More Things To Do indoors in and around York in Stay Home Lockdown 3. List No 24, courtesy of The Press, York

A Long night: Josie Long will be performing for the Your Place Comedy live-stream from her living room on January 24

AS LOCKDOWN 3 urges everyone to “stay home”, Charles Hutchinson takes that advice in selecting entertainment for the dark days and nights ahead.

Somewhere over the pandemic horizon, he highlights a couple of shows in the diary for the autumn.

Ahir Shah: Joining Josie Long in a remote double bill for Your Place Comedy

Live-stream lockdown humour from living room to living room: Josie Long and Ahir Shah, Your Place Comedy, January 24

LOCKDOWN 3 has brought another round of Your Place Comedy home entertainment. “As before, we’ll be broadcasting from comedians’ living rooms, kitchens and attics or, as was the case with Lucy Beaumont, her homemade pub,” says virtual comedy club organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer.

The format remains the same: two headline comedians, some stand-up and some chat, all juggled by regular compere Tim FitzHigham. First up will be Josie Long and Ahir Shah on January 24; line-ups are yet to be confirmed for February 28 and March 28.

The live-stream shows will be free to watch but with donations keenly encouraged at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Pea’s home; green: Story Craft Theatre storyteller Cassie Vallance looks forward to next week’s Crafty Tales session

Interactive stories for children: Story Craft Theatre’s Crafty Tales

CASSIE Vallance and Janet Bruce cannot hold their Crafty Tales sessions in person during Lockdown 3 but will continue to deliver sessions “directly to you via the power of Zoom”.

“Each 50-minute session is packed full of crafting, storytelling and educational fun with lots of activities to keep your little folk’s imagination alight,” says Cassie. “There are still a few spaces left for next week’s 10am sessions based around Julia Donaldson’s The Runaway Pea on January 20, 22 and 23.”

Coming up on January 27, 29 and 30 will be Elaine Wickson’s Super Stan. For more details and to book, go to storycrafttheatre.co.uk.

Parasols aplenty: A scene from the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company production of The Pirates Of Penzance at the 2019 International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, now available online. Picture: Jane Stokes

Operetta on screen: International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, G&S Opera TV On-Line Streaming Service

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to the 2020 International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Harrogate Royal Hall, the festival launched its online streaming subscription service at gsoperatv.

“New content is being continually added,” says festival stalwart Bernard Lockett. “It features the very best of more than 26 years of the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, along with top amateur productions performed at our festival, G&S films and fascinating documentaries and interviews, and is the only place to experience so many outstanding Savoy operas.”

The subscription rates for general viewers is £9.99 per month or £99 annuallyThe 2021 festival is in the diary for August 8 to 22 in Harrogate, preceded by Buxton Opera House the week before.

Chelsey Gillard: Stephen Joseph Theatre associate director, hosting online script-reading sessions

Play for the day appraisal: Online script-reading sessions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from January 20

RUNNING online on Wednesdays from 11.30am to 1.30pm for five weeks, the fun sessions will dive into five classic comedies: Aristophanes’s Lysistrata on January 20; Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, January 27; Moliere’s Tartuffe, February 3; Sheridan’s The Rivals, February 10, and Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear, February 17.

Participants will read sections of the plays aloud and work with SJT associate director Chelsey Gillard to consider their themes, stories, writing styles and historical context in a relaxed discussion. Session bookings can be made at sjt.uk.com.

Clowning around: Jon Marshall’s Ringmaster with Steve Collison’s Clown in Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus

Online children’s show of the month: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Carpet, Pocklington Arts Centre YouTube channel

HULL company Magic Carpet Theatre filmed their fun family-friendly show, Magic Carpet, behind closed doors at Pocklington Arts Centre last October. By public demand, its free streaming run is being extended to January 21 at: youtu.be/CNrUixTMWdQ.

Performed by director Jon Marshall and Steve Collison with magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, it tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza plans after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the calamitous hands of the clowns. Disaster!

His master’s voices: Alan Ayckbourn recorded his audio version of Haunting Julia at home. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Online ghost play of the season: Alan Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

ALAN Ayckbourn’s 2020 audio version of his ghost play Haunting Julia is being given an afterlife. Originally available at sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5, the winter chiller now will be online until January 31.

Revisiting his 1994 play, Ayckbourn’s audio recording features the voice of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s 81-year-old director emeritus. Or, rather, the three voices of Ayckbourn, who plays all three parts.

Rufus Wainwright: Songs inspired by middle age, married life, fatherhood, friends, loss, London and Laurel Canyon

Baroque’n’roll gig of the autumn: Rufus Wainwright, York Barbican, October 13

LAUREL Canyon singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright’s October 27 2020 tour date at York Barbican has moved to October 13 2021. Tickets remain valid for the rearranged date with his new band.

Last July, Wainwright, 47, released his ninth studio album, Unfollow The Rules, his first since 2012. “I consider it my first fully mature album; it is like a bookend to the beginning of my career,” says Rufus, whose fearless, mischievous songs were inspired by middle age, married life, fatherhood, friends, loss, London and Laurel Canyon.

