THERE is something deeply satisfying when an artist long missing in action re-appears with great songs.
Badly Drawn Boy, Damon Gough to his mum and bank manager, was always an interesting character. His anti-rock star demeanour contrasted with his early success.
Like Elliot Smith, here was a songwriter that didn’t fit the commercial juggernaut. There were always flashes, like Space Between Your Ears from his 2012 soundtrack to Being Flynn.
After a decade-long hiatus, Gough re-emerges at 50 with a fistful of tunes that are at once familiar but cleverly good. He has always had a flair with melody; it rarely goes where you think it is heading.
The life knocks he’s endured – it transpires he hasn’t been sitting in a pool lapping up adoration all these years – have given him a rich vein of material to write about, and there’s a more direct edge to the lyrics. Looking over his shoulder at the exit, I Just Want To Wish You Happiness is affecting, while I’ll Do My Best ushers Gough into a new relationship.
Fortunate, too, that Gough has not sunk into tuneless gloom. On the contrary, I’m Not Sure What It Is features a glorious Technicolor production, full of sunlight and hard-won wisdom. Rightly, Like Tony Wilson Says has been singled out for praise and may yet be a hit. Taking a Manchester cultural icon, Tony Wilson, and his Hacienda nightclub, it’s an uplifting tribute that even seems to have left space for the crowd’s roar.
You can never tell whether Gough is being ironic, but it does seem that he is now foot-sure about which musical path to pursue. As he told the Guardian, this record presents “a more focused version of what I’ve tried to achieve in the past”.
Fly On The Wall captures Gough’s worldview to perfection, married to another joyous melody that both harks back and looks more hopefully ahead to what tomorrow brings.
Compared with these heights, the quality does ebb in the middle. For example, Colours feels dated and the Eighties touches are overdone, but these slips are few and the overall upbeat mood makes for the pleasing contrast to the pallor of our economic sky. Definitely Gough’s best record since his debut, the Mercury Prize-winning The Hour Of Bewilderbeast, 20 years ago.
YORK Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and Malton’s Ryedale Voices are uniting for a Virtual Summer Concert online on July 25.
Raising funds for the Trussell Trust through donations, the 7.30pm concert will be live-streamed on YouTube, hosted by Richard Kay, who has been leading rehearsals over Zoom since lockdown began.
“It will feature around 20 choral pieces and smaller collaborations, compiled from around 350 individual recordings made by 60 members of the two choirs,” says Richard, the Phil’s assistant musical director and Ryedale choir’s conductor.
“Several songs have been learned during lockdown and so have never before been performed by these choirs, including three brand new compositions that have never yet been performed by singers in the same room!”
Already in lockdown, the Phil and Ryedale Voices have made a virtual choir recording of Keep Singing, attracting more than 1,200 views online.
CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden is on the case, he says, making plans for the gradual re-opening of theatres, comedy joints and music venues, when Covid-safe to do so, but the traffic lights are still stuck at red.
Outdoor performances were given the thumbs-up to resume from last Saturday, not so helpfully at two days’ notice, and cinemas are pencilling in a re-start from July 31, although nothing is confirmed yet. Meanwhile, assorted summer festivals are going virtual, as did this week’s Great Yorkshire Show.
This masked-up column will steer clear of the pubs, bars, restaurants and shops making their welcome comebacks, focusing instead on what’s going on…or not going on, as CHARLES HUTCHINSON reports
RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, July 19 to 26
THE 2020 Ryedale Festival has transmuted into RyeStream, an online festival of eight concerts, streamed straight to your home daily over the course of a week.
Musicians are making the journey to North Yorkshire to perform in three empty but beautiful locations: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.
Taking part will be Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano, July 19, 3pm; Rachel Podger, violin, July 20, 11am; Matthew Hunt, clarinet, and Tim Horton, piano, July 21, 1pm; Anna Hopwood, organ, July 22, 11am; Abel Selaocoe, cello, July 23, 6pm; Rowan Pierce, soprano, and Christopher Glynn, piano, July 24, 9pm; Tamsin Waley-Cohen, violin, and Christopher Glynn, piano, July 25, 3pm, and Carducci Quartet and Streetwise Opera, July 26, 6pm.
New exhibition of the week: Giuliana Lazzerini: Solo, Blue Tree Gallery, York
BLUE Tree Gallery artist in residence Giuliana Lazzerini has opened an exhibition of new acrylic work online and at the York art-space for viewing by appointment only.
The Bootham gallery is “not fully open as yet”, but Covid-safety measures are in place, enabling viewing appointments to be made for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays until August 5. To book one, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gallery re-opening part two: Pyramid Gallery, York
TERRY Brett’s Pyramid Gallery, in Stonegate, York, has re-opened, operating a two-fold system for visitors.
