Beverley & East Riding Early Musical Festival: Who is taking part in concerts, workshops and talks from May 24 to 26?

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

THE 2024 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival opens on Friday with a 7.30pm concert by rising stars El Gran Teatro del Mundo, sponsored by the Embassy of Spain.

Based in Spain, this young instrumental group captivated audiences on their British tour last year and will be visiting Beverley for the first time to perform Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church.

Undertaking a magical musical journey through the night, these specialists in French music from the time of the Sun King bring to life the operas of the Grand Siècle with instrumental interpretations of scenes where darkness will be the best ally of love and sleep, death’s best friend.

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), the charitable York organisation behind the festival, welcomes the new sponsorship. Director Delma Tomlin said: “This is the first time we have received sponsorship from the Embassy of Spain, in London, and we are absolutely delighted to be working together to promote Spanish music through the ages.

“The Embassy’s generous financial support – supporting the travel costs from Spain – makes all the difference and we are thrilled to be able to welcome such fabulous musicians to perform here in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

José María Robles Fraga, Minister Counsellor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Embassy of Spain, said: “This newly stablished partnership provides a unique opportunity for Spanish musicians performing in the UK.

“We are very proud to support this initiative and we are confident that audiences at the Beverley Early Music Festival will enjoy the immense talent of this Spanish ensemble”.

Running from May 24 to 26, this year’s festival takes the theme of Threads of Gold, weaving together stories of Beverley’s remarkable history through music and song, combined with a distinctly Spanish twist.

El Grano Teatro del Mundo: Performing Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church on Friday

“This year we are threading together music, history and song – designed to entertain, to engage and to intrigue,” says Delma.  “There’s a wealth of music and drama in store and as always, there are plenty of opportunities to make music as well as enjoy it – so we hope to weave you a tapestry of delights for 2024.”

Further concerts with a Spanish theme include Nigel Short directing the award-winning choir Tenebrae in their acclaimed interpretation of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass for six voices – a masterpiece of the Spanish Golden Age – at Beverley Minster on Saturday at 7.30pm.

In the festival finale on Sunday at 7.30pm at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, The Telling present their heart rend(er)ing music theatre show Into The Melting Pot.

Written by Clare Norburn and directed by Nicholas Renton, it tells the stories of the women of medieval Spain torn apart by religious intolerance, performed by actor Suzanne Ahmet as Blanca, Patience Tomlinson as Queen Isabella (offstage voice), singers Clare Norburn and Avital Raz, Emily Baines, recorders and doucaine, Giles Lewin, oud, and Jean Kelly, harp & percussion.

Music and theatre collide in this fully staged show that heads back to 1492 Spain for a story of migration, community and conflict. At twilight on her final night in Seville, a Jewish woman lights the lamps. She is being forced to leave Spain and set sail for an uncertain future.

Her tale echoes down the ages to the personal stories of people of all faiths and backgrounds affected by politics and war today, as she tunes into a community of stories told by Jewish, Christian and Muslim women, soundtracked by plaintive Sephardic songs and lively Spanish medieval music.

The newly appointed BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble Augelletti make their sold-out Beverley festival debut with A Curious Mind at St Nicholas Church, Beverley, on Saturday at 10am.

Focusing their musical lens on an ever curious and well-connected York clergyman and musician, Edward Finch, Ensemble Augelletti tell his singular story and perform some of his compositions and arrangements alongside music by his friends Purcell, Handel and Geminiani.

On Saturday, harpsichordist Steven Devine returns to Beverley with virtuoso violinist Bojan Čičić in a 4pm programme of Handel Sonatas at Toll Gavel United Church, melding GF Handel’s violin sonatas with those of the Italian-born violinist and composer Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli.

Tenebrae: Performing Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass at Beverley Minster on Saturday. Picture: Sim Canetty-Clarke

In A World Of Inspiration at Toll Gavel United Church on Sunday, the London Handel Players present a 3pm programme of Baroque works from Baroque composers from Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands, India and the British Isles.

The festival’s opening illustrated lecture by Dr John Jenkins at St Mary’s Church on Friday at 4pm has sold out. Under the title of “…and oil dripped from the golden tomb”, the University of York co-director of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society recalls a Medieval Pilgrimage to St John of Beverley.

From his death in 721, to the destruction of his golden shrine in Beverley Minster in 1541, John of Beverley was the most important saint in the East Riding, prompting pilgrims to flock to his golden and bejewelled shrine from near and far.

By the close of the Middle Ages, thanks to the miracles he worked for the kings of England, St John had become a saint of national importance on a par with St George. Dr Jenkins’s lecture reveals why pilgrims came, or in some cases were forced to come, to Beverley, and the unique and wonderous spectacle the Minster canons provided for medieval visitors.

In the festival’s second lecture, at Toll Gavel United Church Hall, on Sunday at 4.30pm, Professor Melanie Giles, from the University of Manchester, reveals more of the ancient history of the East Riding in Ancient Threads and Enchanted Garments: Stories of preserved textiles from Iron Age and Roman Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Ancient textiles, made of both vegetal and wool fibres, are rarely preserved in archaeological contexts because of their organic and fragile nature. In this talk, Prof Giles shares the story of some rare examples, ranging from the edge of Iron Age cloaks, bags and containers from Arras burials in East Yorkshire to threads and garments found with bog bodies dating to the early Roman period in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Instrumentalists are invited to The Birth Of The Orchestra, a day-long workshop led by members of El Gran Teatro del Mundo at Hexagan Music Centre, Beverley, on Saturday at 9.30m.

This workshop on Baroque orchestral performance practice, based on the writings of George Muffat with additional music by Corelli and Lully, will be directed by Julio Caballero in the company of fellow El Gran Teatro del Mundo musicians Miriam Jorde, oboe, Bruno Hurtadoviol, cello, and Andrés Murillo, violin.

Ensemble Augelletti: Making Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival on Saturday morning

The workshop is open to players of Baroque oboe, traverso, bassoon, recorder and string players with Baroque instruments or modern instruments with gut strings and Baroque bows. Music will be provided and is available to download on the NCEM website,, for private practice before the event. Participants should be confident sight-readers.

Singers have two workshop options: festival debutants SongPath’s uplifting blend of walking, talking and music-making, setting off from Hengate Memorial Gardens on Saturday at 1.30pm to 3pm, followed by Tenebrae’s choral workshop, Music of the Spanish Golden Age, at Hexagan Music Centre on Sunday at 9.30am.

