York Early Music Christmas Festival at the double as online weekend is added to NCEM socially distanced live concerts

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the National Centre for Early Music, the other online.

Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures in place in the mediaeval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, from December 4 to 12, complemented by a new online weekend festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of home.

After the success of the streamed York Early Music Festival, held remotely from July 9 to 11,  the NCEM will present York Christmas At Home from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

York Early Music Christmas Festival’s live concerts will be staged with socially distanced cabaret-style seating and the option to pre-order drinks, including a warming mulled wine. Tickets cost £20.

Matthew Wadsworth: York Christmas At Home streamed concert with Kate Bennett Wadsworth

The line-up comprises:

Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, December 4, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort, The Great Mystery, December 5, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, December 7, 4.30m and 7pm;

Joglaresa, Bring Us Good Ale, December 8, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort: Concerts at both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home

The York Waits, The Waits’ Wassail, Music for Advent & Christmas, December 9, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano, Frederick Long, baritone, and Peter Seymour, harpsichord, Bacchus Is A Pow’r Divine, December 12, 4.30pm and 7pm.

In addition, the 7pm concerts by Joglaresa on December 8 and The York Waits the next night will be live-streamed, with tickets available at £10.

The York Christmas At Home programme will feature many of the NCEM’s favourite artists, who have “worked tirelessly to deliver a joyful selection of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits”.

The concerts will include works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Dowland and many others, with harpsichords, recorders, lutes, trumpets, oboes, theorbos and glorious voices, plus verse by John Donne, George Herbert and others.

Bethany Seymour, left, Frederick Long and Helen Charlston: On song at the NCEM and online

A York Christmas At Home festival pass costs £50, covering all nine concerts, while individual concerts cost £10.

Artists taking part are:

The Marian Consort in a programme of vocal music from Renaissance Italy;

The Chiaroscuro Quartet, performing Mozart’s late Prussian Quartets;

Palisander with their Mischief And Merriment programme;

Illyria Consort, performing seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe;

Singers Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston and Frederick Long exploring the theatrical genius of Purcell and John Blow with harpsichordist Peter Seymour;

Theorboist Matthew Wadsworth and cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth, sharing an extravaganza of Venetian music;

Illyria Consort: Seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe

Spiritato!, presenting The Leipzig Legacy with music by Bach and Fasch;

Steven Devine, continuing his 2020 project to share Bach’s Preludes & Fugues: Book 3;

Stile Antico, completing the weekend with a return to the Renaissance for their very own Nine Lessons and Carols.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says:  “The York Early Music Christmas Festival was created in 1997 to introduce audiences to the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the Medieval to the Baroque, intertwined with the sagas, stories and tales of the north.

“This year, I’m delighted to be able to carry on the tradition, welcoming audiences to our beautiful home, St Margaret’s Church. I’m also thrilled to spice things up, introducing our online festival York Christmas At Home, an array of amazing music, which can be enjoyed well beyond Christmas and into Twelfth Night.”

Full programme details for both Yuletide festivals can be found at ncem.co.uk. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk/york-christmas-at-home/

Michael Chapman’s concert at Merchant Adventurers’ Hall to be streamed on Sunday

Michael Chapman recording Ancient & Modern at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, for streaming on Sunday

VETERAN troubadour Michael Chapman has recorded a special concert during Lockdown 2 at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, to be streamed online on Sunday (29/11/2020) at 7pm.

Filmed on November 12, the Ancient & Modern recording represents a look-back over the long and illustrious career of the 79-year-old Leeds singer, songwriter and guitarist, who combines classics and newer compositions in a concert also featuring a support slot and interview by close friend and mentee Katie Spencer. 

Sunday’s event marks a first venture into streamed concerts by the York community venue The Crescent and promoters Please Please You and Ouroboros, alias Joe Coates and Harkirit Boparai.

“This is new terrain for us, but we are big believers in Michael and his music, and it’s an honour to present him during these times and at this point in his career” says Boparai. “Michael is a unique musician with more than 50 years of experience, floating between Americana, blues and psychedelic folk.”

Boparai was delighted the recording could go ahead despite Lockdown 2 being imposed from November 5. “We were lucky, the lockdown nearly threw everything, but then it emerged under the Government guidance that streaming and rehearsal were permitted as long as everyone involved were ‘professionals’,” he says. 

“They still want us to work! I also think, to be fair, they saw the value in allowing culture to continue in an online form. 

Chapman by candlelight: The poster for Sunday’s streamed concert from the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall by Michael Chapman

“Merchant Adventurers’ Hall had a new clerk starting in the week of lockdown, and I remember anxiously waiting for their decision and interpretation of guidance…”.

Good news was forthcoming, whereupon Chapman could head to the hall. Explaining his choice of concert title, he says: “I wanted to call it Ancient & Modern in reference to the hymn books of days gone by and because it reflects the songs I selected to play for this show.” 

The title also acknowledges Chapman’s approach and sound. While firmly rooted in traditional folk, blues and Americana, his constant pushing of the envelope has inspired a new generation of artists, such as instrumentalist-turned-singer Steve Gunn, who produced his last two albums for the Paradise Of Bachelors label, 50 and True North, featuring pedal-steel guitarist BJ Cole and singer-songwriter and guitarist Bridget St John.

Gunn says: ‘It’s been an honour to share a stage with Michael, or even just to be in the room when he’s playing. I know so many of his stories and songs by heart now. I cherish them.”’

