NCEM goes online in May with inspirational archival recordings and fancy footwork

Palisander: Watch out for spiders in all that foliage

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, will continue to reach out from behind closed doors to provide inspirational music online with a series of concerts throughout May.

Confirmed for next month are Palisander, Beware The Spider!, on Saturday (May 2); Rumorum, Medieval Music for voices and instruments, May 16, and European Union Baroque Orchestra, Handel & Bach, May 30, all starting at 1pm.

To view these concerts for free, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk, where you also can find details of the Cuppa And A Chorus community singing sessions, now on Zoom, plus other NCEM news and more concert footage.

Palisander’s fancy footwork

In Beware The Spider!, first performed at the NCEM in March 2019, the young recorder quartet explore the Tarantella, the effects of a venomous spider bite, and the curious world of folk medicine. 

Fast moving and fun, with some fancy footwork to boot, the Palisander programme combined music by Vivaldi and many others with an entertaining narrative.

Like Palisander, Rumorum first played Medieval Music for voices and instruments at the NCEM in March 2019. These 12th to 15th century music specialists turn back the clock to the time of Medieval Europe when musicians travelled across the continent, gathering stories, sharing knowledge of love, pain and exile.

Rumorum: Rebec,, harp, flute and voice ensemble

This youthful ensemble formed while studying medieval performance at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland and took York classical audiences by storm when winning the York Early Music Festival Friends’ Prize in the 2017 festival competition.  “If you can’t quite visualise a rebec, harp, flute and voice ensemble, this is your chance,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

European Union Baroque Orchestra’s concert recording dates from March 2017, led by director and harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen, who was joined that day by soloists Maria Keohane, soprano, Bojan Cicic, concertmaster,and Neven Lesage, oboe.

The concert was performed to celebrate Early Music Day 2017 on the birthday of JS Bach. “Entitled Betrayal And Betrothal, it features music by Bach and Handel and provides an exciting opportunity to hear this outstanding group again, presenting one of their last ever performances on stage,” says Delma.

“Keeping in touch with our audiences is so important to us in these difficult times,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

As an added bonus”, harpsichordist extraordinaire Steven Devine will “help you beat the blues” with Bach Bites – bite size chunks to inspire and uplift – every Wednesday evening at 6pm.

Delma says: “Keeping in touch with our audiences is so important to us in these difficult times and we’re delighted to be able to bring you this eclectic selection of archival recordings from concerts recorded over the past couple of years.

“We’re also continuing our Cuppa And A Chorus event, where people can meet regularly to sing in a relaxed environment. We’re now meeting virtually on Zoom, so even though we can’t be together, we can all try and stay in touch.” 

NCEM presents vocal group Voces Suaves in Facebook streaming premiere today

Voces Suaves: Madrigals At Your Service streaming today (April 18)

THE National Centre for Early Music series of Facebook streaming premieres presents vocal ensemble Voces Suaves this afternoon at 1pm.

Over the coming weeks, the York music venue, at Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, will be streaming a line-up of past performances from the NCEM archives.  

In today’s Facebook concert, Voces Suaves perform Madrigals At Your Service, focusing on the musical treasures of the Italian Renaissance and re-creating the magnificence of the courts of Ferrara and Mantua, with music by Monteverdi, Gesualdo and Wert.  

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “This group of nine professional singers are graduates of the Creative Europe EEEmerging programme and have performed at major European concert venues and festivals, taking audiences and critics by storm. 

Palisander: Online concert coming next on May 2

“This performance, recorded at St Lawrence’s Church in York, was a highlight of the 2018 York Early Music Festival and it forms the third in a series of NCEM Online concerts designed to welcome audiences from across the world into the extraordinarily rich world of early music.”

Future streaming concerts include a 2019 performance by the recorder ensemble Palisander on Saturday, May 2, at 1pm. “The group have been part of the EEEmerging programme too and their debut album, Beware The Spider!, released in 2017, received outstanding reviews from the critics,” says Delma.

Palisander’s concert was recorded in the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, at the 2019 REMA Conference. 

To join the merry streaming throng, simply click on to the NCEM’s Facebook page @yorkearlymusic. Alternatively, log on to the NCEM’s website, ncem.co.uk, and click on the news section. 