Taking the mic: Omid Djalili looks forward to letting the Good Times roll again

Ready for a laugh: Omid Djalili, The Good Times Tour, Grand Opera House, York, November 10

OMID Djalili cannot wait to be back where he belongs, on stage, after experimenting with a Zoom gig where he was muted by no fewer than 639 people and a drive-in gig when he witnessed one audience member leave his car, attach a hose pipe to his exhaust and feed it through the window.

The British-Iranian stand-up’s 2021 excursions could not have a more positive title: The Good Times Tour. Let’s hope he is right, although who can predict if his shows at Harrogate Theatre on May 6 and Hull City Hall on May 26 will be given the go-ahead.

In his diary too are: Platform Festival, The Old Station, Pocklington, July 22, and Masham Town Hall, September 18 and 19. Oh, and Leeds Town Hall on October 28 in faraway 2022.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home in 2021, whatever barriers may yet lie ahead. List No 23, courtesy of The Press

Grayson Perry: Two shows in York in 2021; one an exhibition of “Lost Pots” at York Art Gallery, the other, his existentialist gig, A Show For Normal People, at York Barbican

AFTER a year where killjoy Covid-19 re-wrote the arts and events diary over and over again, here comes 2021, when the pandemic will still have a Red Pen influence.

Armed with a pantomime fairy’s magic wand rather than Madame Arcati’s crystal ball from Blithe Spirit, when what we need is a jab in the arm pronto, Charles Hutchinson picks out potential highlights from the New Year ahead that York will start in Tier 3.

Velma Celli: Had planned to present A Brief History Of Drag at Theatre @41 Monkgate in January; now heading online at home instead

Back on screen: Velma Celli, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, streaming on January 8

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair was planning to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show in January, and maybe more shows to follow, at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Instead, he writes: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, I am back on the streaming! My first show is next Friday at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!” Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N; expect an online show every Friday from Ian’s new riverside abode.

Shed Seven: Headlining all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, in the summer

Open-air one-off event of the summer: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26

FRESH from releasing live album Another Night, Another Town as a reminder of what everyone has had to miss in 2020, Shed Seven have confirmed their Piece Hall headliner in Halifax has been rearranged for next summer.

The Sheds have picked an all-Yorkshire support bill of Leeds bands The Wedding Present and The Pigeon Detectives and fast-rising fellow York act Skylights. For tickets, go to lunatickets.co.uk or seetickets.com.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright of Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, in May

Most anticipated York exhibition of 2021: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

CHANNEL 4’s  champion of people’s art in lockdown, Grayson Perry, will present his Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) next spring and summer instead.

The Pre-Therapy Years reassembles Perry’s earliest forays into ceramics; 70 “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994. Look out too for the potter, painter, TV presenter and social commentator’s existentialist September 6 gig at York Barbican: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, wherein he will “distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can”.

Chris Moreno: No festive cheer at Christmas, but now he looks forward to presenting The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime, Aladdin, on Knavesmire, York, in spring 2021

A pantomime in the spring? Yes, The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime in a tent on Knavesmire, York, March 19 to April 11

CHRIS Moreno, director of Three Bears’ Productions four pantomimes at the Grand Opera House from 2016 to 2019, will direct York’s first ever “tentomime”, Aladdin, this spring with a cast of “21 colourful characters”.

The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime will be presented in the luxurious, heated Tented Palace, Knavesmire, in a socially distanced configuration compliant with Covid-19 guidance.

The big top will have a capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, while the stage will span 50 metres, comprising a palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects. Look out for the flying carpets.

Going solo: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at York Theatre Royal from February 16

Falling in love again with theatre: The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, February 14 to April 21

ON December 15, York Theatre Royal announced plans to reopen on St Valentine’s Day for The Love Season, with the audience capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

Full details will be confirmed in the New Year with tickets going on sale on January 8, and that remains the case, says chief executive Tom Bird, after hearing yesterday afternoon’s statement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We’re carrying on with our plans, including presenting Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh in husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman play, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, from February 16 to 20,” he confirmed.

Van Morrison: A brace of bracing nights at York Barbican in May

Six of the best at York Barbican in 2021

YORK Barbican has remained closed since the March lockdown, foregoing even the UK Snooker Championships in November and December.

A reopening date is yet to be announced but mark these shows in your diary, if only in pencil: Rob Brydon, A Night Of Songs & Laughter, April 14; Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, May 2; country duo The Shires, May 23; Van Morrison, May 25 and 26; Paul Weller, June 29, and Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules Tour, October 13.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel: Looking forward to the 20th anniversary of York Open Studios

Anniversary celebration of the year: York Open Studios, April 17 and 18; 24 and 25, 10am to 5pm

2020 turned into a virtual Open Studios with displays online and in windows, but already 140 artists and makers are confirmed for the 20th anniversary event in the spring when they will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces.