This continuous evolution of style has garnered a cult following for Chapman, also making him virtually impossible to categorise. While this may sometimes infuriate reviewers and concert bookers alike, it is exactly what keeps his fervent supporters on board and has brought a whole raft of younger appreciators to his music over the past decade. 

Chapman’s journey has taken him from the acoustic virtuoso of the early Cornish folk days, typified by his Fully Qualified Survivor album, through to Memphis Soul, courtesy of Stax producer Don Nix, and the album Savage Amusement, dipping into New Age music via Heartbeat, and onwards even to full-on improv for Thurston Moore’s label, Ecstatic Peace.

Moore says: “Michael Chapman, beyond the machinations of the record industry, became the great teacher for all of us guitar playing songwriters coming up in the late-20th century. With an organic mix of passion and remove, he showed that getting lost in the music was a way to find the truth of the heart. No better lesson learned, I’d say.” 

After making the acoustic guitar his own, Chapman has been exploring the electric guitar in these latter, mellower years, while still retaining the intensity of his playing and song-writing.

Chapman may be approaching 80 – that landmark will fall on January 24 2021 – but it will not diminish his need to move the music forward, dip into the past and embrace the present with as much enthusiasm and fervour as a man at his stage in life can muster. 

“Michael’s online concert will be available for ticket holders to watch as many times as they like for up to three days from the time of broadcast, and you can watch on computers, phones or through smart TVs and Chromecasts,” says Boparai.

For more information and tickets, head to: www.thecrescentyork.com. For a downloadable video teaser, go to: https://vimeo.com/481206388

Tickets cost £10 or you can choose to pay £15 to further support Michael Chapman and the freelance production crew during these difficult times.

For the last word on Chapman’s lasting impact, here is Rockford, Illinois guitarist, singer and songwriter Ryley Walker: “One of my greatest influences in life. Taught me to play guitar better, act like a professional, and always demand the cash at the end of the night. 80 years and just getting started. A true honour and privilege to call Michael a friend and mentor. MC shows love and truth in every tune. Guitar king and living legend Michael Chapman!”

Lockdown 2: Will it end in tiers? Meanwhile, More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No. 19, courtesy of The Press

Here comes the flood: Rowntree Park viewed from the Reading Cafe balcony in sodden November. Now we wait for the vaccine dove but meanwhile the arts will not be beaten into retreat

LOCKDOWN 2 wears the mask of uncertainty for another fortnight until the next Government proclamation on whether it will all end in tiers or not.

Leaving predictions to the betting shops, this column will state the facts as they stand now on what – definitely or hopefully – will be happening in the weeks and months ahead as we wait for a prick to make a difference.

Charles Hutchinson consults his diary, written in pencil just in case, to help to fill yours.

Look who’s taking part in the first #yramathome on November 22

Virtual shopping goes arty for Christmas: York River Art Market online

AFTER summer stalls by the Ouse were Covid-cancelled, York River Art Market will host a series of online markets in the lead-up to Christmas.

The #yramathome Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.

Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram. Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page.

Snowfall In The Woods, mixed media on board, by Sharon Winter at Blue Tree Gallery, York

Exhibition of the week: The Christmas Show, Blue Tree Gallery, York, online initially

ORIGINAL paintings by Colin Cook, Giuliana Lazzerini, Nikki Monaghan and Sharon Winter feature in The Christmas Show, the latest Blue Tree Gallery exhibition in York until January 16 2021.

Lockdown 2 means the show is starting online only at bluetreegallery.co.uk/christmas-show-2020, but the Bootham gallery will re-open in December, subject to the new Government rules and regulations.

Driftwood sculptures by Natalie Parr, Christmas-themed ceramics by Kath Cooper and oxidised steel hanging decorations by David Mayne will be tempting Christmas buyers too.

Say Owt alumni Stu Freestone, left, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and Dave Jarman in pre-Covid days. Now they head online for a live-stream tomorrow

Live-stream of the Week: Say Owt’s Lovely Lockdown Lyricism, Friday (20/11/20200), 7pm to 7.45pm

SAY Owt, York’s battleground for warring wordsmiths in slam clashes and regular host to spoken-word artists du jour, switches to online transmission for a night of alliteratively entitled Lovely Lockdown Lyricism.

Whirling wisps of wordy wonder in Livestream 2: In Owt/Shake It All About, will be Say Owt’s A-team of anarchic administrator Henry Raby, co-founder Stu Freestone, associate artist Dave Jarman and playwright, tutor, theatre director and slam champ Hannah Davies.

Tune in for “good Friday vibes” at facebook.com/events/283791622875447. Looking ahead, Say Owt hopes to re-convene in socially distanced mode at The Crescent, York, on December 11.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Let it snow in York: Badapple Theatre Company, The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre are to revive their 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of climate change, the weather is just too warm. Step in Mellor and Benham’s intrepid heroes, who decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is to be any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.

Kate Rusby wishes you a Happy Holly Day in her streamed Carol concert after having to cancel her Christmas tour

Christmas concert at home: Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, December 12, 7.30pm

THE 2020 Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.

However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12.