Future concerts and streaming dates will be announced at ncem.co.uk.

Byrne and Nordberg’s Early Music Day concert at NCEM goes online on Saturday

Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg and Irish viol player Liam Byrne in concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, in 2019

LIAM Byrne and Jonas Nordberg’s 2019 concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, will be streamed online on Saturday at 1pm.

This follows the NCEM’s live stream of two Early Music Day 2020 concerts, performed behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, by harpsichordist Steven Devine, playing Bach Preludes and Fugues, and later by The Brabant Ensemble in an evening programme of A Monk’s Life: Music From The Cloisters, 1550-1620.

Those concerts drew more than 63,000 views from across the world. “Messages arrived from Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, from people in lockdown in Italy and others waking up to wonderful music in the United States,” says NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Liam Byrne: viol player with the hipster look

This Saturday’s streaming will feature the 2019 Early Music Day concert by virtuoso Irish viol player Liam Byrne and Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg. “The delicious sonic combination of viol and lute from 17th century France made for an incredible evening last year and was also broadcast by BBC Radio 3,” says Delma.

“Now, music lovers can join us again for this fabulous feast by simply logging on to our Facebook page @yorkearlymusic.”

Described by the New York Times as “defying expectations with an obscure instrument and a hipster look”, Byrne is no stranger to the NCEM, where last year he collaborated with the Walmgate venue on the NCEM Young Composers Award 2019, working with the finalists and later performing their work at a concert in Bristol.

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

Byrne, professor of viola da gamba at the Guildhall School in London, is regarded by many as the leading viol player of his generation; lutenist and guitarist Nordberg has performed all over the world, with many recordings to his name.

“Last year’s concert at the NCEM was one of the highlights of York’s cultural calendar, with electrifying performances by both musicians,” says Delma.

“Now, in these strange times, we are discovering more and more how the power of music is bringing us together and lifting our spirits. We hope you can join us for this wonderful concert by these two extraordinary musicians. Our doors may be temporarily closed but we will continue to bring a selection of fabulous music over the coming weeks.”

Pianist Joe Alexander Shepherd to perform at NCEM in aid of Charlie Gard Foundation

York contemporary classical composer Joe Alexander Shepherd

YORK pianist Joe Alexander Shepherd will play in aid of the Charlie Gard Foundation at the National Centre for Early Music, York, on March 7.

Joe studied at Bootham School, where he learnt to play the piano from a young age, before moving on to Paul McCartney’s Academy of Music in Liverpool as a teenager.

He composes and performs intricate, minimalist contemporary classical music with subtle touches of atmospheric melancholy, in the vein of Ludovico Einaudi, Michael Nyman, Dustin O’Halloron and beyond.

The poster for Joe Alexander Shepherd’s March 7 concert

Writing since the age of 15, piano has always been in the heart of Joe’s songs, adding his own twist with textural synths to bring the simplistic melodies to life.

After signing a worldwide record deal with the Vancouver label Nettwerk, he launched his five-track debut EP, Time, in an intimate concert at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, in September 2018.

Recorded at his York home over a two-year period, it compromised the title track, One Day, Opus 266, Amore and Love Me Like You Did Before. “I’m now working towards my second EP and there’ll be an album to follow in the near future, released through Nettwerk, whose roster includes the likes of Passenger, Fun, Stereophonics, to name a few,” he said at the time.

The artwork for Joe Alexander Shepherd’s debut EP, Time, in 2018

Joe will showcase new material alongside special guest cellist Isaac Collier at his March 7 concert. Maybe an indication that recordings could be on their way?

Reflecting on his career so far as a performer and in-demand composer, he says: “I was lucky to compose the soundtrack for UEFA’s World War One Truce video, starring footballers Wayne Rooney, Gareth Bale and Sir Bobby Charlton, and I’ve also written pieces for the Rugby Football Union, BBC One, BBC Two and Land Rover. My dream is to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London, playing my own original material to fans across the globe.”

Support act Rachel Croft. Picture: Jono

Joe’s support act at his 7.30pm charity concert will be York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft. Tickets cost £15 on 07853 070201 or by email to stephanie@thecharliegardfoundation.org.

The Charlie Gard Foundation charity supports children, adults and their families affected by mitochondrial disease. 

