Drag diva Velma Celli to host Yorktoberfest Beer Necessities marquee shows at Kavesmire and Impossible York events

Velma Celli: York drag diva will be hosting Yorktoberfest and Impossible Drag Brunch entertainment in October

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli is to host the Beer Necessities marquee entertainment at Yorktoberfest, York’s newly expanded beer festival on Knavesmire.

The fabulous cabaret creation of West End musical star Ian Stroughair will be on song on October 21 and October 28 to 31, with two sittings on the Saturday (30/10/2021), but is unavailable for the sessions on October 22 and 23.

Yorktoberfest will follow in the traditions of the first Oktoberfest staged in Munich in 1810, bringing beer, bratwurst and oompah to a giant Bavarian-styled beer tent in the Clocktower Enclosure at York Racecourse, complemented by a vintage funfair.

October 29 and 30 festival sessions have sold out already but tickets are available for other sessions at the new event run by North Yorkshire co-producers Johnny Cooper, chief executive officer of Coopers Marquees, and James Cundall, CEO of Jamboree Entertainment.

Billed as “the UK’s queen of vocal drag”, with diva devotees at New York and Australian clubs, the London Hippodrome and Edinburgh Fringe, Velma Celli will be joined in Yorktoberfest’s entertainment line-up by the New York Brass Band, from…York.

They will be stepping into the de rigueur Lederhosen and Dirndls to take on a new persona as the New York Oompah Brass Band. Expect thigh-slapping, foot-stomping Oktoberfest tunes to be added to their repertoire of feel-good disco classics. 

Dancing will be encouraged, as it has been for more than 200 years of Oktoberfests, aswill be the wearing of Lederhosen, Dirndls or any other fancy dress, with nightly competitions and prizes for the best dressed.

The poster for Velma Celli’s “Halloweenish” show, Equinox, at the Impossible York Wonderbar on October 15

The Bavarian Bar will serve authentic German beer, wines, prosecco and spirits or soft drinks for those who prefer not to “hop”. German-inspired food stalls will serve sausages, schnitzels and pretzels, plus vegan and vegetarian options.

Funfairs are an integral part of German Oktoberfests. Consequently, Yorktoberfest will have its own traditional funfair with thrills on the Dodgems, Twister, Speedway and Chair-o-Plane.

Tickets for Yorktoberfest are on sale through ticketsource.co.uk/yorktoberfest, priced at £15 per person for unreserved seating, a reserved table of six for £90 and a VIP table of six for £135, situated closest to the stage with table service. Please note, a booking fee applies; tickets also will be sold at the entrance, subject to availability.

Co-producer Johnny Cooper says: “We’re looking forward to seeing one of our biggest marquees at 160 metres long, installed on Knavesmire and themed with all things Bavarian, including a stage, bespoke thatched wooden barns, flags galore and generally everything needed for a great night out.”

Co-producer James Cundall adds: “We’re determined to bring events to York that people can enjoy after the long months of Covid restrictions, and with sessions selling out already, it seems there is demand for an autumn cheer-up event. 

“Yorktoberfest promises to be an evening of hearty fun, with beer, bands and bratwurst, not to mention a drag queen.  Dust off the fancy-dress outfits and come along!”

Meanwhile, now roosting back in York since the first lockdown, rather than in his adopted home of London, Velma Celli/Ian Stroughair has a diary filling up with engagements, ranging from the Pelton Arms in London (the pub used for exterior shots in Only Fools And Horses) to the Ian Stroughair Jazz Band’s jazz and blues gigs at Nola, the new York jazz restaurant at the former Rustique in Lendal; next up on October 5.

One for the future in York? Velma Celli in Aladdin Sane make-up for Irreplaceable, Velma’s David Bowie tribute show

After a summer and September on call to fill in for star turn Betty Legs Diamond at Funny Girls shows in Blackpool – where Ian/Velma trained, “watching Betty for 20 years” – Velma will be hosting her regular Impossible Drag Brunch slots at the Impossible York Wonderbar, in St Helen’s Square, on October 2, November 6 and December 4 at 12 noon and 2.30pm each Saturday afternoon, with a Christmas theme to the December shows.

In further Impossible York outings, look out for full-scale solo performances of The Velma Celli Show on October 15, November 19 and with a Christmas flavour on December 17, all at 7.30pm.

The October gig will be a “Halloweenish” version of Velma’s Equinox show, the one with “witches, creeps and freaks”. “I’ll be doing Hocus Pocus, I Put A Spell On You, Radiohead’s Creep, A Thousand Years from Twilight, and plenty more Halloween gore,” says Velma.

Coming up for Ian will be Velma Celli shows on Atlanta Cruises’ ships to Florida and Miami and, hopefully, but yet to be confirmed, a York performance of Ian/Velma’s new tribute show to David Bowie, Irreplaceable, with a three-piece band.

“I’ve only done it in Southampton so far, but I’m looking to do a small-scale performance in York,” says Ian. “I’m meeting York Stage director Nik Briggs – I played Fleshcreep in his York Stage panto, Jack And The Beanstalk, last winter – about the possibility of presenting the show here.”