At this special concert, streamed worldwide, expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: familiar Carols but set to unfamiliar tunes; wintry Rusby songs; sparkly dress, twinkling lights; her regular folk band and brass quintet; Ruby Reindeer and a fancy-dress finale. For tickets, go to: katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/

Elf and safety measures: Christmas films lined up for Covid-secure Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema: Winter Wonderland at Elvington Airfield

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

AFTER Knavesmire in July and Rufforth Airfield for Halloween, the apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema finds a new Covid-secure home for Christmas: Elvington Airfield. Father Christmas, elves and screen characters will be driving by too.

December 18 will offer Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

The Friday and Saturday programmes will start at 12 noon; the Sunday shows at 11am. Audio will be transmitted via a specially assigned FM frequency direct to vehicles’ radios and food can be delivered to customers’ cars.

Come Home, Tim: Yorkshireman Tim Booth will lead James to Leeds First Direct Arena next autumn

Looking ahead to 2021: Red Rose stalwarts James and Happy Mondays to invade the White Rose

JAMES have had to forego their traditional winter tour in 2020. Moving on, however, they will play Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25 2021, supported by fellow Manchester mavericks Happy Mondays.

“Feels like a new dawn to trumpet a celebratory tour, a week after the first news of hope,” said Clifford-raised frontman Tim Booth on Twitter. ”So looking forward to seeing you.” 

Tickets will go on general sale from 9.30am tomorrow with more details on the Live page at wearejames.com. Look out for a new James live double album and DVD, Live In An Extraordinary World, on December 11.

York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime cast members Anna Soden, left, Faye Campbell, Josh Benson, Robin Simpson and Reuben Johnson in rehearsal on Tuesday

And what about?

As trailered previously, York has two upcoming pantomimes. York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around all 21 wards from early December with a choice of three shows, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White.

York Stage will be full of beans from December 11 to January 3 at Theatre @41 Monkgate with writer-director Nik Briggs’s production of Jack And The Beanstalk, choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd.

At home, TV is in the crowning season: The Crown season four and The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and the crowning of The Great British Bake Off champion on Channel 4 on Tuesday night.

Albums to discover: Elvis Costello’s Hey Clockface; Fleet Foxes’ Shore, This Is The Kit’s Off Off On and, what joy, Songhoy Blues’ Optimisme.

May Tether as Jill in York Stage’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk

James to play Leeds First Direct Arena on Nov 25…in 2021. New albums upcoming too

James: 2020 live album and DVD, 2021 studio album and winter tour

JAMES will open their 2021 winter tour at Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25, supported by fellow Manchester institution Happy Mondays.

“Feels like a new dawn to trumpet a celebratory tour, a week after the first news of hope,” said Clifford-raised frontman Tim Booth on Twitter. ”Soo looking forward to seeing you. 

“We’re playing with the brilliant Happy Mondays. Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink…”

James announced their seven-date itinerary on official website wearejames.com. “Lockdown greetings to one and all. In these extraordinary times, obviously our traditional winter tour won’t be possible, but let’s set a date for this time next year so we in Jamesland collectively have something to look forward to!” it stated.

“With that in mind, you’re cordially invited to our 2021 winter tour of the UK and Ireland, joined by very special guests and fellow Mancunian mavericks, Happy Mondays.”

The 2021 tour poster for James’s Mancunian double bill with Happy Mondays

Welcoming Shaun Ryder’s Madchester icons aboard, bassist Jim Glennie said: “True Manchester legends and old band buddies, it will be an honour to have them as our very special guests. Make sure you get your tickets for an exceptional double bill of fun and fantastic music.”

Pre-sale tickets go on sale at 9.30am tomorrow (18/11/2020); remaining tickets will be on general sale from 9.30am on Friday with more details on the Live page at wearejames.com.

The website also trailered “thrilling whispers on the new music front”: “Springtime 2021 there’s a brand new James studio album due – our sweet sixteenth! – currently entitled All The Colours Of You. Much more of that to come, shouted from the rooftops, in due time!”

The message concluded: “Hopefully this newsflash has brightened a dreary day with thoughts of winter singalongs to come and a year full of new music. Of course, you can still order our forthcoming live album and DVD if you can’t wait for your James fix! Stay warm and well X.”

The aforementioned live album and DVD, Live In Extraordinary Times – a title twist on their 2018 studio set Living In Extraordinary Times – will be released on December 11.

Extraordinary: The artwork for James’s upcoming live double album and DVD

“You asked (okay – pleaded, pestered, perhaps even profaned) and finally we’ve delivered,” the website proclaimed. “A new live double album and DVD! Including a beautiful photo-book set, as well as coloured vinyl, double deluxe CD, signed prints (get in early!), T-shirts, the full works.”

Booth, 60, commented: “As requested by many lovers of the band – a live DVD and album to capture the spirit of the gigs of the last few years. Hopefully, this will help us through the long nights of lockdown – reliving these gatherings of intimacy and passion. Thank you for coming along for the ride in the crazy world of James.”

The website bulletin went on: “In a year feeling anything but ordinary, this special collection reminds us of the power and connection of live music.

“Released just in time for St Nick to get his hands on it for you…11th December 2020. Sorry we can’t put on one of our traditional winter tours to warm your quarantined cockles but hopefully this is the next best thing.”

In the meantime, bask in the memory of James shows of recent Yorkshire times – Leeds First Direct Arena, Scarborough Open Air Theatre and the night in March 2019 when fighting broke out at Hull Bonus Arena – as you dance just like Fred Astaire until next winter’s tour.