The York Waits lay down the rules for Twelve Days of Christmas revels at NCEM

The York Waits: festive songs, carols and celebratory music at the NCEM

THE York Waits celebrate Christmas in tomorrow’s concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, when they will be joined by singer Deborah Catterall.

The start of Christmas was traditionally announced at the entrances to York on December 21, St Thomas’s  Day, with the reading by the Sheriffs of the Yoole-girthol, with the Waits’ shawm band in attendance.

This proclamation declared “an amnesty to all nere-do-wells and unthrifty folk” and invited 12 days of merriment in the city.

The York Waits recreate this atmosphere with festive songs, carols and celebratory music from across mediaeval and Renaissance England and Europe, performed on loud and quiet wind consorts, bowed and plucked strings, the rustic bagpipes and vielle.

The York Waits will be in conversation at the NCEM at 7pm before their 7.30pm concert programme. Tickets cost £23, concessions £21, on 01904 658338 or at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Heather Findlay at the double for Christmas at NCEM and in York library

Shining light: Heather Findlay in angelic pose for her Christmas show

HEATHER Findlay will play York concerts on successive nights this week, the first with Friends in her Christmas Show at the National Centre for Early Music on Friday.

The next night, the York singer joins fellow composer Simon Snaize for a “pre-Christmas solstice spectacular” in the last of four concerts in the inaugural Live In Libraries York season in York Explore’s wood-panelled Marriot Room.

“I love making my Christmas show really magical, nostalgic and unique,” says Heather. “So, there’s a slightly different line-up, with Sarah Dean joining us on harp and special guest Annie Donaghy on vocals, and a couple of unannounced guests too.”

On Saturday, Findlay accompanies Snaize as he showcases his new album, A Song Of Bones, and his 2012 recording The Structure Of Recollection, in an intimate performance to a capacity audience of 50. CDs of the new record will be on sale on the night before the official release in January.

Wrapping up for winter: Heather Findlay heads to the NCEM for her Christmas show

Heather Findlay and Friends’ Christmas Show, plus Annie Donaghy, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, Friday, 8pm; Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize, Live In Libraries York, York Explore, Saturday, doors 7pm. Box office: NCEM, 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk; Live in Libraries, exploreyork.eventbrite.co.uk

WHISPER it abroad, the inaugural Live In Libraries York season of intimate concerts in York Explore Library and Archive’s Marriott Room, in Library Square, concludes this weekend.

East Yorkshire folk-Americana singer-songwriter Edwina Hayes was first up in September, followed by hotly tipped York band Bonneville And The Bailers on October 25; Bradford songwriter Bella Gaffney on November 21, and Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize in a rare duo gig on Saturday.

The season has been curated by York busker David Ward Maclean in tandem with Dave Fleming, Explore York’s inclusive arts and media co-ordinator.

Simon Snaize and Heather Findlay: performing in a rare duo format at York Explore

Here Charles Hutchinson puts questions to David and Dave.

What prompted you to set up this series of concerts and how long has it taken to arrange the season, David? 

“It started from a chat with York Explore manager Barbara Swinn and Explore York’s Dave Fleming about the feasibility of the Marriott Room as a regular venue. Although we settled on a short series of just four concerts, it’s still taken a while to work out the logistics of both the requirements for staging the events and York Explore’s very busy timetable as a working library.”

How did Live In Libraries York come to fruition, Dave?

“Barbara and I thought it was a great idea to approach David to help curate, advise and develop the concept and the season of concerts.

“I’ve known Dave for years, both on the music scene and working together many years ago when I worked for City of York Council’s Arts & Culture service as community arts officer and working as part of the Illuminating York team.

“I coordinated a series of live short cultural performances in some of the city-centre churches called Inspire York and Dave created a soundscape in one of the churches. Barbara came across Dave performing in York and was captivated by him, so I suggested a chat and for Dave to check out the space and see what he thought.It’s fair to say he was blown away by its potential for live intimate performances.”

Bonnie Milnes of Bonneville And The Bailers, who played Live In Libraries York in October

What attracted you the Marriott Room, David?

“The first thing that struck me was the sound: astonishingly clear acoustics, requiring no more than the minimum amplification, if any. That’s probably down to the wood panelling and the wooden floor, combined with a fairly high ceiling.