Tickets for Velma Celli’s Impossible York shows are on sale via  impossibleyork.com/wonderbar

Never too late for York Late Music’s cutting-edge contemporary concerts to start again

Ian Pace: Regular innovative performer on piano at York’s Late Music concert series, returning on December 4

YORK’S Late Music programme of contemporary music returns from pandemic lockdown with two concerts on Saturday at St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York.

As ever, this celebration of new music in York will turn the spotlight on compositions of the 20th and 21st centuries, premiering new works and commissions aplenty on the first Saturday of each month from October to December 2021 and February to June 2022, with two concerts per day at 1pm and 7.30pm.

“We moved the programme to start in October because we’ve missed a year of concerts through the pandemic and could not re-start until now because of the small size of the chapel,” says concert administrator and York composer Steve Crowther.

In a late change to the musicians, but not to the programme, baritone Alistair Donaghue and pianist Polly Sharpe replace Robert Rice and William Vann for Saturday’s opening afternoon concert, an exploration of 21st century British songs, featuring settings from the album Songs Now: British Songs Of The 21st Century and the NMC Songbook.

“Unfortunately, Robert is ill, but we’re very grateful that Alistair and Polly have agreed to step in to do the same programme.”

In Saturday’s second concert, at 7.30pm, the Gemini ensemble give first performances of both their commission of Sadie Harrison’s Fire In Song and Morag Galloway’s It’s Getting Hot In Here, complemented by Peter Maxwell Davies’s Economies Of Scale and works by Steve Crowther and Philip Grange, including his Homage To Chagall.

Pianist Duncan Honeybourne: Lockdown compositions on November 6

On November 6, in the afternoon concert, pianist Duncan Honeybourne presents pieces from time spent productively in stay-at-home 2020: Contemporary Piano Soundbites: Composers In Lockdown 2020. The works have been featured on BBC Radio 3, greeted by presenter Tom Service as a “dazzling explosion of creativity”.

For the evening, Elysian Singers’ director Sam Laughton has devised a programme that pairs a contemporary work with an earlier piece with words from the same poet or source. For example, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Rachmaninov’s settings of All Night Vigil or James Macmillan, Thea Musgrave and Benjamin Britten’s settings of words by Herrick.

These will be complemented by new works by regular Late Music composers David Power and David Lancaster and Tom Armstrong, formerly of the University of York, and a motet by Ivor Gurney, published in 2017, fully 92 years after it was composed.  “It was just sitting in a drawer,” reveals Steve.

Nick Williams and Tim Brooks combine to present York Music Centre and the new Yorkshire ensemble Spelk’s afternoon recital on December 4. “It’s great to be working with Nick and Tim,” says Steve, looking forward to Brooks’s commissioned piece for young people, And Another Thing. In the second half, Spelk perform music by John Cage, Andriessen and Stravinsky and a new Murphy McCaleb work.

In that evening’s closing concert of 2021, stalwart Ian Pace performs his 13th, or maybe his 14th, Late Music piano recital, this one entitled The Art Of Fugue. “In 1845, Schumann discovered his passion for composing fugues,” says Pace. “This recital explores the threads that connect and resonate through a form that straddles three centuries.”

Framed by two Prelude and Fugues by J S Bach, Pace will be performing works by Shostakovich and Schumann, plus new works by Anthony Adams and Jenny Jackson. “You don’t associate Ian with playing Bach, so it will be interesting to hear his interpretation,” says Steve.

Soprano Anna Snow: 100 Second Songs on March 5

The 2022 programme opens on February 5 with pianist Jakob Fichert’s The Character Piece Throughout Music History (1pm) and Living Songs, soprano Jessica Summers and pianist Jelena Makarova’s evening of Songs of Love and Exile.

Next up, on March 5, will be clarinet player Jonathan Sage (afternoon) and soprano Anna Snow and pianist Kate Ledger’s evening of 100 Second Songs, featuring a patchwork of musical miniatures by the likes of Nicola LeFanu, Sadie Harrison, Tarik O’Regan and James Else.

Bass Stuart O’Hara and pianist Ionna Koullepou perform new settings of York and regional poetry by York composers on the afternoon of April 2. That evening, Bingham String Quartet play Beethoven, Schnittke, LeFanu and Tippett pieces.

Spelk return on May 7 with a rare chance to hear John Cage’s complete Living Room Music at 1pm, followed by Delta Saxophone Quartet’s Dedicated To You…But You Weren’t Listening, including Soft Machine interpretations.

The season ends with soprano Amanda Crawley and pianist Josephine Peach’s Sounds Of The Unexpected (1pm) and Trilogy Ensemble’s evening of Debussy, Libby Larsen, Yu-Liang Chong, William Matthias and more.

Lunchtime concerts costs £5, evening concerts, £12/concessions £10, online at latemusic.org or on the door.