Contralto Jess Dandy, mezzo-soprano Joanne Harries and recorder player Olwen Foulkes lead a 90-minute singing walk around Beverley in Songpath, inviting participants to “immerse yourself in an outdoor experience that transcends conventional concerts, exploring mental well-being through the transformative power of music and nature”. Wear suitable clothing and footwear and bring a brolly, they advise.

Choral singers are invited to join Tenebrae’s experienced workshop leader Joseph Edwardsto work on some of the repertoire from Saturday’s n their programme. Music for the day includes Alfonso Lobo’s Versa est in Luctum and Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Taedet Anima and Astiterunt Reges Terrae.

The workshop is open to all voices with some sight-singing experience. The afternoon concludes with a short informal performance of music studied during the day, open to all, free of charge.

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival runs from May 24 to 26. Box office: 01904 658338, or in person from Beverley Tourist Information Centre, Customer Service Centre, Cross Street, Beverley. Full programme:

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival: the back story

ESTABLISHED in 1988 to celebrate Beverley’s historic association with musicians from medieval times.

Blessed by a wealth of ecclesiastical buildings and musical carvings in stone and wood in both Beverley Minster and St Mary’s Church, making it the “perfect place for a festival of early music”.

Supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and administered by National Centre for Early Music, York.

Annual festival combines concerts, illustrated lectures and associated workshops.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Bojan Čičić, Part 2, York Early Music Christmas Festival, 17/12/2022

Bojan Čičić: “The prospect of his playing Bach’s three solo partitas was irresistible”

York Early Music Christmas Festival: Bojan Čičić, Part 2, JS Bach Partitas, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 17

IT was never my intention to cover both Bojan Čičić recitals, but so compelling was the first – Bach’s solo violin sonatas on December 10 – that the prospect of his playing Bach’s three solo partitas was irresistible.

The partitas are essentially suites of dances. In addition, each of the four dances of Partita No 1 in B minor is followed by a ‘Double’. Common in French harpsichord suites, a double is a variation on the dance it partners, usually twice or three times as fast as the original. Thus, after the Corrente (Courant), there is a double marked Presto. Čičić took this at an incredible pace, showcasing his daring virtuosity.

In the Sarabande that followed his triple-stopping was chordal and deliberate, with an arpeggiated double to follow: in its way, this was as breath-taking as the Corrente.

No 2 in D minor was no less striking. After an intimate Allemanda, with fluent ornamentation, the different registers of the Corrente were strongly differentiated, so that we sensed three simultaneous lines.

The Giga was another dazzler. The concluding chaconne started innocently enough, but built into some fearsome runs, which were despatched nonchalantly. In the middle of all this was a D major interlude of teasing suspensions.

The pastoral No 3 in E major was a gentler affair. Its well-known Gavotte was positively bouncy, its two minuets exquisitely graceful and its final Gigue (offshoot of the original English jig) brilliantly steady. This unassuming virtuoso had worked his magic again.

Review by Martin Dreyer

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival 2022 is streaming online until January 31 2023 at, at £10 per concert or £45 for all seven festival concerts recorded at the NCEM.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Bojan Čičić, J S Bach Sonatas, NCEM, York, 10/12

Bojan Čičić: “Magical sounds”

York Early Music Christmas Festival: Bojan Čičić, JS Bach’s Sonatas for solo violin, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 10

SEEING is believing. The magical sounds that Bojan Čičić coaxes from his baroque violin have not only to be heard, they need to be seen.

In 1720, while part of Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen, Bach wrote six sonatas and partitas (effectively suites) for the unaccompanied violin, three of each, in response to the violin’s newly developed capability to play chords. This meant the possibility of adding a bass line to a melody.

They represent the Everest of the solo violin repertoire (not forgetting the Paganini caprices) and are fiendishly demanding. But they hold no terrors for this supremo. He is playing all six at this festival on consecutive Saturday lunchtimes and began here with the three sonatas. All fall into four movements.

The first is invariably slow, giving the player time to find their feet. The second, believe it or not, is a fugue, allowing the possibility of two or even three lines to overlap or seem to do so. The third is slower, often with origins in the dance, and the fourth is (very) fast.

Bach demonstrates throughout his intimate understanding of violin techniques at what was the cutting edge in his own day. The first two sonatas are in minor keys – G and A – and their opening movements have an elegiac quality. The third sonata, in C major, has a positively chordal opening, almost like a chorale.

All three are deceptive, because the succeeding fugues sound unplayable by a single instrument. In all, but especially the first, Čičić delivered incredible clarity, even playing down the countersubjects so that they did not overshadow the main subjects. There was also a touch of sheer bravura at the end of the second fugue.

The stately siciliana of No 1 demanded intense multiple-stopping – two or three notes at once – and the Andante of No 2, also a third movement, was so dense that you could have sworn that you were hearing several instruments.

All three finales took the breath away. The first was a high-speed moto perpetuo, allowing the player no respite. The Allegro of No 2 began innocently enough, but turned fierce, even including echo effects. The dazzling virtuosity of No 3’s finale brought the house down.

Čičić’s bow is a magic wand, but he does not brandish it at all pompously. On the contrary, his approach is almost self-effacing. The result is all the more sensational.

I cannot recommend his recital of Bach’s three partitas on Saturday (17/12/2022), at 1pm, highly enough. On this evidence, it is a totally mouth-watering prospect. Box office: 01904 658338 or

Review by Martin Dreyer

The Marion Consort. Picture: Nick Rutter

REVIEW: Spiritato with The Marian Consort, Inspiring Bach, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 11

THIS was almost two concerts in one, combining two groups – instrumental and vocal – who normally lead quite independent existences.

Spiritato, led from the violin by Kinga Ujszászi, is a chamber orchestra of some 18 players, dedicated to rekindling the unique sounds of the mid-17th century.

Joining them in this exploration is the 12-voice Marian Consort under its director and countertenor Rory McCleery.

Their programme, entitled Inspiring Bach, dealt with some of the bigger names that preceded the great man. The most notable of these was Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703), who is widely regarded as the most important member of the Bach family before Johann Sebastian himself (and not to be confused with a later JCB, Johann Christian, the ‘English’ Bach). He was a composer and organist, who spent virtually all his career as harpsichordist at the Duke of Eisenach’s court.

The first of JC’s two contributions here was an elegiac cantata featuring McCleery’s countertenor (though he sang it on ground level more or less behind a pillar). More compelling was Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit, (‘There Arose A War’, a Picander text which JSB used for his Cantata 19) in which a bass duet was accompanied by two trumpets, before the brilliant tutti of the final chorus.

Given that there were no less than four trumpets on hand, all valveless and without finger holes, they were bound to capture the spotlight – and thrilling they were.