“Also, due to its location at the rear of the library, it’s a very quiet location, making it the perfect small listening venue. We’ve limited seating to about 50, so that there’s plenty of room, and that also makes for a great intimate atmosphere. It looks gorgeous too.

“There are very good Green Room facilities behind the Marriott Room, and the performer accesses the venue from a different door, which I always think enhances an event. Everything I’ve ever looked for in a small venue. I’m hoping to book in myself next year sometime.”

What are the Marriott Room’s attributes as a concert setting, Dave?

“There’s nowhere else like it in York! Everyone who has popped down to check out the space wants to perform in the space. The interest has taken us by surprise. 

“We did a test concert a few months back with two internationally renowned harpists. It was sold out and both the performers and audience were captivated by the experience and were so impressed with the space.

“We dress the space beautifully and it will make you re-imagine what libraries can offer.”

What does a library setting bring to live music, David? After all, libraries are associated with hush, contemplation, study and solo concentration!

“I definitely think that when you walk in, the beautiful main entrance to the library instils a certain focus, ideal for listening events. I think we’re going for communication and attentiveness, rather than heads bowed in reverence.”


When curating the acts for these performances, how and why did you choose each one and what have they each brought to Live In Libraries York, David?

“When I was first asked for acts, Edwina Hayes was an instant choice. She’s incredible, a world-class act and a big favourite in York, and I’m so pleased she started the series.

“I also wanted to get two local organisations involved – Dan Webster of Green Chili Promotions and Dave Greenbrown from Young Thugs Records – and they put forward two fantastic up-and-coming York artists, Bella Gaffney and Bonneville And The Wailers.

David Ward Maclean: Curator of the Live In Libraries York season

“I’d always wanted to hear Heather Findlay and Simon Snaize as a duo again after they bowled me over with a set some years back. It’s an extraordinary sound, they truly complement each other and I’m so happy to finish the season on a high with them, on Winter Solstice no less!”

As a musician yourself, David, what makes for your perfect gig setting? 

“This one.”

What sort of contrasting places have you played in your long career? 

“Pretty much everything, from Sheffield City Hall to playing for a couple in their home while they had dinner. Probably the strangest was back in 1984, hitchhiking to Bremen, playing for some German policemen in a motorway service station to prove I was on my way to play some concerts. I passed the audition.”

Would you like to see a further season of such shows taking place in the Marrott Room, David? Or is this a special one-off?

“I would love to see more concerts here in the future.”


What would be your ideal song for a library setting, David?

“(What A) Wonderful World by Sam Cooke.”

How about yours, Dave?

“My word, this is a tricky one to answer! Struggling to think of one because there are so many. So, I’m going to say one of David Ward Maclean’s original songs as he is such a brilliant songwriter and local legend. Oh, and he sounds incredible in the Marriott Room!”

Charles Hutchinson

REVIEW: Ebor Singers, National Centre for Early Music, York, 15/12/2019

Paul Gameson: director of Ebor Singers

Ebor Singers, Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 15

THIS was the Ebors’ now traditional performance of Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, spiced with a selection of contemporary American carols and seasonal songs.

The Britten, given in the original all-female version, was accompanied by the harp of Rachel Dent, even to the extent of some optional improvising during the processional plainsongs. Her Interlude was a touch halting, but elsewhere she sustained a pleasing pulse.

The singing had its moments, though few were provided in the solo work where intonation was wayward. As a choir, the ladies made plentiful amends. There was a lovely legato in There Is No Rose and a direct, confident approach to This Little Babe. In contrast, the reverential ending to In Freezing Winter Night reflected the manger’s “humble pomp”.

The pair of soloists in Spring Carol chirped merrily. Deo Gracias was a little too rushed for its cross-currents to have maximum impact. Though it was good to have this music made available again, its overall effect was not as strong as it was last year.

In The Moon Of Wintertime, the evening’s subtitle, taken from the Canadian Huron carol, was also used by American composer Stephen Paulus. In the event, his modal tune was less attractive than the original (Jesous Ahatonhia), and he used a bowdlerized paraphrase of Edgar Middleton’s translation, which is much less down-to-earth than the native Indian version. Its last verse, however, was a model of choral control here.