More Things To Do in and around York as well as that belated Bond film you’ve been dying for. List No. 51, courtesy of The Press

Unhappy hour at The Midnight Bell tavern? Oh, but the joys of a new Matthew Bourne show visiting York Theatre Royal

DANCE at the double, Jekyll & Hyde, a quartet of short plays, sax music and Late Music, a Manic Monday and a Taylor-made gig are Charles Hutchinson’s pick of the early autumn harvest of live shows.

Intoxicated tales from darkest Soho: Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell, York Theatre Royal, tonight to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

CHOREOGRAPHER and storyteller in dance Matthew Bourne’s new show for New Adventures explores the underbelly of 1930s’ London life, where ordinary people emerge from cheap boarding houses nightly to pour out their passions hopes and dreams in the bars of fog-bound Soho and Fitzrovia.

Inside The Midnight Bell, one particularly lonely-hearts club gathers to play out lovelorn affairs of the heart; bitter comedies of longing, frustration, betrayal and redemption.

Inspired by novelist Patrick Hamilton, Bourne’s dance theatre show will challenge and reveal the darker reaches of the human heart. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

Hands down (by your sides) if you can’t wait for the return of Riverdance

The other dance event of the week: Riverdance: The New 25th Anniversary Show, York Barbican, tomorrow to Sunday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

TWENTY-FIVE years on, composer Bill Whelan has re-recorded his mesmerising soundtrack while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have completely reimagined the Irish  and international dance show with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage and costume designs. 

The 25th Anniversary show catapults Riverdance into the 21st century and will “completely immerse you in the extraordinary and elemental power of its music and dance”. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Blackeyed Theatre in Nick Lane’s take on Jekyll & Hyde, on tour at Stephen Joseph Theatre

Play of the week outside York: Blackeyed Theatre in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde , Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight until Saturday

NICK Lane’s adaptation of Jekyll & Hyde draws inspiration from his own journey. Injured by a car accident when he was 26 that permanently damaged his neck and back, he imagines Jekyll as a physically weakened man who discovers a cure for his ailments; a cure that also unearths the darkest corners of his psyche.

“I wondered, if someone offered me a potion that was guaranteed to make me feel the way I did before the accident, but with the side effect that I’d become ruthless and horrible – would I drink it?” ponders Lane.

Combining ensemble storytelling, physical theatre, movement and a new musical score by Tristan Parkes, Lane remains true to the spirit and themes of the original novella while adding a major female character, Eleanor. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Caught Short? No photos, so here is the poster artwork for RhymeNReason Put On Shorts, up and running at Theatre@41

Short run of the week: RhymeNReason Put On Shorts, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm

WHAT was Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Jimmy Savile? Why did a Yorkshire pensioner try to smuggle a fruit cake through Australian customs? What really happened on day three in the Garden of Eden? How should a perfect murder end in a real cliff hanger? 

Questions, questions, all these questions, will be answered in funny, thought-provoking short plays by Yorkshire writers David Allison, Steve Brennen, Lisa Holdsworth and Graham Rollason. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Sax Forte: Lunchtime concert at St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel

The good sax guide: Sax Forte, Friday Concerts, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York, tomorrow, 12.30m

YORK saxophone quartet Sax Forte – Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock – open York Unitarians’ new season of Friday Concerts with an afternoon programme of English and French music.

Introducing themselves, Sax Forte say: “Chris plays soprano sax because he likes showing off; Keith plays alto sax because he tries to keep up with Chris; Jane plays baritone because she’s got the strongest shoulders; David knows his place (with apologies to The Two Ronnies and John Cleese)!”

The saxophone was not invented until the mid-19th century, but Sax Forte will be playing earlier classical and baroque pieces, trad folk tunes and later 19th and 20th works for sax quartet.

Conductor Simon Wright: Bringing together York Guildhall Orchestra and Leeds Festival Chorus next month

Classic comeback: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, October 16, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra return to the concert stage on October 16 after the pandemic hiatus with a programme of operatic favourites, conducted by Simon Wright.

The York musicians will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and two soloists, soprano Jenny Stafford, and tenor Oliver Johnston, to perform overtures, arias and choruses by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Late Music…now: Gemini, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, Saturday, 7.30pm

YORK’S Late Music programme of contemporary music returns from pandemic lockdown with Gemini on Saturday night.

First performances will be given of Gemini’s commission of Sadie Harrison’s Fire In Song and Morag Galloway’s It’s Getting Hot In Here, complemented by Peter Maxwell Davies’s Economies Of Scale and works by York composer Steve Crowther and Philip Grange. Box office: latemusic.org or on the door.

Reflection and reaction: Manic Street Preachers showcase new album Ultra Vivid Lament at York Barbican

Not just another Manic Monday: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, Monday, 8pm

WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers play York on Monday, with a second Yorkshire gig at Leeds O2 Academy on October 7.

Their autumn itinerary is showcasing this month’s release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament: “both reflection and reaction; a record that gazes in isolation across a cluttered room, fogged by often painful memories, to focus on an open window framing a gleaming vista of land melting into sea and endless sky,” say the Manics.  Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

From Queen to Outsider: Roget Taylor in concert at York Barbican

The inside track on the outsider:  Roger Taylor, Outsider Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7pm

QUEEN drummer Roger Taylor plays York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of this autumn’s Outsider tour in support of his new album of that name, out tomorrow.