Many of 2020’s selected artists have deferred their space to 2021, but new additions will be announced soon, the website teases. “We’re channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best,” says event co-founder and ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the 2021 York Early Music Festival, running from July 9 to 17

And what about?

Festivals galore, as always, in the self-anointed “City of Festivals”. Coming up are the Jorvik Viking Festival; York Fashion Week; York Literature Festival; York Early Music Festival; York Festival of Ideas, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and more besides. 

A Christmas message from CharlesHutchPress, dear reader

HERE’S to more going out and less staying in in 2021, once the jabs go to work at large.

In the meantime, thank you to all those in the world of arts and culture who have still made it worth running this site by finding ways to entertain, enlighten and excite in 2020 by thinking and acting outside the box, against the odds and the tide of the killjoy pandemic.

Merry Yorkshire Christmas, in whatever minimalist form you will be gathering.

Charles H

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Spiritato! Online; Stile Antico, live, NCEM, York, December 13

Step into Christmas: Stile Antico, pictured by Marco Borggreve before socially distanced Covid times

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival went out with a splurge of concerts over its last weekend.

Your reviewer caught two of the four on the final day. Spiritato! was the largest ensemble to appear at the festival, 18 period-style players, who concentrated on Bach and his contemporary Johann Friedrich Fasch in The Leipzig Legacy.

Had he not been born directly in Bach’s shadow, Fasch would surely be better known. We heard at once, in the opening Concerto in D, how Fasch was already anticipating the classical shapes and sounds that were to feature in Haydn’s earlier symphonies.

There were exciting trumpets in the opening Allegro and delightful solos from violin and oboe in the finale: enough meat on these bones, indeed, to make further exploration of Fasch an exciting prospect.

His Quartetto in D minor, dating from about 1750, was marginally less exciting, but well above run-of-the-mill Baroque, gracefully delivered in its slow movements, with contrastingly crisp counterpoint in the Allegros.

Spiritato! was led from her violin by Kinga Ujszászi, who came into her own in Bach’s Sinfonia in D, where her effortless panache was breath-taking. But elsewhere too, she led by example, sustaining a real sense of dance through both Bach’s Second and Third Suites.

The Second, in B minor, believed to be the last of the four to be written, was given here in its earliest version for strings alone. Here the sound was a touch top-heavy, needing an extra cello or two for good balance.

The Third Suite, in D major, was probably much earlier, written at Cöthen (where Bach was succeeded as Kapellmeister by Fasch) in 1718. Apart from its famous Air, caressed here by strings alone, the Gavottes had a gentle lilt and the Gigue made a triumphant finale. Spiritato’s palpable enjoyment had proved infectious throughout.

The festival closed with the 12-voice ensemble Stile Antico, in an appearance at the unusual but most welcome hour of 5pm. Here we were back to purely Christmas repertory, mimicking Nine Lessons and Carols with nine Renaissance works, each preceded by a contemporary reading, in A Renaissance Christmas.

My heart usually sinks when I see that musicians are doing their own readings: few manage it with much prowess, let alone clarity. Stile Antico largely proved me wrong; these well exceeded expectation. There were two poems each from John Donne and George Herbert.

Robert Southwell’s The Burning Babe was another excellent choice, as was Emilia Lanier’s Eve’s Apologie. But the laurels went to a sermon by Lancelot Andrewes, its wit and wisdom about the Magi (including “a cold coming they had of it”) delivered here with supreme clarity. None of the readers was identified.

The conductor-less choir was arranged in two semi-circles, eight on the outside, four inside, socially distanced. This meant that, for the first time that I recall, it was possible to spot one singer keeping time with a gentle nod.

Needless to say, ensemble remained impeccable, matched by tuning that surely heaven will not better. The sopranos were particularly stunning. I recall just one occasion when a very high entry was slightly misjudged, though instantly rectified.

The tone of the evening was nicely set by an extract from the Piae Cantiones of 1582, that Finnish collection rediscovered by our man in Helsinki in the early 19th century.

Victoria was the only composer to feature twice, once with an eight-voice Agnus Dei, once with a gorgeous O Magnum Mysterium, partnering Donne’s Nativity. In between these two came the starker harmonies of a graceful Ave Maria by Des Prez, alongside Donne’s Annunciation, another clever pairing. Byrd’s Rorate Coeli had reminded us of his matchless counterpoint.

A very peppy Angelus Ad Pastores by a Ferrara nun, Raffaella Aleotti, in madrigal style, reminded us of how many such ladies are only now being brought to light, not before time. Guerrero’s villancico – nowadays synonymous with Christmas carol – A Un Niño Llorandowas cleverly shaped by five soloists.

It remained for a beautifully sustained account of John Sheppard’s Verbum Caro Factum Est, which was written for Christmas matins, to remind us of the reason for the festival. If you’ve never heard Stile Antico, make a beeline for them: you won’t be disappointed.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Both concerts are still available to buy online from the York Christmas At Home programme at ncem.co.uk until December 21 to watch on demand until January 6 2021.