You can book a 30-minute slot to browse the gallery at your leisure at pyramidgallery.com/ or, alternatively, if there is a sign up saying Please Knock To Enter, knock on the door and either Terry or Fi or Sarah will invite you in, one group at a time, and lock the door behind you.
“If the lights are not on, the shop is closed that day,” says Terry. “We will not be open on Sundays.”
Art installation of the week: Anita Bowerman’s Give Cancer The Boot, Castle Howard grounds
HARROGATE artist Anita Bowerman has designed a Tree of Life installation, Give Cancer The Boot, for Yorkshire Cancer Research’s Give It Some Welly fundraising campaign.
Hanging from a fir tree by the Atlas Fountain on the South Front, glistening in the sun like a summer variation on Christmas decorations, are 191 hand-polished stainless-steel wellies embossed with the YCR’s rose.
Why 191? They represent the 191,000 Yorkshire people who have “given the cancer the boot” over the past 25 years or live with it. To see the wellies, you will need to book a visit to Castle Howard at castlehoward.co.uk.
Outdoor theatre show of the summer: Orpheus, The Flanagan Collective/Gobbledigook Theatre
LIVE theatre is back, all over North Yorkshire, at your invitation. Step forward York theatre-makers Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Phil Grainger, who are mounting a five-pronged art attack under the banner I’ll Try And See You Sometimes.
Among their analogue enterprises is Orpheus – A Hyper Local Tour. “We’re taking Orpheus on an outdoor tour around North Yorkshire’s local lanes, villages, and towns, performing with social distancing in place and abiding by Government guidelines on how many people can meet at any one time,” says Alex.
“The shows can take place on people’s streets, at their front windows and in parks and gardens,” says Phil. “Instead of announcing a show that the public can book tickets for, we’re asking for people to pop on to flanagancollective.com and book a suitable slot and the whole show will be brought to them.”
Home entertainment of the week for children: A Bee and Lari the Seagull in Scarborough
SCARBOROUGH Museums Trust will present an online summer programme of seaside and animal-themed stories, crafts and activities, based around objects in the Scarborough Borough Collection, with the help of Lari the Seagull from July 22 to August 20.
On Wednesdays, from July 22 to August 19, families can enjoy Seaside Adventures, whether “meeting” rockpool creatures or magical selkies, all inspired by paintings at Scarborough Art Gallery and designed by storyteller and artist Jan Bee Brown.
On Thursdays, from July 23 to August 20, Animal Antics will take participants on a journey across the world, inspired by animals in the SMT natural history collections.
The highlight each week will be a new audio story written by Brown, released each Wednesday.
Seek out the good news
YORK Racecourse’s Music Showcase Weekend with Pussycat Dolls and Rick Astley is a non-runner on July 24 and 25. Les Miserables will not mount the barricades from July 22 at Leeds Grand Theatre. However, Greg and Ails McGee’s According To McGee gallery, in Tower Street, York, will be opening its doors once more from Saturday. Sophie Ellis Bextor has announced a Kitchen Disco Tour date at Leeds Town Hall on May 19 2021; Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan has re-arranged her Pocklington Arts Centre gig for a second time, now booked in for April 23 2021.
And what about…
THE Luminaires on BBC One on Sunday nights; can anyone shine a light on what’s going on with all that to and froing in time? New albums by Sparks, Margo Price and The Streets. The Reading Room café at Rowntree Park, York, re-opening.
YORK band Bull are signing to record industry giants EMI, nine years after first forming.
They become the first York group to put pen to such a deal since Shed Seven rubber-stamped a six-album contract with Polydor Records in October 1993, going on to notch up 15 Top 40 hits from Dolphin in 1994 to Why Can’t I Be You? in 2003.
Songwriter and vocalist Tom Beer, co-founder and guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and print-maker Kai West will be working in tandem with EMI alongside Young Thugs: the York indie label, artist managers, recording studio and gig promoters, run by Dave Greenbrown and Jonny Hooker up the stairs at South Bank Social Club in the pioneering, underground spirit of Andy Warhol’s Factory in that other York, New York.
The first green shoots of what the EMI publicity campaign is calling “the start of a beautiful friendship” is the aptly named single Green, a crowd favourite with a history stretching back to 2012, released today.
Depending on which band member you ask, this blissful slice of jangle-pop with a pinch of psychedelia and a grating of scuzzy lead guitar is either a “melancholy rumination on decisions made and the grass always being greener”, or is all about “ripping bongs down at the basketball court when you really should be writing the next great American novel”.
“It feels surreal,” says frontman Tom Beer, breathing in the giddying fresh air of becoming a major label act. “I just didn’t really expect it, to be honest! Delighted as well…and really excited. Lucky too, as there are so many good bands out there.