Possibly Sebastian Knüpfer’s last work, written just before he died in 1676, was Die Turteltaube Lässt Sich Hören(‘The Voice Of The Turtle Dove Is Heard’). It made clever use of soloists across the choir, building towards a final chorus in which the trumpets truly blazed.

On either side of this, we heard both Pachelbel’s and Bach’s settings of Christ Lag In Todesbanden (‘Christ Lay In Death’s Bonds’), based on a Lutheran Easter hymn – not especially seasonal, but good pieces anyway.

Pachelbel omits trumpets and timpani from his version, but contrasts vigorous, optimistic choruses with lighter episodes. Bach’s more familiar setting was distinguished here by an exciting acceleration into and through the Alleluia of the opening chorus and a brisk fugal finale.

A Buxtehude sonata, spotlighting violin and viola da gamba, allowed a brief excursion northwards into Denmark. It all amounted to a delightful concoction                                               characterised as “music of healing in a time of catastrophe”.

Best of all, there was never a feeling, from either trumpets or strings, that the use of authentic instruments was in any way detracting from our enjoyment. On the contrary, these on-the-sleeve sounds enhanced our pleasure.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Orlando Consort: Bidding farewell after 35 years

REVIEW: Orlando Consort, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 15

ORCHESTRAS may go on forever, but smaller groups tend to have a more limited life-span. The Orlando Consort has existed for no less than 35 years.

Astonishingly, two of its members have lasted the full course since 1988, tenor Angus Smith and baritone Donald Greig. Its other current members are countertenor Matthew Venner and tenor Mark Dobell, who took over from Robert Harre-Jones and
Charles Daniels respectively.

Between them, these six have established the Orlando as a world-class ensemble. Now the group has decided to call it a day and will give its last performance in June. So this final
appearance in York, where it has become a familiar visitor, was tinged with sadness.

A touch of nostalgia was in order and each of the singers in turn reminisced between groups about their experiences touring the world.

A seasonal start took us back to a Christmas trio from the Winchester Troper, whose earliest scribe began work around 1000 A.D. It included some fascinating stresses. A Machaut group from around 300 years later was more melismatic – multiple notes to a single syllable of text. A countertenor solo here was wonderfully expressive.

Before we embarked on a continental tour, two English composers gave a good account of
themselves. An anonymous Credo from Fountains Abbey dating to the early 15th century was positively bouncy, especially in its upper two voices. John Plummer’s Anna Mater Matris Christi was delightfully studded with imitation between the parts, highlighting the two tenors.

The three lower voices delivered a nicely tongue-in-cheek farewell to the wines of Lannoy, while the three upper ones made the complications of Vergine Bella, also by Dufay, sound ridiculously easy.

The quartet was more full-throated in Hortus Conclusus by the Spaniard Rodrigo de Ceballos, but without endangering its smooth ensemble. Italy yielded the incredibly busy Plaude Decus Mundi by Cristoforo de Monte (early 15th century), again dispatched with cool panache.

The Flemish masters were kept back for the finale. Josquin’s imitative techniques depend on singers alive to where the shifting spotlight should fall among them. The Orlando did not disappoint: in two motets, one with refrain, the tension ebbed and flowed beautifully.

Nicolas Gombert’s Quam Pulchra Es, sung last, was the most intricate and varied piece of the evening. It was stunningly fresh, with interest revolving between the voices, no mean feat after a full programme sung without vibrato.

These singers have flown the flag for Britain with distinction in all corners of the globe. They deserve our wholehearted thanks. Any just society would deck them with medals. In the King’s next birthday honours perhaps? Let’s hope so.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on 2022 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival

Florilegium: Opening burst of Bach

From Minstrels to Masterpieces, Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, May 27 to 29

THE centre of Beverley was festooned with jubilee bunting in time for the festival, which put everyone in the mood for celebration, doubly welcome after a two-year musical hiatus caused by Covid.

Diehards need no reminding that ‘early music’ is not necessarily very early these days, more a case of historical authenticity. Here we ranged no earlier than John Wilbye and covered much more recent territory right up to Mozart.

Concerts took place in four different churches, spearheaded by magnificent Beverley Minster. It was the venue for Florilegium’s opening burst of Bach: three Brandenburg concertos, a violin concerto, and an orchestral suite that is effectively a flute concerto.

It took a little while for performers as well as audience to become attuned to the acoustic. The otherwise excellent platform was placed some distance from the choir screen, so that there was no back-board to reflect the sound down the nave. Detail was hard to disentangle in Brandenburg No 6, written solely for lower strings and it did not hang together as well as what followed, though the final gigue had a pleasing lilt.

In Brandenburg No 5, where the harpsichord steps into the limelight for the first time in an orchestral work, Julian Perkins despatched its cadenza with panache, while Ashley Solomon’s flute was typically fluent if less easy to discern.

The nine string soloists in Brandenburg No 3 radiated immense enjoyment, notably in a dashing finale. In all three concertos, Rosie Moon’s double bass delivered a vivid foundation.

Bojan Čičić was the masterful soloist in the A minor Violin Concerto, BWV1041 (which was later to become a keyboard concerto), with an understated verve and virtuoso lightness of touch that deservedly drew prolonged applause.

Bojan Cicic: “Understated verve and virtuoso lightness of touch that deservedly drew prolonged applause”

The spirit of dance dominated the Orchestral Suite No 2 in B minor; the Polonaise was especially balletic. Ashley Solomon’s flute tripped the light fantastic in a breakneck Badinerie. He could only get away with it because of such incredibly fleet-fingered strings in support. But it was thrilling indeed, filled with laughter.

Saturday morning brought the French sextet Sarbacanes to the same venue. From mid-18th century onwards wind ensembles, known as Harmonie in the German-speaking world, were more affordable by smaller aristocratic courts unable to run to a full orchestra. Their most typical line-up was two oboes, two horns and two bassoons – as here.

Divertimentos by Haydn and Mozart jostled with a trio by Salieri – Mozart’s great rival – and a three horn duets, also by Mozart. They made tasty treats, all the more so for their rarity.

The two Haydn works were from early in his career (probably the 1760s) – and sounded like it. One included a starchy polonaise, followed by a wittily brief presto. The other, essentially a five-movement suite as if a holdover from the Baroque, was more spirited, if quite ornamented.

Mozart by contrast, writing a decade later, was much more advanced, playing with spatial effects, which Sarbacanes exploited to the full in his K.253 in F. A year later (1777), he was playing off the oboes against the rest in his K.270 in B flat. Here the group’s ultra-crisp rhythms spoke of taut ensemble and the closing gallop was straight out of hunting territory.