No concerts in 2020 but Shed Seven are live on new album and back gigging in 2021

The artwork for Shed Seven: Live, Another Night, Another Town

SHED Seven’s live album, Another Night, Another Town, is out tomorrow

“We had to put back the release date by a fortnight, because under Covid guidance, we hadn’t been able to sign the signed copies,” says lead singer Rick Witter. “But last Thursday the warehouse delivered them and we sat in different rooms in the Gillygate pub to sign them, so everything is ready now.”

Specially curated by the York Britpop luminaries and available exclusively through the Sheds’ store, Another Night, Another Town “captures their dynamic live performances and anthemic songs over 21 tracks”.

As trailed on the shedseven.com website, Sheds’ followers can pick up a limited-edition coloured gatefold vinyl edition, a special double CD set, a 180g heavyweight triple vinyl version and a download, plus a selection of new merchandise.

Another Night, Another Town is Shed Seven’s fifth “live” album after Where Have You Been Tonight? Live, in 2003; Live At The BBC, in 2007; See Youse At The Barras: Live In Concert, 2009, and Live At Leeds 2007, digital download only, in 2009.

“But we hadn’t recorded a live album since we returned as a five-piece in 2007 and we certainly hadn’t released one as good as this!” says Rick, 48, reflecting on the new album, mixed by Chris Sheldon, who produced the Sheds’ 1996 album A Maximum High and 1999 single Disco Down (whose lyrics have been raided for the Another Night, Another Town title).

“We’re delighted with the results, which we think are as close as we can get to capturing the Shed Seven live experience on record.

“We’re playing better live now than ever, and with Chris Sheldon mixing it, it’s a good memory of great times. There’s brass on there as well, and because gigs with big crowds still aren’t coming back in the imminent future, this is the next best thing to a gig. At this time in our lives, it’s the best thing we can do.”

Shed Seven’s five-piece line-up since 2007: bassist Tom Gladwin, left, lead vocalist Rick Witter, drummer Alan Leach and guitarists Paul Banks and Joe Johnson

The decision to release a live album was made in the hiatus of the pandemic lockdown. “We were thinking, at the beginning of Lockdown, ‘we’re not going to be able to do anything, so how can we do something to stop us going stale?’.

“We’d recorded a lot of the last Shedcember tour in 2019, so this was a good time to go through those recordings and the 2018 Castlefield Bowl show [in Manchester] to curate the best live album we could.

“Listening to 18 different versions of She Left Me On Friday…we spent a lot of time doing that, then picking the best, so there are songs from lots of different gigs, which should please Shed Seven fans that were there.”

For the packaging, the Sheds have drawn inspiration from their favourite live albums, among them The Smiths’ Rank and U2’s Under A Blood Red Sky. “We also had a little bit of idea, from the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, such classic imagery, not copying it, but paying tribute to it,” says Rick.

“We must have grown as a band because we now have four photographers following regularly on our tours, with lots of logging of our gigs. We got in touch with three of them to ask if we could cherry pick them for album artwork and it looks great.”

Another Night, Another Town’s arrival coincides with tickets going on sale for the Sheds’ rearranged Live After Racing’ @ Doncaster Racecourse gig, now moved to May 15 2021.

“We should have been playing there this August, as well as about 12 big festivals and The Piece Hall at Halifax that we were headlining,” says Rick. “Thankfully, we’ve re-scheduled most of these gigs.

“The bonus for us is that usually in a year when we do a Shedcember tour, we’re not allowed to do those outdoor shows in the same year because the promoters like to push the Shedcember shows through the year, but because of what’s happened this year, we’ll now be doing both summer and winter shows in 2021. It looks like being a busy year.”

The poster for Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire line-up at The Piece Hall, Halifax, next summer

Shed Seven’s diary for outdoor engagements in 2021 is taking shape: Don 21 Music Live, Doncaster Racecourse, May 15; Neighbourhood Festival, London, May 29; Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, June 18; The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26; Corbridge Festival, July 3; Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beaufort, July 31, and Watchet Music Festival, Somerset, August 29.

The Piece Hall concert will be an all-Yorkshire event embracing Shed Seven, up-and-coming anthemic York band Skylights and Leeds groups The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present. “We wanted it to be a Yorkshire celebration, thinking, ‘who could we ask?’, ‘ who would be up for it?’, and it was a real delight that The Wedding Present said ‘Yes’, as I love them but haven’t seen them for a while,” says Rick.

Impeded by the unremitting Coronavirus pandemic, The Sheds have ended up “taking a rest this year. “But being savvy, I thought, ‘we’re going to be able to play next year but loads of bands will be looking to do the same, so we better not sit on our laurels’. We structured the 2021 Shedcember tour as soon as we could, getting the gigs organised,” says Rick.

