Shanghai Treason play Fulford Arms in Alan McGee fundraiser for homeless charity

Yorkshire folk punks Shanghai Treason: playing December gigs in aid of Crisis homeless charity

YORKSHIRE folk punk five-piece Shanghai Treason will play the Fulford Arms, York, on December 28 on a five-date Christmas tour to raise money for the homeless charity Crisis.

Joining them will be Lyon Estates and Sisters & Brothers for a gig presented in partnership with Musicians Against Homelessness (MAH), whose #MAH2019 campaign has seen former Oasis guru Alan McGee team up with local bands in York, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Sheffield and Bristol.

“I am delightedthat bands of this calibre want to be part of this campaign,” says McGee, who launched that campaign in 2016, since when more than 1,000 bands have played 500 MAH benefit gigs around Britain.

“The homeless situation in the UK is sickening and shocking but there is a growing awareness of the desperation people at the bottom have to endure, thanks to the musicians who back us,” adds the 59-year-old maverick Scottish businessman, music industry executive and co-founder of the Creation Records label, who managed Oasis and continues to oversee The Jesus And Mary Chain, Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Cast and .

Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, Cast, James, Dodgy and many more have supported the cause, while Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy’s Boyzlife, Scouting For Girls, The Hoosiers and the Neville Staple Band are among the acts who will be taking to MAH stages in support.

“The response has been incredible and the campaign has gone from strength to strength,” says McGee. “The support has been inspiring and it’s fantastic that so many quality bands have come forward.”

Shaun Ryder says: “To see so many people in this day and age homeless and hungry is unbelievable. This is not Victorian Britain. As usual, it’s the people who are not in a position to speak for themselves or be heard who get left behind and ignored.

“It’s become so common to see homeless people on the streets that maybe it’s not a shock when you walk past. Or maybe it’s so shocking that you have to look away, and try not to think about it?”

Ryder continues: “The sad thing is, it’s not the public’s problem, but they’re the ones most likely to actually help the homeless than anyone in government.

“I’ve been through some difficult times in my life, but fortunately I’ve always had a roof over my head. If I found myself in a desperate and vulnerable position, where I’d have to trust the decisions being made in Parliament, I’d be seriously worried.”

“The homeless situation in the UK is sickening and shocking but there is a growing awareness of the desperation people at the bottom have to endure, thanks to the musicians who back us,” says Alan McGee

Cast frontman John Power says: “It’s great to be asked to be involved with the Musicians Against Homelessness campaign again. With so many ongoing problems in the world today, it’s sometimes easy to forget the ones in which you come face to face with every day in the towns and cities up and down the UK.

“Homelessness is a massive problem and one we can’t just step over and ignore. Let’s help bring awareness to the ever-increasing problem of homelessness on our streets today.”

Musicians Against Homelessness concerts have been running throughout the year, from local venues to festival main stages. Jon Sparkes,chief executive of Crisis, says: “I’m delighted that Musicians Against Homelessness are supporting Crisis again this year. Homelessness remains an unsolved problem across the UK, so your help and support is much needed and greatly appreciated.”

McGee, meanwhile, believes the MAH campaign gives new bands a platform in the way that Rock Against Racism did in the 1970s. “Music brings us together regardless of politics or social standing,” he says. “It’s a great leveller and a vital tool for change.

“Although our primary concern is to combat the scourge of homelessness, it’s vital that the MAH gigs also give upand-coming combos a chance to play to larger audiences.”

Shanghai Treason are grateful for that platform, playing five MAH gigs this month in breakneck folk-punk style, complete with banjo and accordion.

“It’s fantastic to have the support of the Musicians Against Homelessness team for this tour,” says lead singer Sam Christie. “We’ve been lucky to have so many sensational local bands come forward to be part of the shows in each territory and we’re looking forward to sharing the stage with them, while hosting some fantastic concerts raising money for a good cause this Christmas.”

Shanghai Treason’s music will more than likely appeal to fans of The Roughneck Riot, The Walker Roaders, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, The Rumjacks, Levellers and The Wildhearts.

The Yorkshire band will be promoting their first single Devil’s Basement, released on November 22 on Kycker Records. “It’s a fierce firecracker of a debut, marking our intent early on,” says Christie. “We’ve been working on this project for the best part of a year, so to finally have it come into the light is a total joy. 

“Lyrically, the song is about those nights out which get a bit out of hand, where it feels like anything is possible. We hope to have a few of those while on tour for Musicians Against Homelessness this December. Join us!”