“The way it worked for us was that we’d been doing a lot of gigs, touring so much, here, in the Netherlands, Germany, America, and when we released songs we had more plays because we’d played so many places.
“Young Thugs and Dave Greenbrown have been so supportive too, and then the MD [managing director] of EMI came to see us supporting Warmduscher at The Crescent.”
When? “I’m not good with dates,” says Tom. “Except in the future. I only remember them when I need to.”
Dave Greenbrown says: “We’ve been working on this for around 18 months. The MD of EMI was looking around for groups and came across Young Thugs two years ago and we’ve been trying to figure out something ever since.
“Clearly, Bull were the ones with the songs and I said to them, ‘I think there’s a chance for you if you can work on your professionalism as you have to be good every night’, and they were up for that and did exactly that.
“I didn’t want the EMI MD to see them until it was the right time, as you have only one chance, don’t you, and Bull took it.
“They write great catchy pop songs; they’ve finished the album, and they’ve signed a one-year deal with EMI: three singles, one album, just royalties off the streams and the sales of their records.”
Bull charged on to the York music scene in 2011, led by Tom and Dan, both inspired by their 1990s’ alt. rock heroes, Pavement, Yo La Tengo and The Pixies.
The present line-up of four Yorkshiremen emerged through friendship and happenstance: drummer Tom joining after he and the other Tom jammed together in bars when backpacking around Thailand; Kai making the giant leap from persistently jumping up on stage to dance in the erratic, blissful manner of Happy Mondays’ Bez to eventually being allowed to play bass.
But 2011 to 2020, Tom, that is an unusually long gestation period for a band, isn’t it? “I would never not want to do this. I just can’t see myself not doing it. It’s how I operate. I’ve always busked…I’ve worked at the Golden Ball, where I put on open-mic nights on Mondays…and I’m good at living on chickpeas,” he says.
“I definitely feel that one of the best feeling you can have is playing music with another human being and I incorporate the crowd in that.”
Apparently, this is “the start of a beautiful friendship”, Tom? “I hope that’s true and I believe that to be true, because it’s always been based on friendships between us and promoters, travelling around and making it happen and it’s been rewarding.”
One such bond paid off, leading Bull indirectly to their Dutch record producer, Remko Schouten. “Whether it was blind faith or fate, we decided on a whim to go to Germany, just after Tom and Kai joined in 2018, and we were all feeling very serious about it, like when The Beatles played Hamburg,” recalls Tom.
“We were playing dive bar gigs, and we went to this bar at three in the morning, where Tom was wearing my hat, and this guy came up and said, ‘Where did you get that hat?’.
“He turned out to be the drummer – and a golfing pro! – for Spiral Stairs and Remko was there on tour with them doing their sound. We put on this house party at a friend’s house in Berlin, in Schoneberg, the area where Bowie used to live, and the next thing we know, Spiral Stairs [alias Scott Kannberg of the aforementioned Pavement] was playing at our house party!
“That night Remko said, ‘if you ever want to record with me, let me know’, and we did, two months later.”
Over the next two years, Bull visited Schouten’s Amsterdam studio four or five times, recording songs over a few days each time, songs that will now form the album whose title and release date are yet to be confirmed (although Dave Greenbrown did mention January 29 2021, so watch this space).
“This was no ‘one weekend, bash it out’ recording session,” says Dave. “This was a proper job, working over a long time.”
The Coronavirus pandemic may have brought gigs to a stultifying halt, but Bull are coping with being a band in Covid-19 times in 2020, boosted by the momentum of signing a record company deal. “It feels OK for us right now because luckily we finished the album the day before we had to flee the Netherlands, returning home instead of playing with our favourite Dutch bands in Amsterdam, but we definitely made the right decision,” says York-born Tom, who now lives in Scarborough.
Green is the first fruit of that record deal. “That song is one of the oldest Bull songs, I wrote it in 2012, and it’s the only song on the upcoming album that was featured on She Looks Like Kim, our first album in 2014, which we self-released,” says Tom.
“We recorded it at the Melrose Yard Studios, the brilliant studio off Walmgate that sadly closed last year, and we launched it with a gig at Dusk, covering the cost of the recording that night.
“Green was the first song on there and the lead single back then too, and we just thought it’s a good song, it’s always been a favourite, so let’s give it a second shot at the big time.”
The accompanying video is the work of Bull too. “We’ve worked on a lot of music videos: the one for Green is the first time I’ve ever used movie software, with the help of Dan [Lucas],” says Tom. “We had a lot of footage from various things that we could use, and there’s even some footage on there from the original Green video, made by Rory Welbrock, our bassist before Kai joined.
“It also features some latex masks made by my sister, Holly, who’s been really interested in making masks for three years – and now masks are everywhere of course, aren’t they!”