“This is my modest tour,” he says. “I just want it to be lots of fun, very good musically, and I want everybody to enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to it. Will I be playing Queen songs too? Absolutely!” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Go wild in the country: The Shires look forward to returning yet again to the East Yorkshire market town of Pocklington next January

Gig announcement of the week outside York: The Shires, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 26 2022

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, will bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to their regular haunt of Pocklington  next January.

“Wembley Stadium, MEN Arena, Grand Ole Opry are all amazing, but Pocklington will always be a special place for us,” say Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, who are working on their fifth album. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

We’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond…for a long time

Oh, and just one other thing….

BOND, James Bond. Yes, after all those false dawns in the accursed Covid lockdowns, the perpetually postponed final curtain for Daniel Craig’s 007 opens today when it really is time for No Time To Die to live or die at last. Shaken or stirred, thrilled or deflated, you decide.

National Centre for Early Music reaps autumn harvest of jazz, world and folk concerts… and a classic icy silent film

Arm in arm: Wife-and-husband duo Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman celebrate 25+ years together in On Reflection at the National Centre for Early Music, York, on October 20

THE autumn and Christmas season of jazz, world, folk, film and classical music at the still socially distanced National Centre for Early Music, York, is under way

Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, returned to St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, last Friday to launch the NCEM programme in the company of pianist Andrew McCormack and bass player Orlando le Fleming.

Tonight, the Black Swan Folk Club presents Devonian folk singer-songwriter John Smith, supported by Hannah Reed at 7.30pm.

Known for his intimate song-writing, honey-on-gravel voice and pioneering guitar playing, Smith has toured internationally for 15 years, and his session-musician guitar skills have been in demand from Joan Baez and Tom Jones.

Saxophone returns tomorrow at 7.30pm when Tim Garland (saxophone, bass clarinet), Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano) celebrate 20 years together as the highly adventurous, ground-breaking British jazz ensemble Acoustic Triangle.

Olcay Bayir: Turkish singer makes her NCEM debut on October 10

Noted for their site-specific work, particularly in sacred buildings, such as St Margaret’s Church, they draw on wide-ranging influences, from ancient themes and folk styles, through impressionism and the jazz era, to the avant-garde, in Garland and Simcock’s compositions, complemented by works by Henry Purcell, John Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Cole Porter and Maurice Ravel.

A third jazz highlight will be Byron Wallen’s Four Corners showcasing London trumpet player Wallen’s new album, Portrait, on November 10, with guitarist Rob Luft, bass player Paul Michael and drummer Rod Youngs.

Conceived when sitting in the central square in Woolwich, the album’s nucleus is Anthem For Woolwich, composed in response to Wallen being struck by the community around him with its mixture of ages and nationalities.

Taking inspiration from “the timeless sound of the human soul from all corners of the Earth”, Wallen explores and reinvents blues, mode and groove landmarks, while also drawing on early Renaissance music, Central and East African rhythms and polyphony and the works of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk.

“I’m hoping that York Music Forum’s Ian Chalk will be able to organise for young York jazz players to play with Byron and take part in the concert,” says Delma.

Out of the woods: Fiddle player Sam Sweeney re-emerges with his Unearth Repeat album and concert on November 19. Picture: Elly Lucas

The autumn season presents three world-class guitarists, demonstrating their contrasting styles: Brit Martin Taylor, Spaniard Juan Martin and Italian Antonio Forcione.

First up, on October 15, Grammy-nominated Harlow jazz guitarist Martin Taylor shows why he is widely regarded as the world’s foremost exponent of solo jazz and finger-style playing.

Next, in his solo concert Melodic Beauty And Rhythmic Passion on October 29, Andalusian flamenco master Juan Martin performs pieces from his latest album Guitar Maestro.

Intense, artistic, passionate, unpredictable and formidably inventive jazz guitarist Antonio Forcione, from Molise, Italy, returns to the NCEM on November 26, blessed with “the hands of a tarantula and the heart of a lion”, as one reviewer put it.

Twenty albums to his name, Forcione has toured extensively, to Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and the Caribbean, as well as Europe.

Martin Taylor: Finger-style guitar playing on October 15

“The wonderful acoustics of the NCEM’s beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church provide the perfect setting for the acoustic guitar, adding a special touch of magic to the experience,” says director and programmer Delma Tomlin.

World music is represented by not only Juan Martin but also Olcay Bayir, from Gaziantep, Turkey, and the welcome return of Making Tracks.

Making her NCEM debut on October 10 – and appearing on the cover of the NCEM’s September to December brochure to boot – Olcay Bayir focuses on ancient poems and original songs in Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian in Dream For Anatolia: an evening of music and words that reflect her Anatolian heritage. Note the earlier starting time of 6.30pm.

Set up in 2010 and relaunched with an ambitious new model in 2019, followed by a digital edition in 2020, Making Tracks brings together young artists from the UK and around the world to showcase unique musical traditions, initiate collaborations and contribute towards a global community of environmentally engaged musicians.