The dates will be announced in due course but he did confirm Shed Seven would play the Leeds O2 Academy, rather than Leeds First Direct Arena, where they made their debut last winter. “It’s just too stressful!” Rick reveals. “We’re set in our ways and we just know what we’re doing in front of 3.000, 4,000, whereas with 10,000 you have to concentrate so much more to make it work.

“It’s like a big step-up to play arenas, especially when we’re playing ‘normal’ venues for the rest of the tour, with that gig in the middle. We ended up with three set builds, trawling stuff around for the tour where we wouldn’t use half of it on most nights!

“So, we’re going to revert back to our comfort zone, but with plenty of big cities on there, as I kinda let the cat on my radio show.”

Rick Witter’s Disco Down has found a new home at Jorvik Radio from 7pm to 9pm on Sunday. “I did show number three last weekend with [York singer-songwriter and erstwhile Seahorses frontman] Chris Helme as my guest,” says Rick. “Mark Morriss [from The Bluetones] did an earlier show, so I’m working my way through my contacts book!”

Tomorrow, the focus will fall on the launch of Another Night, Another Town. “We hope this album provides just a little bit of the live experience we’re all missing before we return in 2021,” says Rick.

More Things To Do in and around Tier 2 York at little merry Christmas time and beyond. List No. 22, from The Press, York

Blending into the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott in an anything-but-smoothie moment in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

CHRISTMAS is on the way, in whatever form the Government allows you to wrap it up, but tiers will not be shed in the world of entertainment.

Charles Hutchinson picks his way through what’s on in the days ahead and in 2021 too.

Jessa Liversidge: Celebrating her favourite musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s at Sunday’s concert

Nostalgic concert of the week: Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present her celebration of female icons at the reopened JoRo this weekend, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Maddock.

Expect an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. “One minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow,” she says. “Moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Have yourself a medley little Christmas: York Guildhall Orchestra musicians box up their musical gift for you

Home comfort and joy: York Guildhall Orchestra’s Lockdown Christmas Medley, on YouTube

PERFORMED by more than 50 amateur York musicians, all playing in their own home, then seamlessly stitched together for YouTube by John Guy’s technical wizardry, here comes York Guildhall Orchestra’s Christmas Medley.

Arranged by conductor Simon Wright, they keep to the Wright time as they “play together” for the first time since February’s York Barbican concert, medleying their way through Hark!, The Herald Angels Sing, Ding Dong!, Silent Night And We Wish You A Merry Christmas. View their four-minute smile at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuoW6gvkGxk.

Elf and safety: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, the Covid-secure drive-in cinema, parks up at Elvington Airfield tomorrow

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

NOT only have Vue York at Clifton Moor and Everyman York, in Blossom Street, reopened but 2020’s socially distanced, car-contained drive-in boom hits the Christmas movie market from tomorrow too.

The apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema takes over Elvington Airfield for three days to show: December 18, from 12 noon, Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, from 12 noon, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, from 11am, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

Clowning around: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus

Children’s virtual show of the week outside York: Pocklington Arts Centre presents Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus, from Saturday

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s show Magic Circus from 2.30pm on December 19, available on YouTube for up to seven days.

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, this fast-moving hour-long show, full of magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the hands of the clowns. Disaster!

What a Carr-y on: Alan Carr rearranges York Barbican gigs for 2021…and 2022

Who should have been in York this week? Alan Carr: Not Again, Alan!, York Barbican, now re-scheduled

ALAN Carr, comic son of former York City footballer Graham Carr, had been booked in to perform Not Again, Alan! at York Barbican again and again this week, four nights in fact, from Wednesday to Saturday, on his first tour in four years.

Covid kicked all that into touch, but all tickets remain valid for the new dates. December 16 2020 is now in the diary for January 14 2022; December 17 for January 15 2022; December 18 for December 18 2021, and December 19 for the same day next year.

TV and radio presenter Carr will muse on the things that make his life weird and wonderful, from his star-studded wedding day to becoming an accidental anarchist; from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer. “Three words spring to mind,” he says. “Not again, Alan!”

Crystal clear: Fairfax House raises a glass to a Georgian Christmas in A Season For Giving

Exhibition for the winter: A Season For Giving, Fairfax House, York, running until February 7

THE Christmas installation at the Georgian home of the Terry family, Fairfax House, ironically will not be open from December 21 to January 5, so catch it before then or afterwards (Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm).

On a festive journey through the townhouse collections, room by room, magical scene by magical scene, meet Noel Terry for a 1940s’ family Christmas, join a raucous Georgian Christmas dinner party, and much more besides. Visits must be pre-booked.

Having a ball: Amy J Payne, Julia Mariko Smith and Marie Claire Breen in Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella for Opera North

Opera North at Christmas:  Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella, ONDemand from today

OPERA North’s Whistle Stop Opera version of Cinderella was booked into the NCEM in York and Pocklington Arts Centre but Covid ruled No Show. Instead, parents and children aged five upwards can enjoy it online at home over the school holidays.