Dave Greenbrown hopes Bull’s record deal will be a trigger for more York musicians to find favour with record labels. The Howl & The Hum set the bar high with Human Contact, their late-May album for our disconcerting, disconnected times, and the likes of Bonnie & The Bailers, Fat Spatula and Perspex should be on the radar too.
“I think it’s been really good to be a musician in York. As a child, there were amazing music services provided for you in the city,” says Tom. “I was in a big band, playing the trombone; there were loads of people doing that, like The Howl & The Hum drummer, Jack Williams. He played trumpet.
“I think that’s had a massive impact, because you can enjoy it when you’re little, and then your musicianship progresses and you start playing in bands. For me, it was places like The Woolpack Inn [in Fawcett Street], run by a guy called Sid, who had bands on every night. It made it feel like you owned it, and if you wanted to put on a gig, you could.”
Broadening his thought, Tom says: “I’d like to thank Young Thugs for their involvement; the MD of EMI got in touch with them because he was impressed with what Young Thugs bands, such as The Lungs (Theo Mason Wood and Bonnie Milnes) and …And The Hangnails, and Bonneville, were doing.
“And now, the great thing with the link-up between EMI and Young Thugs is that hopefully it’s going to benefit other York bands too.”
What makes Bull stand out, the way a bull does when frequenting a china shop? The infectious tunes, yes, but also the humour in Tom’s Yorkshire-frank lyrics. “I’m very glad you say that,” he says. “I definitely don’t want to be any one thing in my lyrics – a lot of the time I’m capturing a temporary feeling – but a lot of my favourite songwriters embrace humour…though sometimes it doesn’t want to be too funny, just for the sake of it.
“Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, one of my favourites, likes to use humour, and Dylan, my hero, is full of it. He plays with words a lot. It’s that thing of, if you don’t cry, you’ll laugh.”
Right now, on Green day, Bull have every reason to be smiling.
DIVORCED, beheaded and now Covid-19ed. Live Nation Entertainment have called off SIX The Musical’s drive-in concert series, hitting for six the August 11 to 16 run at the Church Fenton airfield.
Blame “localised lockdowns” for scuppering the Queens’ irreverent regal shows at 12 locations, explain the “devastated” producers.
“The latest developments regarding localised lockdowns mean it has become impossible for us to continue with the series with any confidence,” say Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes and George Stiles.
“This devastating news has come out of the blue and hit us all for six. We are so sorry to disappoint the thousands of fans who have booked tickets and sold out many dates on the tour.
“It is also a sad day for our West End and UK Tour Queens who had already started rehearsals and our entire team of up to 60 people who were all working so hard to deliver a spectacular show.”
Their statement continues: “Despite the Government announcing Stage 3 of Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s road map, permitting performances outdoors with an audience, the planned tour was due to visit 12 cities, several of which have since been identified as emerging Covid infection hot spots.
“We know that ultimately there is nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of our company and the Six Queendom. We look forward to better times.” Full refunds for “the first West End musical to perform again after lockdown” will be issued directly to all ticket holders within the next seven days from Ticketmaster.
Leeds East Airport, at Church Fenton, was among 12 sites nationwide picked for Live Nation Entertainment’s Utilita Live From The Drive-In: SIX The Musical, The Live Concert.
The West End and tour casts were to have taken to the road in August and September to present the full musical version in the open air, with the Arts Theatre, London company in action at Church Fenton.
Billed as “Divorced, Beheaded, Drive – Live In Concert” for the now cancelled drive-in tour, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss‘s SIX is the “electrifying musical phenomenon that everyone has lost their head over”. First presented by Cambridge University students at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has been catapulted into a West End and international hit en route to being named the Musical of the Decade by WhatsOnStage.
From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic in SIX to tell their tales, remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st-century girl power where these queens may have green sleeves but their lipstick is rebellious red.
The publicity promised: “This intoxicating Tudor take by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss is a histo-remixed pop-concert musical you won’t forget. The Queens are back, so grab your crowns and your picnic blankets and get down like it’s 1533.”
SIX The Musical and Utilita Live From The Drive-In were to have linked up this summer from August 4 to September 12 for shows at Colesdale Farm, London; Birmingham Resorts World Arena; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton; Filton Airfield, Bristol; Cheltenham Racecourse; the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh; Leeds East Airport, Church Fenton, near Leeds; Lincoln, Central Docks, Liverpool; The National Bowl, Milton Keynes; the July Course, Newmarket Racecourse, and Teesside International Airport.
SIX The Musical, The Drive-In: Divorced, beheaded and now cancelled, alas.
FOR the first time, Ryedale Festival is going virtual, in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The revamped remote classical festival will be streamed on the online platform RyeStream from Sunday, July 19 to July 26, with one concert a day without an audience in attendance.