Full details of November 1’s NCEM concert are yet to be confirmed but the eight diverse musicians from Britain and Europe have been chosen.

Antonio Forcione: Returning to the NCEM on November 26

Scottish folk multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer John McCusker has cancelled his John McCusker Band 30th Anniversary Tour date on October 3, although The Wishing Tree Tour gig by John Doyle, John McCusker & Michael McGoldrick is still in the diary for The Cresent, York, on November 3.

The enduring folk partnership of wife and husband Kathryn Roberts & Seth Lakeman marks 25+ years of making music with On Reflection at a rearranged NCEM concert on October 20.

Co-promoted by the Black Swan Folk Club, this celebratory night takes a whistle-stop tour through their artistic journey from the early days of folk supergroup Equation to latest album Personae, via a nod or two to their extracurricular musical adventures.

After his Unfinished Violin Project, former Bellowhead fiddle player Sam Sweeney returns the NCEM on November 19 to promote his latest album, Unearth Repeat, wherein he embraces the groove and swagger of traditional English folk and the huge sound, flair, energy and festival spirit of bands from the Celtic and Scandinavian music scenes.

Sweeney first played the NCEM when director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. This time he will be joined by Jack Rutter on acoustic guitar, Louis Campbell on electric guitar and Ben Nicholls on double bass.

Nanook Of The North: Robert J Flaherty’s 1922 film will be accompanied by an improvised live score by Frame Ensemble at a Yorkshire Silent Film Festival screening on October 14

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival plays host to Nanook Of The North (certificate U, 79 minutes) on October 14, when the pioneering 1922 documentary film will be accompanied by a live score by Frame Ensemble, a quartet of improvising musicians that specialises in creating spontaneous soundtracks for silent film.

“Pianist Jonny Best, who runs the film festival [as well as being a musician, researcher, producer, educator and writer], will be doing the accompaniment with his ensemble,” says Delma. “I find it so enthralling that they create such musical magic out of nowhere.”

Filmed by director Robert J Flaherty in the vast Canadian Arctic, where Nanook and his family live under an endless sky and in conditions of unimaginable cold, Nanook Of The North is a mix of recorded reality and staged drama, depicting the everyday struggle of the Innuit (Eskimo) people to stay alive.

From the bitter chill of the northern reaches of Arctic Quebec to Christmas at the NCEM in the form of the York Early Music Christmas Festival 2021, running from December 3 to 11.

Guest musicians include The Gesualdo Six; Joglaresa; Pocket Sinfonia; Prisma; tenor James Gilchrist and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, plus the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, presenting JS Bach’s B Minor Mass, with more details to follow in a separate preview shortly. 

Green Matthews: Midwinter Revels in the mood for Christmas on December 16

.Christmas revelry continues with modern-day folk balladeers Green Matthews on December 16. That night, Chris Green and Sophie Matthews perform Midwinter Revels: A Celebration Of Christmas Past, a seasonal selection of stories, carols, winter folk songs and tunes played on a plethora of weird and wonderful instruments.

Delma says: “We’re so pleased to be able to bring you this wonderful season of music for all tastes and to welcome friends old and new back to our home in York. We decided: let’s get dates in the diary and enjoy music-making again and try to get back to a sense of normality.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians, and we’re also looking forward to the return of our community singing group, Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as the latest in our not-to-be-missed series of silent films with live music. We hope to see you at the NCEM very soon.”

Nevertheless, in light of these pandemic times, a reduced capacity will be in operation. “The NCEM realises that audiences are returning to live events with caution, and for added safety and comfort, we are reducing our capacity so that social distancing is possible,” explains Delma.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“We are continuing to operate with many safety precautions in place and recommend mask wearing and hand sanitising.”

Tickets for the autumn season are on sale on 01904 658338 and at ncem.co.uk, joined by the York Early Music Christmas Festival from October 4. “Tickets for all concerts are selling quickly, so early booking is advisable,” recommends Delma.

“So far, there’s definitely a substantial core audience who do want to return, and we’re so fortunate that there’s no fixed seating, so we can give people more space, and hopefully they will feel more comfortable with that and will gain confidence as we come into the winter.

“That’s why we’re retaining social distancing while ensuring there’s still a three-pronged energy between the venue, the artist and the audience.”

Performances start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise.

As Billie Marten plays a not-so-secret gig, podcasters Chalmers and Hutch discuss the rise of the Ripon singer-songwriter…

Billie Marten: Ripon singer-songwriter in full bloom on third album Flora Fauna and at secret Harrogate gig with a full band. PIcture: Katie Silvester

WHAT else do culture vultures Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson cram into Episode 57 of Two Big Egis In A Small Car?

How about Blade Runner and where next for billionaires in space?

What’s going on with Covid passports and arts venues?

What can the arts expect from novel Tory Culture supremo Nadine Dorries?

What is the future for album covers?