Three of Mozart’s 12 Duos for horns, K.487 were superbly played by Félix Roth and Gabriel Dambricourt, with eloquent dynamic variations. There was clarity, too, in two trio movements by Salieri, which found two oboes and a bassoon modulating with great clarity.

Prisma, a multi-national quartet, evoked the music of London in 1651, using recorder, violin, lute and viola da gamba in St Nicholas Church. Though none professed to sing, they did so vigorously. They dipped freely into the John Playford playbook, The English Dancing Master, which enjoyed many revisions over the next nearly 80 years and is our main source for popular music of the era.

Prisma: “Casual approach belied considerable skills from all four players”

Prisma’s casual approach belied considerable skills from all four players. Their enthusiasm proved that though the theatres were closed down during the Civil War, nightlife continued unabated, with much dancing to syncopated rhythms as instruments tossed tunes between each other.

Traditional Scottish tunes also had a look-in, with Franciska Hajdu’s violin ‘singing’ the Skye Boat Song and sharing the taxing divisions of a ground ‘after the Scotch humour’ by Nicola Matteis with Elisabeth Champollion’s sopranino recorder.

Ralph McTell’s Streets Of London was thrown in for good measure, as was the Londonderry Air. It was stirring to find outsiders finding so much pleasure in British popular music of all sorts and sharing their enthusiasm for it so freely.

The Baroque quintet Ensemble Molière appeared in Toll Gavel United Church. This encouraged an intimate rapport with their audience in a French programme that encompassed composers writing for the magnificent court of Louis XIV. Louis, incidentally, is the only European monarch our queen has still to out-reign, since he ruled for 72 years after inheriting the throne at the age of five (he was succeeded by his great-grandson).

Opening salvos from Charpentier and Lully – two airs from Phaëton (1683) – were but a prelude to Couperin’s superb Deuxième Concert (Concerts Royaux), which included a very lively Allemande fugée followed by a pensive Air tendre, where the ornamentation was exceptionally neat.

Aids to the king’s digestion were revealed in ‘Soupers du Roy’, six movements taken from a Delalande suite put together by the group’s harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck. After two gentle aperitifs and a quintet starter, there was a meatier Gigue featuring a taut duo between Catriona McDermid’s bassoon and Kate Conway’s gamba; indeed McDermid maintained a confident clarity throughout the programme.

The ever-racier variations in the Passacaille dessert might have caused indigestion but for their courtly ending. The king’s nightcap – and finale here – came with a suite by Marin Marais, a much calmer affair which included a fetchingly elegiac Plainte from Flavia Hirte’s flute and Alice Earll’s violin: sweet dreams were guaranteed.

Robert Hollingworth: Madrigal programme with I Fagiolini. Picture: Frances Marshall

The final afternoon included Tony Britten’s entertaining film Draw On Sweet Night (2015), which purports to reveal details of the life of madrigalist John Wilbye in the service of the Kytson family at Hengrave Hall, Suffolk: succulent stuff, though on this evidence either Wilbye was the local Lothario or else he was surrounded by some very randy ladies.

Either way, it made a neat intro to the evening’s madrigal programme by the six voices of I Fagiolini under Robert Hollingworth, in St John of Beverley Catholic Church.

I Fagiolini did not hold back from the juicier implications of these works, which often hinged on romantic liaisons. But Wilbye’s contribution to the collection for Queen Elizabeth I was a sober, beautifully tailored affair.

Adrenaline flowed a little too freely in some of the earlier numbers – there was too much tenor in Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis, for example, though the major-key ending was nicely drawn. Quite the contrary was the six-voice Thou Art But Young which was impeccably blended.

The revelation of the evening was the five-part Down In A Valley, whose Arcadian setting was decorated with startling changes of texture and some graphic illustration, including Cupid’s painful darts (rapidly repeating semiquavers). A wonderfully florid ‘frolic’ was contrasted with a languishing death at the lady’s displeasure in two superb final lines.

Two more familiar pieces had differing outcomes. Sweet Honey-Sucking Bees was a suave affair, warning of the dangers of love’s stings, with a punchy ending that hit home. Draw On, Sweet Night, perhaps Wilbye’s most famous piece and the title of the evening, was undone by an audience cougher unequipped with a means to cover their mouth.

No matter: we had already enjoyed ensemble singing of the most exquisite calibre, much of which had highlighted Wilbye’s special gift for delving beneath the surface of the poetry he set. Catherine Pierron contributed four harpsichord interludes, including galliards by Byrd and Bull, and concluding brilliantly with the flamboyant cross-rhythms of the latter’s In Nomine.

This friendly, compact little festival had made a jewel of a weekend.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Violin and cornetto clash as Bojan Cicic and Gawain Glenton declare Battaglia! in York Early Music Christmas Festival at NCEM

Battaglia! combatants Bojan Cicic, left, and Gawain Glenton with peacekeeper Silas Wollston

IN the late-16th and 17th centuries, the cornetto and violin were considered equals despite their obvious differences.

The cornetto was the older, aristocratic instrument, a symbol of church and state, pomp and ceremony. Enter the violin, the irreverent newcomer, emerging from a background of dance music for the street and tavern.

For a short period, composers saw these rival virtuoso instruments as interchangeable, with many pieces written for ‘cornetto overo violino’ (cornetto or violin).

Roll forward to Saturday, December 11 2021, and let Battaglia commence, kick-off at 1pm, when Gawain Glenton, cornetto, and Bojan Cicic, violin, clash in A Contest of Equals, refereed by peacekeeper Silas Wollston on organ.

“I’ve always loved the historic rivalry between two instruments that now seem so different but were first considered equals and rivals,” says Gawain.

“Works were written for either cornetto or violin, which we would think strange now, but at the time they were considered alternatives, with the cornetto as the noble aristocrat and the violin as the cocky upstart, shedding its reputation for drunken revelry.

“Violin virtuosos began to be considered musicians of merit, being taken seriously as musicians, artists and composers. Before that, the cornetto had been a mainstay, the instrument of choice for the grandest of church and state events, but gradually its noble status was accompanied by the caché that it was falling out of fashion.”

The “Contest of Equals” spanned 75 years from the late-16th century to the mid-17th century. “The cornetto was played by an elite bunch of professional musicians; the violin, by amateurs, and consequently, partly because of a trick of the publishing industry being a market for professional musicians only, composers would say they wrote works for the violin, even though they were considered to be dilettantes.”

Now, Glenton and Cicic revisit the rivalry in a spirit of playfulness. “I love to bring that spirit to the concert platform, just as Bojan plays with that same spontaneity, when people often get po-faced about classical music,” says Gawain.