Three locations are being used: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, pre-Raphaelite Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.
In the line-up will be pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, with a 3pm recital of Beethoven and the American piano repertoire on Sunday; violinist Rachel Podger’s Guardian Angel baroque concert on Monday, 11am; clarinettist Matthew Hunt and Tim Horton’s Fantasy Pieces on Tuesday, 1pm, and Anna Lapwood’s organ works by Bach and Barbara Heller on Wednesday, 11am.
Cellist Abel Selaocoe will complement music and stories from his native South Africa with baroque works on Thursday, 6pm; Yorkshire soprano Rowan Pierce and pianist Christopher Glynn, the festival’s artistic director, will combine traditional song with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg in Music For A While on Friday, 9pm; Glynn will then accompany violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen in an evening of Elgar, invoking the comforting scenes of the English countryside, next Saturday at 3pm.
The closing concert, next Sunday at 6pm, will present Streetwise Opera, Roderick Williams, Brodsky Quartet, Genesis Sixteen and the Carducci Quartet. “The Carducci Quartet will be a live-streamed performance, but the Streetwise Opera performers – of whom many are affected by homelessness – will be joining us virtually, from around the country,” says Christopher.
He started working on the RyeStream festival six weeks ago. “It has been a race against time and I’m grateful to all the artists who agreed to perform at very short notice,” he says.
“For the locations, I tried to choose three beautiful spaces that represent the range of venues used by the festival and could be filmed effectively. The festival is incredibly lucky to have such stunning locations to perform in and I wanted to try to give a sense of that.
“The authorities at all three venues have been incredibly generous in helping us achieve this.”
In choosing the artists for the eight concerts, Christopher had to consider social-distancing regulations, measures that ruled out the festival opera, for example. “At the time of arranging the concerts, it was clear that anything bigger than two people on stage was going to be very difficult, though we did manage to include a string quartet – one made up of two married couples!” he says.
“In general, I approached artists who lived within driving distance of the festival: at the time arrangements were being made it wasn’t clear what travel would be possible.
“I also sought to include younger performers in the mix and tried to pick different artists to those that I was aware were appearing in high-profile live streamed series elsewhere.”
Artists will be tailoring their RyeStream programmes to meet the requirements of the new format. “We have tried to adapt everything to suit the new format,” says Christopher. “It’s a steep learning curve!”
Not least facing up to the challenge of filming the concerts. “We’re using several cameras, in the hope of giving a sense of the venue as well as the performance, and live-streaming the results, with the brilliant Patrick Allen looking after all aspects of sound and vision,” says Christopher.
Unlike last week’s online York Early Music Festival, he has decided RyeStream should be free to view, with donations welcome.
“This was a hard call,” he says. “I do have reservations about adding to the amount of free material online, because the downsides are clear and it’s a situation which cannot continue indefinitely without devaluing the whole currency of live performance.
“On the other hand, research shows that, for the moment, inviting donations is more effective than putting content behind a paywall, and that it’s probably necessary to establish the habit of viewing online – to prove it can be a rewarding experience in its own right – before starting to charge for it.
“Things may be slightly different for festivals with a more specialist slant, such as the York Early Music Festival (which I watched with much enjoyment) or the Oxford Lieder Festival.
“But for a more general programme like ours, it seemed right to go with a donation model for now, while making it clear that we will need to charge in a more structured way for content in the future.”
RyeStream viewers can stream the concerts “again and again” or watch them if they missed the live-stream, until August 16. “In general, we have to realise that people’s lives are very different and no one time of day will suit everyone,” says Christopher.
“I love the idea that people can watch again and again, because it is genuinely one of the great advantages of live-streaming.”
Might Ryedale Festival be tempted to stream live concerts at future festivals, with a charge for the screening, if, for example, a concert has sold out? “Yes, this is very much in our plans. There’s nothing like a crisis to move things forward! There are exciting possibilities for all festivals if we can successfully integrate digital and physical platforms,” says Christopher.
“I love the idea that a live Ryedale Festival event can also be enjoyed online by a housebound pensioner in Pickering, a music-lover in Portsmouth – or, for that matter, in Peru! – as well as the audience at the venue. And of course, even if you have attended a concert in person, you may want to watch it again online.”
As Sunday approaches, Christopher is looking forward most to gauging the reactions of RyeStream viewers. “We have set the bar high and said that we want to create a whole new festival experience,” he says. “It will be interesting to see which aspects of live-streaming people enjoy and which need more thought. There’s a real sense of stepping into a new world!
“If anything good has come out of Covid-19 for the Ryedale Festival, it would be that we have quickly established a new online platform, one that can add a new dimension to the festival even when ‘normal’ concert conditions return.”