What was CH’s verdict on Tonderai Munyevu’s Mugabe, My Dad And Me at York Theatre Royal, The Woman In Black at the reopened Grand Opera House, York, and the pie-laden Waitress at Leeds Grand Theatre?

How does it feel to face up to the questions for the revived People We Love exhibition, soon to return to York Minster.

To find the answers, listen to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9226087

Reunited York band Five Minutes will have much more than five minutes on return to Victoria Vaults with promise of new songs

York band Five Minutes at their reunion gig after 30 years at the Victoria Vaults in February 2020

A BAND called Five Minutes had their 15 minutes in York in the late-1980s. Then they reunited after 31 years for a one-off gig at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, on February 29 last year, squeezed in just before the pandemic struck.

This autumn, the self-styled “Sexy Soul Sensations” will reassemble again for a Victoria Vaults gig on October 23, having written new songs over lockdown meetings on Zoom to complement their extensive back catalogue of original, danceable, driven, catchy soul numbers.

“We were pleased as punch to see so many old friends and familiar faces at our first gig in over 30 years,” says trumpet player Matthew “Duck” Hardy, now a professional musician in his fifties.

Joining him in the soul and funk line-up at their first gig since January 1989 were business development manager Chris Turnbull on vocals and guitar; IT consultant Sean Rochester on bass; cinema owner Nigel Dennis on drums and retired police officer turned Criminology MSc mature student Mark Pearson on saxophone. New to the soul crew was Craig Brown, music teacher, on trombone.

Not there, but there by the wonder of a video link, was ex-pat trombonist and urban dog trainer Paul Shelbourne, from his home in Brisbane.

“That night there were loads of York’s late-‘80s music scene in attendance and many more who were gutted they couldn’t make it,” says Matthew. “Hopefully announcing this new date well in advance will cement it in people’s diaries and we’ll reunite even more acquaintances.

Five Minutes, playing York Arts Centre in 1988

“We’ve come together over the summer to rehearse the songs, so spread the word and let’s pack the Vaults to the rafters once more!”

Here, in an excerpt from Time Will Tell – The Five Minutes Story, saxophonist Mark Pearson reflects on the comeback gig and looks ahead to next month’s show.

“The reunion gig at Victoria Vaults was a bit like the first at the Spotted Cow, played in front of an invited audience of friends and family, old telephone books studied and social media trawled to find out who may still be alive who had seen us in the first place and who may want to see us again.

“Jem, defying medical science, still alive and managing the sound. Nige’s parents getting in early for the soundcheck, to get a seat and complaining about his drums being too loud. Accompanied by Rocky and Sweat Box, friends and music from the same era.

“The girlfriends (now wives) returning to bop and sway at the front of the stage, except something was different; they were accompanied by our children, all of them around the same age that we were when we played back in the Eighties.

“The large Paul-shaped hole was filled by the new 6th Minute, Craig and his trombone. He’d not come to any rehearsals. The first time I met him was at the sound check, but any reservations on my part that he may not fit in were soon dismissed. We played the middle harmonies for Happy Home and I smiled inside.

Five Minutes back together in February 2020: from left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Fellow member Matthew “Duck” Hardy took the picture. “Most of us hadn’t seen each other for 30 years,” he says

“A couple of hours later, and a couple of pints to smooth the nerves, a nervous wee and we entered the stage to Welcome Home by Peters & Lee.

“Victoria Vaults was packed; the sweat was already starting to run down the walls; Nige kicked in the insistent Northern Soul drum beat of The Party; we invited the expectant audience to ‘get up, get down and groove’, and we all joined Nige to deliver the ‘still’ sexy soul sound of Five Minutes. We were back.

“We drove through the set of just about every song we had written or covered. Some old faces in the crowd still knew some words, sang along and made a good effort of replicating their dance moves of 30 years ago.

“Younger faces, not born when we had last played, moved, clapped and cheered, and my son and daughter sang along (I must have played the tape I still had of a live recording too many times in the car when they were children).

“We finished the night off with the energy of All The Daughters and C’Mon Everybody. Then Pat Rice joined us on stage to belt out the chorus of ‘Go, Greased Lightning’. After the gig, Pat asked Chris ‘Why did you stop?’. Chris replied, ‘We ran out of songs’. Pat said, ‘Not tonight. Ever’.

“Tom Forman, who also always took the mic for Greased Lightning, couldn’t make it; he was double booked with a cricket team function, I didn’t know it then but I would never see him again. The Covid lockdown kicked in soon after and Tom died almost a year to the date from cancer. He will be missed.

Five Minutes in the 1980s, when they were four, before they became six, although they were never five!
From left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Matthew “Duck” Hardy and Paul Shelbourne joined later

“The joy of the Victoria Vaults gig tumbled into a need to do it again. Plans were made; we lived far apart, but we could do a couple of gigs a year, three, maybe four. Youthful excitement from 50-year-old voices.

“Unbeknown to us, the Coronavirus was taking hold, the country was about to shut down, with restrictions implemented that have failed to prevent more than 136,000 people in the UK from dying, and we haven’t stopped counting yet.

