REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on York Early Music Festival, Florilegium, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 7

Florilegium harpist Siobhán Armstrong

TO quote Anne-Marie Evans in the Daily Telegraph, “whereas the florilegia of the 17th century were created to portray the beauty and novelty of those plants brought back from the colonies, the modern florilegium may be seen as a conservation tool, instrumental in recording for posterity collections of plants within a chosen garden”.

Florilegium’s Le Roi s’Amuse: Music For A King’s Pleasure takes this delicate analogy, a musical journey around a musical flower garden, to “explore the intimate and elegant sound world of France in the decades around 1700 and perform music by composers known to both Louis XIV and Louis XV”.

An inspired concept that rewarded us with an impeccable concert of 18th-century French Baroque music. The concert opened with Jacques-Martin Hotteterre’s Suite in D major, and despite a gentle whinge by flautist Ashley Solomon at the 10.30am start, it was impeccable.

The opening Prelude set the tone of serious elegance and refinement. The flute playing by Mr Solomon was simply divine; phrases lovingly caressed, detail rich and polished. The Sarabande oozed charm and elegance, Menuet’s I & II were fresh and vibrant and the Brione’ Gigue (La Folichon) closed with a deliciously cute signing off.

Some of the movements were christened with titles such as Le Duc d’Orléans and Le Comte de Brionne. I can only assume these referred to courtiers from the reign of Louis XIV.

Jacques Morel’s Chaconne was great fun. It started out as a sweet Sunday morning chat with the flute and viola da gamba. The dialogue became a little more animated, competitive and virtuosic but the narrative always remained within the boundaries of decency, and they did kiss and make up at the end.

Couperin’s Unmeasured Prelude No. 13 is a work written without rhythm or metre indications. The score uses long groups of phrased whole notes, a bit like an instrumental plainchant. Anyhow, the performance was just superb; a quiet, melancholic jewel.

I haven’t heard of the composer Michel de la Barre. He wrote music for the transverse flute (no keys to cover the tone holes). The performance of his Suite No. 9 in G major was ensemble music making of the very highest order.

Marin Marais’s Suite in D minor was a tour de force performed with real, almost musically primal energy and vitality by Reiko Ichise (viola da gamba). The sound world was unlike anything else on offer: muscular, grainy lower register, biting articulation, dramatic dynamic range.

Such was the sheer physicality of the playing that even the wonderful Siobhan Armstrong’s harp accompaniment came across somewhat cowed, almost apologetic and the balance, not surprisingly, uneven.

Jacques-Martin Hotteterre’s Prelude: Pourquoy, Doux Rossignol proved to be the tenderest of love songs. The playing so refined, so sensitive.

Jean-Baptiste Barrière’s Sonata a Tre proved to be a worthy finale. Here, as ever, the playing was incisive, warm and polished. There was an encore, but unfortunately I missed the name and title of the work. It was very good, however.

Florilegium – Ashley Solomon, flute, Reiko Ichise, viola da gamba, and Siobhán Armstrong, harp – clearly are a world-class period instrument ensemble. And this insightful exploration and interpretation of the “intimate and elegant” French Baroque musical world of Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, Marin Marais and their lesser-known contemporaries was an absolute joy.

The performances were invariably elegant, technically flawless and, perhaps above all, transported the listener to a quite magical place.

Review by Steve Crowther

What’s in store at Friargate Theatre’s autumn return? Comedy, theatre, music, film, story-telling and family shows

Friargate Theatre’s brochure cover for the Autumn 2024 season

THE poster boxes have gone, the windows are clear, the entrance hallway has new seating, all signs of the revival of activities at the Friargate Theatre in York.

Most significantly of all, brochures for the autumn season of comedy, theatre, storytelling, music, film and family shows at the home of Riding Lights Theatre Company are being distributed around the city.

In the wake of the death of Riding Lights founder and director and Friargate Theatre artistic programmer Paul Burbridge last year, the Christian theatre company is in the process of recruiting a new executive director and artistic director.

As the search goes on, the task of overseeing the Lower Friargate theatre and the autumn season falls to associate director Ollie Brown. “This season is all about rebuilding our audience,” he says. “Maybe some people have forgotten us as York’s hidden theatre by the river; we want to be come better known again with a programme that really supports York’s arts scene with shows York wants to see.”

Comedy will be to the fore, led off by the return of Right Here, Right Now, York’s improv comedy night on September 20, October 18, November 15 and December 6, when the merry band of improvisers will turn audience suggestions into chaotic comedy, music, mayhem and joy-filled nonsense.

September 26 marks the launch of Get Up Stand Up, York’s new monthly comedy club, featuring stand-ups from the British comedy circuit, each bill comprising a compere introducing two acts.

Check online at friargatetheatre.co.uk for updates on the 8pm line-ups for the last Thursday of each month, including October 31 and November 28. Steffen Peddie will host the first two shows, Tony Vino, the next two, and Patrick Monahan and Lost Voice Guy (Lee Ridley) will be among the acts heading for Lower Friargate.

Frankenstein (On A Budget), on October 5, combines one man, one monster, one glorious dream to singlehandedly tell the most famous cult horror story of all time on no budget whatsoever. What could possibly go wrong in this comedy musical Hammer Horror homage, replete with new music, cardboard creations and characters inspired by Mary Shelley and Boris Karloff.

Súper Chefs: Interactive musical exploring family, food and gender roles at Friargate Theatre on November 17

Still on the comedy front, ever witty York sketch writer and playwright Paul Birch will be holding workshops at his Improv Gym, some at Friargate Theatre, others at York Theatre Royal.

The autumn season will open on September 7 with the first family show, Welcome To The World, Little Wild Theatre’s interactive entertainment for nought to five-year-olds that takes a journey with Mother Earth’s children, Tide, Ariel and Blaze as they take their first steps in the world. 

On September 28, Rhubarb Theatre’s Finding Chester follows the story of Edith Tiddles’ missing moggie when she needs the help of her delivery team to orchestrate the search.

Murray Lachlan Young’s epic fairytale for six-year-olds and upwards, The Chronicles Of Atom And Luna, will be performed by Funnelwick Limb on October 29 and October 30, with its story of special twins, one who can talk to the birds, the other who can control the moon.

Further family entertainment follows with Jam Jar Theatre’s puppetry musical How A Jellyfish Saved The World on November 3; Maya Productions’ Súper Chefs, a bi-lingual, interactive Latin American family musical by Betsy Picart,  on November 17, and York company Next Door But One’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, a magical voyage across lakes and over mountains based on Philip Pullman’s novel, on November 30.

A season of thought-provoking and dynamic plays will start in a hurry on October 12 when Crew Of Patches present The Shakespeare Jukebox. The rules are simple: “give us the name of a Shakespeare play and we’ll do it…well, a bit of it at least”.  History, comedy and tragedy combine chaotically, faced with 37 plays to slay.

Climate change will be the topic on October 12 in Decommissioned, a heart-warming, comical play inspired by the true story of Fairbourne in Wales, with its story of caring for children, falling in love and staying sane while tackling the climate catastrophe.

Frankenstein (On A Budget): Comedy musical Hammer Horror homage with gore & flashing lights on October 5

On October 25, Adverse Camber presents storyteller Phil Okwedy in The Gods Are All Here, a personal story sparked by the discovery of letters from his father in Nigeria to his mother in Wales. Myths, folk tales and legends of the African diaspora feature.

On November 29, Andrew Harrison performs The Beloved Son, a new play written and directed by Riding Lights luminary Murray Watts for Wayfarer Productions that explores hope and longing, family dynamics, sexual and emotional crises and the profound insights of priest and psychologist Henri Nouwen.

Mat Jones brings Charles Dickens’s Victorian story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge to life in his solo performance of A Christmas Carol on December 13.

The autumn’s season’s storytelling sessions promise a busy day for Gav Cross on November 2, presenting Ghastly Stories For Gruesome Gremlins at 2pm and After Supper Ghost Stories, a portmanteau of ghostly tales told by an unreliable narrator, at 7.30pm.

On the music front, on October 19, Saturday Night With The Shakers showcases the hits, misses, B-sides and lost classics from the golden age of Merseybeat. On November 1, Joseph O’Brien pays homage to Frank Sinatra in A Man And His Music.

