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 from Long 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.