“I was fortunate. Close friends and family are all well, I had an income and something to do, my dissertation, followed by a job where I could work from home, in the back bedroom I now call my office. Many others have not been so fortunate.

“Time sitting in one place allowed some space to think. I started writing lyrics again, not commenting on the pandemic, but influenced by it, change, hope, family, love. I’ve Got Soul: a reflection of what I was truly missing, a damn good night out, music, dancing. Worthy Of Your Love: describing my love for my children.

“Five Minutes: considering that we can change, for the better, and also I wanted to write a song that had the band’s name in it. Thought It Would Be A Good Day: a recollection of an incident when I was in the police. There are others but I won’t bore you with them any further.

“I presented them via e-mail to Chris, anxious at the response. Without the confidence of youth, I was concerned they were crap, but they came back, edited, music attached, wrapped in the same influences but unmistakably Five Minutes.

Five Minutes and friends on stage at York Arts Centre in 1988

“Now we are all jabbed, given we are the ‘at risk’ generation, and there are six of us, we are rehearsing again. The tantalising promise that restrictions could be completely lifted in June sped us on to book a further gig and I was pleased to find out that the Victoria Vaults had lived and had been refurbished to boot.

“Unfortunately, many other bands eager to perform had beaten us to it. The nearest Saturday available being 23rd October. Anyway, it should give us time to rehearse and try out at least a few of the new songs from the second album. Whether they are good or not, hopefully you could be the judge of that.  

“When I think back to the time we were playing in York, the mid to late-1980s, whether it was fuelled by the post-punk era’s belief that you could just do it, get together and have a go, or, I hate to give any credit to Thatcher, but an atmosphere of entrepreneurship existed, where there was self-belief that you could accomplish anything.

“Or, was it just the arrogance of youth, unabashed, unashamed, ready to put yourself out there, you had something to say and you wanted to make yourself heard? Whatever it was, it has never really left me, I still think I can, even now as the hairline recedes and the waistline increases, we could have another chance, give it a go.”

Five Minutes “give it a go” at Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, on October 23. Doors, 7pm; Happy Hour, 7pm to 8pm; Five Minutes, 9.15pm to 10.45pm; after-show party with Sweat Box DJs Bri G and Rocky until 1am. Free admission.

Back in action after three decades: Five Minutes having a blast at the Victoria Vaults on February 29 2020

Sax Forte to play English and French works at St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel return

Sax Forte: Sax to the max from Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock

YORK saxophone quartet Sax Forte will return to St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York, on October 1 to open York Unitarians’ new season of Friday concerts with a 12.30pm programme of English and French music.

Sax Forte formed in York in 2016, with all four member, Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock, having extensive experience with other quartets, bands and orchestras.

Introducing themselves, Sax Forte say: “Chris plays soprano sax because he likes showing off; Keith plays alto sax because he tries to keep up with Chris; Jane plays baritone sax because she’s got the strongest shoulders; David knows his place (with apologies to The Two Ronnies and John Cleese)!”

Looking forward to Friday’s concert, they say: “We’re all thrilled to be invited to play at the Unitarian Chapel again, now that social-distancing restrictions have been relaxed.

“Since July, we’ve been lucky enough to play for a number of events, and it has  been immensely exciting after so many months of lockdowns and  prohibitions. Performing for a live audience again brings a renewed sense of purpose.” 

The saxophone is more commonly associated with jazz, blues and pop, but Sax Forte demonstrate just how well the instrument suits a far wider range of music.

“The saxophone was not invented until the mid-19th century, but Friday’s programme includes arrangements of earlier classical and baroque pieces, as well some traditional folk tunes that have been re-arranged for four saxes,” say Sax Forte. 

“We’ll also play a selection of 19th and 20th century works composed specifically for saxophone quartet. Our programme is drawn mainly from English and French composers, and we hope to show the range, versatility, sensitivity and beauty of the saxophone.”

Sax Forte will perform Jean-Joseph Mouret’s Rondeau from Sinfonie de Fanfares; Jean-Baptiste Singelée’s Allegro de Concert; Gabriel Grovlez’s Petite Litanies de Jésus; Pierre Vellones’ Prélude & Rondo Français; Eugène Bozza’s Andante, from Andante & Scherzo; Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane and Henry Purcell’s Rondeau (Abdelazer Suite).

Further works will be: Handel’s And The Glory Of The Lord (from Messiah); William Byrd’s Pavane for the Earl of Salisbury; Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite: Mattachins; George Butterworth’s arrangement of Banks Of Green Willow; Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Linden Lea; Caryl Florio’s Quartette (Allegro de Concert) and Gordon Lewin’s arrangement of The Poacher.

The next Friday Concert will feature Chris Hill and Amy Butler, flute and piano, playing works by Mendelssohn, Poulenc, Chaminade, on October 8; then, Stephen Raine, piano, October 22, and Lucy Phillips and David Hammond, violin and piano, October 29.

Tickets for each concert cost £5 on the door; cash only.