Gawain Glenton and Silas Wollston’s new album. The Myth Of Venice

“You must bring a playful attitude to it, as espoused by Luigi Zenobi [also known as Luigi del Cornetto], the 16th century Italian court cornetto player, noted for his ‘scherzare’ [playfulness].

“It was the attitude you had to bring to being a professional musician, never playing the same piece the same way twice – and I love that spontaneity in Early music.”

Glenton and Bojan have a history of working together, whether playing in each other’s ensembles or on each other’s recordings. “We spark off each other, and then Silas Wollston keeps us on the straight and narrow at the Battaglia! concerts,” says Gawain.

“We want people to leave our concerts with a smile on their face, having learnt of music they’d never heard before, thinking, ‘wow, there is so much out there to discover’.”

Why did Gawain choose to play the cornetto rather than, say, the violin? “It was the playfulness that I loved. I was really drawn to the sound. When you hear it, it’s almost confusing, thinking, ‘is it a boy treble or a saxophone?’. The first time I heard it, it was like a ray of sunshine,” he says.

“I always played wind instruments, whereas my violin ‘career’ stopped at Grade 3, and the other thing I love about the cornetto is that because you’re stepping outside the modern classical world, you don’t get someone telling you what to do, so I’m pretty much my own boss, able to do my own thing.”

Such a free rein resulted in the October release of Glenton and Wollston’s album, The Myth Of Venice, on Delphian Records. “This is the first cornetto recital recording to come out in the UK in 25 years,” says Gawain.

This weekend, the focus falls on the renewal of the rivalry between cornetto and violin with music from Italy, Germany and Spain. Who will emerge victorious? Be there, at one o’clock on Saturday, to find out.

Battaglia!, A Contest of Equals, with Bojan Cicic, violin, Gawain Glenton, cornetto, and Silas Wollston, organ, York Early Music Christmas Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, Saturday (11/12/2021), 1pm. Box office: 01904 658338 or at

‘We all need cheering up,’ says director Delma as York Early Music Christmas Festival returns for live and online concerts

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment: Opening the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival with two sold-out concerts on December 3

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival will be back in full swing this season, combining live concerts with a later online programme of festive music.

Running from December 3 to 11, then on demand from December 17 to January 14, the festival promises Christmas carols, candlelight, Vivaldi, Corelli, Bach, Handel, Purcell, Schubert, mulled wine, mince pies and Mexican melodies.

In the medieval St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, this celebration of Advent and the festive season will go ahead with Covid safety measures in place: seating will be socially distanced and proof of two Covid vaccinations or a negative Lateral Flow Test will be required. “No proof, no admission,” will be the strict policy, and the wearing of masks will be actively encouraged too.

To adapt to the prevailing circumstances and smaller capacities, five of the festive programmes will be performed twice, at 5.30pm and the more conventional 7.45pm.

“The philosophy is short concerts, no interval, and still selling to a limited capacity, so that people feel more comfortable because there’s more room and they don’t have to spend too much time together indoors in winter,” says festival director Delma Tomlin.

“In dark December, earlier evening concerts will appeal to a certain demographic, who can get home in good time for supper. It’s all about understanding people’s wishes as we return to going to concerts, and it’s much more practical to do two concerts in an evening, as we don’t have the same level of visitors for afternoon concerts.”

La Palatine: French songs of love, betrayal, disenchantment and loss on December 4

Looking forward to a festival with plenty of concerts sold out already, Delma says: “Christmas in most circles is a time for celebrations, a time of fanfare, ceremony and feasting. At the heart of the celebrations is a very human story which is often so beautifully illustrated through music, and we invite you to find peace, serenity, alongside mince pies and mulled wine at this busy time – and to enjoy some really fabulous music too!

“There is 500 years’ worth of glorious Advent, Christmas and winter music to go at, and frankly we all need a bit of cheering up right now.”

Opening festival proceedings will be an ever innovative, entertaining and engaging British ensemble, the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, whose 5.30pm and 7.45pm performances of A Baroque Christmas on December 3 have both sold out. Concertos by Corelli, Manfredini, Torelli and Vivaldi will be complemented by Handel’s Pastorelle from Messiah and works by D Scarlatti and JS Bach.

Replacing Ensemble Caladrius’s O Magum Mysterium in the festival’s first NCEM Platform Artists’ concert on December 4 at 12.15pm will be French ensemble La Palatine, presenting Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux.

The raw emotions of love, betrayal, disenchantment and loss infuse the songs and opera arias of the early baroque in Italy, as explored by Marie Theoleyre, soprano, Noemie Lenhof, viola da gamba, Jeremy Nastasi, theorbo and baroque guitar, and Guillaume Haldenwang, harpsichord, in the works of Tarquinio Merula of Cremona, Domenico Mazzocchi in Rome and Claudio Moneteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna.

Travelling further afield, the festival takes a Mexican theme with Siglo de Oro’s Christmas In Puebla, a sold-out 6.30pm concert on December 4 that evokes the spirit of the warm breezes of South America, on Christmas Eve in Puebla Cathedral, blending dance-infused villancicos with traditional 17th century carols under the direction of Patrick Allies.

Siglo de Oro: Mexican melodies

“This will be Siglo de Oro’s York debut,” says Delma. “Somewhat delayed, though, because they were supposed to be here two years ago.”

York favourites The Gesualdo Six return to the NCEM once more, this time with In Winter’s House, on December 5 at 5.30pm (sold out) and 7.45pm (tickets still available). Director Owain Park’s programme of music evokes a sense of mystery and joy, from works of the Tudor church to the 21st century by Judith Bingham, Joanna Marsh and Sally Beamish. “They will be wallowing in the deliciousness of both old and new music,” says Delma

The second NCEM Platform Artists’ concert, supported by the NCEM’s Creative Europe-funded programme EEEmerging, will be given by Prisma, a German ensemble comprising Franciska Anna Hadju, violin, Elisabeth Champolion, recorder, Alon Sariel, lute, and David Budai, viola da gamba, on December 7 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm. “They’re so much fun, so cheerful, and a very delightful group to welcome at Christmas,” says Delma.

Their programme, A Baroque Christmas, will be wrapped around baroque trio sonatas and dances, inviting the audience to rediscover Christmas songs by Castello and Fantana in fresh arrangements laced with joie de vivre.

Pocket Sinfonia’s Mozart And A Miracle concert, on December 9 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, aims to re-create the atmosphere of 19th century living-room parties, where the intimacy of a chamber music performance was applied to orchestral-scale pieces.