Filmed at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, John Savournin’s magical musical production stars Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella, Amy J Payne as Prince/Stepmother and Julia Mariko Smith as Fairy Godmother, drawing on various versions of the rags-to-riches tale, such as Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pauline Viardot’s operetta Cendrillon and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. For more details on how to watch, go to operanorth.co.uk

Braced for it: Van Morrison will play two nights at York Barbican next May

Big-name Irish signings for York Barbican in 2021: Van Morrison, May 25 and 26, and Chris De Burgh and Band, October 15

NORTHERN Irishman Van Morrison, 75, has booked a brace of Barbican gigs for the spring; Southern Irishman Chris De Burgh, will follow him to York next autumn.

In September, Morrison launched three protest songs, one every two weeks, railing against safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19: Born To Be Free, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown. Will he unmask any of them next May? Wait and see.

De Burgh & Band’s only Yorkshire date of The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits tour will support his upcoming album of the same name (except for the Other Hits part, obviously).

Arrowing experience: Chris De Burgh & Band will perform his 2021 tour show, The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits, at York Barbican

And what about?

JUST a reminder, York has two pantomimes on the go: York Theatre Royal’s newly extended Travelling Pantomime tour of the city and York Stage’s “musical with pantomime braces on”, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate.

You’ve got to fight for your right to panto: Faye Campbell’s hero takes on Reuben Johnson’s villain in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

Miriam Margolyes and Ian McMillan poem premiere to grace A Christmas RyeStream

The guests of Christmas present: Ian McMillan and Miriam Margolyes will be performing readings at A Christmas RyeStream

NATIONAL treasure Miriam Margolyes and the poetic voice of Yorkshire, Ian McMillan, will take part in A Christmas RyeStream, Ryedale Festival’s online Christmas concert.

Billed as “a unique choral gift to give this Christmas”, this free-to-view Yuletide celebration can be enjoyed at your leisure over the Christmas holiday period from tomorrow (18/12/2020) at 7.30pm at ryestream.com.

Margoyles, star of stage, screen and Malton Dickensian Festival, and Bard of Barnsley McMillan will read Christmas texts by John Betjeman, Clive Sansom, Thomas Hardy, U.A. Fanthorpe, Edwin Morgan, Clive James and regular Malton visitor Charles Dickens.

McMillan, a prodigious, often amusingly profound word-weaver and compulsive conceiver of witty Tweets, will premiere I Saw A Star, a “Christmas poem for our times”. Written expressly for the occasion, it opens: “I saw a star socially distanced from the rising moon/I heard voices softly whisper words to a freezing tune”.

“It’s a beautiful thing for Ryedale,” says Ian, whose last performance came at the Penistone Paramount, near Barnsley, on March 20 as part of Penistone Arts Week. “We filmed it last Monday at Pickering Church on a beautiful day, like when we used to go to Pickering for the Santa Special.

“Ryedale Festival said, ‘Can you write us a poem for this Christmas?’, and that set me thinking about Christmas in 2020: that we’re going to have to be distanced, when normally in times of difficulty and crisis, your usual instinct is to step forward and embrace each other.

“But it’s also a poem about next Christmas, and the distance till being able to get together again, expressing hope for next Christmas.”

McMillan has one wish for I Saw A Star: “I’d love it to be set to music, because that’s how I treated the piece as I was writing it for a music festival, making it rhythmical,” he says.

“We’re going to have to be distanced, when normally in times of difficulty and crisis, your usual instinct is to step forward and embrace each other,” says Barnsley poet Ian McMillan

To complement his own poem, McMillan will read Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen and Edwin Morgan’s The Computer’s First Christmas Card, a particular favourite of his.

Margolyes, 79, and McMillan, 64, will be joined in this virtual concert by the Ryedale Festival Consort, directed by David Clegg, with Ben Morris at the organ.

Sopranos Zoe Brookshaw and Jessica Cale, altos Elisabeth Paul and Kim Porter, tenors Jeremy Budd and Julian Gregory and basses Robert Davies and William Gaunt will intersperse the readings with popular Christmas melodies, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Truth From Above, Harold Darke’s In the Bleak Midwinter, Jamie Burton’s arrangement of Silent Night and Thomas Tallis’s Videte Miraculum.

Filmed in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Pickering, the festive concert will “bring a warm Yorkshire Christmas to homes across the country” through Ryedale Festival’s online platform, Ryestream.

Although it is free to view, donations to support the festival’s reach through its digital programme will be warmly accepted.

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, RyeStream was created to share music from beautiful Ryedale locations across the world. In July, Ryedale Festival broadcast its inaugural online festival of eight live concerts from three Ryedale venues: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, pre-Raphaelite Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.

A compilation film is still available to watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWJXqtAnl6U&feature=youtu.be

In addition, Ryedale Festival is partnering with three entrepreneurial choral groups, Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Swan Consort and The Gesualdo Six, to offer its followers “a unique opportunity to give a very special Christmas present”.