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival will be in residence from November 6 to 10 and a Christmas film double bill of The Muppet Christmas Carol (2.30pm) and Die Hard (8pm) is booked in for December 7.

Riding Lights return home for A Christmas Cracker, Paul Birch’s festive family show bursting with seasonal stories, told by world famous but lost storyteller Ebenezer Sneezer, from December 21 to 24.  Comedy, puppetry and storytelling, strange ideas and a dog called Cracker combine in this magical glimpse of Christmas.

To book tickets, head to friargatetheatre.co.uk or ring 01904 613000.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when going for gold in pursuit of entertainment and enlightenment. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 29, from The Press, York

Shed Seven: Playing sold-out concerts in York Museum Gardens on July 19 and 20

SHED Seven’s 30th anniversary open-air gigs top Charles Hutchinson’s bill. Roman emperors, Ryedale musicians, Brazilian sambas and theatrical Fools look promising too.

York festival of the week: Futuresound presents Live At York Museum Gardens, Jack Savoretti, July 18; Shed Seven, July 19 and 20

ONLY 100 tickets are still available for Anglo-Italian singer-songwriter Jack Savoretti’s opening concert of the inaugural Live At York Museum Gardens festival at the 4,000-capacity York Museum Gardens, when the support acts will be Northern Irish folk-blues troubadour Foy Vance, York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich and fast-rising Halifax act Ellur.

Both of Shed Seven’s home-city 30th anniversary gigs have sold out. Expect a different set list each night, special guests and a school choir, plus support slots for The Libertines’ Peter Doherty, The Lottery Winners and York band Serotones next Friday and Doherty, Brooke Combe and Apollo Junction next Saturday. Sugababes’ festival-closing concert on July 21 was cancelled in April. Box office: seetickets.com/event/jack-savoretti/york-museum-gardens/2929799.

Jack Savoretti: Opening the inaugural Live At York Museum Gardens festival on Thursday

Tribute show of the week: The Illegal Eagles, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

IN their 24th year on the road, The Illegal Eagles return with a new production rooted as ever in the greatest hits of the American West Coast country rock band, from Hotel California to Desperado, Life In The Fast Lane to Lyin’ Eyes.

The latest line-up features former Blow Monkeys drummer Tony Kiley, Trevor Newnham, from Dr Hook, on vocals and bass, Greg Webb, vocals and guitars, Mike Baker, vocals, guitars and keys, and Garreth Hicklin, likewise. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: Artist in residence at 2024 Ryedale Festival

Classical festival of the week: Ryedale Festival, running until July 28

THIS summer’s Ryedale Festival features 58 performances in 35 beautiful and historic locations, with performers ranging from Felix Klieser, a horn player born without arms, to trail-blazing Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang, mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron to violinist Stella Chen, the Van Baerle Piano Trio to Rachel Podger on her Troubadour Trail.

Taking part too will be Royal Wedding cellistSheku Kanneh-Mason, Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili, Brazilian guitar pioneer Plinio Fernandes, choral groups The Marian Consort and Tenebrae, actress and classical music enthusiast Dame Sheila Hancock, jazz singer Claire Martin and Northumbrian folk group The Unthanks. For the full programme and ticket details, head to: ryedalefestival.com. 

Mary Beard: Revealing the truths and lies behind the emperors of Rome at Grand Opera House, York

History lesson of the week: Mary Beard: Emperor Of Rome, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

CLASSICIST scholar, debunking historian and television presenter Mary Beard shines the spotlight on Roman emperors, from the well-known Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) to the almost-unknown Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE).

Venturing beyond the hype of politics, power and succession, she will uncover the facts and fiction of these rulers, assessing what they did and why and how we came to have such a lurid view of them. Audience questions will be taken. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Maria Gray in the role of The Acrobat in Around The World In 80 Days-ish at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Theatrical return of the week: Around The World In 80 Days-ish, York Theatre Royal, July 18 to August 3

PREMIERED on York playing fields in 2021, revived in a touring co-production with Tilted Wig that opened at the Theatre Royal in February 2023, creative director Juliet Forster’s circus-themed adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel returns under a new title with a new cast.

Join a raggle-taggle band of circus performers as they embark on their most daring feat yet: to perform the fictitious story of Phileas Fogg and his thrilling race across the globe. But wait? Who is this intrepid American travel writer, Nellie Bly, biting at his heels? Will an actual, real-life woman win this race? Cue a carnival of delights with tricks, flicks and brand-new bits. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Katie Leckey: Alternating the roles of Ben and Gus with Jack Mackay in Griffonage Theatre’s The Dumb Waiter
Jack Mackay: Alternating the roles of Ben and Gus with Katie Leckey in Griffonage Theatre’s The Dumb Waiter

Fringe show of the week: Griffonage Theatre in The Dumb Waiter, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York,  July 18 to 20, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK company Griffonage Theatre follow up February’s debut production of Patrick Hamilton’s Rope with Harold Pinter’s 1957 one-act play The Dumb Waiter, directed and designed by Wilf Tomlinson.

Two hitmen, Ben and Gus, are waiting in a basement room for their assignment, but why is a dumbwaiter in there, when the basement does not appear to be in a restaurant? To make matters worse, the loo won’t flush, the kettle won’t boil, and the two men are increasingly at odds with each other. Unique to this production, actors Jack Mackay and Katie Leckey will alternate the roles of Ben and Gus at each performance. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Four go into three: Cast members James Aldred, Peter Long, Lucy Chamberlain and Charlotte Horner of The Three Inch Fools

Open-air theatre at the double: The Three Inch Fools in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII, Scampston Hall, Scampston, near Malton, July 20; Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, July 23 and Helmsley Walled Garden, August 6; The Comedy Of Errors, Helmsley Walled Garden, July 19, all at 7pm

THE Three Inch Fools, brothers James and Stephen Hyde’s specialists in fast-paced storytelling and uproarious music-making, head to Scampston, York and Helmsley with their rowdy reimagining of the story of the troublesome Tudor king in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII as he strives to navigate his way through courtly life, while fighting the French again, re-writing religious law and clocking up six wives.

The Play That Goes Wrong’s Sean Turner directs the Fools’ innovative take on Shakespeare’s shortest, wildest farce The Comedy Of Errors, with its tale of long-lost twins, misunderstandings and messy mishaps. Box office: eventbrite.co.uk.

Barbara Marten, York actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison, on show at Pyramid Gallery

Exhibition of the week: Steve Huison, Portraits, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, until August 31

THE Full Monty actor and artist Steve Huison is exhibiting 12 studies of colleagues in the acting profession, musicians who have inspired him, an adventurous Greenland chef and a famous Swiss clown.

On show are portraits of fellow actors Paul Barber, Arnold Oceng, Barbara Marten, Will Snape, Clarence Smith and Joe Duttine, musicians Abdullah Ibrahim, Quentin Rawlings and Flora Hibberd, counsellor and therapist Dr Tanya Frances, chef Mike Keen and Grock the Clown. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on York Early Music Festival, Ensemble In Echo, St Lawrence Church, York, July 10

Gawain Glenton: Director of Ensemble In Echo

THE director of Ensemble In Echo, cornetto player Gawain Glenton, introduced the concert with: “Happy to see a full church”.  Well, Amen to that, although I’m not quite sure whether this was a compliment or a dig.

Talking of digs, Mr Glenton did give 21st century Western [music] a kick up the sackbutt with regard to fetishising newness and innovation, considering them to be “the defining elements of true”.

There is some truth here, but this certainly doesn’t apply to 20th century jazz, although this point was made later in the informative programme notes.

The programme header, Metamorfosi – Italian Transformations, epitomised the 2024 festival theme of ‘imitation being the sincerest form of flattery’. And some. The whole concert brimmed with music based on composers’ refashioning of music of other composers.

Take, for example, Jacob van Eyck’s Amarilli Mia Bella. This piece is in effect a set of continuous variations based on Giulio Caccini’s beautiful but somewhat artificial song My Lovely Amaryllis:

“My lovely Amaryllis,

Don’t you know, O my heart’s sweet desire,

That it is you whom I love?

Open my breast and see written on my heart:

Amaryllis, Amaryllis, Amaryllis, is my love.” (English translation by Paul Archer)

If you replace ‘Amaryllis’ with ‘Horse’ (Father Ted), then the artificial translates into delicious farce.

