head, after all!”
What’s the story behind Hippo For Christmas, the quirkiest song on Holly Head? One for the Rusby daughters, no doubt!
“Aw, it’s such a brilliant song! I came across it while I was researching for the album. I love how it’s the magic of Christmas through the child’s eyes, ‘cos why on Earth would Father Christmas not be able to bring a hippo? He’s magic, right?
“But, of course,, once it’s there, how do you look after it? The brass arrangement on that track is just a delight; you can’t help but smile as they play it. It’s a big tuba moment! They don’t get many moments, tubas, do they? Well, it does on this song!”
Shepherds Watched is the Christmas carol that keeps giving! Another one has
popped up on the new album…
“Well, there’s over 30 different versions of While Shepherds Watched that get sung in the pubs here in South Yorkshire, so I’ve still got a lot to go at! This one is actually to the tune of a different song that I also love, but I wasn’t that keen on the words, then realised it went with the While Shepherds words, so yey, another has now been invented.”
What is a
Holly Head exactly, Kate?!
“Ha ha!! Well, I decided anyone who adores Christmas music is called a ‘Holly Head’. You know, like car fanatics are petrol heads. I thought it was the perfect title for such people, and I’m a fully paid-up member of the Holly Head club! ”
the most significant Christmas song on this album for you? One of your own
“Oooh, am I allowed to choose one of my
own? Well, OK, I will, I’ll choose The Holly King. It celebrates the more
pagan side of Christmas. I wrote it after reading about the winter king, The
Holly King, and the summer king, The Ivy King.
“Legend has it that the two met twice a
year and had almighty battles. Going into winter, the Holly King would win and
reign for the winter months. Then the Ivy King would wake and overthrow the
Holly King and reign through the summer months, and on they went in a perfect
“I just loved the images that it
conjured up and a song came flowing out. I gave him a wife, The Queen of Frost,
who creeps across the land to be with him for his time. In fact, I’m writing
her song at the moment, so she will appear on the next Christmas album, I’m
How will you be adorning the stage for the 2019 Christmas shows? Maybe a new reindeer?
“Ooh yes, I can’t tell you too much or it won’t be a surprise. What I can confirm, though, is Ruby Reindeer will be taking her place on stage again; it’d be too strange without her now.
“We have a completely new set this
year…and there will definitely be sparkles.”
Who is in
your Christmas tour line-up this time?
“Ooh, this year we have me, hubby Damien
O’Kane on guitars and electric tenor guitars, Duncan Lyall, double bass and
Moog; Stevie Byrnes, bouzouki and guitar; Nick Cooke, diatonic accordion and
sleigh bells (ha!); Josh Clark, percussion, and our lovely, fabulous brass
boys, Rich Evans, Gary Wyatt, Robin Taylor, Mike Levis and Sam Pearce.
“So, 11 of us altogether on stage, and six crew, I think, and of course not forgetting Ruby Reindeer!”
you most want for Christmas, Kate?
“A big lump of Cornish Kern cheese – it won best cheese in the world last year and is just gorgeous – and a bottle of Bread and Butter white wine to go along with it. It’s a big creamy white; just love it.”
Kate Rusby At Christmas, Leeds Town Hall, December 13 and York Barbican, December 18. Box office:Leeds, 0113 376 0318 or at leedstownhall.co.uk/whats-on/; York, 0203 356 5441, yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.
On a separate note
December 4, Kate Rusby received the English Folk Dance & Song Society Gold Badge,
in recognition of her 25-year contribution to folk music.
Among past winners were Cecil Sharp in 1923; Ralph Vaughan
Williams, 1943; Ewan MacCoIl, 1987; Peggy Seeger, 1987; Shirley Collins, 2003,
and Eliza Carthy, 2007.
on your Gold Badge, Kate. What does this award mean to you? Just look at the
names that have gone before!
“Aw, thank you. Goodness
me, I still can’t believe it. It’s just amazing to be considered for this award
as it’s recognition of my work from the massive organisation who work to
preserve and document folk music and dance.
“I’ve done various gigs at Cecil Sharp House over the years, the building where they’re based in London. One time, they let me use the library as a dressing room and, oh my word, I was like a child in a sweet shop with all the ballad books. In fact, I think I may have been late on stage due to reading the books.
“But, yes, a real honour to be added to
the list of Gold Badge winners. My love of the music has kept me entranced all
these years, so to be given this award is just incredible.
“It was presented to me at our gig at
in Sheffield City Hall, when it was also my [46th] birthday that
day; what an amazing birthday present.”