12 Days Of Christmas: A musical gift from Ryedale Festival

Filmed at Castle Howard, 12 Days Of Christmas will deliver a seasonal musical offering to each recipient’s inbox each day from December 25 to January 6. Prices start at £12 for the series, which comes with the option of eco-friendly digital delivery, bringing seasonal choral music to listeners in a year where many may not have been be able to hear live singing since March.

Created as “the perfect present for music-loving friends and family wherever they may be during the festive season”, this initiative has created work for 25 young choral professionals at the end of a challenging year for the arts sector. Go to https://12-days-of-christmas.tidze.com/ for the range of gift box options.

Looking ahead, Ryedale Festival will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year.

The full programme for A Christmas Ryestream:

John Betjeman: Christmas

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Truth From Above

Clive Sansom: The Innkeeper’s Wife

Alan Bullard: Shepherds Guarding Your Flocks

Clive James: The Crying Need For Snow

Harold Darke: In The Bleak Midwinter

Fanthorpe: BC:AD

Thomas Tallis: Videte Miraculum

Thomas Hardy: The Oxen (IM)

Richard Shephard: The Birds

Edwin Morgan: The Computer’s First Christmas Card

Arr. Jamie Burton: Silent Night

Ian McMillan: I Saw A Star, world premiere

John Gardner: Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Charles Dickens: from A Christmas Carol

Arr. Keith Roberts: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

NCEM receives £28,000 Kickstart grant to boost ambitious digital outreach plans

“Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, in York, has been awarded a £28,000 Capital Kickstart grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

This will enable the NCEM, in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, to push forward with its ambitious digital plans, despite the financial challenge caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin said:“We would like to thank the Culture Recovery Fund for their continued support and for this extremely generous grant in recognition of our vital and important work. Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it.”

The NCEM is one of 74 organisations receiving grants totalling £58.9 million today. The Capital Kickstart grants programme helps organisations cover costs added to capital projects such as building works, refurbishments, and large-scale equipment purchases by pandemic-related delays or fundraising shortfalls. 

To continue the “outstanding success of its significantly increased digital output”, the NCEM needed additional funds for livestream cameras and filming equipment, plus in the new website in order to reach wider audiences and support the Early Music sector. 

Steven Devine performing the first live-streamed concert at the NCEM on March 21

The first live-streamed concert on Early Music Day on March 21 by harpsichordist Steven Devine attracted a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 and this summer’s online York Early Music Festival continued to engage new audiences from as far afield as the USA and Australia. 

This month, the NCEM is staging the York Early Music Christmas Festival, a festive programme of live concerts running until this weekend. Newly added for 2020 is York Christmas At Home, a digital festival of nine concerts to be streamed from today until Sunday that will then be available on demand.

In November, the NCEM’s Young Composers Award 2020, presented in association with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, took place digitally; again, the behind-closed-doors concert was live-streamed to a wide audience. Plans for next year’s award with BBC Radio 3 and 2021 partners, recorder quartet Palisander, are in progress already.

The NCEM continues to play an important part in the promotion and support of the professional development of Early Music ensembles worldwide with residencies and workshops in the planning stage. As a bonus, the NCEM’s new spring music festival will coincide with celebrations for 2021 Early Music Day on the anniversary of JS Bach’s birthday on March 21.

Alongside a varied programme of music, in 2021 the NCEM will be staging the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival and the York Early Music Festival.

Ben Pugh, seated, leading the tech team for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival in July

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the NCEM has continued to keep music alive and was one of the first UK arts organisations to broadcast online concerts worldwide.

Education and engagement with communities has continued too, drawing in socially isolated individuals to a weekly Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as sharing music-making through a series of teaching videos aimed at deaf youngsters, I Can Play. 

Today, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport also announced that £165 million from the Culture Recovery Fund has been offered in repayable loans to help 11 major cultural organisations survive the loss of income caused by the crisis.

This follows previous rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund, including the grants programme that distributed £428 million to more than 2,000 cultural organisations across the country and the £3.36 million Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This Government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word. 

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth captured on camera in their live-streamed concert at the NCEM. The concert can be enjoyed again as part of York Christmas At Home on Sunday at 10.30am via ncem.co.uk

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today, we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.” 

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Today’s announcement is another vital step in securing the future of England’s cultural sector. Supporting capital projects will help to ensure that we maintain an innovative, sustainable cultural infrastructure that supports world-class creative work, while the loans announced today will enable some of our largest and most prestigious cultural organisations to weather the effects of Covid-19 and reopen when it is safe to do so.

“The Arts Council is grateful to the Government for their support through the Culture Recovery Fund and we are proud to support all the organisations receiving funding today.”

For more details on the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home festival, go to: ncem.co.uk.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin nominated for Freeman of City of York status…following in the footsteps of Dame Judi Dench

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

DR DELMA Tomlin MBE, founder and director of the National Centre for Early Music, has been nominated to receive the status of Honorary Freeman of the City of York. 

The decision will be made next Thursday (17/12/2020) at a special full council meeting of City of York Council, which “may lawfully appoint a person or persons who have, in its opinion, rendered eminent services to the city as outlined in Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972”.