Anyway, the performance was quite wonderful. Trombone calls, sunshine-bright string responses and one of the most beautifully ornamented melodies I have ever heard (Gawain Glenton, recorder).

Didier Lupi’s Susanne Un Jour is a song setting of a 16th-century French poem by Guillaume Guéroult. And again, artificiality is the poetic driver:

“One day, Susanne’s love was solicited

By two old men coveting her beauty.

She became sad and discomforted at heart,

Seeing the attempt on her chastity.”

Lupi’s chanson setting was reworked by di Lasso, transforming it into a five-voice setting, which in turn was reworked into this virtuosic showpiece by Giovanni Bassano. The performance was again a jaw-dropping delight: trombone and strings creating velvety curtains of sound contrasting a fun-filled duelling duet by the violin (Oliver Webber) and cornetto. The melodic embellishment was breathtaking and delivered with true panache.

Ornamental transformation was seriously on offer with Silas Wollston’s harpsichord performance of Giovanni Maria Trabaci’s Ancidetemi Pur. This had an earlier incarnation as a plain four-part madrigal by Jaques Arcadelt. However, I am far from sure if the actual respect and recognisability of Arcadelt’s madrigal is at all meaningful.

The harpsichord realisation in Mr Wollston’s performance was delightfully bonkers. Blistering scales, ornaments, contrapuntal overload with an occasional contemporary tonal twist or inflection. It did indeed remind me of Gawain Glenton’s take: “As with 20th century jazz standards, the interest with such works lay in hearing an admired musician’s ‘take’ on a particular piece.’”

The performance of Allessandro Striggio’s Ancor Ch’io Possa Dire (originally a 16th century smash hit) was another tour de force, but the lineage of musical begetting passed me by.

By contrast, the intimacy of Gabriello Puliti and Pietro San Giorgio’s setting and responses to Vestiva I Colli came as welcome relief. The former brought Gawain Glenton’s cornetto back to the frontline, gently firing bursts of richly decorated joy. Goodness me, this was good.

The San Giorgio featured a tender duet with Oliver Webber (violin) and Rachel Byrt (viola), adding some sober dignity to the proceedings.

Philippe Verdelot’s Dormendo Un Giorno brought some welcome relief as Mr Glenton took a well-earned break. It was a beautiful lament, sounding as if they actually missed him. How sweet.

After the loveliest of trios by Vincenzo Ruffo, the concert ended with Giovanni Grillo’s seven-part instrumental Sonata Prima.

Not only did the composer embrace the antiphonal music of Giovanni Gabrieli, who in turn embraced and exploited the architecture of the great Italian basilica at San Marco in Venice. But also, in the words of Mr Glenton, “Grillo plainly inserts not one, but two of the most popular secular songs of the 16th century: Susanne Un Jour and Vestiva I Colli. Grillo quotes both pieces at length in a manner that must have brought a smile to all who heard it.”

Now that is a shedload of musical imitation, metamorphosis and flattery. The performance was full of joy and engagement with a delicious, bubbling signing-off.

Review by Steve Crowther

58 events, 35, locations, seven world premieres, one Bob Marley song, Ryedale Festival opens today. Highlights here

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: One of six artists in residence at Ryedale Festival. Picture: Victoria Cadisch

IN the words of guest speaker Dame Sheila Hancock, “classical music thrills, comforts and amazes me. When I begin to lose faith in the human species, it reminds me what the best of us can do.”

“That seems a good motto for the Ryedale Festival 2024,” says director Christopher Glynn, introducing the programme of 58 events at 35 locations that begins today.

“Our aim at the Ryedale Festival is simple: to make North Yorkshire one of the best places in Europe to enjoy and encounter classical music, and to do it with a sense of vision and adventure.

“I look forward to welcoming audiences from near and far to enjoy internationally renowned performers this summer, from Angela Hewitt performing Bach to Sheku Kanneh-Mason playing Bob Marley – and all in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

“Just as importantly, the festival offers opportunities to hundreds of local young people and a platform for emerging talent, as well as breaking new ground with seven world/UK premieres. Above all, it’s a team effort involving thousands of people who all believe in the important and life-enhancing role that music can play in our communities.”

Dame Sheila Hancock: “Classical music is one of the biggest comforts and joys of my life,” she says. Picture: Neil Spence

Actress and author Dame Sheila, 91, will reflect on her life and introduce live performances of favourite works by Mahler, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Beethoven and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in My Music: An Afternoon With Dame Sheila Hancock at Duncombe Park on July 25 at 3pm.

“I love classical music. It’s my stabiliser,” says Dame Sheila, who will be joined by the Carducci Quartet, soprano Caroline Blair and interviewer Katy Hamilton. “It’s one of the biggest comforts and joys of my life. And I want everybody to have the opportunity of that – I really do. We need people to know that it’s for everybody.”

Violinist Rachel Podger: Troubadour Trail at St Oswald’s Church Filey (24/7/2024, 11am), Christ Church, Appleton-le-Moors (25/7/2024, 11am) and Church of St Michael and All Angels, Garton on the Wolds (26/7/2024, 3pm)

Pianist Angela Hewitt opens the festival tonight with an 8pm programme of Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Scarlatti’s Three Sonatas and Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel at Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering.

The festival has no fewer than six artists in residence: international horn player Felix Klieser, who was born without arms and taught himself to play with his feet; trailblazing guitarist Xuefei Yang, whose musical journey began at a time when the guitar was banned as an “hooligan” instrument in China; mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, born to a British father and Singaporean mother; violinist Stella Chen, the Gramophone Young Artist of the Year; the Van Baerle Trio and baroque violinist Rachel Podger, whose Troubadour Trail solo programme takes her to three North Yorkshire churches.

Nigel Short conducts the choir Tenebrae in A Prayer For Deliverance at Ampleforth Abbey on July 17 at 8pm when highlights include Joel Thompson’s title work Richard Rodney Bennett’s tribute to Linda McCartney, A Good-Night, and Herbert Howells’ Requiem to his young son Michael.

Violinist Maria Wloszczowska directs the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Mozart In Scarborough, a 7pm programme of Mozart concertos and Prague symphony at Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill  on July 20.   

Royal Wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs music from Brahms’s Hungarian Dances to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, Burt Bacharach’s I Say A Little Prayer to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s The Girl From Ipanema, Laura Mvula’s Sing To The Moon to Dvorak’s Song To The Moon, on July 27 at both St Peter’s Church, Norton (1.30pm), and Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York (6pm).

Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Two concerts in one day. Picture: Ollie Ali

He will be joined by violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, guitarist Plinio Fernandes, Fantasia Orchestra and conductor Tom Fetherstonhaugh at both St Peter’s Church, Norton (1.30pm), and Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York (6pm).

“You can spot stars of tomorrow, such as Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili (who started as a child pop singer and even won The Voice), conductor and ‘spark to watch’ Tom Fetherstonhaugh, Brazilian guitar pioneer Plínio Fernandes, and an array of others, including our own Ryedale Festival Young Artists,” says Christopher.

“All are welcome to Come and Sing Fauré’s Requiem [A Tenebrae Effect Workshop] at St Mary’s Church, Thirsk or promenade through a Triple Concert at Castle Howard [Van Baerle Trio, Long Gallery; Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain, Great Hall; Marian Consort, Chapel).

“You can also picnic in the interval of a Double Concert [Piatti Quartet and Katona Twins] at Sledmere House and Church, enjoy the Orchestra of Opera North [Final Gala Concert] at Hovingham Hall, or join us at new venues such as Selby Abbey[Marian Consort, In Sorrow’s Footsteps, Allegri’s Miserere, July 25]  and stunning locations on the Yorkshire Wolds, North York Moors and coast.”

Jazz, folk and world music feature too. Claire Martin & Friends mark the 100th anniversary Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blues at the Milton Rooms, Malton, on July 19, and Northumbrian folk band The Unthanks perform there with an 11-piece line-up on July 23.

Becky and Rachel Unthank: July 23 concert at Milton Rooms, Malton

Fleur Barron and pianist Julius Drake will be joined by Hibiki Ichikawa (shamisen) and Suleiman Suleiman (actor/dancer) for Spring Snow, a meditation on sound and silence, solitude and communion, love and loss, built around the Kabuki play Yasuna and Schubert’s Winterreise as shamisen music meets Japanese dance-theatre at St Peters Church, Norton, on July 16.

