Gary Stewart parades themes & skills old & new on Lost, Now Found lockdown album

Gary Stewart: Fortified at forty

IN the week when Gary Stewart turns 40, the Easingwold singer-songwriter has released his lockdown album, Lost, Now Found.

“The album was recorded at home and is pretty much all me, with the exception of a few musical friends, like Rosie Doonan, Ross Ainslie and Mikey Kenney,” says the left-handed guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, whose birthday was on Monday.

“Especially with this album, when you finish a recording, there’s that culture, that thing, where you always think it’s the best you’ve done, but I really do, because I had the time,” says Gary.

“The difficulty is that normally I don’t give myself time to write songs because I’m always doing other things, but I think I’ve tended to use that as an excuse before, but that couldn’t be an excuse this time.”

Before Covid-19 became the invisible enemy in March last year, Gary’s diary would be filled with such commitments as playing drums for Leeds band Hope & Social and guitar for Rosie Doonan; alternating the drummer’s seat for eight years in the Harrogate Theatre pantomime orchestra pit; hosting the Greenwich Village-inspired Gaslight Club acoustic hootenanny gigs at Oporto!, in Call Lane, Leeds, and fronting a seven-piece covers band, touring the UK with Graceland: A Celebration of Paul Simon’s Classic.

“In lockdown, I could give myself to writing after quite a hiatus from doing that. Suddenly, you have all this time and you can either squander it or you can try to use it productively, and I thought, ‘I’m going to be productive,” he says.

Perthshire-born Scotsman Gary had cut his teeth performing on the Leeds music scene for ten years before moving to Easingwold. Writing songs in the folk/pop vein, and influenced by the major singer/songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s – Paul Simon, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and assorted members of The Eagles – he had released three albums and two EPs to date.

“The last album came out in November 2018, but I didn’t really give it the push it deserved, probably because there were other things going on, though I did have a launch night at The Crescent [in York],” he says.

Lost, Now Found emerged over a burst of song-writing between April and June 2020, ten compositions completed in “lightning time” by his own standards. “I started with a song, Leopard, that had been kicking around my head and notebook for 18 months or so, with a verse and chorus,” says Gary.

“As a self-confessed professional procrastinator, my fear was that I wouldn’t stick with it or even bother to give myself a fighting chance, but thankfully I managed to finish it, and I thought, ‘let’s try to expand how I write, moving on from the usual four chords’.

“My girlfriend is a big Beatles fan and that kind of influenced my writing. For me, when I’m writing an album, I always think, ‘what would interest me as a listener?’, while trying to write each sing in a different key, though I didn’t quite manage it in end!”

“Technophobe” Gary ventured into the realm of D.I.Y. musician for Lost, Now Found, playing, recording, mixing and producing the album as a solo work.

“I thought, ‘I may as well spend time learning the technicalities of recording, learning how to use software of industry standard,” he recalls. “Arts Council England enticed me with its Developing Creative Practice fund, so I applied, got the funding, and that helped me to buy a laptop, an interface and a couple of really nice microphones,” he says. “This in turn led me down the rabbit-hole and into the Wonderland of home-recording.”

The next two months were spent learning a new trade on-the-go while recording the ten new songs. “It was a really interesting process, as I didn’t have to worry about playing on the songs because I can play what I need to a reasonable standard,” says Gary, who studied orchestral percussion at Leeds College of Music from 1999 and lived the big-city life until relocating to Easingwold in 2014.

“I’ve played for such a long time, I’m like a magpie, or a musical carpetbagger, picking up different things to play, like the guitar when I was 14/15.

“What was great this time was being able to get the sound I wanted, and all those things make me feel it’s the best album I’ve done: the recordings are good, the sound is excellent.”

Multi-instrumentalist Gary has enlisted the help of a handful of musician friends to “add colour” to assorted songs. Rosie Doonan, who has worked with Peter Gabriel, duets with Stewart on Hot To Trot, Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja and Lost, Now Found, and Mikey Kenney, from Band Of Burns, lends string arrangements to Rainy Day Lover and Sailors And Tailors.

The artwork for Gary Stewart’s Lost, Now Found lockdown album

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Ross Ainslie, from Treacherous Orchestra and Salsa Celtica, plays whistle on Front Lines, while Sam Lawrence and James Hamilton contribute woodwind and brass respectively to the opening track, Tailspin. “Under the pandemic restrictions, we couldn’t meet up, but I was able to send the tracks to them record their parts,” says Gary.

Lost, Now Found captures the sound and feel of a 1970s’ era singer/songwriter record. “My D.I.Y. approach to recording, coupled with my musical influences, help give the album its lo-fi sonority: warm-sounding acoustic guitars and drums; plate reverb vocals, and instruments captured as naturally as possible, with very little effect,” says Gary. “Think Tapestry meets Tea For The Tillerman.”

Stylistically, the album embraces 1960s and 1970s’ artists alongside more contemporary folk/pop luminaries: The Beach Boys’ drums and vocal-harmony influence are apparent on Hot To Trot and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja; John Martyn and Nick Drake bounce off each other in Tailspin; lead single Leopard has a Villagers vibe, while the plaintive feel of Still Crazy-era Paul Simon is present on Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and the title track.

“These are ten songs that I’m really proud of,” says Gary. “Songs that deal with themes I constantly return to, consciously or sub-consciously: fabrics of my character that I’d like to change (Leopard and Chest); procrastination (Hot To Trot) and redemption, coupled with new beginnings (Tailspin) and straight-up love songs (Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja) – songwriters just can’t get away from writing love songs!”

Inevitably, too, there are songs woven more indelibly and intertwined with the time and circumstances wherein they were written: family loss, both physical and mental, for Sailors And Tailors and Lost, Now Found and the triumph over adversity of the NHS for Front Lines.

“Some songs came really quickly, like Front Lines, which came from a conversation with my percussionist, who’s a paramedic, and told me of paramedics being put on the phone to speak with cancer patients who couldn’t be treated during the pandemic.”

This summer marks Gary’s return to performing, kicking off with Gary Stewart’s Folk Club from 7.30pm to 10pm on July 3, replacing the Silent Disco that has now aptly fallen silent that evening in the open-air setting of At The Mill, in Stillington, near York (box office: athemill.org).

“It will be a very special, one off, folk club: part folk night, part headline gig, with an eclectic mix of acts and then me doing a set,” says Gary.