How Prima Vocal Ensemble has met the Covid challenge in its 10th anniversary year

New way: Ewa Salecka, right, leading a Prima Vocal Ensemble bubble rehearsal after lockdown easement

2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Prima Vocal Ensemble, Ewa Salecka’s exhilarating brand of communal choir in York, but this is the Covid-ruined year when group singing indoors is on the lockdown list of forbidden pleasures.

“Here’s a genuine irony,” says musical director, conductor and producer Ewa. “An activity proven to have such a positive effect on our mental health has been so drastically restricted by events that make those very same benefits more essential than ever.”

Prima Vocal Ensemble “got through” Lockdown 1 with online rehearsals and once the Government measures eased in the halcyon days of summer, Ewa was able to re-assemble group meetings, albeit in a socially distanced, bubble format, for eight weeks.

Describing running a choir in 2020 as being “intense”, she praised her singers for showing “amazing community spirit”, especially now that the brief choral corridor has been closed off once more in Lockdown 2.

“It has been an extremely difficult year for everyone working in the arts,” says Ewa. “Here in York, with its rich history of choral singing, directors across the spectrum have had to adjust to cancelled plans and uncertainty.  

Old way: Ewa Salecka, top, left, directs 200 Prima and Angel City Chorale singers in a rehearsal in pre-Covid days

“As a musical director, conductor and producer, keeping one step ahead of the pack has always been the aim. Now, it’s a case of keeping one step ahead of a global pandemic and – let’s admit it, sometimes confusing – Government advice.”  

Nothing energises Polish-born Ewa more than a seemingly insurmountable task. So, back in March, she wasted not a single week in setting up weekly virtual rehearsals for the 100-strong Prima Vocal Ensemble.

However, the necessities of lockdown quickly brought with it many other issues. “I struggled at times, being physically disconnected from both my personal support and international artistic network, but after seeing Prima each week online, the reality for some really hit home hard,” Ewa explains.

“I could see some people coping with the stress of lockdown worse than others and quickly understood that this was now not only about continuing with high-standard rehearsals, but also about protecting mental health and well-being of our singers through regular community engagement.”  

Choir members responded immediately to Ewa’s call for support networks, stepping up to the mark to reach out to everyone in the group who might be finding the alienating circumstances difficult.  

“I’m in awe of their perseverance and dedication through this dramatic year,” says musical director Ewa Salecka of her Prima Vocal Ensemble singers

As lockdown eased and a “very restricted” return to physical rehearsals looked hopeful, new challenges arose. “I knew not everyone would be able to attend in person, but nothing was going to stop me bringing a glimpse of normality– and more importantly, hope – to as many people as I could,” says Ewa. 

“I spent the whole of August on constant micro-planning for the ever-changing scenarios: live simulcast broadcasts to set up for those at home; tons of administrative detail; appropriate venues; risk-assessments; seemingly endless regulations and disclaimers – and the weekly Zoom sessions continued alongside!

“It was so new for everyone, I couldn’t just call out for help. I simply had to get on with it: find that balance between creative output, Government guidelines and undisputed science. Being able to be back in one room with Prima was both emotional and exhilarating.”  

Given 2020 being Prima Vocal Ensemble’s tenth anniversary year, it means everything to Ewa to keep the spirits of this singing community high. By working from a professional home studio, fitted with top-standard equipment and a baby grand piano, she can provide high-quality resources for her singers in York. 

“They really are both ambitious and inspiring,” she says. “I’m in awe of their perseverance and dedication through this dramatic year. When we finally began to meet up after a half-a-year break, I was blown away by how fantastic they sounded, especially with the new repertoire.

“It was clear to me that our tutored virtual rehearsals really worked. And although it took a moment to adjust to the new space arrangements, the choir was in top form.”  

Armed woman: Ewa Salecka on baton duty as she conducts Karl Kenkins’s The Armed Man

Her professional studio set-up has enabled Ewa to continue her work as a  vocal coach, having the pleasure of training private clients and seeing her York St John University music students graduate with top results this summer.

“I was immensely proud of them all, although I did feel for them missing out on a traditional graduation ceremony!” she says. 

Come November 5, come Lockdown 2. “For Prima, until we can resume our ‘bubble rehearsals’, it’s a temporary return to full-on Zoom,” says Ewa, “I aim to find uplifting content that everyone can engage with and we will soon start working towards future events. 

“Among Prima’s concerts, in 2021 we will be performing on three occasions with The Voice tenor Russell Watson and we already have bookings for 2022. We’re now preparing for a winter project that will be available to view online in December, so watch this space.”  

For all the frustrations and stalled plans of 2020, nevertheless Ewa says this is the perfect time to join Prima Vocal Ensemble: “We’re open to welcome new members with spaces for more tenors and basses and a couple of 1st sopranos too.

“There are no auditions to join,” she stresses. “The repertoire is extremely versatile, from inspiring, feel-good pieces in all genres to formal classical orchestral works. Ability to hold the line is essential, and with my professional training, you’re guaranteed to develop your voice and musical skills.”

“I’m not going to let the lockdown or the pandemic prevent me from inspiring people to be involved in music making,” vows Ewa

You can contact Ewa by emailing info@primachoral.com, adding “Joining PVE” in the subject line.  

“There’s a waiting list for altos and sopranos, but as there are various additional projects being planned, all singers are encouraged to contact Prima if they wish to be added to the list and informed of the new singing opportunities,” says Ewa.  