The same composer’s Three Nativity Carols, surprisingly enjoying their UK premiere – Paulus died in 2104 – brought an engaging post-Britten style to some ancient texts. They were accompanied by oboe (Jane Wright) and harp (Dent). Syncopation jollied up The Holly & The Ivy, florid oboe counterpointed the slow rocking of This Endris Night, and Wonder Tidings used a proper refrain to add colour to the mediaeval text, with the instruments dancing attendance.

Much of the rest was slow-moving and diction went to the wall. American audiences may love it, but Craig Hella Johnson’s pairing of Lo, How A Rose with Amanda McBroom’s The Rose (written for Bette Midler and covered by Westlife) did the lovely Praetorius tune no favours at all.

Hackneyed favourites by Lauridsen and Whitacre came and went and a Jake Runestad lullaby just picked itself in time to avoid a similar fate. It was left to Nico Muhly’s setting of Longfellow’s Snowflakes, with piano backing, to offer some true atmosphere, albeit out of a corner of the minimalist playbook. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas makes for a tacky ending – it should be dropped.

I know this was a Christmas concert, with all the festive sentimentality that implies, but overall I left feeling that this choir is coasting: it is capable of tackling something a lot less anodyne and a lot more challenging.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Fieri Consort, National Centre for Early Music, York, 11/12/2019

Helen Charlston: “Some splendid coloratura”

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.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Britten and America unite for The Ebor Singers’ transatlantic Christmas concert

Not exactly dressed for winter! The Ebor Singers nevertheless will be in the mood for Christmas at the NCEM on December 15

LOOK forward to “a whole new world of carols” when The Ebor Singers present the British premiere of American Christmas choral works alongside Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols on December 15.

The York choir’s ever-popular candlelit Christmas concert always features Britten’s festive favourite from 1942, this time complemented by modern compositions from the United States at the National Centre for Early Music, York, at 7.30pm.

“Benjamin Britten was particularly drawn to Christmas,” says Paul Gameson, the choir’s director, introducing Britten’s masterpiece, scored for three-part treble chorus, solo voices and harp.

“Britten spent three years in North America at the beginning of the Second World War, and he composed A Ceremony of Carolsduring the long and dangerous transatlantic crossing back to Britain in 1942.”

How apt, then, to present Britten’s work alongside Christmas music from the USA. “We’ve had a lot of enjoyment putting this together”, says Paul. “As well as pieces now considered popular mainstays of the repertoire, by Lauridsen and Whitacre, we’ve been exploring sacred pieces by Jake Runestad, Nico Muhly and Stephen Paulus.

“Runestad’s writing in Sleep Little Baby, Sleephas an American folk-song quality, and Paulus’s exploration of the sonority of choir with accompaniment of oboe and harp is every bit as imaginative as Britten. 

“Muhly is one of today’s most imaginative choral composers, and his Whispered And Revealed,a setting of Longfellow’s poem Snowflakes,is quite breath-taking, within three minutes magically conjuring up images of snow covering a winter landscape.

“So, we’re delighted to be giving some of this music its UK premiere. Then throw in some classic seasonal jingles and some choral ‘mash-ups’ and you have a seasonal concert quite unlike anything else you will have heard, guaranteed to bring you Christmas cheer.”

Tickets for Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, By Candlelight cost £15, concessions £12, students £5, at eborsingers.org/currentevents or on the door.

Charles Hutchinson

York Early Music Christmas Festival will start…earlier!

Fieri Consort: taking a trip to Christmas Eve in 1629 Rome in York
THE 2019 York Early Music Christmas Festival is starting earlier, two hours earlier, to be precise, after Solomon’s Knot’s sold-out opening concert on December 7 was moved to 4.30pm.

Performing without a conductor and from memory at the National Centre for Early Music, the 14-piece baroque group will present Festive Music from 17th century France, as they make their much anticipated Christmas festival debut with a brace of Charpentier works, A Song On The Birth Of Our Lord and Pastoral On The Birth Of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

“We’re a group of singers and players who are prepared to take risks in order to communicate more directly with our audiences,” they say.

To make sure they arrive in York well in time for their 12.30pm Sunday concert, the recorder group Palisander will be travelling by car, rather than risking public transport!