As At The Mill’s Alexander Wright explains: “The first half will work like a traditional folk night. Hosted by Gary, people in attendance are given the opportunity to play and share – music, stories, songs or poems. If you want to share something, then bring your instrument and your voice and we’ll see you there!

“The second half of the evening sees Gary take to the stage for a headline set. We can’t wait for Gary Stewart’s Folk Club. We love a folk night – and we really look forward to seeing and hearing all the wonderful things you bring to share!”

Gary is back on drums for Hope & Social at The Crescent, York, on July 15, and he will be in solo mode on the July 31 bill for Meadowfest, Malton’s boutique midsummer music festival, headlined by Lightning Seeds (box office: tickettailor.com/events/visitmalton/348810/s).

In The Crescent’s diary for September 18 at 7.30pm is Gary’s Paul Simon show, Graceland, with tickets on sale at £12.50 at seetickets.com.

Even in such strange times, Gary Stewart is living out a young Scotsman’s vow to himself. “I consciously made the decision that I was going to make music, as even if I didn’t make a lot of money, I’d still want to make music because that’s the win of it,” he says. “I’ll always work hard at it, though sometimes I could be more proactive!”

More proactive?  The multi-tasking new album, the diverse live performances, would suggest otherwise, Gary.

Gary Stewart’s Lost, Now Found was released on June 14 on CD, 12 vinyl and download.

Just how multi-instrumentalist is multi-tasking Gary Stewart?

ON Lost, Now Found, he contributes vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, hi-string guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, keys, xylophone, glockenspiel, congas, bongos, shakers, triangle, tambourine, finger cymbals, temple blocks and…thighs. Oh, and he recorded, mixed and produced the album.

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer, NCEM, York 14/6/2021

Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer at the National Centre for Early Music, York, at Monday’s Songs Under Skies double bill

REVIEW: Songs Under Skies, Joshua Burnell and Katie Spencer, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York

EAST Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer, like so many musicians divorced by lockdown restrictions from their livelihood of live shows, had taken to streaming gigs to the alienating sound of silence.

No wonder she smiled at the welcoming sound of applause, as reviving as hearing birdsong after being stuck indoors. “It’s lovely to be sharing live music for the first time in a long time,” she said at the 7pm outset of week two of Songs Under Skies, the acoustic outdoor festival run by the NCEM, Fulford Arms, The Crescent and Music Venues Alliance.

All those mid-pandemic night streams, and her guitar never misbehaved. First live show back, and a string snapped, whereupon Katie administered a string re-fit at a speed to impress Formula One wheel-changers. Joshua Burnell would later refer to her handiwork as “the fastest in the history of music”.

“It’s wild to be playing music in front of live people instead of my plants and bookcase,” said Katie Spencer

That said, Katie’s primary handiwork is her acoustic guitar-playing, a gentle caress to lyrics that have the scent, sentience and scene-painting of poetry, sung in a voice that lingered in Monday’s NCEM churchyard air.

Raised by the seaside near Hull, she sang of how the water shapes both the land and the people who live there in her best number, Edge Of The Land. Weatherbeaten and Shannon Road were similarly affecting in a re-introductory set best summed up by her sentiment: “It’s wild to be playing music in front of live people instead of my plants and bookcase.”

Katie will be doing so again in support of Martin Simpson at Primrose Woods, Pocklington, on July 1 and at The Magpies Festival at Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest on August 14. Hopefully, that guitar will be on best behaviour.

Half an hour would pass for an audience as socially distanced as the churchyard graves before prog-folk songwriter Joshua Burnell took to the blue awning stage with keyboard player Oliver Whitehouse.

Not even a sound alarm could put Joshua Burnell off his stride on his return to the concert stage.

Burnell is a multi-instrumentalist on his recordings, but here he focused on acoustic guitar, adapting to the night temperature that demanded constant re-tuning, a routine that afforded him the time to talk between songs, although not to the length that had prompted a BBC Radio York presenter to advise him he should hand out a pamphlet the next time he introduced new single Shelagh’s Song in concert.

No such pamphlet was forthcoming or necessary. Joshua is an engaging storyteller as much as an eloquent songwriter equally capable of evoking Tolkien, folk forefathers, Al Stewart, Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and even Marc Bolan’s puckish dictionary.

He name-checked Ian McKellen for the opening Labels, recalling how the thespian knight had pondered “Why do we need to put labels on love?”. “Do you know what, Sir Ian, you’re right,” he said. “So throw your labels away, ‘Cause love has no use for them,” Joshua duly affirmed, almost enough to make any reviewer desist from further labelling on this occasion.

Joshua is as good at excavation as at conjuring new material, typified by an obscure but wonderful cover version, Eli Geva, Norwegian songwriter’s anguished Siege of Beirut ballad from an album of 12 banned songs from around the world.

The artwork for Joshua Burnell’s single Shelagh’s Song

Next came the aforementioned Shelagh’s Song, his account of how early-Seventies Edinburgh folk singer Shelagh McDonald vanished for 30 years after a particularly bad LSD trip. The re-surfaced Shelagh so loved the song she has sent Joshua a parcel with a letter, artwork and some lyrics she never published. Actions can speak so much louder than labels!

Joshua had just adjusted his guitar tuning again in the night cold when a new interruption tapped him on the shoulder: a sound alarm going off in the neighbouring bustle of Walmgate. One look from Joshua, and it was gone, as if ashamed at having held up “a bit of an anthem for positivity and things to come”: Golden Days, written in lockdown as the good weather rolled in and the vaccine programme was rolled out.

Not even the Prime Minister’s 6pm postponement of Freedom Day could deflate Joshua. “I still feel optimistic that we’re in a better place than we were a year ago,” he asserted.

If one lyric encapsulates retro-futurist Burnell in 2021, it would be: “Did I go through the wardrobe door because it’s been winter here for much too long”. Indeed it has, and as Songs Under Skies nudged and hushed it out the back door, he ended with Lucy, his variation on a “Ziggy Stardust character song”. Closer to Bolan than Bowie, if a label must be applied, but Lucy under darkening skies was a diamond finale.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Joseph Rowntree Theatre adds new string to bow as York String Quartet makes debut

The York String Quartet: Making Joseph Rowntree Theatre debut this Sunday

THE York String Quartet will grace the Joseph Rowntree Theatre stage in York for the first time on Sunday night.

As the JoRo reopens after lockdown, York audiences are being offered a wider choice of performances, the result of both the trustees’ desire to attract new hirers and differing groups’ need to look for suitable venues.