Family concerts, talks, masterclasses, late-night candlelit concerts, choral evensong, Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band and seven world/UK premieres will be further highlights.

For the full programme, visit: ryedalefestival.com. Box office: 01751 475777 or ryedalefestival.com.

The Full Monty actor & artist Steve Huison launches Portraits show at Pyramid Gallery. Who are the dozen faces in the frame?

Barbara Marten, York actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “I’ve known Barbara for over 40 years and have followed her shining career with interest. She’s a very kind, thoughtful and knowledgeable woman, and I think this emanates through her eyes,” says Steve

ACTOR and artist Steve Huison will launch his Portraits exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, with a personal appearance from 4pm to 7pm tomorrow (11/7/2024).

Best known for his role as suicidal steel-mill security guard Lomper in The Full Monty, Leeds-born Huison is exhibiting 12 studies of colleagues in the acting profession, musicians who have inspired him, an adventurous chef and a famous clown.

Before his success as an actor, Steve had studied at art school. Near the end of a 30-month stint playing Eddie Windass in Coronation Street from November 2008 to April 2011, he rediscovered his talent as a portrait artist, culminating in a charity event featuring portraits of Corrie cast members.

Mike Keen, chef, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “A chef with a difference. I’ve followed his career over the last couple of years as he’s kayaked his way up the west coast of Greenland, existing on eating what he finds along the way. In doing so he has brought his metabolism to a near perfect condition,” says Steve. “His health and vitality shines through his face.’

‘It seemed a valuable opportunity to capture portraits of some of the cast,” he recalls. “I wanted to try to portray them as the people I had got to know rather than their better-known characters. The extensive publicity turned out to be a good kick-starter for my evolving post-soap career.”

Other art forms constantly distract Steve’s attention. “They ignite new ideas for me, which I am never short of,” he says. “Once they’re in there rattling around in my mind I have to try them out. Consequently, I can turn my hand to a variety of creative outlets, including acting, stand-up, singing, drawing, painting, sculpting, carving, magic, escapology and a variety of musical instruments.”

Steve, 61, has been focusing on portrait painting for the past ten years when his acting commitments permit. While living in Robin Hood’s Bay he ran regular portrait drawing classes for complete beginners, an activity he has now moved to West Yorkshire since relocating in 2023.

Arnold Oceng, actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “I first met Arnold on set of the Disney production of The Full Monty. As soon as he walked on set I was instantly drawn to the beautiful lustre of his skin. I decided at that point to attempt to paint his portrait,” says Steve

The move followed filming for The Full Monty series for Disney+, when he reactivated his role as a much older version of Lomper. Fellow Full Monty actors Paul Barber, Arnold Oceng and Wim Snape are now among the portraits in his Pyramid Gallery show.

Steve first exhibited at Pyramid Gallery in July 2016, presenting A Year In Bay, his artistic response to his move to a new community in Robin Hood’s Bay, where he “had no contacts or connections, and witnessed how new relationships are formed, and how people go out of their way to help strangers”.

Wim Snape, actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “Wim is an old friend, and even though he’s only 39, I feel we’ve travelled through an interesting parallel journey together over 28 years. Wim played the 11-year-old Nathan in The Full Monty and went on to reprise the role in the Disney+ series of 2023,” says Steve

A second Pyramid show, Musings Of An Erratic Mind, followed in July 2018, its title reflecting his realisation that “I have a collection of work that bears little resemblance to each other, but says everything about how my mind and creativity works”.

Now comes Portraits, featuring actors Paul Barber, Arnold Oceng, Barbara Marten, Will Snape, Clarence Smith and Joe Duttine, counsellor and therapist Dr Tanya Frances, chef Mike Keen, Swiss clown Grock and musicians Abdullah Ibrahim, Quentin Rawlings and Flora Hibberd.

Steve Huison, Portraits, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, July 11 to August 31. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

Steve Huison: the back story

Artist Steve Huison. Portrait by Pyramid Gallery owner and curator Terry Brett

Birthplace: Leeds, December 2 1962, born Steven Johnson.

Height: 6ft 1in.

Education: Rose Bruford College, Sidcup, diploma in Community Theatre Arts, 1983 to 1986.

Occupation: Actor, artist, arts administrator, musician, master of ceremonies (Cabaret Saltaire, Caroline Club, since February 2011).

Best known for: Playing Lomper in 1997 film The Full Monty, made in Sheffield. Reprised role in 2023 Disney+ series The Full Monty.

Film: Ken Loach’s The Navigators, 2001.

Television: Casualty; Where The Heart Is; dinnerladies (as Steve Greengrass); Heartbeat; The Royle Family; Scott & Bailey; ITV post-apocalyptic drama serial The Last Train (also known as Cruel Earth); Doctors. From January 2008, porter Norman Dunstan in ITV1 daily hospital drama The Royal Today. From November 2008 to April 2011, Eddie Windass in Coronation Street. 2012, Mr Byron in CBBC series 4 O’Clock Club. 2023, The Full Monty, Disney +.

Theatre: Co-founder of Shoestring Theatre Company, in Shipley, 2002. Made pantomime debut at Harrogate Theatre as dame Nanny Clutterbuck in The Sleeping Beauty in 2006 and returned as gurning, knock-kneed King Keith in Sleeping Beauty in 2013. In 2007, toured one-man play Fifty Feet And Falling, based on diaries of a friend who struggled with depression and took his own life.

Improv comedy: Cabaret Saltaire, creating characters such as Squinty McGinty and Korvorra Czeztikov.

Abdullah Ibrahim, pianist and composer, oil painting, by Steve Huison. “A giant of a South African jazz musician. His music has inspired me to take up the bass guitar in the last few years,” says Steve
Clarence Smith, actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison, from a photo by Helen Maybanks. “I first met Clarence in the summer of 1982 on a wild night in a flat in Queensway, London. We went on to train as actors together. 42 years later and we’re still in touch,” says Steve. “Still an amazingly good-looking man considering those wild times back then, and no doubt since.”
Flora Hibberd, singer-songwriter, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “An up-and-coming Paris-based singer/songwriter. Her music has resonances for me of Leonard Cohen and classic French chanteuses such as Françoise Hardy,” says Steve. “The portrait is from an original photograph by Marie Yako.”
Dr Tanya Frances, counsellor and therapist, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “Tanya is someone I’ve observed go from strength to strength in the 17 years that I’ve known her. I first had the privilege of working with her at Harrogate Theatre before she successfully switched careers,” says Steve
Joe Duttine, actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “I got to know Joe through working with him on a Ken Loach film back in 2000. He’s a fine actor who brings true conviction to all his roles,” says Steve
Grock the clown, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “At the height of his career, Charles Wettach (1880-1959) was the highest-paid performer in Europe. I was first given a black-and-white postcard 25 years ago. It’s an image that has stayed with me ever since, often inspiring me in many comedic projects. I just had to see how it would look larger and in colour,” says Steve
Paul Barber, actor, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “I first worked with Paul on a BBC screenplay in 1992. Despite his tumultuous upbringing in care, Paul has managed to carve out a gleaming career in the industry and still bears no airs and graces. A true gentleman and a dear brother,” says Steve.
Quentin Rawlings, musician, oil on canvas, by Steve Huison. “I met ‘Q’ over 35 years ago, playing sessions with him in the White Stag in Leeds. He’s a wonderful musician and was the first guitarist I played with who used open tuning. It amazed me then and still does,” says Steve. “I’ve never climbed out of the standard tuning box – there are still new tricks to learn.”

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on York Early Music Festival, The Sixteen, Masters Of Imitation, York Minster, July 6

The Sixteen: Master Of Imitation programme at York Minster

A SURPRISE introduction: as per usual the concert was prefaced by a clerical welcome plus loo, safety and mobile phone instruction. This closed with a prayer, which I thought was a bit of a no-no. But then I got the (possible) subtext: England were to embark on a penalty shoot-out. And it worked; we won!

The Sixteen’s Masters Of Imitation celebrates the art of parody in renaissance music, focusing on the works of Orlande de Lassus to link this inspired programme together.