Rosie Bowker, flute, Eleanor Corr, violin, Thomas Isaac, cello, and Emil Duncumb, piano and fortepiano, will be taking a journey through the dark wintery nights of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, onwards to the Christmas cheer of Mozart’s Sleigh Ride, in a new Pocket Sinfonia transcription, and Haydn’s Miracle Symphony No. 102 in B flat.

Pocket Sinfonia: Dark journey through wintery nights

“Two members of the ensemble are from Norway, with dual nationality, and they’ll be making their debut here after I saw them on Zoom in a showcase they did in Brussels last year, and booked them on the strength of that,” says Delma.

Tenor James Gilchrist and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth reflect on love, passion and loss in Divine Love And Earthly Passions on December 10 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, as they open with Purcell’s Evening Hymn and close with Dowland’s In Darkness Let Me Dwell on their thoughtful, sometimes melancholic, always engaging journey, with a sprinkling of Schubert and Praetorius as a taster of the festivities to come.

In A Contest Of Equals, on December 11 at 1pm, Bojan Cicic, violin, Gawain Glenton, cornetto, and Silas Wellston, organ, celebrate the late-16th and 17th century rivalry between the violin, the irreverent newcomer, and the cornetto, the older, aristocratic instrument, with music from Italy, Germany and Spain. Who will emerge victorious? Let Battaglia! commence.

The 2021 live festival concludes on December 11 with Yorkshire Bach Choir’s 7pm to 10pm performance of J S Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists under conductor Peter Seymour. On solo duty will be Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, alto, Matthew Long, tenor, and Johnny Herford, bass.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear the Yorkshire Bach Choir again at the festival after two years, and especially to hear them doing the Bach mass,” says Delma. “It’s such  a cracking piece.”

Joglaresa: Carols, lullabies, dance tunes and wassails

In addition, but separate from the festival, Joglaresa will be presenting Lullay Myn Lykynge, a stand-alone concert on Monday, December 6 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, complemented by a live-streaming of the second performance.

Their programme will offer encouragement to celebrate Yule effervescently and chase out the chill from the Celtic fringes of Europe with traditional carols, lullabies, dance tunes and wassails from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Armed with fidel, harp, bells, bagpipes and voices, Joglaresa will be ringing in Christmas and the New Year.

Tickets remain available for concerts unless stated otherwise at and on 01904 658338.

IN the York Christmas Box Set, seven concerts from the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be available to watch online throughout the festive season.

Billed as “the perfect festive gift for music lovers” by the National Centre for Early Music, the £40 filmed concert package can be viewed on demand from 10am on December 17 to Friday, January 14.

First prompted by pandemic restrictions, the NCEM continues to share many of its festival highlights online, reaching ever-growing audiences from as far away as Japan and Australia.

The seven festival highlights in the box set are:  

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, performing A Baroque Christmas;

Siglo de Oro, celebrating Christmas with dance-infused 17th century Mexican music;

The Gesualdo Six, returning to York after sold-out summer concerts to present In Winter’s House, Christmas music spanning many decades;

Prisma: Baroque joy in the York Christmas Box Set

EEEmerging artists Prisma, bringing Baroque joy with fresh arrangements of Christmas music;

Pocket Sinfonia, conjuring up the atmosphere of 19th century living-room parties with Mozart and more;

Festival favourites James Gilchrist & Matthew Wadsworth, performing Divine Love And Earthly Passions, featuring music by Purcell, Schubert and Dowland;

Battaglia, the combative trio of Bojan Čičić, Gawain Glenton and Silas Wollston, staging an exuberant musical battle between the violin and cornetto, once considered rival instruments.

Festival director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be able to bring you this fabulous array of concerts online with this wonderful Christmas Box Set, filmed at our home of St Margaret’s Church during this year York Early Music Christmas Festival. 

“We’re continuing to share our music online, so those of you who aren’t able to join us in York will be able to enjoy this fabulous feast of music in the comfort of your own homes – and it’s the perfect gift to share with family and friends.

“We hope that our online friends will enjoy seeing the beautiful surroundings of our medieval home and we hope to welcome them in person in the future.”

For tickets and more information, go to:

“Financial help from the ARG Fund ensures that we can stage the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival,” says director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, has received a “generous grant” from the City of York Council’s Additional Restrictions Grant fund to help with the cost of staging this year’s York Early Music Christmas Festival.

This discretionary scheme supports York businesses affected by the lockdowns but not eligible for Lockdown Restrictions Grant and the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed Businesses) payments, thereby helping businesses that, while not legally required to close, were still severely impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

In keeping with other arts organisations, the NCEM was forced to close its doors for several months but it continued to stage concerts and festivals digitally, sharing specially commissioned concerts all over the world, reaching audiences from as far away as Australia, Japan and the United States.

The return of a week-long York Early Music Christmas Festival from December 3 is one of the NCEM’S most important and high-profile events, attracting not only York residents but also audiences from all over Britain and beyond.

The NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, is fully open once more, staging its year-round programme of concerts, not only Early Music, but jazz, folk and world music too.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to receive this generous grant from the City of York Council.  Financial help from the ARG Fund ensures that we can stage the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival, a week of music celebration featuring a line-up of world-class performers.

“The festival is hugely popular with residents and attracts visitors from all over the UK, who make it part of their Christmas calendar. It’s wonderful to see the city coming back to life and we’re very proud to be able to be part of its fabulous programme of events celebrating the festive season. We can’t wait to welcome audiences back to our beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church.”

Councillor Derek Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “York’s live music scene is a crucial and vibrant part of the city’s cultural offer. We recognise the ongoing challenges venues are facing as we ease out of the national restrictions and people get used to a new ‘normal’.

“We are committed to working with the sector to provide all possible support, including promoting the great experiences on our doorstep thanks to the many brilliant live music venues across our city.”

L’Apothéose in the grounds of the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, York, in 2019. Picture: Jim Poyner

CALLING young ensembles of the world: the deadline for applications for next year’s York International Young Artists Competition is January 14 2022.

This prestigious longstanding competition for young ensembles will take place on Saturday, July 16 at the National Centre for Early Music as part of next summer’s York Early Music Festival. 

The first prize includes a recording contract from Linn Records: a £1,000 prize; opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and a concert at the 2023 York Early Music Festival.

Other prizes include: the Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize; the Cambridge Early Music Prize and a prize for The Most Promising Young Artist/s endowed by the EUBO Development Trust.  

The competition is open to Early Music ensembles with a minimum of three members; ensembles must have an average age of 33 years or under, with a maximum age of 37 years for individuals.

The ensembles must demonstrate historically informed performance practice and play repertory from any period, spanning the Middle Ages to the 19th century, on period instruments.