Lydia Gosnell, Miriam Monaghan, Caoimhe de Paor and Elspeth Robertson will perform A Yuletyde Eve on recorders of all shapes and sizes, as they return to the NCEM, in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, after playing there in March.

Expect an afternoon hour of “very entertaining” Renaissance music, including works by Praetorius and Tye, as well as some more familiar carols.

Owain Park, a former winner of the NCEM Young Composers Award, will direct his ensemble, The Gesualso Six, in Videte Miraculum at 6.30pm on December 8.

Inspired by Advent being a time of mystery, reflection and wonder, this two-hour journey through the ages and across borders will weave Christmas carols, such as Praetorius’s Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen, seamlessly with 21st century works, including Park’s luscious On The Infancy Of Our Saviour.

On December 9, wind ensemble Boxwood & Brass re-create A Georgian Country House Christmas at 7.30pm. Their “Band of Musick” play as a traditional Georgian militia ensemble of clarinets, horns and bassoon, regaling their audience with quintets, marches, dance music and regional carols.

Very sadly, Joglaresa’s Sing We Yule concert on December 10 at 7.30pm will be their last visit to the NCEM.  “Their leader, Belinda Sykes, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer,” says NCEM artistic director Delma Tomlin. “I shall deeply miss Belinda and her wonderful consort; she has been such a fantastic leading light of the Early Music world, and Joglaresa’s concerts here have been a joy.”

Belinda, singer and recorder and bagpipe player, will lead Joglaresa in an effervescent programme of traditional carols and wassails, lullabies and dance tunes, from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales as they “chase out the chill from the Celtic fringes of Europe”.

On Wednesday, December 11 at 6.30pm, Fieri Consort will take a trip to Rome on Christmas Eve in 1629, where a performance of Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger’s oratorio The Shepherds Of Bethlehem is taking place in the lavishly decorated Vatican palace.

Featuring a libretto by the future Pope Clement IX, this Christmas play tells the story of the Nativity through solos, duets, trios and full choruses, interspersed with instrumental and vocal pieces by Kapsperger and his contemporaries.

A second concert is on the move, this one on account of the NCEM being a polling station for the General Election on December 12. Ceruleo will now perform Burying The Dead at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, instead.

Written by Clare Norburn and directed by Thomas Guthrie, with lighting by Pitch Black and costumes by Hannah Pearson, this new theatre show for the 21st century will take the 7.30pm audience on a fictional journey into the head of composer Henry Purcell, played by actor Niall Ashdown.

Purcell is in the throes of his final illness, suffering from feverish hallucinations, wherein the past, present and fantasy collide and his songs take on a life of their own.

Fretwork’s December 13 concert with mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, winner of the 2018 Handel Singing Competition, has sold out. Their 6.30pm programme, From Virgin’s Womb, will interweave William Byrd’s In Nomines with seasonal Elizabethan music by Holborne, Peerson, Weelkes and Gibbons, the songs being accompanied by viols. Jollity meets piousness, rejoicing and reflection meet drunkenness and misbehaviour, in Fretwork’s company.

The Mellstock Band’s Philip Humphries has an interesting programme credit: not only voice, but also serpent. “Yes, this Dorset band bring real serpents,” says Delma, ahead of snakes arriving on December 14 at 1pm.

Humphries and co’s Christmas Frolics in period costumes will be an uproarious celebration of dance, drink and general misbehaviour, as carried on in many villages until a century ago, along with sobering admonitions from the puritans, parsons, preachers and angels.

Carols dedicated to dancing, bell ringing and cider will vie for attention with “the Devil’s own tunes”, complemented by the Wessex stories of Thomas Hardy and William Barnes.

The York musicians of the Yorkshire Bach Choir, under the direction of Peter Seymour, will close the festival with a 7pm performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, on December 14.Helen Charlston will be among the soloists, alongside soprano Bethany Seymour, tenor Gwilym Bowen and bass Gareth Brynmor John.

“We will echo Handel’s London performances, including some rarely heard versions,” says Peter.

All concerts will take place at the NCEM unless otherwise stated. Tickets are on sale on 01904 658338 or at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson

Copyright of The Press, York
Fretwork: sold-out concert