Graham Mitchell, the Haxby Road theatre’s community engagement director, says: “We’re delighted that the York String Quartet has chosen our venue for its first show post-lockdown.

“We haven’t often had this type of show on stage and we know it’ll attract a new audience into the theatre, perhaps people who don’t even know who we are or what we offer.”

In the York String Quartet line-up are Fiona Love, violin, Nicola Rainger, violin, Vince Parsonage, violin and viola, and Sally Ladds, cello.

The 7.30pm programme will comprise: J S Bach’s  Brandenburg No. 3 in G major; Dvorak’s Quartet No. 12, ‘American’  1st movement, Allegro Ma Non Troppo; Beethoven’s  Quartet No. 13 op. 130, 5th movement ‘Cavatina’, Adagio Molto Espressivo, and Schubert’s Quartet No. 13 D.804 in A minor, ‘Rosamunde’, last movement, Allegro Moderato.

A selection from classical, pop, jazz, shows, television and film in a quiz format will follow the interval. Tickets cost £8 to £13 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Tomorrow’s Meat Loud – The Duo show, with its invitation to “buckle up and get ready for a ride into Hell”, has been cancelled.

Founded by Meat Loud, alias Andy Plimmer, and session singer and vocal coach Sally Rivers, the show is built around Bat Out Of Hell, complemented by other Meat Loaf slices of rock opera and songs penned by Jim Steinman for Bonnie Tyler, Cher, and Celine Dion. Sally has worked with Annie Lennox, Cher and Mick Hucknall, among others.

Alas, tomorrow night is now a case of All Revved Up With No Place To Go.

Losing their Loaf: Meat Loud – The Duo’s Meat Loaf tribute show show at the JoRo tomorrow is off

Pocklington Arts Centre confirms July 21 reopening and first film show in 491 days

Open welcome: Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer looks forward to reopening on July 20

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre will reopen to the public on July 20 and film screenings will re-start on July 23, 491 days since the last performance.

Director Janet Farmer and venue manager James Duffy have chosen this date to ensure the safety of customers and volunteers.

“Over the past few months, our main focus has been planning the safe reopening of the building, ensuring all staff are trained appropriately and making sure the venue has all its new systems, resources and processes in place and working well,” says Janet. 

“We have sought feedback from staff, volunteers and customers and this will be vital to the success of this process. Our main aim is to ensure the visitor experience at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) is safe, secure and enjoyable.”

In late-March 2020, the East Yorkshire venue launched a crowdfunding page, raising more than £18,000 in under a month, followed by successful funding applications to the Smile Foundation’s I Am Fund and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. 

Spiers & Boden: October 20 booking at Pocklington Arts Centre

Janet says: “I would like to thank our customers, in addition to Pocklington Town Council, the Friends of PAC, the Smile Foundation, Arts Council England and the Music Venue Trust for their collective support over the past year. 

“It has been a very difficult time for everyone, but their kind words, financial support and continued interest in all things PAC has meant a great deal and helped carry the venue through these extraordinary times.”

Staff have rescheduled forthcoming events for the autumn and winter, transferring more than 4,000 tickets and refunding customers for 20-plus cancelled events. 

“Throughout the closure period, we have stated our determination to emerge from the situation more vibrant than ever and our autumn and winter programme is a testament to that,” says Janet. 

“2021/22 will see a fantastic range of live events being staged here, alongside our trademark diverse mix of film screenings, live broadcasts, exhibitions, community events and private hires.” 

Velma Celli: York’s queen of vocal drag will make Pocklington debut on December 3. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

In the diary are Grammy Award winner Loudon Wainwright III, September 24; Northumberland Theatre Company (NTC) in Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people”, The Importance Of Being Earnest, September 30; North Eastern gypsy folk-rockers Holy Moly & The Crackers, October 16; Oxford singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore, October 7, and Irish jazz/blues chanteuse Mary Coughlan, October 19.

Bellowhead alumni and BBC Radio Folk Award winners Spiers & Boden are booked in for October 20; Red Ladder Theatre Company, from Leeds, in Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s My Voice Was Heard But Was Ignored, for November 25; television and radio broadcaster and author Jeremy Vine, November 26; Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, December 2, and York drag diva deluxe Velma Celli, December 3.

Confirmed for 2022 are An Evening With Julian Norton, from Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, January 18; singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson, January 22;Welsh guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and former Amen Corner cornerstone Andy Fairweather Low, February 11, and Eighties’ pop singer and actress Toyah Willcox, March 3.

PAC’s two open-air acoustic concerts in Primrose Wood, Pocklington, with Martin Simpson and Katie Spencer on July 1 and The Dunwells and Rachel Croft on July 8 will go ahead despite the Government’s Step 4 roadmap delay, but now under social-distancing restrictions. Both 7pm shows have sold out.

Janet says: “We always knew this was a possibility when the shows were first planned and there’s sufficient space for people to enjoy the event safely, while experiencing the atmospheric setting of Primrose Wood.”

Martin Simpson: Headlining at a sold-out Primrose Woods on July 1

PAC increased its online artistic output during the pandemic, staging 18 events to more than 9,000 audience members. 

In addition, a series of outdoor exhibitions has been held by PAC across the region. York artists Sue Clayton and Karen Winship have shown work at All Saints’ Church, Pocklington, and Sue will be following Karen into Hull Waterside and Marina. Those attending the York Vaccination Centre at Askham Bar can see her Down Syndrome portraits in the Tent of Hope. 

“We felt it was vitally important to have continued customer engagement throughout the prolonged closure period and the public response to these events and exhibitions has been very positive,” says Janet. 

“We’re also very much aware there’s no substitute to watching a live performance, in person, and sharing this experience with fellow audience members. 

“Everyone at PAC is now counting down the days until the doors can reopen and we can welcome customers back. It’s been a very long interval and we can’t wait for the second half to begin.”

For full event listings and ticket details, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

York artist Karen Winship at the launch of her NHS Heroes exhibition at Hull Waterside and Marina

More Things To Do in and around York before and after Johnson’s “Terminus Est”. List No. 37, courtesy of The Press, York


A fight for survival as sex, power, money and race collide on a hot night: Sophie Robinson as Julie in New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse’s Miss Julie at York Theatre Royal

FREEDOM Day is delayed but Boris Johnson has reached for the Latin dictionary again with his promise of “Terminus Est”.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, life goes on in Charles Hutchinson’s socially distanced diary.