Tickets are on sale at tickets.partyforthepeople.org or thefulfordarms.com/

Charles Hutchinson

York poet Carole Bromley to perform at Scarborough’s Christmas Rotunda Night

Headliner: York poet Carole Bromley will perform at Scarborough’s Rotunda Muaeum this Christmas. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

YORK poet Carole Bromley is the headline act for the Christmas Rotunda Night at Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum on December 21.

She will be joined at this 6.30pm to 9pm festive celebration by the Scarborough-told Tales storytellers and Whitby a cappella group The Windmill Girls.

Carole’s work has appeared in many journals and compilations and she has three collections to her name: A Guide Tour Of The Ice House,The Stonegate Devil and Blast Off!, a book for children. She has won such prizes as the Bridport Prize for Poetry, Brontë Society Literary Award and 2019 Hamish Canham Award from the Poetry Society.

The Windmill Girls: a cappella carols

Scarborough-told Tales brings together storytellers who have graduated from a Rotunda workshop course, now making a return visit after their performance in July.

The all-female choir The Windmill Girls sing acapella carols, many drawn from the rich tradition of “village” carols, some dating from the18th century and boasting exuberant choruses.

Scarborough-told Tales: stories for Christmas. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Simon Hedges, head of curation, collections and exhibitions at Scarborough Museums Trust, which runs the Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Gallery, says: “This promises to be a brilliant festive treat, with poetry, great stories and seasonal music – just right for getting into the Christmas spirit.”

Tickets for this Rotunda Night cost £7.50 including a glass of wine, beer, Christmas punch or soft drink. Places are limited, so advance booking is recommended on 01723 353665.

Charles Hutchinson

Hannah Davies and Hannah Bruce launch Conflux audio walk at Castle Gateway

Conflux: “a lyrical audio collage bursting with voice and music “. Image: Katie Allen

COMMON Ground Theatre and Hannah Bruce and Company present Conflux, a lyrical audio collage bursting with voice and music in the heart of York this weekend.

It will be launched by private invitation only to previews at 4pm, 4.30pm and 5pm today and tomorrow at Piccadilly Bridge, on the Foss, next to Tesco Express, before being made available to the public as a download from Monday, December 2, for one year.

The Conflux audio walk is an hour of stories, imaginings and musings inspired by the Castle Gateway area. Accessed via an app on personal devices, the rich sound world guides listeners on a journey through York’s oldest site of stronghold, power and resistance.

“It’s part podcast, part poem, part accidental car park,” says Conflux host Hannah Davies, the York writer, poet, performer and Common Ground artistic director, who has worked with sound designer and composer Jonathan Eato and director Hannah Bruce. 

“Conflux takes listeners on a trip to find the often forgotten and mostly ignored, the stories that lurk on street corners and under the tarmac. Starting by the river Foss on Piccadilly, listeners follow the in-audio instructions to explore one of the city’s most fascinating and iconic sites in a captivating and irreverent blend of past and present, with contributions from 36 York residents.” 

Using art to reference the past while looking to the future of the iconic city-centre site, this free outdoor audio experience is the second of a trio of art commissions to be presented as part of City of York Council’s consultation on Castle Gateway.

Conflux is funded through Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool, which allows local authorities to retain growth in business rates for local investment. It is supported with public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as supported by City of York Council and York Mediale, York’s digital media arts enterprise. The University of York Music Department has provided support for this project too. 

Writer Hannah says: As someone who lives and works in this city, it was great to spend time in a part of town that I usually only use as a short cut. Our city is full of history but that’s not everything that’s important about it.

“We wanted to capture a sense of now, brushing up against the past. The fragmented messy layers of it all. History is not neat. Nor is everyday life.

“We spent a lot of time on the site at different times of day and met and spoke to some really interesting people whose voices appear in Conflux. I know so much about the site now, I’ll never see it in the same light again. And I’ve definitely developed a thing for Clifford’s Tower, such an iconic part of York I used to take for granted. Now I do a little inner wave to it every time I pass.”

Those attending this weekend’s previews will need a smartphone, earbuds or headphones and details of the event code for the app. “Please dress for the weather and be prepared for an outdoor walk,” advises Hannah. 

Details regarding the app and the event code for specific time slots have been sent in advance to the audio walkers, who will start out from Piccadilly Bridge, having met at Spark York for information and support.

For full download instructions, visit the Common Ground website, cgtheatre.co.uk/portfolio/conflux, from Monday, December 2.

Charles Hutchinson

REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar, York Musical Theatre Company ****

Meet the new Whitney with the powerful voice: John Whitney as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar, York Musical Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, tomorrow. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

REJECTED as a theatre show, Jesus Christ Superstar began life as that very 1970s’ thing, a rock concept album, or double album to be precise.