The competition is recognised as a major international platform for emerging talent in the world of early music. Attracting musicians from all over the globe, it offers a boost to young professional careers with opportunities for performance, recording and broadcasting and international exposure. 

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are so pleased to be staging the 2022 competition, which brings together young musicians of the highest calibre from the UK and all over the world. 

“This is one of highlights of the York Early Music Festival and we are always overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists. The competition provides a joyous, optimistic finale to our festival and we are delighted to be able give these rising stars many exciting future opportunities.”

2019 winners L’Apothéose say: “Winning the York competition was an extremely important and prestigious recognition of our career, and taking part was an immensely joyful experience.” 

Fellow former winners Sollazzo Ensemble enthuse: “Winning the competition was a turning point in our career, bringing us to the attention of both a wider audience and professionals throughout Europe.”

Details of how to apply can be found at; alternatively, send an email to

More Things To Do in and around York when not banished to ‘see you later, self-isolator’. List No. 41, courtesy of The Press, York

Rick Astley: Soul favourite’s post-racing show is a definite runner at York Racecourse tomorrow evening

IT ain’t worth a thing if it got that confounded ping, but let’s hope this NHS Covid app hazard does not apply to any of Charles Hutchinson’s suggestions as Step 4 starts to kick in.

Outdoor concerts of the week in York: York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend, Rick Astley, Friday evening; McFly, Saturday late-afternoon

YORK Racecourse was never gonna give up on Rick Astley performing on a race day, even if the original show had to fall by the wayside last summer. Sure enough, the Newton-le-Willows soul crooner, 55, has been re-booked for tomorrow for a post-racing live set.

McFly: Promising Young Dumb Thrills at York Racecourse on Saturday

After Saturday afternoon’s race card, the re-formed McFly will combine such favourites as All About You, Obviously and 5 Colours In Her Hair with songs from their 2020 return, Young Dumb Thrills, such as Happiness, Tonight Is The Night and You’re Not Special. The County Stand has reached capacity for Saturday already.

Friday’s racing starts at 6pm; Saturday, at 2.05pm. For tickets, go to:

Rachel Podger: The violinist plays, after self-isolation, for online viewing from the York Early Music Festival. Picture: Theresa Pewal

Online concert home entertainment of the week: Rachel Podger, The Violinist Speaks, York Early Music Festival

WHEN Baroque violinist Rachel Podger fell victim to the dreaded “pingdemic”, she had to forego her July 13 concert performance, condemned to self-isolate instead.

In stepped Florilegium violinist Bojan Cicic to play the very same Bach, Tartini and Biber repertoire at St Lawrence Church, Hull Road, at only three hours’ notice.

Rachel, however, subsequently recorded The Violinist Speaks without an audience at the NCEM for a digital livestream premiere at 7.30pm last Saturday. This online concert is now available on demand until August 13; on sale until August 9 at:

Twinnie: Twinning with Velma Celli for tomorrow’s double bill at Impossible York

York’s queen of vocal drag meets York’s country queen: The Velma Celli Show with special guest Twinnie, Impossible York, St Helen’s Square, York, tomorrow, 7pm, doors; show, 8pm

YORK’S international drag diva deluxe, Velma Celli, will be joined by country singer Twinnie at The Velma Celli Show at Impossible York on her return home from recording sessions for her second album in Nashville.

“My mate and fellow Yorky the awesome Twinny is my v. special guest tomorrow night at Impossible – York,” says Velma, the cabaret creation of Ian Stroughair, on Instagram. Like Ian, Twinnie has starred in West End musicals, most notably in Chicago, under her stage name Twinnie-Lee Moore.

Tickets cost £15, £20 for VIP stage seating, at

Michael Lambourne: Fenland storyteller at Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, this weekend

Storytellers of the week: Michael Lambourne and Shona Cowie, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Saturday and Sunday

NOT that long ago a familiar bearded face and booming voice on the York stage before heading south, Michael Lambourne will return north on Saturday to present the 7.30pm premiere of Black Shuck, a “responsive storytelling experience” based on the legend of the Demon Dog of East Anglia.

Penned and performed by Lambourne, Black Shuck is the tale of a hound of unnatural size, an omen of misfortune to those who see its eyes, wherein he explores the enduring effect it has on Fenland folklore in a personal account of how a rural myth can become a chilling part of the present day.

Scottish storyteller and physical performer Shona Cowie will open the evening with her Celtic tale of the dreamer and visionary Bruadarach and then present Beware The Beasts, a show for families (age five upwards), at 2pm on Sunday. 

Shona will provide case studies from leading monster evaders and offer instruction on the most effective ways to avoid being squashed, eaten or turned into a nugget. Box office: 

Ralph Fiennes in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, on tour at York Theatre Royal next week

First full-capacity shows at York Theatre Royal since mid-March 2020: Ralph Fiennes in T S Eliot’s Four Quartets, July 26 to 31

YORK Theatre Royal will return to full-capacity audiences with effect from Monday’s performance of T S Eliot’s Four Quarters, performed and directed by Ralph Fiennes.

Good news for those who had missed out on tickets for the most in-demand production of the reopening Love Season when it was first put on sale with social distancing in place. This week’s unlocking of Step 4 frees up the sudden availability of seats aplenty.

Please note, however, the wearing of face coverings will be strongly encouraged; some safety measures will continue too, but not temperature checks on the door.

Wall art: The poster for Miles And The Chain Gang’s first gig in York in 18 months. Picture: Jim Poyner

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles And The Chain Gang, supported by King Courgette, The Fulford Arms, York, July 29, 8pm

AFTER an 18-month hiatus. York band Miles And The Chain Gang will return to the concert platform next week, tooled up with new material.

In the line-up are singer, songwriter, storyteller, published poet and radio presenter Miles Salter, on guitar and vocals, Billy Hickling, drums and percussion, Tim Bruce, bass, and Alan Dawson, lead guitar, augmented for this gig by Fay Donaldson’s flute and saxophone.

The Gang have been working on a debut album, recording with producer Jonny Hooker at Young Thugs Studios in York. Tickets cost £7 at or £8 on the door. 

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s poster for next week’s brace of Gilbert and Sullivan shows

Fundraiser of the week ahead: Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company Does Gilbert And Sullivan, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, HMS Pinafore, July 29, 7.30pm, and July 31, 2.30pm; The Mikado, July 30 and 31, 7.30pm

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, the JoRo’s in-house performing troupe, are producing concert versions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s biggest light opera hits, HMS Pinafore and The Mikado, next week.

The shows will be brimful of popular tunes and brilliant characters, with all profits from this topsy-turvy musical madness going straight back to the Haxby Road community theatre.