Play of the week ahead: Miss Julie, The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, June 22 to 26

ON the Chinese New Year in 1940s’ Hong Kong, the celebrations are in full swing when Julie, the daughter of the island’s British governor, crashes the servant’s party downstairs.

What starts as a game descends into a fight for survival as sex, power, money and race collide on a hot night in the Pearl River Delta in British-Hong Kong playwright Amy Ng’s adaptation of Strindberg’s psychological drama in New Earth Theatre and Storyhouse’s new touring production. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Reopening today: Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium will be welcoming an audience for the first time in 15 months

Reopening of the day: Leeds Grand Theatre

WHEN Leeds Grand Theatre first opened its doors on Monday, November 18 1878, a playbill declared it would “Positively Open”. Now, after 15 months under wraps, it is “Positively Reopening” today (17/62021) for a socially distanced run of Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake until June 26.

In Northern Ballet‘s emotive retelling, Anthony’s life is haunted by guilt after the tragic loss of his brother. When he finds himself torn between two loves, he looks to the water for answers.

There he finds solace with the mysterious swan-like Odette as the story is beautifully reimagined by David Nixon, who will be leaving the Leeds company after 20 years as artistic director in December. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at boxoffice@leedsheritagetheatres

Abba Mania: Saying thank you for the superSwedes’ music at York Racecourse on June 26

Staying on track: Sounds In The Grounds, Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse, June 25 to 27

JAMBOREE Entertainment presents three Covid safety-compliant Sounds In The Grounds concerts next weekend with socially distanced picnic patches at York Racecourse.

First up, next Friday, will be Beyond The Barricade, a musical theatre celebration starring former Les Miserables principals; followed by Abba Mania next Saturday and the country hits of A Country Night In Nashville next Sunday.

Opening each show will be York’s party, festival and wedding favourites, The New York Brass Band. Tickets are on sale at soundsinthegrounds.seetickets.com or at the gate for last-minute decision makers.

The poster for the return of the York River Art Market

Welcome back: York River Art Market, Dame Judi Dench Walk, York, from June 26

AFTER the pandemic ruled out all last year’s live events, York River Art Market returns to its riverside railing perch at Dame Judi Dench Walk, by Lendal Bridge, for ten shows this summer in the wake of the winter’s online #YRAMAtHome, organised by Charlotte Dawson.

Free to browse and for sale will be work by socially distanced, indie emerging and established artists on June 26, July 3, 24, 25 and 31 and August 1, 7, 14, 21 and 28, from 10.30am to 5.30pm, when YRAM will be raising funds for York Rescue Boat.

On show will be landscape and abstract paintings; ink drawings, cards and prints; jewellery and glass mosaics; woodwork and metalwork; textiles and clothing and artisan candles and beauty products.

Alexander Wright: Contemplating his debut solo performance of poems, stories and new writing on July 10. Picture: Megan Drury

He’s nervous, but why? Alexander Wright: Remarkable Acts Of Narcissism, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, July 10, 7.30pm

LET Alex tell the story: “In a potentially remarkable act of narcissism, I am doing a solo gig of my own work in a theatre I built (with Phil Grainger and dad Paul Wright) in my back garden. 

“It’s the first time I have ever done a solo gig. I write lots of stuff, direct lots of stuff, tour Orpheus, Eurydice & The Gods to hundreds of places. But I’ve never really stood in front of people and performed my own stuff, on my own, for an extended period. So, now, I am…and I’m nervous about it.”

Expect beautiful stories, beautiful poems and a few beautiful special guests; tickets via atthemill.org.

Ringmaster and Dame Dolly Donut in TaleGate Theatre’s Goldilocks And The Three Bears at Pocklington Arts Centre

Summer “pantomime”? Yes, in TaleGate Theatre’s Goldlilocks And The Three Bears, Pocklington Arts Centre, August 12, 2.30pm

ALL the fun of live family theatre returns to Pocklington Arts Centre this summer with Doncaster company TaleGate Theatre’s big top pantomime extravaganza.

In Goldilocks And The Three Bears, pop songs, magic and puppets combine in a magical adventure where you are invited to help Goldilocks and her mum, Dame Dolly Donut, save their circus and rescue the three bears from the evil ringmaster. For tickets, go to: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys: Headliners to be found at The Magpies Festival in Sutton-on-the-Forest in August

Festival alert: The Magpies Festival, Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, near York, August 14, music on bar stage from 1.30pm; main stage, from 2.30pm

SAM Kelly & The Lost Boys will headline The Magpies Festival in the grounds of Sutton Park.

Confirmed for the folk-flavoured line-up too are: Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra; Blair Dunlop; fast-rising Katherine Priddy; The Magpies; York musician Dan Webster; East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer; the duo Roswell and The People Versus. Day tickets and camping tickets are available at themagpiesfestival.co.uk/tickets.   

A variation on Malvolio’s cross-gartered stocking theme: Yellow and black rugby socks for Luke Adamson’s version of Twelfth Night on the Selby RUFC pitch

Fun and games combined: JLA Productions in Twelfth Night, Selby Rugby Union Football Club, August 20, 7.30pm; August 21, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

“I’M just getting in touch to announce we’re doing some Shakespeare on a rugby pitch in Selby in August. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s going to be fun!” promises Luke Adamson, Selby-born actor, London theatre boss and son of former England squad fly half Ray.

Adapted and directed by Adamson, a raucous, musical version of “Shakespeare’s funniest play”, Twelfth Night, will be staged with Adamson as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a cast Yorkshire acting talent.

Out go pantaloons and big fluffy collars, in come rugby socks, cricket jumpers and questionable facial hair. Box office: jlaproductions.co.uk.

North York Moors Chamber Music Festival promises dazzling repertoire in Epoch event

“This festival is one way in which we can escape the turmoil and touch base as a community coming together,” says North York Moors Chamber Music Festival artistic director Jamie Walton. Picture: Matthew Johnson

WORLD-CLASS musicians and emerging artists will head to the moors in August for the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival.

Now in its 13th unbroken year, the 2021 festival will run from August 7 to 21, presenting “dazzling repertoire” around the theme of Epoch.

“Our history is punctuated by defining moments that influence the course of humanity and its cultures,” says the festival director, international cellist Jamie Walton, who lives within the boundaries of the National Park.

“This tumultuous last year has been one of those defining epochs for most of us, one may argue: a period we would probably all like to forget while we crave for our traditional rhythms and a simpler way of life. This festival is one way in which we can escape the turmoil and touch base as a community coming together.”