She has limited spaces too for private vocal clients, either in person or online. To enquire, email Ewa at the address above, adding: “Vocal training”.

Noted for her unstinting positivity, she offers a final thought. “I’m not going to let the lockdown or the pandemic prevent me from inspiring people to be involved in music making,” says an adamant Ewa.

“Singing, creativity and artistic engagement can happen, will happen and is absolutely guaranteed to help all of us through this time, both physically and mentally.”  

For more information on Prima Vocal Ensemble, visit the “Join Us” section at primavocalensemble.com.

Russell Watson: Three concerts with Prima Vocal Ensemble in the pipeline for 2021

Brutus Gold goes virtual for Love Train Christmas Disco Ball streamed from Leeds

Brutus Gold and the crowd when The Love Train packed out Leeds Millennium Square in 2019

THE Love Train Virtual Disco Ball will be premiered in its spiritual home of Leeds Millennium Square on December 18.

After drawing a sell-out capacity crowd in Summer 2019, Brutus Gold has “pulled out all the stops to create the ultimate interactive online Christmas disco party in a bid to spread some seasonal joy and solidarity with legions of fans throughout the UK”.

Streamed directly from the Carriageworks Theatre,overlooking Millennium Square, the world premiere of this virtual disco inferno can be viewed from the comfort of home with the promise of transporting people back to the glorious and carefree days of boob tubes, platform shoes and flares.

Pay-per-view video streamers can boogie the night away to a soundtrack of A-Z disco classics, led by Puerto Rican love god and guardian of masculinity DJ Brutus Gold, complemented by his dance troupe, The Brutus Gold Affair, and collective of Seventies’ throwbacks.

Speaking from his luxury yacht, anchored somewhere in the Caribbean, Brutus Gold says:“Hey groovers ‘n’ movers of Yorkshire and the world! We all prisoners, chicky baby. We all locked in!

“Don’t worry, guys ‘n’ gals, your disco hero Brutus Gold and the whole gang are coming to the rescue to bring some joy into your home virtually in December. So, push that sofa back, put on those flares and wigs and turn your living room into a 70s’ nightclub.

“And remember, it’s Christmas time, baby. So, bring out the Blue Nun wine, the Cherry B and Babycham. I want to see your living room transformed to how things were back in the day. Let’s make this a Christmas ball to remember, man.”

Against the backdrop of retro scenery, The Love Train event will feature disco throwbacks, dance-offs, competition giveaways and a full cast of crazy characters, from enigmatic Alberto Balsam, Berni Inns, Chad Valley and Carlito to Disco Dick, Camp David, Ana Glypta and the outrageous Polly Ester.

“Don’t be feelin’ down, don’t be feelin’ blue, Brutus is comin’ to entertain you. That’s right, it’s time to unite for the ultimate disco night,” says Brutus. “Dress up, get down and party with the whole family on board my Love Train this Christmas. I gotta sack full of fun, funk and good times!”

Craig Shackleton, Leeds City Council’s events manager, says: “After sadly missing out on this year’s live summer event in Millennium Square due to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis, we are really excited to be able to re-imagine the ultimate disco party night directly into people’s homes.

“Leeds has a long-standing association and a special relationship with Brutus Gold and The Love Train, and following an amazingly successful sell-out show in the summer of 2019, it simply wasn’t enough for us to only reschedule to next year.

“We appreciate in these tough times that everyone needs a bit of escapism from what is going on around them and what better way to put some smiles back on people’s faces than with a Friday night full of fun, laughter and Seventies’ disco on board the legendary Love Train”

In the lead-up, families can send in pictures from home to compete for the Best Dressers Competition Prize worth £300. The winning entry will be confirmed on The Love Train social media channels.

The Love Train Virtual Disco Ball has been organised in partnership with Leeds City Council and the show is suitable for people of all ages with parental discretion. Pay-per-view tickets go on sale at £9.99 from 10am on Monday, November 16; to buy tickets and watch the show, head to: love-train.co.uk.

Who won the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award last night?

On screen: National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award winners Eilidh Owen and Finton O’Hare, with their fellow competitors on Zoom , at last night’s live-streamed final

FINTON O’Hare and Eilidh Owen have won the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award prizes in York.

O’Hare emerged as the victor in the 19 to 25 age group, Owen likewise in the 18 and under category, at last night’s final live-streamed from the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate.

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the 13th iteration of the NCEM award invited young composers living in the UK to create a new polyphonic work for unaccompanied choir, setting either the Our Father (Pater Noster) prayer from St Matthew’s Gospel or the first and last verses of George Herbert’s poem The Flower.  

The eight finalists’ compositions were performed by York musicians Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble, the consort of the Ebor Singers.

Seeking the prize in the 18 to 25 final were Fintan O’Hare’s composition Come Passing Rain, Noah Bray’s Our Father, Sam Gooderham’s Late-Past, Caitlin Harrison’s The Flower and James Mitchell’s The Lord’s Prayer.

Competing for the 18 years and under award were Eilidh Owen’s As If There Were No Such Cold Thing, Ethan Lieber’s The Flower and Emily Pedersen’s Pater Noster.

The evening also featured performances of works by Owain Park and Alexander Campkin, winners in 2010 when Owain took home the 18 and under prize. Both have  become well established composers, providing good examples and inspiration for the 2020 entrants. Music by Alec Roth and Ben Parry was performed too.