The year was 1970; Tim Rice was 25, Andrew Lloyd Webber, 21. By 1972, it had resurrected miraculously as a rock opera, so successfully that it played the West End for eight years initially.

Paul Laidlaw’s glorious new revival in York could not be more Seventies in spirit: hippie hair; kaftans; flared jeans; Bjorn Borg headbands; big beards; cop-show moustaches. Only the patchouli oil and stinky Afghan coats are missing, and no-one misses them.

The dawn of Advent might seem the wrong time to tell the story of the last seven days of Jesus Christ’s life, as seen through Judas’s burning eyes, but in fact its impact is all the greater before thoughts turn towards celebrating the innocent child’s arrival.

John Whitney has long cherished his dream role of Jesus, through his days of studying musical theatre at York St John University and growing a tribute beard. Now, at 28, the Middlesbrough-born actor realises that dream, with York Musical Theatre Company as his “new source to get his awesome musicals fix,” he says in the programme, coming over all retro Seventies.

Through a mutual connection, your reviewer had been hearing of what a powerhouse voice Whitney had. He was right. Wow! The new Whitney sings with a stunning range, sensitivity, emotion, drama, soul, and did he hit that famous Everest-high top note in I Only Want To Say (Gethsemane)? Of course, he did.

At his lowest ebb: Chris Mooney’s Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar

He was but one of many superb casting decisions by Laidlaw. Liverpudlian Chris Mooney is making his YMTC debut as the traitorous Judas, the narrator’s role, standing out from his fellow disciples with cropped hair and autumnal, military colours, his manner as intense and deceiving as Shakespeare’s Iago. His singing voice is full of fire and angst, but sometimes tender too, although he needs to work on the clarity of his diction in moments of heightened vocal stress.

Marlena Kellie, a jazz singer with appearances at Ronnie Scott’s and Pride to her name, makes I Don’t Know How To Love Him sound freshly minted, heartbreaking anew.

More than a decade after his appearance in York Light’s chorus line for this musical, Peter Wookie has his YMTC bow as an austere Pilate, and he is another to make a heavyweight impact, both with his voice and imposing physicality.

Jesus Christ Superstar, like Lloyd Webber and Rice’s fellow fledgling work Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat, loves to show off myriad song styles, whether a rock anthem, a ballad, or a slice of Weimar cabaret in King Herod’s Song (a twinkling, camp John Haigh and his dancing ladies in red, contrasting with the men in black representing authority around him).

For this well paced sung-through musical, musical director John Atkin has a superb band under his command, wherein Paul McArthur and Neil Morgan’s guitars particularly shine out, while Laidlaw’s ensemble more than play their part too. Simon Spencer’s set and especially his lighting hit the mark too.

There is something of a Nativity play, Elvis Vegas show or even Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert about Jesus Christ Superstar, with its hip “Hey JC” lingo, but at the same time Laidlaw’s production wholly captures its deeper, darker aspects, played out on a bare scaffolding set provided by Brian Farrell Scaffolding. Namely, that it is a psychological study of a man alone, or rather two men alone: Jesus, on his pre-ordained journey to the cross, and Judas Iscariot, his betrayer, whose name has been dirt ever since.

This makes both their death scenes – spoiler alert! – devastating, albeit in their different ways. The solemn finale, no song, no music, only Jesus’s final words on the cross, reduces one and all to tears as the curtain falls. Oh, and that’s why it is apt to stage this musical now, when eyes are on a mendacious General Election, full of ill will and false prophets, and the Christmas tat commercials are starting to irritate already. Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus Christ Supershow.

Charles Hutchinson

Dionne Warwick to tour One Last Time. Say farewell at York Barbican

She’s back! New album, new tour, as Dionne Warwick says farewell to packing her trunk next autumn

THE clue is in the title for Dionne Warwick’s show at York Barbican on October 6 2020. “She’s back: One Last Time,” says the poster.

The six-time Grammy Award winner will be playing her farewell British and European tour next September and October, by when she will be 79.

Retirement, however, is not on her mind. “After almost six decades, I’ve decided it’s time to put away the touring trunk and focus on recording, one-off concerts and special events. 

“I still love performing live, but the rigours of travelling every day so far from home, sleeping in a different hotel each night, one concert after the other, is becoming hard. So, I’ve decided to stop touring on that level in Europe,” says Dionne. “But I’m not retiring!” she insists.

Indeed not. In May, she released She’s Back, her first studio album since Feels So Good in 2014.

The tour’s UK leg will open at The Waterfront in Belfast on September 19 2020 and her shows will encompass her monumental career, not least the peerless Warwick/Burt Bacharach/Hal David recording catalogue: I Say A Little Prayer, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Anyone Who Had A Heart and Walk On By.