Against the tide of Cassandra doom elsewhere, last year’s festival was rearranged by the resolute Walton, who found a new Covid-secure location in less than a week to still play to audiences, socially distanced to meet regulations.

“Our passionate belief in finding ways to keep music present in our lives by refusing to be silenced was somewhat defiant of course, but also a deeply moving experience,” says Jamie Walton, recalling last summer’s hastily rearranged festival

For the past decade, concerts had been held in churches across the North York Moors National Park, but like so many other arts events, the festival was in jeopardy, discourtesy of the Coronavirus crisis.

When the Government made a last-minute U-turn, postponing the re-opening of indoor performances first announced for August 1, Walton had to act swiftly, settling on presenting concerts in a 5,000 square-foot, wooden-floored, acoustic-panelled marquee in the grounds of Welburn Abbey, Welburn Manor Farms, near Kirkbymoorside.

More than 50 per cent of the marquee sides could be opened, in effect making the concerts an open-air event. Good fortune then smiled on the event, blessing the sold-out concert series with an August heatwave. 

Originally, before the curse of Covid, Revolution! in Ryedale would have comprised more than 30 musicians, around 40 chamber works, in ten churches. Instead, it added up to 34 works being performed by 23 musicians at ten concerts in one outdoor location, under the concert titles of A Hymn; Time Of Turbulence; Janus; Incandescence; Mystique; Transcendental; Voices; Vivacity; Towards The Edge and Triumph!.

Last summer, Walton and his festival musicians from Britain and overseas “dared to dream despite the odds” by mounting the August 9 to 22 event with an apt theme of Revolution, “taking a gamble that took tremendous courage and sheer willpower in a climate of fear that is shutting down the arts”.

Cello, cello, its’s good to back, cello, cello: Jamie Walton out on the North York Moors, looking forward to the August concert series

“We have fought back against this Government and the disgraceful, destructive way it’s shutting down industries and, more ominously, the nation’s confidence,” said Jamie at the closing concert.

Now he reflects: “In 2020, we absolutely refused to cancel, despite the constraints of this worldwide pandemic, because we wanted to keep hope alive. Our passionate belief in finding ways to keep music present in our lives by refusing to be silenced was somewhat defiant of course, but also a deeply moving experience.

“Despite the obvious challenges, musicians flew in from more than six countries to enjoy a fortnight of electrifying music-making with a rarefied environment, incorporating vast spaces to override risk or limitations.

“Astonishingly and surprisingly perhaps, we were one of the only classical music festivals to go ahead live to socially distanced audiences at all, while not having to compromise on the length of festival nor the number of concerts. The result was a complete revelation, and we want to share this experience this summer with those who may have missed out last year.”  

This summer’s festival will comprise ten main concerts featuring a plethora of international musicians in music by many epoch-defining composers such as Debussy, Ravel, Dvorak, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Elgar, alongside the launch of an additional series of five Young Artists lunchtime recitals, showcasing talent from the Royal Academy of Music.

All rehearsals will take place at the new Ayriel Studios, a state-of-the-art soundproofed recording studio in the grounds of Millinder House, surrounded by North York Moors farmland in the heart of Westerdale. Initiated by Walton, it is due to open commercially in January 2022.

Mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley: Taking part in the Epoch series of concerts. Picture: Kaupo Kikkas

“Some artists taking part in the festival will be recording there this autumn as the new facility builds its identity and reputation, putting North Yorkshire firmly on the cultural map,” says Jamie.

Among the line-up for the main festival will be tenor James Gilchrist; oboist Nicholas Daniel; clarinetist Matthew Hunt; North Yorkshire mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley; violinists Benjamin Baker and Charlotte Scott; violist Timothy Ridout; pianists Katya Apekisheva and Alasdair Beatson, plus many others from the classical music industry who regular collaborate with one another all over the world.

The Young Artists Recitals will be performed by the Salwa Quartet, Hill Quartet, Jubilee Quartet, Asyla Oboe Quartet and Trio Mazzolini.

As with last summer, the main festival concerts will take place in the specially adapted marquee in the grounds of Welburn Manor Farm. The venue for the Young Artists Recitals will be announced shortly; check the website, northyorkmoorsfestival.com, for updates.

The full concert festival details can be found there too, with concerts regaling in such titles as The Conquering Hero; Rhapsody; La Belle Epoque; Breaking Free; Turning Points; A New Genre; Turn Of A Century; Through War; Post War Paris and Caution To The Wind.

Main festival tickets cost £12.50, under-30s, free. A season ticket for all ten costs £100. Young Artists Recitals tickets cost £10 each. To book, email bookings@northyorkmoorsfestival.com, call 07722 038990 or visit northyorkmoorsfestival.com.

Exit 2020, now the marquee at Welburn Abbey will play host to the 2021 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival. Picture: Matthew Johnson

Debut online York New Music Weekend launches at University of York on Friday

Christian Mason: Composer and University of York alumnus at the heart of the first York New Music Weekend

THE inaugural York New Music Weekend will be launched on Friday at the University of York.

Running for three days but staying online for longer, this new annual festival celebrates contemporary music in York.

Under the theme of Time-Space-Sound-Light, the weekend centres on the work of Christian Mason, an award-winning composer and alumnus of the University of York’s department of music.

The online event includes premieres of new pieces and music by the composers who have influenced him, performed by members of The Octandre Ensemble, The Assembled, pianist Rolf Hind and The Chimera Ensemble.

Interviews and recordings contribute to a rounded profile of this leading British young composers.

In Friday’s opening 1pm concert, recorded at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, The Chimera Ensemble, Britain’s largest student-run contemporary music ensemble, present new works by student composers Emily Linane (Flute Miniature), Lucy Havelock (that silk, unrestricted), Joe Bates (Cataracts), Fred Viner (Bells Wrung) and Becky Davidson-Lund (Shade And Light).

Anna Meredith: Composer studied at the University of York. Picture: Owen Richards

After Axeman by University of York alumna and BBC 6 Music favourite Anne Meredith, the concert concludes with a piece as reflective as its title, Pauline Oliveros’s Mirrorrorrim.

Based on the theme of expressing the visual, the Chimera programme weaves its way from mirrors to luminosity and the nature of bells, exploring colour and texture while featuring an unconventional use of fabric, amplification and distortion.

At 7pm on Friday, Rolf Hind’s online piano concert, Nature, Lockdown And Dreams Of Travel, includes Hind’s Bhutani and Hind et al’s Lockdown Sequence (pieces written for Hind in lockdown from a call on Facebook), Matthew King’s When Birds Do Sing, Christian Mason’s Three Waves From Afar, Elaine Michener’s Tree Scream and Messiaen’s Le Loriot from Catalogue d’Oiseaux.