Post RyeStream, thoughts will turn to 2021. “It’s too early to say anything with certainty but in general we remain committed to bringing great live music and musicians to beautiful Ryedale locations, and to being as inventive as we can in the way we do it,” promises Christopher.
However, the dark clouds of the Coronavirus pandemic hang over Ryedale Festival, like so many music events across the country. “We have opened a festival appeal and received some very welcome help from the Emergency Fund set up by Arts Council England,” says Christopher.
“We trust that people will understand and make a donation – something equivalent to the cost of a ticket – after watching the live-stream concerts. Looking further ahead, so much is uncertain. The vast majority of our festival income comes directly from box-office sales – around 10,000 individual tickets were sold last year – and if we cannot return to ‘normal’ concert-giving, this will be a huge challenge.”
For full details on the 2020 festival programme and how to stream RyeStream, go to ryedalefestival.com/.
RYESTREAM festival programme
Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason will open the festival with an afternoon recital of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 2 in A Major, alongside classics from the American piano repertoire such as Gershwin’s Three Preludes.
Sunday, July 19, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.
Violinist Rachel Podger will play baroque masterpieces, such Biber’s The Guardian Angel, Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 in D major and Vilsmayr’s Partita 5 in G minor.
Monday, July 20, streamed at 11am from the Chapel, Castle Howard.
Clarinettist Matthew Hunt and pianist Tim Horton will explore fantasy in music, encompassing Jörg Widmann’s Fantasie, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata.
Tuesday, July 21, streamed at 1pm fromLong Gallery, Castle Howard.
Virtuoso organist Anna Lapwood will play works by Bach, Barbara Heller and Frescobaldi in one of Yorkshire’s most ancient churches.
Wednesday, July 22, streamed at 11am from St Michael’s Church, Coxwold.
Cellist Abel Selaocoe will draw on the music and stories of his native South Africa, interwoven with baroque masterpieces such as Dall’Abaco’s Capriccio No. 3 in E flat major.
Thursday, July 23, streamed at 6pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.
Pianist and artistic director Christopher Glynn and soprano Rowan Pierce will perform Music For A While, combining traditional songs with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg
Friday, July 24, streamed at 9pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.
Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn will play Elgar works, pairing Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin with his Violin Sonata in E Minor to invoke the comforting scenes of the English countryside.
Saturday, July 25, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.
Streetwise Opera performers will join Roderick Williams, Brodsky Quartet and Genesis Sixteen remotely to perform Schubert’s The Linden Tree. The Carducci Quartet will then close the festival with Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No. 3, Mishima, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, No. 11, Serioso.
Sunday, July 26, streamed at 6pm from the Great Hall, Castle Howard.
YORK Early Music Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin is compiling a video of “personal favourites” from last week’s online event.
“We had a blast,” she says, reflecting on the success of the three-day virtual festival of four pre-recorded and two live concerts, streamed from the National Centre for Early Music from July 9 to 11.
“It was fabulous to be able to host musicians at the NCEM from across England – and to welcome online audiences from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States.”
Concert recordings were in the hands of digital producer Ben Pugh, filming the socially distant musicians at an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, the NCEM’s home in Walmgate.
Artists and audiences alike have given positive feedback to a digital event arranged once the Covid-19 lockdown enforced the cancellation of the Method & Madness-themed live festival from July 3 to 11.
“It was such a success that we’re now pulling together a compilation video of my personal favourites from 2020 Online. Details very soon!” promises Delma.
The revised remote festival of concerts and talks was headlined on July 9 by York countertenor Iestyn Davies – lockdown hair in need of a cut, by his own later admission – and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny.
Streamed live last Thursday, they presented A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain, among others.
In a surprise encore, they mined the modern-day melancholia of a Mancunian man, Morrissey, digging deep into the pit of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.
Performances recorded over ten days ensued, by lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine and lyra viol player Richard Boothby last Friday and BBC New Generation artists Consone Quartet last Saturday afternoon.
Vocal ensemble Stile Antico closed the festival with a live streamed concert, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, that evening.
“We’d purchased more video and sound equipment, so it was more like a TV studio environment for the recordings,” says Delma. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which helped with social distancing.”
The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.
THE Stephen Joseph Theatre has created a new choir for residents of Scarborough’s Eastfield area.
The Eastfield Choir is meeting via Zoom on Mondays from 11.30am to 12.30pm for five weeks from July 13 in a virtual venture supported by Scarborough company McCain Foods and residents’ group EAST.
They will work towards filming a song chosen by Eastfield residents from Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’; The Zutons and Amy Winehouse’s hit Valerie; George Ezra’s Budapest; Abba’s Mamma Mia and Ben E King’s Stand By Me.
Voting will take place on the Eastfield Past and Present Facebook page during the week beginning July 29.