“This year has been very different, moving the final and the workshop online, but we’re sure that the composers enjoyed this exciting experience,” said NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin

Last night’s final followed a day-long online workshop from the NCEM, where composer Christopher Fox, professor of music at Brunel University, and Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble were joined virtually by the young composers. 

The 2020 panel of judges were BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, The Tallis Scholars’ director, Peter Phillips, and NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Reflecting on the 2020 competition, played out against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Delma said: “The NCEM Young Composers Award continues to attract composers of the highest calibre from all over the UK.

“This year has been very different, moving the final and the workshop online, but we’re sure that the composers enjoyed this exciting experience. We’re looking forward to the concert at the Cadogan Hall next year with the wonderful Tallis Scholars performing the winning pieces.”

Next March’s London premiere of O’Hare and Owen’s compositions will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Delma concluded: “Congratulations to our talented young composers and a special thank-you to the Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble, who helped make the award possible. I’d also like to say a big thank-you to my fellow judges and, last but not least, BBC Radio 3 for their invaluable support

“We look forward to meeting in person for the 2021 award. Details will be announced on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on November 29.”

Last night’s live-streamed performance can be viewed at ncem.co.uk/composersaward.

Next year’s York International Young Artists Competition postponed until July 2022

Winners: L’Apothéose in the grounds of the National Centre for Early Music after their success in the 2019 York International Young Artists Competition. Picture: Jim Poyner Photography

THE 2021 York International Young Artists Competition is to be postponed for a year.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the prestigious classical music event will take place on July 13 to 16 2022 instead and subsequently will be staged every two years.

The competition is open to Early Music ensembles with a minimum of three members, who must have an average age of 32 years or under with a maximum age of 36. 

The ensembles must demonstrate historically informed performance practice and play repertory from any period, spanning the Middle Ages to the 19th century, on period instruments. 

This longstanding competition for young ensembles takes place at the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, as part of York Early Music Festival. 

​Recognised as an international platform for emerging talent in the world of Early Music, the competition attracts musicians across the globe, offering a boost to young professional careers with opportunities for performance, recording and broadcasting and international exposure.  

“Every year, we are overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

The 2019 competition final included ten ensembles with artists from 14 different countries. Winners L’Apothéose, from Spain, received a professional recording contract from Linn Records, a £1,000 prize and chances to work with BBC Radio 3 and the NCEM.  

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin says:“The competition brings together young musicians of the highest calibre and is one of the highlights of the York Early Music Festival. With the competition attracting artists from all over the world, in the current climate we decided to move it to 2022.

“Every year, we are overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists and we hope that up-and-coming ensembles will take the opportunity to enter this world-renowned competition.” 

2019 winners L’Apothéose say: “Winning the York competition was an extremely important and prestigious recognition of our career, and taking part was an immensely joyful experience.” 

Fellow former winners Sollazzo Ensemble say: “Winning the competition was a turning point in our career, bringing us to the attention of both a wider audience and professionals throughout Europe.”

For details of how to apply, ensembles should go to ncem.co.uk or send an email to yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk.

Folk duo Joshua Burnell and Frances Sladen sell out Zoom concert on November 28

JOSHUA Burnell and Frances Sladen’s online Zoom concert on November 28 at 7.30pm has sold out.

“We are aiming to create a relaxed, house-concert atmosphere, so there’ll be opportunities to have a chat with us, if you choose,” says York folk-fused baroque’n’roll musician Joshua, who released his latest album, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, in September.

“Contact us if you are interested in the concert but missed out. If more tickets are released, we will get in touch.” To be on that list, go to: joshuaburnell.co.uk.

Future of folk multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Burnell and vocalist partner Sladen played an earlier online gig, organised by the East Riding Theatre, Beverley, on October 17, when they performed acoustic versions of songs old and new.

York Stage bank on Lloyd’s choreography for Jack And The Beanstalk to hit heights UPDATED

“Pantomime is the perfect way to end the working year,” says choreographer Gary Lloyd. Picture: Michael Wharley

GARY Lloyd, choreographer to the stars and hit musicals galore, is to work his magic on the York Stage pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Further buoyed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s affirmation that theatre rehearsals can continue during Lockdown 2, artistic director, writer and producer Nik Briggs says: “I’m ecstatic that the incomparable Gary Lloyd is joining us.

“To have a world-renowned choreographer like Gary coming to work with us really is something special. I’m such a fan of his work; the way he tells a story on stage really is something to behold.

“For those people who have seen Thriller Live, either in the West End or as part of its world tour, you will know how high energy and dynamic his dances are. He really does know how to stage a show-stopping number,” says Nik.

Lloyd has made his mark as director/choreographer of such shows as the aforementioned Thriller Live, the Michael Jackson tribute, and 20th Century Boy, the Marc Bolan jukebox musical, bringing both to the Grand Opera House, York, along with his production of Fame, The Musical and more besides.

Aside from musicals and theatre, his credits cover everything from choreographing American Idol, The X Factor, the Eurovision Song Contest and a Victoria Beckham commercial, to working with Sir Paul McCartney, Giorgio Moroder, Robbie Williams, Dame Shirley Bassey, P!nk and Sir Tom Jones.

Based down south, Grimsby-born Gary is no stranger to York. “My father Geoff [York Stage’s set builder Geoff Theaker] and my sister Jo [York Stage regular principal Joanne Theaker] live there,” he says. “Jo’s worked with Nik, on stage and at York Stage School too, and coming to the shows, I’ve seen the company grow and do wonderful things.”