Online on Saturday at 7pm, pianist Hind and Mason (rin bells, harmonica, electronics) join fellow members of The Octandre Ensemble, Audrey Milhères (piccolo, flute) and Corentin Chassard (cello, scordatura cello) to perform Mason’s Just As The Sun Is Always.

In Sunday’s 1pm online concert, pianist Kate Ledger and The Assembled present the world premiere of Androgynette, a multimedia work by Ledger, James Redelinghuys and artist Angie Guyton. Watch Three Refractions Of A Body Etude on Ledger’s YouTube channel for a flavour of what to expect.

At the festival’s second concert by The Chimera Ensemble, the university’s new music ensemble, on Sunday at 7pm, the focus turns to new works by composers, largely from Yorkshire and the North East, alongside student works.

Rolf Hind, Christian Mason and Kate Ledger: Prominent roles in the inaugural York New Music Weekend

Again recorded at the Lyons, the programme comprises: Ed Cooper’s …incantations fixate…; Linda Catlin-Smith’s Knotted Silk; Nicholas Peters, Placebo; Michele Abondano, The Shimmer Beneath: A Scattering Attempt; James McLeish, Crimson; Rossa Juritz, the sound of wooden dusk; Rebecca Peake, Purple Smoke, and Yue Ming’s The Eternal Circle, plus reprises of Anna Meredith’s Axeman and Pauline Oliveros’s Mirrorrorrim.

This programme considers time, colour, texture and fabric, typified by Catlin-Smith’s irregularly spaced Knotted Silk and Peters’ rhythmically forceful Placebo as The Chimera Ensemble inhabit an exhilarating array of sound worlds.

Among other events this weekend is an interactive video collaboration of dance, music and cinematography between the Scottish Ensemble, Scottish Dance Theatre and composer Martin Suckling, entitled these bones, this flesh, this skin. 

This Watch Anytime feature is a digital work for solo violin and solo dancer by composer Martin Suckling, choreographer Joan Clevillé and cinematographer Genevieve Reeves. Through a bespoke online platform, audience members are invited to combine different audio and visual layers to decide how they want to experience the work in multiple iterations.

Born out of this unique period in our lives, the piece “explores how heightened attention can reveal different experiences of time in our bodies and the environment around us”. This layering of simplicity and complexity also manifests in the way the viewer/listener is asked to make decisions.

In a nutshell, “with every new iteration, we discover new perspectives, new nuances waiting for us in the spaces in between music, cinematography and dance, between the traces of our own memories and the aliveness of our attention.”

Composer Martin Suckling: Interactive video collaboration with the Scottish Ensemble and Scottish Dance Theatre, combining dance, music and cinematography

Another Watch Anytime feature, Distanced Modularity, is presented by Jethro Bagust, Lynette Quek and Ben Eyes, who contend that “the pandemic has been a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Making art and music during such a time, while others are suffering and enduring great hardship, seems futile.

“However, music and art are a great comfort to many, perhaps not more so than the musicians themselves and the social interaction that plays an indelible role in music.”

Using the Ninjam server set-up at York to synchronise two geographically distant modular synth set-ups; Bagust and Eyes explore how streams of found audio, real-time modular synthesis, stochastic compositional processes and video (courtesy of Lynette Quek) can be merged online to create a real-time audio-visual miasma. The piece was recorded live in one take after several distanced rehearsals.

Jethro says: “The instrument I play is populated with numerous chance elements that are linked to musical parameters. These elements of uncertainty blur the distinction between the roles of performer, composer, and audience because we are all hearing the music for the first time.

“Improvising with indeterminate instruments such as this, that defer the note by note production to algorithms, might be akin to steering an animal that you can point in a particular direction but not precisely know their behaviour.

“There is a tension between the human and the machine; the player must listen and react, responding to the system at an indirect meta-level.

A still from Jethro Bagust, Ben Eyes and Lynette Quek’s Distanced Modularity

The pre-recorded audio sources are from John Cage and Morton Feldman, In Conversation, Radio Happening I of V, recorded at WBAI, New York City, 1966-1967.

“Ben’s own set-up is based around a custom Max/Msp patch, linked to a modular synth, that allows real-time interaction with musical sequences and rhythms. Influenced by dub and techno, sound sources in the system are filtered, delayed and reverberated live in the mix to create musical form and progression,” says Jethro.

The festival’s five concerts, all recorded live, will be complemented by a round-table discussion on Sunday at 2pm when the speakers will be British composers and musicologists Martin Suckling, Minyung Im, Carmen Troncoso Caceres, Richard Kearns and Catherine Laws, in response to the pandemic-enforced closure of venues generating an explosion of online music-making.

Join the creative teams behind the festival’s Watch Anytime features, these bones, this flesh, this skin, Ceci n’est pas un piano and Between Air, Clay And Woods Of Certain Flutes, as they discuss ways to approach online performance beyond the “filmed concert” paradigm.

“Explore their online features and bring your questions to this interactive session,” comes the invitation to an event hosted on Zoom. Ticketholders will be emailed the Zoom link the day before the event.

All events are free but booking is required at yorkconcerts.ticketsolve.com/shows. Ticketholders can watch all the performances on demand until Sunday, July 11 at 23.59pm.

Indoor choral “rule of six” will not deflate Prima Vocal Ensemble from joy of song

Artistic director Ewa Salecka, right, leading Prima Vocal Ensemble’s phased return to group singing in outdoor rehearsals in late-May

DEFIANT optimism reigns for York choir Prima Vocal Ensemble in the face of the pandemic.

“I’ve always been motivated by a challenge and there’s been no shortage of that in recent times,” says Ewa Salecka, Polish-born artistic director of the mixed-voice group.

Constantly on the front foot, Ewa has been aware from the outset of the negative impact that lockdown and isolation bring.

“Singing may be perceived by some as just a hobby but there is so much more to what it does to our general mental and physical health, and you cannot underestimate the never-ending benefits of group singing,now largely backed up by firm scientific evidence,” she says. “To some this is a genuine lifeline to their social and emotional world and vital for balanced mental well-being.

Prima Vocal Ensemble performing with the Mowbray String Quartet in a live recording session in December 2020

“Another May brought another anniversary for Prima Vocal Ensemble, and although 2020 denied us the chance to celebrate our tenth year of singing, defiant optimism is our overriding characteristic.”