Helpful guide music tracks and videos will be sent to choir members to assist them in preparing for the film recording.
The SJT’s associate director for children and young people and Funky Choir member Cheryl Govan says: “This is a fantastic intergenerational project with a strong emphasis on creating new social links. Anyone can take part, whatever their age and ranging from whole families to those living on their own.
“The first term of the project will result in a video using footage captured by the residents and edited together. This will be a lovely record for everyone involved.
“If you have a smart phone, an iPad or a laptop you can access Zoom and we can help you if you need some support. And don’t worry if you don’t like the first song – a choir has to start somewhere, and it could be your choice next time.”
Cheryl adds: “Don’t be put off if you think you can’t sing: this is about having a good time. The best bit about Zoom choirs is only the people in your own house can hear you…
“…And thanks to the generous support of McCain, membership of the Eastfield Choir is free!”
Choir members can access the videos on private Facebook groups that they are invited to join at the start of the project.
Charlotte Pick, communications business partner at McCain, says: “We’re delighted to support the Eastfield Choir through our partnership with the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
“McCain has been a part of the Scarborough community for over 50 years and is proud to play a role in the communities where we live and work. This uplifting project will help reduce feelings of isolation and allow residents to feel part of the community again.”
The SJT team already has worked with residents’ group EAST on various projects, such as helping to clear up The Dell, the area’s nature reserve.
“We’re really excited about the choir,” says EAST’s Adele Armstrong Jackson. “When we first met with Cheryl Govan, we spoke about what we would like to do in Eastfield: clearing the rubbish from The Dell was one project, and an inter-generational activity like this choir was another.”
The new choir is led by musical director Mark Gordon, who says: “I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in this project. I love running choirs and generally having fun singing, so it’s good to meet (well, virtually meet!) a lot of like-minded people. Singing is fantastic for lifting the spirits and putting a smile on the face of both the singer and the listener.
“I’m also excited to see the end product: the idea that a bunch of people who don’t know each other are going to come together and do something fabulous and community based like this is such a wonderful concept. I hope loads of people will get involved – the more the merrier! And remember, it’s not about having the world’s best voice, it’s about enjoying singing, being prepared to give it a go and having some fun!”
A prominent figure on the Scarborough music scene for more than 30 years, Mark performs regularly with many bands and acts as musical director for several theatre shows. He teaches music at Scarborough schools and runs youth orchestras, jazz bands, rock workshops and choirs, as well as being a private piano teacher.
CAN it be as long as 15 years ago that Stile Antico burst onto the scene by copping the audience prize at this festival’s international competition? Indeed it can.
This crack group of 12 singers, without a conductor, seems to have been part of the festival’s fabric ever since. Certainly it was the perfect choice to bring this year’s online festival to a stunning close.
Breaking The Habit was the punning title of a programme exploring Renaissance music by and for women, many of the former being nuns. Since most belonged to closed orders, there was some affinity between them and our own recent isolation.
The choir stood in a wide circle, facing inwards and exactly distanced, apparently performing for the first time together since lockdown, after a series of Zoom-style rehearsals. Remarkably, the singers went straight into full stride; it was as if they were simply in the middle of the season. Impeccable tuning and a blend that never faltered marked music that showed remarkable breadth of character, both sacred and secular.
Raffaella Aleotti, daughter of the court architect in Ferrara, revealed notable rhythmic flair in two motets she published in 1593, while in her mid-twenties. Two eight-voice motets showing equally nimble counterpoint were the work of Sulpitia Cesis, a nun in Modena, who published them in 1619.
Maddalena Casulana, though not a nun, was the first woman to have madrigals printed; working out of Vicenza, she produced three books – 66 madrigals in all – between 1568 and 1583. Her word-painting and daring harmony combine infectiously: Stile Antico had their measure, in fact a mere two madrigals left us wanting more.
Finally, another nun from Ferrara, Leonora d’Este, tested the group’s high sopranos in three motets for five female voices. Needless to say, discipline was maintained, to thrilling effect.
The remainder of the programme explored music written for female rulers. Margaret of Austria, who governed the duchy of Burgundy in the early 16th century, commissioned an exceptionally dark, mysterious motet from Pierre de la Rue to commemorate her brother’s death, while herself writing a three-voice piece in both French and Latin.
Music for Queen Mary included John Sheppard’s mighty Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria, with several wordless plainsong interludes, delivered with exceptional smoothness. Byrd’s motet for Elizabeth I, O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, boasted an exquisitely controlled Amen, kept prayerful. Two madrigals from The Triumphs of Oriana illuminated the spicier side of the Elizabethan court.
Finally, Dialogo and Quodlibet, written last year by Joanna Marsh, contrasted scholarly theorising by the six men with the flightier disruption intended by the six ladies, until finally they agreed to unite and entertain. The style harked back to the Renaissance and fitted wittily into this context.