Warwick previously played a North Yorkshire concert on her An Evening With Dionne Warwick, Me And My Music tour at Harrogate International Centre in February 2008.

Tickets for One Last Time go on sale on Wednesday, December 4 at 9am on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the box office, should you walk on by the Barbican.

Strictly’s strict Craig Revel Horwood to direct Strictly Ballroom

Love is in the air…a year from now in Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York

YOU will have to wait a year, but it will be well worth it to see Strictly Ballroom The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York.

Directed by acerbic Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood, the show will be foxtrotting around Britain and Ireland from next September, visiting York from November 23 to 28 2020.

Revel Horwood, the Australian-born dancer, choreographer and director, will assemble a cast of more than 20 for the musical based on Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 Australian film.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical follows arrogant, rebellious young ballroom dancer Scott Hastings, whose radical and daring dance style rubs against the strict conventions of the Australian Dance Federation.

So much so that he is banished, forcing him to start all over again with a beginner, Fran. Together they find the courage to defy tradition and discover that to win, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

More than 30 hits will be performed on stage, such as Time After Time, Let’s Dance, I’m So Excited, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Sway, Mambo No. 5, Dancing With Myself, Sugar Sugar, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It, Teardrops and Love Is In The Air.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, in December 2016 before making its West End debut at the Piccadilly Theatre, London, in March 2018.

Tickets for the York run are on sale on 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Charles Hutchinson

10cc’s Graham Gouldman to play Leeds and release solo album

Graham Gouldman: new tour, new album in 2020

GRAHAM Gouldman will play Leeds City Varieties Music Hall on March 25 on next spring’s tour to launch his first solo album in eight years.

The 10cc luminary’s 14-date travels with his semi-acoustic band, Heart Full Of Songs, will run from March 19 to April 4, coinciding with the March 20 release of his as-yet-unnamed record on the British independent label Lojinx.

One notable guest on Gouldman’s first solo set since 2012’s Love And Work is The Beatles’ Ringo Starr, who plays drums on Standing Next To Me.

Last year, Gouldman, 73, was invited by Starr to join his All Starr Band for tours of Europe and the United States that featured three 10cc songs.

“Playing with Ringo Starr and The All Starr Band was absolutely brilliant, and having Ringo play drums on one of my new album’s songs was the icing on the cake,” says Gouldman.

“Absolutely brilliant”: Graham Gouldman’s verdict on playing with Ringo Starr in the Beatle’s All Starr Band last year

“The song is about how I came to be asked to join his band, and about my experience of being on the road with Ringo alongside Steve Lukather, Colin Hay, Gregg Rolie, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette, who also plays drums on three of the album’s tracks.”

When Gouldman formed what became Heart Full Of Songs, it was for the pleasure of playing his songs in their simplest form, leading to the acoustic four-piece’s first tour in April and May 2013.

Gouldman’s band now tours Britain, Belgium, Holland and Germany with a line-up of Gouldman, Ciaran Jeremiah, Dave Cobby and either Iain Hornal, Nick Kendal or Andy Park, depending on their commitments.

The Heart Full Of Songs set list will feature such golden Gouldman hits as 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, Dreadlock Holiday and The Things We Do For Love, The Hollies’ Bus Stop, The Yardbirds’ For Your Love and Wax’s Bridge To Your Heart, complemented by new material.

“I always love taking my Heart Full Of Songs show on tour,” says Gouldman. “Acoustic performances always create a very intimate atmosphere where every song – which is what it’s all about – can truly be heard. It also gives me a chance to explain how the songs came about and something of the writing process. We’ll see you there.”

Tickets for his Leeds concert, Gouldman’s only Yorkshire date, are on sale on 0113 243 0808 or at cityvarieties.co.uk.

Did you know?

In 2014, Graham Gouldman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, an arm of the USA’s National Academy of Music. Previous inductees include Noel Coward, Irving Berlin, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Leonard Cohen.

REVIEW: Scrooge The Musical, Pick Me Up Theatre ***

Mark Hird’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Frankie Bounds’ Young Ebenezer in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Scrooge The Musical. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Scrooge The Musical, Pick Me Up Theatre, Grand Opera House, York, until Sunday, December 1. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york

FOR years and years, Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert Readman has applied for the performing rights for Scrooge The Musical, more in hope than expectation.

This year, at last, the answer was affirmative, and so Readman reckons he must be the first director/producer to stage Leslie Bricusse’s musical on this scale since Bill Kenwright’s long-running tour show.