From a musical perspective, Ewa and Prima’s dedication to consistent standards in community singing is undimmed. “The legacy of all the training provided over the past decade has not diminished and remains on a constant upward trajectory,” she says.

“Zoom and online learning hasn’t been a solution to the situation, but it has enabled Prima to stay connected, to adapt and continue working on new material ready for the inevitable freedoms post-pandemic.”  

New realities bring a new focus to Ewa. “There’s never been a time in my life when I’ve been more dedicated to the study of vocal health,” she says. “Everyone has been singing to their computers for a year and naturally this will affect their voices. This increased need to help singers more than ever before has prompted me to gain new, complementing qualifications as a vocal coach and a vocal health practitioner.”

Prima Vocal Ensemble winning the bronze band diploma with their online entry at the 2021 International Choir Competition of Sacred and Passion Music in Szczecin, Poland  

Teaching both in the community and tutoring students and private clients requires constantly updated knowledge. “The science never stands still, so neither must a vocal professional,” says Ewa. 

“I’ve had to work so much harder for the past 15 months, trying to understand and navigate the constantly shifting restrictions. I didn’t plan solely for indoor rehearsals in June after learning how quickly the Government can implement sudden U-turns.

“No-one is saying it’s easy to run a country through this, but we can’t rely solely on mere rhetoric. The facts, the patterns of events, speak volumes and with new variants becoming a reality across the UK, we can’t claim to be surprised that a full return was in jeopardy. I took this on board and chose to direct my energies into ensuring a consistent plan for my members.”  

Step 3 had been expected to facilitate the return of amateur choirs to singing indoors, albeit with social distancing still in place, but within days came the Government U-turn, ruling that no more than six amateur singers could do so together.”

Prima Vocal Ensemble supporting Mental Health Awareness month in late-April to May 2021

Ewa is in complete agreement with the overriding sentiment of frustration among Britain’s choral organisations. “We were allowed to sing in Covid-safe ways during the gap between lockdowns last year [with 12 measures in place, from social distancing to hand sanitising, ventilating the room  to ‘quarantining’ sheet music].

“In late-May, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden disclosed that only 15 cases of Covid were reported among the 58,000 people taking part in various test events, from the Brit Awards to the FA Cup Final [source: Evening Standard, May 25 2021].

“Now, with incomparably lower numbers of cases, a hugely successful vaccine programme and the general awareness of how to mitigate the risks at rehearsals, it is ridiculous that we cannot work in the same way.”  

Despite these barriers, Ewa has strived to maintain a sense of community through a shared love of music and to lead by example throughout the pandemic.  

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

In the safest possible way, Prima returned to live singing last autumn, and in December Ewa finished the year on a high by organising a live recording session with the Mowbray String Quartet, performing a new eclectic repertoire rehearsed over Zoom in the previous weeks.

In March this year, Ewa entered Prima in an International Sacred Music Choral Competition, held in Szczecin, Poland, as a hybrid event. “Competing against live and online entries by choirs from Norway, Spain and Poland, and judged by the professional, international jury, Prima won a bronze award for their online performances,” says Ewa.

The choir has returned to live singing, albeit outdoors, in eager preparation for summer performances, rehearsing new material weekly. “Throughout May and even before last month’s Step 3 easing of lockdown, I’ve been running test live choir sessions with varying groups of four or five singers outdoors, simulcast live to all members,” says Ewa.

“Every opportunity to perform safely in any group size, I will take. The beauty of the online world is that everyone can feel a part of every small success.”  

“Singing may be perceived by some as just a hobby but there is so much more to what it does to our general mental and physical health,” says Ewa

Nevertheless, the role of a conductor is a somewhat altered reality in 2021. “During rehearsals, I used to focus on clarity of my conducting technique, the communication of musical nuance,” says Ewa.

“Now I’ve got to supplement that with ‘did I bring the right cable?’; ‘where’s that extra mic for Zoom?’; ‘is the wi-fi working?’; ‘did I bring the outdoor table?’; ‘hope I packed that camera stand?’, or even ‘do I need a roadie for all this extra gear?’. And that’s not mentioning the most obvious: checking the weather forecast every ten minutes!” 

The choral and art world can and will thrive again, insists Ewa. “But let’s be realistic: there is a challenge ahead. Yes, we will have to exercise all our creative prowess and we may have to find new ways or chart new paths,” she says.  

“I believe that organised events can be delivered in Covid-safe ways and I wish us all a speedy return to familiar artistic pursuits,” says Ewa

“Hopefully, this summer will bring the outcome we are all looking forward to with the substantial lifting of restrictions and freedom everybody has been waiting for so long and deserves.  

“I believe that organised events can be delivered in Covid-safe ways and I wish us all a speedy return to familiar artistic pursuits. With warmer summer days there are so many ways to celebrate life through music.” 

Reflecting on the Government’s “rule of six” for amateur choirs indoors, Ewa says: “I’d really like to see the scientific evidence which they’ve based their official advice upon.

“Since then, at least something has moved forward as there finally was a test choral event on May 30 with Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall, and we all look forward to the results of that.” 

“Here’s what our rehearsals look like now, although the images can’t really convey the joy everyone feels when singing together in person,” says Prima Vocal Ensemble artistic director Ewa Salecka

Joshua Burnell and the mystery of the vanishing folk singer Shelagh McDonald

Joshua Burnell: Solving a mystery in song . Picture: Stewart Baxter

THE mystery of a Seventies folk singer who “vanished off the face of the earth”  for more than 30 years is the inspiration for the new single by York musician Joshua Burnell.

The genre-hopping singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist – and teacher to boot – became intrigued by the story of Scottish singer-songwriter Shelagh McDonald, who numbered Sandy Denny and Nick Drake among her friends and peers.

“I wonder where she goes; she never says, you see/Rarer than a fallen star, stronger than gravity/She says, ‘thank you all but I’ll be on my way’,” sings Joshua on Shelagh’s Song, surely sure to be aired this evening in his acoustic set, supported by East Yorkshire singer-songwriter Katie Spencer in the Songs Under Skies double bill in the National Centre for Early Music churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

Recorded on guitar, keys and percussion by Burnell at home during lockdown, the song was mixed by Burnell and Edward Simpson at Moon Glue Studios for initial release on Spotify and other streaming platforms from May 21.

It will now form part of an EP, joined by Chase The Storm and The Den on Storm Cogs, available from July 9, the day when the Joshua Burnell Band is booked to play Ely Folk Festival’s main stage in Cambridgeshire.