Today we are very used to the term ‘parody’ meaning to imitate, to exaggerate the style of a particular writer or artist but to comic effect. Here Lassus’s parody works are akin to creating a musical patchwork quilt: taking musical bits, passages from his own historic compositions or his great predecessor Josquin des Prez, for example, and reworking the material into an entirely new composition. This latter process being a dedicated act of homage.

The concert opened with the timeless beauty of the plainchant Lauda Jerusalem Dominum. It was performed as a processional with the tenor calls answered with soprano responses. There is invariably a deep simplicity of beauty in these non-metric, homophonic lines and this, being The Sixteen, was no exception.

Lassus’s reworking of the plainchant (it has the same text) was a thing of beauty. Here melodies rising high into the air, the singing just glorious. But there was also a sense of fun, of joy as the music rhythmically danced. And word painting too. I think it was this sense of warmth, of Lassus’s humanity that was communicated so effectively.

Lassus’s motet Osculetur Me Osculo Oris sui is scored for two choirs and the composer exploits the different sonorities to dramatic effect, such as Trahe Me Post Te. I was reminded of the music of the Gabrielis, but doubt I’m the only one to have made this connection.

And then there was the sensuous setting of some quite juicy texts:

“Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth;

for thy love is better than wine

Thy name is as oil poured out;

therefore the young maidens have loved thee.”

Be rest assured, the Latin text gives these lines a “cloak of decency” (Bob Dylan).

To be honest, I had never heard of Maddalena Casulana. According to a leading authority in these matters, Wikipedia tells us “she was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer of the late Renaissance. [Casulana] is the first female composer to have had a whole book of her music printed and published in the history of western music, dedicated to her female patron Isabella de Medici”.

Her pretty radical dedication reads: “These first fruits of mine, flawed as they are … show the world the futile error of men, who believe themselves patrons of the high gifts of intellect, which according to them cannot also be held in the same way by women.”

Of the two madrigals I found the second much more rewarding. The choir was reduced by half, which added some welcome relief from conductor Harry Christophers’ insistence on performing the programme with a full complement of singers. Greater clarity of line and text massively enhanced enjoyment. This love song was a real gem.

It is perhaps worth noting that this rediscovery and promotion of Maddalena Casulana’s music –this may be the first time these works have been committed to a CD recording, Masters Of Imitation, available at all good record shops near you – is clearly significant.

In The Sixteen’s 2023 Choral Pilgrimage, Harry Christophers programmed the world premiere of two commissioned works by female composer Dobrinka Tabakova.

I struggled with Lassus’s eight-part Credo from his Missa Osculetur Me. There was just so much wonderful contrapuntal detail unable to escape from the Minster acoustic black hole. At times passages hung in the air, just a haze of sound, albeit a beautifully sung one. And yes, the closing coming together and Amen final cadence was delicious.

Jean Guyot de Châtelet’s arrangement of Josquin, adding six extra parts to Benedicta es Caelorum Regina, was thrilling, if somewhat eccentric. There were juicy false relations and a spine-tingling Amen. This is original music composition and performance of the highest order.

Other memorable highlights included Josquin Desprez’s Benedicta es Caelorum Regina with its exquisite tenor opening, its slightly whacky atmosphere of splendour and its forceful, dramatic descending scales prosecuting the message-with-a-twist:

“The Word became flesh from you,

by whom all are saved.”

Lassus’s Magnificat Benedicta es Caelorum Regina was another, with its clear contrapuntal lines and exciting antiphonal exchanges that seemed to dissolve or evaporate, allowing the light to shine.

Although there is no doubting the brilliance of Bob Chilcott’s choral music – surely every choir in the UK worth its salt must have Chilcott in its repertoire – his music just doesn’t “turn me on” (John Lennon). But this specially commissioned sacred parody of Lassus’s secular madrigal, Lauda Jerusalem Dominum, undoubtedly called for a personal rethink.

The setting was pretty conservative – no surprises here, Chilcott is a pretty conservative composer. But there were truly magical moments. For example, the delicate ostinato soprano patterns, beautiful on their own terms, then as a gorgeous backdrop for the soaring melodies.

I would have liked greater contrasts in scoring and dynamic, but the rich tonal harmonic identity, distinctive variations in colour and ending delivered a tasty punch. The performance was of the usual exemplary quality; instinctive melodic shaping, expression and care for detail. And so musical.

The concert as a whole showed yet again Harry Christopher and The Sixteen’s deep understanding of repertory and, just as importantly, communicated an infectious engagement in the music itself. The audience response was both instinctive and rapturous.

They really are a class act.

Review by Steve Crowther

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond as classical festival opens. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 24, from Gazette & Herald

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: Residency at Ryedale Festival. Picture: Victoria Cadisch

RYEDALE Festival tops the bill for Charles Hutchinson’s recommendations. A tribute to tribute acts, Grimm tales, Roman emperors, Brazilian sambas and theatrical Fools look promising too.

Festival of the week: Ryedale Festival, July 12 to 28

THIS summer’s Ryedale Festival features 58 performances in 35 beautiful and historic locations, with performers ranging from Felix Klieser, a horn player born without arms, to trail-blazing Chinese guitarist Xuefei Yang, mezz-soprano Fleur Barron to violinist Stella Chen, the Van Baerle Piano Trio to Troubadour Trail host Rachel Podger.

Taking part too will be Royal Wedding cellistSheku Kanneh-Mason, Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili, Brazilian guitar pioneer Plinio Fernandes, choral groups The Marian Consort and Tenebrae, actress and classical music enthusiast Dame Sheila Hancock, jazz singer Claire Martin and Northumbrian folk group The Unthanks. For the full programme and ticket details, head to: ryedalefestival.com. 

Re-Bjorn each show: Sarah-Louise Young in I Am Your Tribute at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Fringe show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young, I Am Your Tribute, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

AFTER An Evening Without Kate Bush, the Julie Andrews-focused Julie Madly Deeply and The Silent Treatment, Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with her Edinburgh Fringe-bound new show, I Am Your Tribute.

In her “most ambitiously interactive performance yet”, she invites you to help her create the ultimate tribute to an act of your choosing. Along the way she will teach you the tricks of the trade, share her greatest hits and uncover the occasionally darker side of living in someone’s else’s shadow. Expect music, wigs and wonderment. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Happily ever after: Rowntree Players cast members in Grimm Tales

Fairy tales of the week: Rowntree Players in Grimm Tales, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm

AMY Carter directs Rowntree Players in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, with Chris Meadley in the role of the Narrator.

The cast of 15 takes a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover that the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Mary Beard: Roman emperors, the truth and the lies, at Grand Opera House, York

History lesson of the week: Mary Beard: Emperor Of Rome, Grand Opera House, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

CLASSICIST scholar, debunking historian and television presenter Mary Beard shines the spotlight on Roman emperors, from the well-known Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) to the almost-unknown Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE).

Venturing beyond the hype of politics, power and succession and into the heart of the palace corridors, she will uncover the facts and fiction of these rulers, asking what they did and why, and how we came to have such a lurid view of them. Themes of autocracy, corruption and conspiracy will be explored and audience questions will be taken. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Andrew Methven: Playing a Lazy Sunday Session at Milton Rooms, Malton

Afternoon entertainment: Lazy Sunday Sessions, Andrew Methven & Joseph Wing, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 3pm

HEADLINER Andrew Metheven, from Bradford, pens lo-fi folk songs about births, hills, decay and daydreams and too many about birds, as heard on his June 2024 debut album, Sister Winter, available via Bandcamp. Singer and guitarist Joseph Wing, from Malton band Penny Fleck, will be the support act. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Madness: Welcome to the House Of Fun at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Coastal gig of the week: Madness, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Friday, gates 6pm

MADNESS, the Nutty Boys of Camden Town, return to the North Yorkshire great outdoors for Suggs and co to roll out such ska-flavoured music-hall hits as Our House, One Step Beyond, Baggy Trousers, It Must Be Love, House Of Fun, Michael Caine, Wings Of A Dove, Night Boat To Cairo, My Girl, Driving In My Car, Tomorrow’s Just Another Day and Embarrassment. Standing tickets are still available at scarboroughopenairtheatre.com/madness.