Rachel Croft: Cafe concert at Forty Five, with Reap What You Sow EP to follow in September

Music Café society gig of the week ahead: Rachel Croft, Forty Five Vinyl Café, Micklegate, York, July 31, 7.30m

NEXT Saturday at Forty Five, York singer-songwriter Rachel Croft will showcase tomorrow’s release of Reap What You Sow, a cinematic, moody taster for her four-track EP of the same name on September 9.

Exploring a more potent, bluesy style throughout, further tracks will be second single Time Waits For No Man, Roots and Chasing Time.  

Rachel will be supported by Kell Chambers and Evie Barrand. Tickets cost £10 via

The Trials Of Cato: Tomos Williams and Rob Jones with new trio member Polly Bolton, playing Primrose Wood Acoustics in early August

Going down in the woods next month: The Trials Of Cato, Primrose Wood Acoustics, Pocklington, August 5, 7pm

BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Trials Of Cato will headline the third Primrose Wood Acoustics session in Pocklington on August 5.

Organised by Pocklington Arts Centre, the outdoor concert series will complete its summer hattrick by popular demand after sold-out sylvan shows on July 1 and 8.

Leamington Spa singer-songwriter Polly Bolton joins co-founders Tomos Williams and Rob Jones for the showcase of imminent second album Gog Magog. Tickets cost £14 on 01759 301547 or at

When “pingdemic” rules out Rachel Podger, up steps Bojan Cicic at three hours’ notice… to perform exactly the same repertoire!

Rachel Podger: Had to self-isolate after being pinged

QUICK thinking by York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin saved the day when violinist Rachel Podger fell victim to the dreaded “pingdemic”.

Rachel had to self-isolate at the last minute, foregoing her 9.15pm live performance of The Violinist Speaks at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, on July 13.

In a flash, Delma asked Croatian-born Baroque violinist Bojan Cicic to step into the breach, as he had arrived in York already to perform with Florilegium at the National Centre for Early Music the following night.

Bojan Cicic: Took over solo concert programme at three hours’ notice

Not only did he say ‘Yes’ at only three hours’ notice, but also he played the very same repertoire that Rachel had selected: JS Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major; Giuseppe Tartini’s Sonata in B minor; Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s Passacaglia in G minor, for solo violin, and Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, for solo violin.

Nothing was announced on social media beforehand by the festival organisers; only the audience was alerted of the late change by email, whereupon Bojan duly “wowed” his socially distanced crowd.

Rachel subsequently recorded The Violinist Speaks without an audience at the NCEM for a digital livestream premiere at 7.30pm last Saturday. Her online concert is now available on demand until August 13; on sale until August 9 at:

Quick thinking: York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Stile Antico/Bojan Čičić, York Early Music Festival

Stile Antico: “Go-to” group in the early music world. Picture Marco Borggreve

York Early Music Festival: Stile Antico, York Minster, July 13; Bojan Čičić, St Lawrence’s Church, York, July 13

OVER the past few years, and especially during lockdown, Stile Antico have been something of a “go-to” group in the early music world. No-one is complaining, least of all this critic. As their name implies, style is the watchword of these dozen voices.

Next month we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Josquin des Prez, who is right up there in anyone’s shortlist of great Renaissance composers. He developed a new style that melded northern European technical precision with simpler Italian drama and clarity: it was widely influential for 200 years.

The programme was built around his Missa Sine Nomine (‘no-name’ mass, if you will), which is almost a textbook of imitation between voices, giving listeners multiple pegs to hang their hearing on.

Between the sections of the mass, we heard reminders of Josquin’s associations with his putative teacher Johannes Ockeghem, another of the greats, and two pieces by slightly younger colleagues.

After Josquin’s Kyrie, in which perfectly formed chords emerged from swirling mists of counterpoint, it was good to be reminded of Ockeghem’s sparer harmonies in his four-voice motet Alma Redemptoris Mater.

Following the Gloria, a work called Nymphes des Bois might have sounded almost lascivious in such a religious context. In fact it was Josquin’s setting of a lament by Jean Molinet on the death of Ockeghem in 1497, imploring all nature to weep for an engaging man variously described as gracious, kind and virtuous. It was indeed a gem, and faded symbolically.

Excitement at the start of the Credo became serenely dissonant at Christ’s Passion, before building again to a triumphant Amen. This was singing of the highest calibre, making perfect use of the building’s welcoming acoustic.

After Josquin’s own Salve Regina and an unusually restrained Benedictus, another lament followed, this time from Hieronymus Vinders on Josquin’s death, the dark colours of its seven voices underlined by the absence of sopranos. Finally, Jacquet de Mantua’s medley of Josquin’s greatest hits, doubtless instantly recognisable by contemporary ears, provided an upbeat conclusion.

These two straddled the soothing balm of Josquin’s Agnus Dei, completing the mass. All were a fitting tribute to a much-respected composer – and a timely reminder of his supremacy.

Bojan Bojan Čičić: Late-evening late replacement for Rachel Podger

Late evening at St Lawrence’s Church brought the unaccompanied violin of Bojan Čičić in Bach and Biber. He had gamely taken up the cudgels at the eleventh hour to replace Rachel Podger, who had been “pinged’ into self-isolation”. They have been successful duet partners on disc so are equally talented.

He began somewhat cautiously with the first of Bach’s solo sonatas from 1720, BWV 1001 in G minor. Bach was known as a keyboard layer, but also played the violin all his life so was no slouch where strings were concerned. These fearsomely difficult works from his period at Cöthen laid the groundwork for the virtuoso techniques displayed by such as Paganini in the 19th century.

But they held no terrors for Čičić, even if he warmed up slowly. The slow intro led into more rapid counterpoint, both sections in the minor, until the warm, major-key Largo that was virtually a duet. All were preparation for the moto perpetuo of the final Gigue, which was thrown off with incredible panache.

He continued to dazzle in The Guardian Angel, one of Biber’s famous Mystery Sonatas. Sixty-five repetitions of a four-note descending phrase may not sound promising, but Biber’s Passacaglia overlays them with an extraordinary exploration of technical wizardry. Čičić revelled in it. So did we.

The dance origins of Bach’s Second Partita, in D minor, were keenly emphasised. After an accented Allemanda and the running passagework of the Corrente, we enjoyed a stately Sarabanda with much internal ornamentation.

The extremely sprightly Gigue was prelude to a highly dramatic Chaconne in which Čičić positively rolled his bow all over the strings, at breakneck speed. Its ‘chorale’ in the major came as light relief before the final return to the more serious minor key. Riveting stuff. You did not dare take your eyes off him.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Available online on demand until August 13 at