The York Stage poster for Jack And The Beanstalk

Gary’s own shows are “all on this conveyor belt waiting to come out of hiding,” he says. “My biggest fear is that producers will want them all to re-open at the same time.” Under the never-ending Covid cloud, it would nevertheless be a nice problem to have.

Given the stasis inflicted on so many theatres and touring shows by the pandemic, Nik saw the opportunity to bring Lloyd north for Jack And The Beanstalk. “He approached me about a month ago, saying ‘would you like to come up and do our pantomime if you have nothing else on?’,” says Gary.

“I would normally have been doing panto as choreographer and director for Jonathan Kiley’s pantomimes, but then came the shutdown, which was a big blow. So, for any of us who can grab hold of one, like me doing Nik’s show, it’s a thing of joy at what will otherwise be a really dark time.”

Gary is a pantomime devotee. “I love it for many reasons,” he says. “I love it primarily because, for me, it is the perfect way to end the working year, walking into the rehearsal room to work very quickly on making a show where everyone is at the top of their game, resulting in pure joy for four generations of audiences.

“It’s pure entertainment, put on by people who really know what they’re doing, especially the comedians, putting together lavish shows with such wonderful content. When panto is done well, like QDOS spending all year on their scripts, getting the topical gags in there, it’s such a joy with big rewards.”

Gary attended a couple of socially distanced London shows once theatres reopened: Fanny And Stella at the Garden Theatre and his friend Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years at Southwark Playhouse, where Perspex screens protected audience members, just as they will at Theatre @41.

“Once the lights go down, you forget all of what’s going on outside, or being crammed in between Perspex screens, you forget all that, because the magic of theatre takes over,” says Gary.

Ian Stroughair, creator of drag diva cabaret sensation Velma Celli, will turn to the dark side to play Flesh Creep in Jack And The Beanstalk. He has worked previously with choreographer Gary Lloyd. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

“Right now, we need that escape, that entertainment, and that won’t be any different with Nik’s show.

“I’m looking forward to working on a more immersive show, where we’ll really be able to pick on someone in the crowd, which will give panto a new life this year, when there’ll only be a comparative handful of people there [80 maximum], and they’ll have to play their part in creating a good atmosphere at each show.”

Broadening his thoughts, Gary says: “It’s a chance to show the Government that theatres can be a safe environment, and we need to be able to open theatres as soon as possible when we can show it’s safe.

“I don’t want to get political, but you go past pubs bursting with people, whereas theatres are places where people do behave and go there for more sophisticated reasons. Theatre managers and owners are the ones who know how theatre could work in this present environment.”

Working in the arts in Covid-19 2020 with ever-changing Government strictures has been a “daily one step forward, two steps back,” says Gary. “But we’re all in the same boat together. I’ve made it my mission to work with young people coming out of college, training for an industry that they may never be able to work in.

“I’ve been doing that on Zoom, as well as teaching a bit of choreography once a week at a studio, always having a chat, because taking care of your mental health is so important.”

Gary was last on a stage in March in London. “Before Lockdown, I was working on Heathers, The Musical; we’d had had three weeks of face-to-face rehearsals on the Thriller Live stage in the West End, but then it all came to a halt,” he says of a production that had been scheduled to run at Leeds Grand Theatre from November 3 to 7.

“Working for producer Bill Kenwright has been a saving grace at this time; he’s been very optimistic about getting back to work, not paying attention to the media circus, but building a very positive attitude.

Bean team: York Stage’s cast for Jack And The Beanstalk; back row, from left, Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair, Livvy Evans; front row, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan

“The Leeds Grand performances were a definite until they got wind that the second lockdown could happen, so we’re now waiting for the next bit of news. It’s a daily one step forward, two steps back.”

In his Zoom training sessions and choreography teaching, Gary has stressed the importance of keeping up the highest standards. “The industry will come back, and it will come back with a bang, and these kids don’t have any excuses not to keep up with their fitness, their CV, their singing,” he says. “They need to be disciplined as individuals, not just in a class, so that’s the tough love I’ve been giving out.”

Lockdown may have imposed a hiatus on the theatre world, but reflecting on a career crammed with so many shows, Gary says: “I don’t stop…and I’ve been very lucky. I started out training to go into the theatre; that was my passion; my first job was Cats at 18, for two years, and then I show-hopped for ten years.

“I was always the dance captain, I always did extra choreography and then stepped through the door to do the assistant directing for Kim Gavin’s original production for Oh! What A Night. That’s where my choreography and directing started.”

Plenty of television work ensued. “But after a while it all became very samey.The money’s fantastic but you end up doing the same thing over and over, and I found I really missed theatre,” says Gary.

“I was approached to direct The Genius Of Ray Charles, took it to Las Vegas and then the West End, and I’ve since been able to move between two mediums, theatre and musicals, by refusing to let the industry put a label on me…because there was a time when you couldn’t work with a pop artist. But Thriller Live was a perfect vehicle for me: part theatre show, part concert.”

Now, Gary is preparing to work with the York Stage company of Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan, who begin rehearsals for Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 on November 23.

Alex Weatherhill as Dame Trott in York Stage’s upcoming pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

“Nik’s put together a fantastic cast and I’m really looking forward to working with these guys,” he says. “I know this pantomime is going to be an explosion of joy.”