Fernando Maynart: Showcasing new album at Helmsley Arts Centre

Brazilian sambas of the week: Fernando Maynart, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

BRAZILIAN singer, composer, guitarist and percussionist Fernando Maynart introduces his new album, TranSambas, showcasing the different rhythmic nuances of samba rooted in Africa via the West African slave trade and the Afro-Brazilian religion. 

Maynart, whose set also features songs by Brazilian maestro Dorival Caymmi, will be accompanied by Brazilian flautist Daniel Allain and drummer/percussionist Denilson Oliveira, plus Ryedale multi-instrumentalist David Key. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Four go into three: James Aldred, Peter Long, Lucy Chamberlain and Charlotte Horner of The Three Inch Fools

Open-air theatre at the double: The Three Inch Fools in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII, Scampston Hall, Scampston, near Malton, July 20; Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, July 23 and Helmsley Walled Garden, August 6; The Comedy Of Errors, Helmsley Walled Garden, July 19, all at 7pm

THE Three Inch Fools, brothers James and Stephen Hyde’s specialists in fast-paced storytelling and uproarious music-making, head to Scampston, York and Helmsley with their rowdy reimagining of the story of the troublesome Tudor king in The Secret Diary Of Henry VIII as he strives to navigate his way through courtly life, while fighting the French again, re-writing religious law and clocking up six wives.

The Play That Goes Wrong’s Sean Turner directs the Fools’ innovative take on Shakespeare’s shortest, wildest farce The Comedy Of Errors, with its tale of long-lost twins, misunderstandings and messy mishaps. Box office: eventbrite.co.uk.

If you could create the ultimate tribute show, what would it feature? Let Sarah-Louise Young be your guide at Theatre@41

Sarah-Louise Young: How to construct the ultimate tribute act in an adventure cabaret of singalongs, dance-breaks and audience participation in I Am Your Tribute

AFTER An Evening Without Kate Bush, Julie Madly Deeply and The Silent Treatment, Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, on Thursday with only the second preview of her Edinburgh Fringe-bound new show, I Am Your Tribute.

In her “most ambitiously interactive performance yet”, sparkling host Sarah-Louise invites you to help her create the ultimate tribute to an act of your choosing in an adventure cabaret featuring singalongs, dance-breaks and audience participation aplenty.

Along the way she will teach you the tricks of the trade, share her greatest hits and uncover the occasionally darker side of living in someone’s else’s shadow. Expect backing tracks, a box of wigs and wonderment in an exploration of what it means to pay tribute as she unpacks the unspoken contract between a tribute artist and their fans, inspired by her own experience of creating shows about Kate Bush and Julie Andrews.

“I think it’s a really interesting time for live entertainment,” she says. “On the one hand, audiences are being lambasted for joining in and singing along. On the other, they are being fed musical re-makes and film adaptations which have that invitation baked in.

“Look at the popularity of Mamma Mia! The Party. We want to be inside the action. I wanted to make a show which allowed the audience to join in and take centre stage, enjoying all the guilty pleasures available.”

Sarah-Louise Young: Theatre-maker, cabaret performer, writer, director, improviser and producer

Here Sarah-Louise discusses tribute acts, unspoken contracts between tributes and fans, favourite tribute names and weirdest tribute shows with CharlesHutchPress.

How would you define a tribute act? 

“An act of worship and shared fandom.” 

What is “the unspoken contract between a tribute artist and their fans”?

“That the performer on stage is not Whitney Houston or Roy Orbison or whichever star they are emulating. Everyone knows it’s an act of worship, make believe and magic. I have heard stories of tributes who take things too far – ending up imitating the off-stage life of the star too – which can be very dangerous when drugs and alcohol are involved.

“The performer needs to know where they begin and the star ends. That’s why I speak about us all being fans. We pay tribute when we listen to a song, sing in the shower, wear a tour T-shirt…

“…Some of us are such big fans, we choose to get up on stage and say, ‘watch me show you how much I love them too’. As I say in the show, ‘every tribute counts’.” 

Sarah-Louise Young in the “chaotic cabaret” of An Evening Without Kate Bush

Your shows An Evening Without Kate Bush or Julie Madly Deeply featured songs associated with Kate Bush and Julie Andrews, but they were expressly not doppelganger shows, but had a theme within a structure of songs and “chaotic cabaret”. Discuss…

“For a long time I resisted the word ‘tribute’ in connection to my work. A friend of mine used to be the UK’s number one Madonna tribute and I have huge respect for the skill, talent and hard work it took to pull off a real lookalike and soundalike performance.

“But I was more interested in exploring the dynamic between the performer and the audience and the shared love they both hold for the artist being celebrated. In both the shows you mention, I see my role as a creative facilitator.

“Yes, I sing the songs and guide the audience through the experience but I’m also looking for their stories, their input to influence the show. However, when a review for An Evening Without Kate Bush from The Stage said I was ‘re-inventing the tribute act’, I began to see myself as part of a wider community of artists who all swim in the same sea of ‘fan art’.” 

The prospect of encountering yet another Queen or Abba tribute act fills CharlesHutchPress with dread. How do such shows make you feel?

“I think it’s fair to say that a lot of people look down their noses at tributes, and prior to making this show, if I really am honest, I would not have chosen to go and see a straight tribute myself. I’d rather listen to the music at home.

Sarah-Louise Young’s poster for I Am Your Tribute

“But I really had my ideas turned upside down when I went to see a few bands as research. It’s more than just what’s happening on stage. It’s about the communal experience of people getting together.

“You can still go home and listen to the songs, and of course not everyone wants to share their fandom with others, but for many people, coming together at a gig can be a quasi-religious experience. We are tribal by nature. 

“It also depends greatly on the band. I know, for some people, Queen without Freddie Mercury is not Queen. But for others, Adam Lambert (who now sings the lead with the original musicians Brian May and Roger Taylor) is the perfect tribute. He’ll never replace Freddie, but he honours him with his performance. 

“When an artist is no longer here to perform themselves or chooses not to tour, a tribute can be the only way to hear their songs live. Personally, I’m more excited by performers who bring something new to the table. Like Baby Booshka, who are sadly about to retire but are a United States-based Kate Bush tribute who play multiple eras of Kate and bring great humour, passion and inventiveness to their act. They are doing their final UK tour this autumn and I urge you to check them out.” 

Sarah-Louise Young in her Julie Andrews show Julie Madly Deeply. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

What should a tribute act seek to achieve? Authenticity is often stressed for shows by Pink Floyd/Genesis/Dire Straits/Beatles acts, but does it need to be more than that? 

“For me it’s about channelling the spirit of the original. I never try to impersonate Kate or Julie, but Russell Lucas (who also helped me to make this new show) and I sought the ‘Essence of Kate’.

 “We would never replicate an exact costume, but we’ll take the feathers as a motif from the album Aerial, for example, and weave them into the look for a track from another era. We want to emotionally engage and remind people of why they love the original. 

“For the more traditional tributes, there are some incredible Elvises out there. The ones who are really successful manage to embody the passion and energy of Elvis, even if they don’t have the exact same look or voice. I saw a terrific female Elvis who really blew me away with her passion.” 

In a world of Oasish and Blurd, what is your favourite name for a tribute act?

“There are so many! I like The Arctic Numpties!” 

“I’d like audiences to feel nourished and entertained and part of something positive,” says Sarah-Louise Young of her new show I Am Your Tribute

What is the weirdest tribute act you have seen?

“I love weird so I might not be the best judge! I did see a clip from a BBC programme, which I’m still trying to find the full version of. In it there was a Britney Spears tribute who I would say was about three times older than the real Brittney but utterly committed.

“I’d love to see more elders in the tribute act world, especially when you think of how many incredible artists we’ve lost too young. Members of the 27 Club like Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see how they might have aged?”

Jo Hird, Theatre@41’s publicist, says you have “lots of fun things to say about the life of a tribute act”.  Such as?

“Oh, that’s interesting! York will only be my second preview. We’ve changed a few things since London, which is the nature of work-in-progress. The show is less about tribute ‘acts’ and more about acts of tribute. You do learn quite a lot about wigs though!” 

Here wig go, here wig go, here wig go: Sarah-Louise Young in I Am Your Tribute

Jo also described your show as “unusual”. How would you describe it?

“Ha-ha… well, I hope it’s joyful and inclusive. We’ve tried to choose songs which most people will know and feel comfortable joining in with. I’d like audiences to feel nourished and entertained and part of something positive.”