Honouring the day the music died in American Pie, Don McLean confirms York Barbican gig on 50th anniversary tour

IN the wake of 2021’s 50th anniversary of Don McLean’s American Pie, he will be touring next autumn “in honour of the day the music died”, playing York Barbican on September 28 2022.

McLean, who turns 76 on October 2, released his iconic double A-side from the October 1971 album of the same name, charting at number one in the United States and number two over here.

Despite decades of attempted interpretations, McLean has remained enigmatic as to the oft-quoted song’s meaning and the mystery is no less today.  

Fifty years on, American Pie resides in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry, one of fewer than 500 works to do so, as well as being named a top-five song of the 20th century by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA) and being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.

McLean, a troubadour from New Rochelle, New York, cut his teeth on the Big Apple club scene in the late-1960s, before charting at home and abroad with Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), Castles In The Air, Cryin’, And I Love You So, Wonderful Baby, Since I Don’t Have You, It’s Just The Sun and If We Try, let alone American Pie.

Madonna, Drake and Garth Brooks are among many artists who have covered his songs, or about half a song in Madonna’s truncated case with American Pie.

McLean is an inductee of the Grammy Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame and has received a  BBC Lifetime Achievement award.  This year, he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to be found in front of The Pie Hole Bakery, between Hollywood and Vine, Los Angeles. 

His song And I Love You So was the theme for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May 2018; American Pie appears in the Avengers’ film Black Widow and an upcoming Tom Hanks movie, Finch; next up for Mclean is a children’s book, set for release in 2022. 

McLean appeared previously at York Barbican in May 2015 and April 2018. Tickets for next year’s return are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

“After the stop comes the start. After the dark; the light,” says Afterlight, the new name for Pocklington-bound Thea Gilmore

“Not so much a new artist as an artist renewed,” says Afterlight, after her name change from Thea Gilmore

THE artist we once knew as Thea Gilmore, for 19 albums no less, is changing her name to Afterlight, the title of her upcoming release too on October 1.

The Oxford singer-songwriter, 41, will showcase the new record on her first ever completely solo tour, complementing material from all stages of her career at a sold-out Pocklington Arts Centre on October 8 at 8pm.

In her official statement, she opens by saying: “Afterlight is doing it just like Chekhov said. She was always the loaded gun that appears in the first act. Now, as the third act unfolds, it’s time to put on your bulletproof vest.”

She continues: “After the stop comes the start. After the dark; the light. This is not a drill. Afterlight is a real account of one woman’s journey from impressionable 16-year-old bound into a toxic working and romantic relationship with a man 23 years her senior, to a brand-new artist and free woman finding her own beginning.

“Written, produced and performed by Afterlight, the eponymous debut spans the brutal truth of the opening track – an account of all the damage wrought upon one small life – through the slow, painful realisation that her entire world was built on control and lies, on to the emergence of a woman learning for the first time who she really is, making new connections and, finally, finding her own voice.

The artwork for Afterlight’s self-titled debut, out on October 2

“Only now that she has freed herself of that life has Afterlight been able to complete a different kind of debut – not so much a new artist as an artist renewed.”

Postponed by 12 months due to the global pandemic, her tour now takes place under the new name but will still find the former Thea accompanying herself on guitar, keyboard and loop station.

Her October 8 audience is promised “a chance to hear some of her most special songs exactly the way they entered the world – raw, unadorned, delivered intimately by that long revered, hauntingly beautiful voice”.

Since first stepping out aged 18, she has released 19 albums, 6 EPs; been lauded by Bruce Springsteen; collaborated with roots royalty Billy Bragg, Joan Baez and The Waterboys; performed on BBC Radio 2 with Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and contributed songs to the soundtrack of BAFTA-winning film Bait.

Always keen to explore new musical boundaries, now she stretches herself further on and as Afterlight. Look out for a second album, The Emancipation Of Eva Grey, arriving on October 1 too.

Exit Thea Gilmore, enter Afterlight, “a woman learning for the first time who she really is, making new connections and, finally, finding her own voice”

The Shires to return to regular haunt Pocklington Arts Centre on acoustic tour

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, will bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to Pocklington Arts Centre on January 26.

Award-winning duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have made habit of playing Pocklington since their Studio debut in 2014, appearing regularly at PAC and playing the Platform Festival at The Old Station in 2016 and 2019.

“Wembley Stadium, MEN Arena, Grand Ole Opry are all amazing, but Pocklington will always be a special place for us,” say Ben and Crissie, the first British artists to win Best International Act at the prestigious Country Music Awards in 2017.

The Shires released debut album Brave in 2015, followed by two further gold-certified albums, 2016’s My Universe and 2018’s Accidentally On Purpose. In 2020 came Greatest Hits and Good Years, and in April 2021 a new version of the ballad On The Day I Die arrived, recorded with American country star Jimmie Allen. Now the duo are working on album number five.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We’re delighted to welcome back Ben and Crissie for this very special intimate, acoustic show. From first playing our studio in 2014 to headlining and selling out our summer festival in 2019, it’s been a fantastic journey following their phenomenal success to date and we can’t wait to see them again.”

Tickets cost £32.50 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or on 01759 301547.