A lunchtime concert by the Consone Quartet included two of Beethoven’s Op 18 quartets, Nos 1 and 3. I cannot comment on the first since it was disfigured by transmission problems, except to say that it was tackled cautiously and with introspection. The group appeared to abandon this approach in No 3, which was altogether more relaxed, reaching a peak in a finale full of energy and joie de vivre.
The online festival has not been without technical difficulties, but we may be extremely grateful for the huge effort put into it both by the performers and by the Early Music Centre staff. It has lightened everyone’s mood to be able to see music “live” again at long last.
IF, like me, you enjoy the arts and sport, you will have rejoiced in a bumper week. First, we had the
Government giving an unprecedented £1.57 billion fillip to the arts, thereby drawing a graceless murmur of thanks from the generally Tory-hating lefties that populate the arts sector.
Then, the cricket season resumed, to the familiar sound of England wickets tumbling. Finally, one of the world’s top three early music festivals, has returned, albeit online and in much-shortened form.
But we must be grateful for small mercies these days. Here we had a bunch of stalwart pros who refused to roll over and succumb to a mere virus. All had travelled to York and recorded musical offerings on the theme of Method and Madness; eight events – three of them talks – over three days.
First out of the blocks, on July 9, was York’s own countertenor Iestyn Davies, partnered by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, a world-class pairing if ever there were. Their programme was devoted to that master of melancholy, John Dowland. If you want to be modern about it, you can class melancholia as an aspect of mental health. The Elizabethans called it a disease but made light of it too.
Melancholy was something to be enjoyed, even revelled in, and not excluding self-pity. We all know the feeling. Melancholy has been the counterpart in English song – though not the same – to the German Sehnsucht (yearning). Think of all those aching pastorals lamenting the passing of rural idylls, most of which were figments of the imagination anyway. We all enjoy a little angst.
We need not explore the many facets of Dowland’s melancholic psyche any further. Here we were reminded – by a letter he wrote from Nuremberg in 1595 – of his early exile, separated from the country, the queen and the family he loved by having to earn a living abroad, because his Catholic faith disqualified him from acceptance at court. Davies read this and other illuminating texts, mainly of the period, but including Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain too, to amplify Dowland’s many moods.
The music was not without technical shortcomings, not by the performers, but the technology: pictures that moved jerkily and occasional breaks in the sound. But a CD would not have been more satisfying.
It was a joy to get back to seeing live performers revelling in their art. Davies delivered reams of easy, liquid tone that underlined Dowland’s incomparable skill as a songwriter. His words were not especially clear, even with a text to hand, but that may have been due to insufficient ‘miking’.
Kenny’s pluckings not merely supplied a rhythmic foundation. She improvised magically in her intros and in the space between verses (ritornellos); she also contributed several mood-lightening dances.
It was hard not to feel that we were experiencing Dowland’s songs exactly as they would have sounded 400 years ago, not in a dusty, ancient way, but as a living art as relevant today as Shakespeare. We may remember that Dowland’s Third and Last Booke of Songs was published in 1603, the same year as Hamlet – that arch-melancholic – was first printed.
The last word goes to Dowland himself, from his dedication to Lachrimae, a book of dances: “Pleasant are the tears which music weeps”. Indeed.
Matthew Wadsworth continued the Dowland theme on lute and theorbo at lunchtime on Friday, alongside the music of other contemporaries. There was as a wide a range of moods here as there had been in the songs, with bolder declamation from the long-necked theorbo with its deeper resonance.
Wadsworth flowed fluently over the strings and the close camera work emphasised the music’s intimacy.
During the afternoon, Steven Devine played the second half of Book 1 of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, the preludes and fugues Nos 13-24, on a two-manual Michael Johnson harpsichord built in Fontmell Magna in 1997. He proved a deft exponent, though on such a bright-toned instrument he might not have coupled the manuals quite so frequently. But at least we were able to marvel anew at the breadth of Bach’s ingenuity.
The evening brought in Richard Boothby playing a lyra viol, the smallest of the three kinds of bass viol. He began both halves with music by Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger, an Englishman of Italian descent who was especially prominent at the Jacobean court. Pairs of dances amply contrasted the gentler alman with the altogether friskier coranto, with its skipping rhythms.
Similar pairings from William Lawes and John Jenkins led into two brilliantly virtuosic variations by the little-known William Corkine and ‘divisions’ (variations) on Dowland’s famous Lachrime melody. Boothby introduced his music, which made the whole presentation much more personal.
We may be grateful to all these musicians for their labours in front of an unseen audience. The festival concluded with the ace choral group Stile Antico on Saturday evening. Watch this space for the review.