I Am Your Tribute is your “most ambitiously interactive show yet”. In what way?

“It’s ambitious because there are a couple of sections where it really could go anywhere. I’ll be trying something brand new on Thursday in York and it might fall flat on its face! But I hope the audience will be open to the adventure, and if it’s all goes south, they can applaud the ambition and laugh with me at the joyful failure. It’s the only way to improve and learn.”

You thrive on being off the cuff, whether in a decade of performing with the Olivier Award-winning improvised musical troupe The Showstoppers! or 15 years of solo work. Discuss…

“I love shows which are made with love and danger. Of course there will be rehearsed moments, songs and stories I want to share – but what excites me the most is the collaboration between the audience and me and what they bring. I love being surprised. I always say there is no such thing as a one-person show. The audience is the missing ingredient. I can’t wait to meet them!”

“I hope the audience will be open to the adventure, and if it’s all goes south, they can applaud the ambition and laugh with me at the joyful failure,” says Sarah-Louise

How will you use the audience in this show?

“I feel very strongly that any audience participation should be ‘opt-in’ and no-one should ever feel under pressure to do more than they want to. It’s the first time I’ve added the word ‘interactive’ into the description of the show, so I’m curious to see whether that changes the dynamic in the room.

“There will be invitations to sing collectively, and some people may find themselves being interviewed or even dancing with me on stage, but they’ll never be on their own. I hope after 25 years of making shows, I am pretty good at spotting who wants to play and who doesn’t.

“There is never any pressure to participate. We have billed the show as interactive on purpose, but if you want to come and experience it in the dark anonymity of the back row, you are just as welcome and valued as people who want to get stuck in and join me on stage. As long as you’re having a good time, I’m happy.”

Tribute acts account for more than 50 per cent of programming in many theatres up and down the country. Why are they so popular?

“Nostalgia, economics and familiarity. Some people want to re-live their youth, be transported back to a time when they first fell in love with certain songs or a particular artist. Plus, tribute shows are a relatively cheap night out.

Making a noise about the voice: Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment

“Tickets to see Taylor Swift start in the hundreds and go into the thousands, but you can see a tribute band for as little as £12. With the economy under so much pressure, tribute shows remain comparatively affordable and accessible.

“For many people, they might only go to a gig or the theatre once a year. Along with panto, tribute nights are a safe bet. You know what you’re going to get… unless it’s one of my shows, in which case all bets are off!” 

Sarah-Louise Young, I Am Your Tribute, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 11, 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

She will play Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Suffolk, July 25 to 28, performing I Am Your Tribute and An Evening Without Kate Bush; Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as part of PBH Free Fringe, at Voodoo Rooms Ballroom, Edinburgh, August 3 to 11, 13 to 19 and 21 to 25, 12.05pm; box office: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/i-am-your-tribute.

More Things To Do in York & beyond when the stakes are high in Dracula. Get stuck in to Hutch’s List No. 28, from The Press

The Gesualdo Six: Performing in the Chapter House at York Minster on July 9 as part of the 2024 York Early Music Festival. Picture: Ash Mills

A CELEBRATION of the voice, the truth behind Dracula, flying doctors and grim tales lead off Charles Hutchinson’s tips for jaunty July trips.

York festival of the week: 2024 York Early Music Festival, Metamorfosi, today until July 13

IN an eight-day celebration of music from the medieval to the baroque under the title of Metamorfosi, York Ealy Music Festival will focus on the human voice and song with performances by Concerto Soave, The Gesualdo Six, festival newcomers Vox Luminis and Cappella Pratensis & I Fedeli, The Sixteen, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Rose Consort of Viols and Gawain Glenton’s Ensemble In Echo.

Taking part too will be mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, the Consone Quartet, Cubaroque, Apotropaïk and Utopia, climaxing with the biennial York International Young Artists Competition. Full festival programme and tickets at ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf/. Box office: 01904 658338.

Princess locked up in the castle: Freckle Productions in Zog & The Flying Doctors

Children’s show of the week: Freckle Productions in Zog & The Flying Doctors, Grand Opera House, York, today and tomorrow, 10.30am and 1.30pm

ZOG, super-keen student-turned-air ambulance, still lands with a bang-crash-thump. Together with his Flying Doctor crew, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, they tend to a sunburnt mermaid, a unicorn with one too many horns and a lion with the flu.

However, Pearl’s uncle, the King, has other ideas about whether princesses should be doctors, and soon she is soon locked up in the castle. Can her friends and half a pound of cheese help Pearl make her uncle better and prove princesses can be doctors too in this Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler story with music and lyrics by Joe Stilgoe? Suitable for age three upwards. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Carnival time in Copmanthorpe

Carnival of the week: Cop’ Carnival, Copmanthorpe Recreation Centre, Barons Crescent, Copmanthorpe, York, today, 11.30am to 7pm

IN its 55th year, Cop’ Carnival features live music acts and dance troupes on the main stage, an inflatable assault course, fairground rides and attractions, street food vendors, free children’s entertainment, stalls and more besides. No dogs are allowed on site, apart from assistance dogs. Tickets are on sale at copcarnival.org.uk/tc-events/the-cop-carnival-day/; under-14s are admitted free of charge. 

Sam Johnson: Playing with his jazz trio at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Jazz gig of the week: Sam Johnson Trio, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow (7/7/2024),

THE Sam Johnson Trio, led by pianist Sam Johnson with Georgia Johnson on bass and James Wood on drums, bring a mid-20th century jazz vibe to their performance, in the style of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Oscar Peterson Trio and vintage Blue Note and Verve Records artists.

Combining original material with jazz standards from the past seven decades, the trio will be joined by guest soloists and frequent collaborators Richard Oakman (saxophone) and Kirsty Hughes (vocals). Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Macabre: Killian Macardle, left, Annie Kirkman and Chris Hannon in Dracula: The Bloody Truth at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

Comedy drama of the week: Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight to July 27

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre teams up with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to stage physical theatre comedy exponents La Navet Bete & John Nicholson’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, based very loosely on Bram Stoker’s story.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs Chris Hannon, Annie Kirkman, Alyce Liburd and Killian Macardle as vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing reveals the real story behind the legend of Dracula, the one with the Whitby connection. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Paul Weller: Reflecting on turning 66 at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Coastal gigs of the week: Fatboy Slim, today; Paul Weller, tomorrow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates open at 6pm

NORMAN Cook has come a long way, baby, since he played bass in Hull band The Housemartins. Now the BRIT award-winning, Brighton-based DJ, aka Fatboy Slim, heads back north to fill Scarborough with big beats and huge hooks in Rockafeller Skank, Gangster Trippin, Praise You and Right Here Right Now et al tonight.

The Modfather Paul Weller showcases his 17th studio album, 66, full of ruminations on ageing, in Sunday’s set of songs from The Jam, Style Council and his solo years. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Here wig go: Sarah-Louise Young in I Am Your Tribute at Theatre@41 Monkgate, York

Fringe show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young, I Am Your Tribute, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 11, 7.30pm

AFTER An Evening Without Kate Bush, the Julie Andrews-focused Julie Madly Deeply and The Silent Treatment, Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with her Edinburgh Fringe-bound new show, I Am Your Tribute.

In her “most ambitiously interactive performance yet”, she invites you to help her create the ultimate tribute to an act of your choosing. Along the way she will teach you the tricks of the trade, share her greatest hits and uncover the occasionally darker side of living in someone’s else’s shadow. Expect music, wigs and wonderment. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Rowntree Players cast members rehearsing for Grimm Tales

Fairy tales of the week: Rowntree Players in Grimm Tales, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 11 to 13, 7.30pm

AMY Carter directs Rowntree Players in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, with Chris Meadley in the role of the Narrator.

The cast of 15 takes a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover that the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim. Box office: 01904 501395 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

In Focus: Weekend events at Ripon Theatre Festival, July 6 and 7

The Tea Cosies: Street entertainment with Kitch’n’Sync today

PUPPETS, stories, dance, drama, circus and street entertainment pop up in new and surprising places alongside more familiar venues, such as Newby Hall, The Old Deanery, Ripon Cathedral, Ripon Arts Hub and Fountains Abbey, as Ripon Theatre Festival returns for its third year.