The meeting will consider nominations for awarding the title to both Delma, as busy as ever this week hosting the York Early Music Christmas Festival at the NCEM, and York historian Alison Sinclair. 

The last time this status was awarded was in 2014 to Lord Crathorne and, if the status is awarded next week, Delma and Alison will be following in the footsteps of the only women honoured since 2002: actor and national treasure Dame Judi Dench and Quaker, peace campaigner and long-serving head teacher of The Mount School, Joyce Pickard, who died in September 2017.

Delma’s nomination comes in recognition of her commitment to arts and culture in York over the past 40 years. She helped to secure significant funding to establish the National Centre for Early Music to deliver early music, world music, folk and jazz in the converted St Margaret’s Church building in Walmgate.

The NCEM stages the summer York Early Music Festival and its winter marrow, the York Early Music Christmas Festival, this year running a series of socially distanced concerts from December 4 to 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival, streamed online from December 11 to 13. In addition, beyond York, she programmes the annual Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival.

The NCEM is recognised internationally for its promotion of Early music, also hosting the NCEM Young Composers Award and running a vibrant education and outreach programme, working with the communities of York throughout the year.   

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful,” says Honorary Freeman of the City of York nominee Delma Tomlin

In 2000, Delma was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York in recognition of her work in the City of York. In 2008, she was appointed an MBE for services to the arts in Yorkshire in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

In 2018, she was made Cultural Ambassador for the City of York and was named Cultural Champion at that year’s York Culture Awards. In 2022, she will become the first female Governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers.

Reacting to today’s nomination, Delma said: “As someone who has lived in York for 40 years, I couldn’t be more pleased or imagine more of an honour. The city has given me such opportunities, and the people have always been extraordinarily welcoming.

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful.” 

Councillor Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, said: “Given their eminent services to our city, I am delighted to support the award of Honorary Freedom of the City of York to both Delma Tomlin and Alison Sinclair.

“York has a rich history of freemen, with records dating back to 1272, making it an honour of great historical importance rarely awarded. It has been fascinating to read the nominations for Delma and Alison and learn more about the outstanding work they have done for both the city and its residents, in particular in the fields of heritage, culture and music.

“If the nominations are approved at the council meeting, a subsequent Civic occasion would then take place later next year to recognise and formally celebrate the honour.” 

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Illyria Consort, NCEM, York

Illyria Consort: Concert programme began and ended in Italy, travelling north to Germany in between

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 7

ONE of the most pleasing of the Christmas Lutheran chorales is How Brightly Shines The Morning Star. It is still in most of our hymn books.

It was actually composed by Philipp Nicolai in 1674 during an outbreak of the plague, which gives it a certain contemporary resonance. So, its inclusion in two sets of variations as the centrepiece of this Baroque recital could hardly have been more appropriate.

Illyria Consort is a trio led by violinist Bojan Čičić, who is underpinned by David Miller’s theorbo and Stephen Devine at the organ (whose advertised use of the harpsichord sadly did not materialise). They began and ended in Italy, travelling north to Germany in between.

Frescobaldi had a knack for crystallising Italian traditions and latched onto the playing of bagpipes by shepherds in the Christmas season, with a capriccio on La Pastorale (known more widely later on as Pastorella), a tradition that endures to this day in the south.

It opened peacefully here, with organ and theorbo alone, before the violin introduced some frolicking. In Germany it was picked up by Biber, a violin virtuoso himself, in his Pastorella, where frolics soon turn to fireworks. It was a delight to hear them side by side and played with such relish.

Quite a different side to Biber emerged in his Third Mystery Sonata, The Nativity, which clings doggedly to the key of B minor in its three movements, doubtless presaging the trials the Christ child was eventually to face. There was plenty of theatre here, but not much comfort.

That came with the Morning Star variations. Buxtehude’s set for solo organ gained in rhythmic coherence as it progressed, culminating in a lively jig. But the real drama came in Nicolaus Strungk’s variations for the whole trio, which was a revelation, beginning as a slow passacaglia and developing into an imaginative fantasia at a variety of tempos. The Illyrians clearly loved it.

Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli’s Sonata VIII allowed a touch of Britain into the programme. Although born in Rome, he spent over half a century in London and died there in 1773, having become a Brit as John Stephen Carbonell in 1735.

Certainly, the sonata was on a par with Handel’s best in the genre, with two central Allegros, one free flowing, the other in a zesty staccato, before an evocative closing pastorale. It came as no surprise to discover that the Illyria chose six of his sonatas for their debut recording.

Tartini is right up there as a composer for the violin, his own instrument. His Pastorale sonata also has Christmas connotations, while exploiting a number of different bowing techniques that must have sounded avant-garde in his day. Čičić by now was in full flow and obviously enjoyed its challenges.

After a majestic Adagio and a frankly showy Allegro, it wound down into another gentle pastorale. This was definitely the child in the manger rather than the angels on high. A dream ending.

Review by Martin Dreyer