Nik eagerly awaits Gary’s impact on his company and on audiences too. “The chance to see his work up close at Theatre @41 really is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for York,” he says. “We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”

York Stage present Jack And The Beanstalk at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from December 11 2020 to January 3 2021. Box office: online at yorkstagepanto.com.

Show times will be Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve, 12 noon. Tickets for the 40 performances range from £20 to £27 and are on sale online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Award-winning director/choreographer Gary Lloyd is known for his crossover from music to theatre.

He has worked as creative director with some of the world’s biggest artists on their live performances and arena tours, bringing his wealth of experience in the latest technology and sound, as well as his innate creative vision, to the theatrical stage.

Gary Lloyd: director, choreographer, author

REFLECTIONS, The Holland-Dozier-Holland Story, Stage West, Calgary.

HEATHERS, The Musical, associate director and choreographer, The Other Palace and Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Winner, Best New Musical, WOS Awards 2018; Best Off West End Production, West End Wilma Awards 2018.

JNH 3 Decades of Music for Hollywood, James Newton Howard In Concert, European tour.

ONE NIGHT OF TINA, European tour.

WAR DANCE, workshop, Ventura, Carnival Cruise Lines.


CARRIE, The Musical, Southwark Playhouse. Winner, Best Off West End Production, WOS Awards 2016; Off West End Award nominee, Best Director, Best Choreographer.

GREASE, Silja Line/Belinda King Productions.

OUR HOUSE, The Madness Musical, 2016 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre,

THRILLER LIVE!, Lyric Theatre, West End. 2012/2013 Olivier Audience Award nominee
and 2010 What’s On Stage Nominee, Best New Musical and Best Choreographer). Also UK Tours and World Tour.

Warren Sollars as Marc Bolan in Gary Lloyd’s production of 20th Century Boy at the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2014. Picture: Robert Day

20TH CENTURY BOY, The Story of Marc Bolan, UK Tour. Broadway World winner for
Best New Touring Musical and nominee for Best Choreographer and Best Actor in a Musical.

SISTER ACT, 2015 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.

FAME, 25th Anniversary UK Tour.

THE TINA TURNER EXPERIENCE, Gelredome Stadium, Arnhem.

FOOTLOOSE, 2013 GSA Company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford,

FLASH MOB, Peacock Theatre, London.

20TH CENTURY BOY, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

HAIR The Musical, Piccadilly Theatre, in support of Help For Heroes; Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam, and European Tour.

20th CENTURY BOY, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, 2011 What’s On Stage nominee for Best Regional Production.

THE GENIUS OF RAY CHARLES, Theatre Royal Haymarket, UK and North American


SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS, Kodak Theatre Los Angeles.

WHAT A FEELING! , 2006 UK Tour.

As Choreographer/Movement Director
CRUEL INTENTIONS, Palais du Varieté, Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Winner, Best Fringe
Production, Broadway World Awards 2019.


THE LIFE, English Theatre, Frankfurt, Germany.

FAME THE MUSICAL, Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin, and Ireland Tour.

“ZIP”, Giant Olive Theatre, London.

ASPECTS OF LOVE, UK Tour starring David Essex.

AMADEUS, Sheffield Crucible Theatre.

ANIMAL FARM, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.

MY FAIR LADY, Larnaca Festival and South East Asia Tour.

CITY OF ANGELS, English Theatre, Frankfurt, Germany.

ZORRO The Musical, workshop.

OH! WHAT A NIGHT, associate director/choreographer;

TV, Film & Music
Gary has worked with: Giorgio Moroder; Kelly Clarkson; Leona Lewis; Robbie Williams; Pink; Anastasia; John Barrowman; Peter Andre; Stooshe; Macy Gray; NeYo; Joe McElderry; Victoria Beckham; Jennifer Hudson…

Sir Paul McCartney; Sir Cliff Richard; Dame Shirley Bassey; Sir Tom Jones; Robin Gibb; Ray Quinn; G4; Will Young; Gareth Gates; Emma Bunton; Lemar; Rachel Stevens; Natasha and Daniel Bedingfield; Girls Aloud…

Liberty X; Dani Harmer; All Angels, RyanDan; Blake; Faryl Smith; Ordinary
Boys; Blue; Atomic Kitten; Basement Jaxx; ABC; Soul II Soul and S Club 8.

Gary has acted as creative director and choreographer for these acts on international tours, single and album launches and music videos.

Television credits

Elizabeth, Michael And Marlon, movement coaching for Joseph Fiennes; American Idol, Seasons 1 to 3; Disney’s My Camp Rock; The X Factor, BBC’s Skate Nation and Jump Nation and The One And Only, all as choreographic expert and mentor.

Ant And Dec’s Saturday Night Take Away; Brits 25; The Classical Brit Awards; The Royal Variety Performance; I DREAM; Eurovision Song Contest; Bump N Grind (Trouble TV); Comic Relief; ITV’s Avenue Of The Stars.


Victoria Beckham VB Denim Range; Wispa, For The Love Of Wispa; Daz , I’m Too Sexy; Debenhams, Styling The Nation.

Anything else?

Two Royal Gala Performances at the London Palladium and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Artistic director for the BAFTA Awards.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace.

Stage director and choreographer on the 2005 Royal Variety Performance in the
presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the Wales Millennium Centre.

Gary’s first book, My Life With Michael, Ten Years Of Thriller Live, was published by The Book Guild in paperback in October 2019.