Saturday keeps festivalgoers on the move in a day of Pop-Up Events at various locations from 9.30am to 6pm. Ilaria Passeri hosts a morning of adventures for four-year-olds and upwards in Tales From Honeypot Village, featuring Rita the Mouse and the Tidy Trolls in the front room of The Unicorn Hotel at 9.30am and the back room of The Little Ripon Bookshop at 11.30am.

Puppeteers Eye Of Newt open their magical miniature suitcase for Ayla’s Dream, a captivating tale of night skies, light and counting sheep for three to ten-year-olds at Ripon Library at 10.30am (accompanied by a puppet workshop) and Ripon Cathedral from 12 noon to 12.30pm (performance every ten minutes).

York performer Tempest Wisdom takes a journey down the rabbit hole in the family-friendly Curiouser & Curiouser, a show for age five + packed with Lewis Carroll’s whimsical writings, inspired by Ripon Cathedral’s nooks and crannies. Free performances take place at Ripon Cathedral at 11am, 12.30pm and The Little Ripon Bookshop at 2.30pm.

Join the Master and Matron on the front lawn for an interactive game of giant Snakes And Ladders At The Workhouse Museum. Learn how life then, as now, is as precarious as a shake of the dice; slither down the snake to a shaven head and defumigation or ascent to a life out of the ashes from 11am to 12.30pm or 1pm to 3pm.

Festival favourites Lempen Puppet Theatre return with the free show Theatre For One in Ripon Cathedral from 10.45am to 11.30pm and Kirkgate from 1.30pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 4pm. In a micro-theatre experience for one at a time, plus curious onlookers, a mini-performance of The Belly Bug or Dr Frankenstein will be staged every five minutes.

Tempest Wisdom: Taking a journey down the rabbit hole in Curiouser & Curiouser

Members of the Workhouse Theatre Group invite you to experience justice 1871 style in The Trial Of John Sinkler in a case of poaching and threatening behaviour from 2pm to 3pm at The Courthouse Museum.

Ensure justice is seen to be done or perhaps take a more active role in a lively scripted re-enactment led by Mark Cronfield, formerly of Nobby Dimon’s North Country Theatre company.

The festival fun continues in Kirkgate with buskers, bands and more from 3pm to 6pm, while Street Entertainment will be spread between Market Place, Minster Gardens and city streets with a fiesta of free events from 10am to 4pm.

Mark Cronfield and Tom Frere invite you to hail down the ultimate in Georgian transport for Sedan Chair Stories. Be carried above the hoi polloi as your footmen pass on their scurrilous stories from Ripon’s scandalous past.

Bearded Belfast multi-manipulator and circus performer Logy will be juggling danger and excitement in Logy On Fire, a show of full of raw rock’n’roll comedy. Look out for the beautiful birds of The Bachelors Of Paradise parading their glorious wingspans and beautiful tailfeathers.

In Stone Soup, a suitcase show performed from a travelling cart with music and comical puppets, Hebden Bridge company Eye Of Newt ask this question: can you really make soup with only a stone? The secret to making a delicious soup rests with a wandering stranger.

Street performers and fatal fools Medieval Maniax promise to amuse and bemuse with their historical hysterics, music and illusions. Kitch’n’Sync, from Wales, invite you to have a natter with their colourful crochet trolley dollies, Dorothy Dunker, Tippy Teapot and Barbara Bourbon, alias The Tea Cosies.

Logy On Fire: Multi-manipulator and circus performer

A friendly team from Casson & Friends will connect you with the childlike joy of play in their interactive games, set to a bouncing electronic soundtrack, in Arcade.

Playing their part in the day too will be Yorkshire Voices, Medusa, Ripon City Morris Dancers, 400 Roses And Thorns, Ripon Drum Circle, The U3A Folk Group, The Wakeman Mummers, Ripon Rock Choir and Workhouse Walkabouts.

Weekend community performers contribute to the festival on Sunday too in the form of Lily Worth, Trinity Singers, Freddie Cleary, Ripon Goes To Bollywood, Henshaws Performing Arts Group, Danceability, Passion For Movement, Cricket On The Hearth, The U3A Ukulele Group and Ripon Walled Garden Performers.

Open-air theatre specialists Illyria present Oliver Grey’s adaptation of Hugo Lofting’s The Adventures Of Doctor Doolittle in the Newby Hall Gardens at 5.30pm (gates 5pm). In this new family musical, performed with wit and flair, Doctor Doolittle leads a simple life as a village doctor until one day, with the help of his wise old parrot Polynesia, he makes an extraordinary discovery: he can talk to animals.

Radical Leeds troupe Red Ladder Theatre Company return to the festival to with We’re Not Going Back, Boff Whalley’s Miners’ Strike musical comedy about 75 mines, three sisters, one cause and a six-pack of Babycham at Ripon Arts Hub at 7.30pm.

In early 1984, the everyday squabbles of sisters Olive, Mary and Isabel collide with a strike that forces them to question their lives, their relationships and their family ties.

Sunday has a couple of Pop-Up Events, led off by Opera Brunch with down-to-earth diva Nicola Mills, from Huddersfield, whose song menu at Valentino’s Ristorante ranges from Italian arias to crossover classics, served with sweet or savoury pastries and Bucks Fizz or a hot drink from 10.30am to 12 noon.

From 3pm to 4.30pm, in the Guardians’ Room of The Workhouse Museum, Fellfoss Theatre present a rehearsed reading and workshop performance of Fate And The Warrior, Mark Cronfield’s new play about the troubled and prolific Guyana-born author Edgar Mittelholzer, a pioneer of Caribbean culture. Join Cronfield and his scratch team of actors for a dark and intriguing tale in atmospheric surroundings.

Thingumajig Theatre in Kit And Caboodle

Ripon Spa Gardens and Market Place will play host to Sunday’s Family Day from 10am to 4pm. Look out for the Hedge Heads, suspicious-looking shrubbery lurking in the bushes; Henshaws Performing Arts Group’s The Golden Tree, fairy tales of heroes, villains, royalty and fools, and  Open The Books’ The Story Of Daniel, a distillation of all the best bits in 20 minutes, dreams, lions et al.

In Wrongsemble’s epic new adventure The Not So Big Bad Wolf favourite tales are re-spun and woven by Little Red, adventurer, heroine and True Grimm podcaster, on a mission to debunk the myths around her so-called nemesis, with the help of a few storybook staples, her red cloak and a basket full of music, mayhem and magic tricks.

Thingumajig Theatre, from Hebden Bridge, return to Ripon with their big, beautiful, rolling mule packed with miniature puppet shows, full of stories and songs of remarkable journeys and refugees. Struzzo and Maxim, stalwarts of street theatre for many decades, promise music, magic and their famous ostrich.

Three quirky characters are waiting for a train but how will they pass the time in Grantham company Rhubarb Theatre’s show The Three Suitcases? Three Marie Antoinettes take to the street to feed the public their tasty treats in Let Them Eat Cake. Expect a right royal ruckus wherever these comedy pompous poodle-haired queens of comedy go.

Three courageous airmen, Roger, Reggie and Rupert, are caught in a freak storm in The Bombardiers. Armed only with their wits and extremely good looks, who knows where they will end up!

In The Fireman Dave Circus Skills Drop-In, Dave Ford, from Hebden Bridge, invites you to have a go at juggling, plate-spinning, diabolo, hula-hooping and more at Ripon Spa Gardens from 1pm to 2.30pm.

The 2024 festival concludes with Scottish company Folksy Theatre’s open-air production of Shakespeare’s leafy tale of banishment, love and disguise, As You Like It, at The Old Deanery at 7pm. Cue comedy stuffed with music, bold characters and audience interaction. Bring something to sit on, pack a picnic and come prepared for the weather.

“We believe that theatre should be for everyone,” says festival director Katie Scott. “Our varied and accessible programme of events provides real theatrical treats for seasoned theatre-goes, but also lively and low-cost opportunities for first-timers and families. We love bringing events to non-theatre spaces and working with local businesses and other partner organisations to create a buzz in the city which all can enjoy.”

For full festival details and tickets, head to: ripontheatrefestival.org. A preview of further events at Ripon Theatre Festival on July 6 and 7 will follow.

Folksy Theatre in As You Like It in the open air at The Old Deanery on Sunday