The artwork for Joshua Burnell’s single, Shelagh’s Song

Edinburgh-born Shelagh had found folk-rock stardom in 1970 but disappeared abruptly and mysteriously in 1971 after a bad LSD trip…for three decades, presumed dead.

In reality, she was living a low-profile, nomadic existence, only breaking her silence in November 2005 when she contacted the Scottish Daily Mail to tell the story of her “missing years” under the headline “Back from the wilderness”.

Burnell, winner of the Rising Star accolade in the 2020 Folking Awards, stumbled across Shelagh’s music on a trip to the Bronte heartland of Haworth, West Yorkshire. In an old record shop, he made some folk album purchases and noted down the titles of a few others out of financial reach.

Among those was McDonald’s second album, 1971’s Stargazer, priced at £80. Once back home, Burnell scoured the internet for a copy and found only one, available at…300 dollars! 

“I listened to some of the tracks on YouTube and it was beautiful,” says Joshua. “I’d made a terrible mistake and knew I had to drop all plans and get the bus to the shop the next day to buy the record.

Folk singer Shelagh McDonald, before she “vanished” for three decades in 1971

“For a brief and surreal moment, I found myself standing outside the home of the Brontes, holding a rare relic of the legendary singer. It felt like I was on the trail of some kind of secret folky cult!”

Burnell listened to the recording while unwell. “Even without feverish dreams, it’s a very trippy album, so I felt like I’d been transported back to the hazy days of the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s a deeply enchanting album; one of my favourites of all time.”

McDonald’s rendition of the Scottish border ballad Dowie Dens Of Yarrow particularly caught Burnell’s attention, so much so that he ended up doing a cover on his Songs From The Seasonsalbum in 2018 as a tribute.

In a 2013 interview in the Guardian, McDonald explained her disappearance: “It wasn’t my intention to walk out of my own life and vanish, especially when things were going so well. 

“I was an ambitious 24-year-old folk singer and had just started work on my third album. The second had been a critical success and had really started to get me noticed. But a bad trip was the catalyst for unexpected change. From my perspective, I was never really lost: I was just living a very different kind of life.”

“After all the music and inspiration Shelagh has given us, I thought she deserved a song of her own,” says Joshua

Leaving London and recuperating back in Scotland, McDonald had encountered a bookshop owner and, as recession hit, they decided to “jack it all in and live in a tent”.

They ended up carrying everything they owned on their backs, setting up camp in woods, making money by selling drawings or academic essays. “Some days it got so cold I genuinely thought we were going to die,” McDonald recalled.

They moved between flats and homeless shelters and then, one day, they saw a newspaper story. “What I saw stunned me:  a photo of myself in my 20s. The article talked about how I had disappeared, and no-one knew if I was dead or alive. My records were being re-released; it felt like reading my own obit.” 

The box set No Man Steal Your Thyme emerged on Sanctuary Records in 2005, and then, more than 40 years after her second album, McDonald made her third,  Parnassus Revisited, in 2013.

She started to rekindle her career with tentative performing too. Out of the blue, in 2017, Burnell discovered McDonald would be playing in a little room at the Dumfries Theatre Royal. “I watched in awe as this small, humble lady proceeded to blow us away with remarkable finger-picking and a voice just as strong and hauntingly beautiful as the one which had cut the grooves of my dusty vinyl record from 1971,” he says.

Joshua Burnell meeting Shelagh McDonald and musician Nigel H Seymour in 2018, when he gave her a copy of his Songs From The Seasons album

At a second concert in 2018, he was able to meet her and hand her a copy of Songs From The Seasons, Dowie Dens Of Yarrow cover et al. “She may be a legend but she’s also a very down-to-earth person,” says Joshua.

Consequently, after his chance discovery of her music and of McDonald herself, he was inspired to write a song in her name. “After all the music and inspiration Shelagh has given us, I thought she deserved a song of her own.

“I’ve written Shelagh’s Song in the same style as some of her own songs on Stargazer, which were about the lives of musicians she knew who had taken off on their own travels, such as Rod’s Song and Liz’s Song.”

The evocative, retro-sounding Shelagh’s Song encapsulates her life in savvy lyrics and an upbeat, optimistic tune, topped off by cows mooing at the finale to underline its quirkiness.

“The cows are there on purpose,” says Joshua. “When Shelagh picked up a guitar after 30 years, she played to fields of cows as a tester audience. If they stayed, she figured it was a good song; if they wandered off, she did some more practice. She might have been on to something we are all missing!”

Joshua Burnell at work on his new EP, Storm Cogs. Picture: Stewart Baxter

For Burnell’s full, intriguing tale of how Shelagh’s Song came to be, go to his Instagram channel at: Instagram.com/joshuaburnellmusic/

After tracking down McDonald, now 73, to send her the single, he was delighted when she wrote to say it was “sheer perfection”. Her letter concluded: “No artist could ask for a better tribute from a fellow artist such as this gem of a song”.

Look out for a video of Shelagh’s Song, filmed by Hinterland Creative at Young Thugs Studios, York, at youtube.com/watch?v=hUOcKc-RYIM. Meanwhile, Burnell’s lyrics can be read at joshuaburnell.co.uk/music and the Storm Cogs EP can be pre-ordered at joshuaburnell.bandcamp.com/albums/storm-cogs-ep.

Tonight, gates open at 6.30pm at the socially distanced, Covid-secure NCEM gardens for Katie Spencer at 7pm, followed by Burnell’s 8pm set on guitar, accompanied by Oliver Whitehouse on keyboards. And, yes, he has just tweeted to confirm he will be performing Shelagh’s Song. The last few tickets in pods are available at ncem.co.uk.

To hear Rod’s Song from Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=cFrD2tVikTo.

Can’t see the wood for the bricks? Then head to Chalmers & Hutch’s podcast

Ah, but they’re not bricks, as tree-hugger Hutch discovers close up. These wood blocks form part of Karin Van Der Molen’s sculpture, Shield, at the Himalayan Gardens, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon

BE pepped up by the one and only arts club badinage from Two Big Egos In A Small car podcasters Chalmers & Hutch, as they discuss Grewelthorpe’s jewel, the Himalayan Gardens; Velma Celli’s Drag Brunch; Metronomy’s English Riviera landmark; the “Top 20 Most Inspirational Novels”; York’s strange version of The Masked Singer and Cruella & Disney reboots.

Head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/8674205