Those were the days with Tommy Steele in the lead, with songs specially added for his knees-up brand of showmanship, but Readman has restored the 1992 score, when Bricusse transferred his 1970 film musical to the stage as a vehicle for Anthony Newley, six new songs and all. Back come the likes of Good Times, the best in the show, says Readman.

Mark Hird’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Rory Mulvihill’s Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooge The Musical

Ironically, if anything, there are too many songs, or, more precisely, there are not many memorable songs, making it feel like too many.

This is in part because the dialogue is largely true to Charles Dickens’s novel, save for the occasional modernism, and you wish for rather more of it, but another song is always nudging it out of the way.

While you could not call it a “sung-through musical”, it is veering towards that style, yet the great joy of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol lies in its storytelling and the myriad ways of presenting it, whether James Swanton’s one-man show, Alexander Wright’s pub supper two-hander with audience participation or Deborah McAndrew’s  beautifully resonant adaptation for Hull Truck Theatre.

Readman goes for spectacle, garland upon garland of snowy white flowers decorating the stage; a huge door; a big four-poster bed; loud, very loud, sound effects for Jacob Marley’s entry, rattling chains et al;  echoing voices; a company of more than 40;  and two flying sequences. One for Tony Froud’s Marley; the other for Rory Mulvihill’s Ghost of Christmas Present and Mark Hird’s Ebenezer Scrooge, where they are held in suspense rather more than this ghost story holds us, in the absence of more darkness.

Sonny Love as Tiny Tim in Scrooge The Musical

Hird’s diminutive Scrooge carries the last residue of his wonderful Captain Mainwaring in Pick Me Up’s Dad’s Army, and consequently he is humorous from the start, full of bluster rather than the coldness of a blasted heath. You find yourself liking him, even when he is mithering and being miserly, rather like Rowan Atkinson’s penny-pinching Mr Bean, but Scrooge’s transformation is still highly enjoyable in his impish hands.

What’s more, his scenes with Young Ebenezer (Frankie Bounds) and his lost true love, Isabel (Jennie Wogan), and later with Bob Cratchit (Alan Park), Tiny Tim (Sonny Love) and the Cratchit family, are poignant to the core. Bounds, by the way, is the pick of the young talents, with a lovely singing voice in Happiness, while Olivia Caley, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, definitely has a future.

Look out too for Flo Poskitt’s comic cameo as Ethel Cratchit: not for the first time this year, she gives a peach of a supporting performance. Maybe next year, a director will reward her with an overdue lead.

Mulvihill amuses by lounging like Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons, in his Christmas green silks and ermine; Sam Johnson leads his musical forces with customary skill, and Iain Harvey and Readman’s choreography has most fun when Andrew Isherwood’s Tom Jenkins leads the stand-out  Thank You Very Much.

Overall, however, while it may feel “Bah Humbug” to say it, by Pick Me Up standards, this Scrooge  falls short of a Christmas cracker.

Charles Hutchinson  

York Early Music Christmas Festival will start…earlier!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Hutchinson

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

Here comes Cleveland Watkiss’s night of Jamaican sunshine at NCEM

Jamaican joy: London jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss celebrates his Caribbean roots at the NCEM, York

HACKNEY jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss brings the winter sunshine to the National Centre for Early Music in York on Thursday when presenting his Great Jamaican Songbook concert.

Marking his 60th year with a joyous show, Watkiss revives some of the greatest songs written by Jamaican legends Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown and Delroy Wilson et al as he presents a personal project exploring music that connects him to his Jamaican roots.

Watkiss will be delving into Jamaica’s long history of pioneering musical sounds, from Mento and Ska to Reggae, Dub and Roots, as well as highlighting record labels and producers such as Studio One, Coxsone Dodd, TuffGong, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and King Tubby.

His 7.30pm set list takes in the work of Don Drummond; Ernest Ranglin; the Barrett Brothers; Jackie Mittoo; Leroy  ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace; Alton Ellis; Ken Booth; The Wailers; Millie Small; Marcia Griffith; Dawn Penn; Dennis Brown; Gregory Isaacs; Burnin’ Spear and Johnny Osbourne, many of whom graduated from The Alpha Boys School under the tutelage of Sister Mary Ignatius Davis, alias “The Nun”.

Thursday night’s musical guests are drawn from Watkiss’s collaborators old and new: Orphy Robinson, on keyboards and percussion; Ray Carless, saxophones; Byron Wallen, trumpet; Delroy Murray, bass; Brandon Murray, guitars; Dan Barnett, drums, and Phil Ramocon, keyboards.

Tickets cost £18, concessions £16, on 01904 658338 or at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Charles Hutchinson