58 events, 35, locations, seven world premieres, one Bob Marley song, Ryedale Festival opens today. Highlights here

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: One of six artists in residence at Ryedale Festival. Picture: Victoria Cadisch

IN the words of guest speaker Dame Sheila Hancock, “classical music thrills, comforts and amazes me. When I begin to lose faith in the human species, it reminds me what the best of us can do.”

“That seems a good motto for the Ryedale Festival 2024,” says director Christopher Glynn, introducing the programme of 58 events at 35 locations that begins today.

“Our aim at the Ryedale Festival is simple: to make North Yorkshire one of the best places in Europe to enjoy and encounter classical music, and to do it with a sense of vision and adventure.

“I look forward to welcoming audiences from near and far to enjoy internationally renowned performers this summer, from Angela Hewitt performing Bach to Sheku Kanneh-Mason playing Bob Marley – and all in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

“Just as importantly, the festival offers opportunities to hundreds of local young people and a platform for emerging talent, as well as breaking new ground with seven world/UK premieres. Above all, it’s a team effort involving thousands of people who all believe in the important and life-enhancing role that music can play in our communities.”

Dame Sheila Hancock: “Classical music is one of the biggest comforts and joys of my life,” she says. Picture: Neil Spence

Actress and author Dame Sheila, 91, will reflect on her life and introduce live performances of favourite works by Mahler, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Beethoven and Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd in My Music: An Afternoon With Dame Sheila Hancock at Duncombe Park on July 25 at 3pm.

“I love classical music. It’s my stabiliser,” says Dame Sheila, who will be joined by the Carducci Quartet, soprano Caroline Blair and interviewer Katy Hamilton. “It’s one of the biggest comforts and joys of my life. And I want everybody to have the opportunity of that – I really do. We need people to know that it’s for everybody.”

Violinist Rachel Podger: Troubadour Trail at St Oswald’s Church Filey (24/7/2024, 11am), Christ Church, Appleton-le-Moors (25/7/2024, 11am) and Church of St Michael and All Angels, Garton on the Wolds (26/7/2024, 3pm)

Pianist Angela Hewitt opens the festival tonight with an 8pm programme of Bach’s Partita No. 6 in E minor, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Scarlatti’s Three Sonatas and Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel at Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering.

The festival has no fewer than six artists in residence: international horn player Felix Klieser, who was born without arms and taught himself to play with his feet; trailblazing guitarist Xuefei Yang, whose musical journey began at a time when the guitar was banned as an “hooligan” instrument in China; mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron, born to a British father and Singaporean mother; violinist Stella Chen, the Gramophone Young Artist of the Year; the Van Baerle Trio and baroque violinist Rachel Podger, whose Troubadour Trail solo programme takes her to three North Yorkshire churches.

Nigel Short conducts the choir Tenebrae in A Prayer For Deliverance at Ampleforth Abbey on July 17 at 8pm when highlights include Joel Thompson’s title work Richard Rodney Bennett’s tribute to Linda McCartney, A Good-Night, and Herbert Howells’ Requiem to his young son Michael.

Violinist Maria Wloszczowska directs the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Mozart In Scarborough, a 7pm programme of Mozart concertos and Prague symphony at Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill  on July 20.   

Royal Wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs music from Brahms’s Hungarian Dances to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, Burt Bacharach’s I Say A Little Prayer to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s The Girl From Ipanema, Laura Mvula’s Sing To The Moon to Dvorak’s Song To The Moon, on July 27 at both St Peter’s Church, Norton (1.30pm), and Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York (6pm).

Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Two concerts in one day. Picture: Ollie Ali

He will be joined by violinist Braimah Kanneh-Mason, guitarist Plinio Fernandes, Fantasia Orchestra and conductor Tom Fetherstonhaugh at both St Peter’s Church, Norton (1.30pm), and Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York (6pm).

“You can spot stars of tomorrow, such as Georgian pianist Giorgi Gigashvili (who started as a child pop singer and even won The Voice), conductor and ‘spark to watch’ Tom Fetherstonhaugh, Brazilian guitar pioneer Plínio Fernandes, and an array of others, including our own Ryedale Festival Young Artists,” says Christopher.

“All are welcome to Come and Sing Fauré’s Requiem [A Tenebrae Effect Workshop] at St Mary’s Church, Thirsk or promenade through a Triple Concert at Castle Howard [Van Baerle Trio, Long Gallery; Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain, Great Hall; Marian Consort, Chapel).

“You can also picnic in the interval of a Double Concert [Piatti Quartet and Katona Twins] at Sledmere House and Church, enjoy the Orchestra of Opera North [Final Gala Concert] at Hovingham Hall, or join us at new venues such as Selby Abbey[Marian Consort, In Sorrow’s Footsteps, Allegri’s Miserere, July 25]  and stunning locations on the Yorkshire Wolds, North York Moors and coast.”

Jazz, folk and world music feature too. Claire Martin & Friends mark the 100th anniversary Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blues at the Milton Rooms, Malton, on July 19, and Northumbrian folk band The Unthanks perform there with an 11-piece line-up on July 23.

Becky and Rachel Unthank: July 23 concert at Milton Rooms, Malton

Fleur Barron and pianist Julius Drake will be joined by Hibiki Ichikawa (shamisen) and Suleiman Suleiman (actor/dancer) for Spring Snow, a meditation on sound and silence, solitude and communion, love and loss, built around the Kabuki play Yasuna and Schubert’s Winterreise as shamisen music meets Japanese dance-theatre at St Peters Church, Norton, on July 16.

Family concerts, talks, masterclasses, late-night candlelit concerts, choral evensong, Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band and seven world/UK premieres will be further highlights.

For the full programme, visit: ryedalefestival.com. Box office: 01751 475777 or ryedalefestival.com.

Ryedale Festival’s magical community song cycle Across The Whinny Moor celebrates the Lyke Wake Walk at St Peter’s Church

Ryedale Primary Choir: Ready to take part in Across The Whinny Moor, the Ryedale Festival community song cycle

DO you believe in magic? Mezzo-soprano Victoria Simmonds, storyteller Rosie Barrett and an all-age Ryedale cast bring cheeky hobs, angry mermaids, resourceful giants and wise witches to life in Ryedale Festival’s community song cycle Across The Whinny Moor on Saturday afternoon at St Peter’s Church, Norton.

Inspired by the Lyke Wake Walk, this evocative and mysterious tapestry of magical thinking, Yorkshire superstitions and the power of imagination is packed full of local folk legends.

The song cycle gently follows the route of the 42-mile walk across the highest and widest part of the North York Moors National Park, dwelling in spots of interest to explore stories such as The Ballad of Wade and Bell, where, at Wade’s Causeway, the songs tell of mermaids as the first glimpses of the sea come into sight.

Saturday’s 4pm world premiere will feature a cast of more than 100 schoolchildren and amateur singers, who have co-created Across The Whinny Moor with composer John Barber and writer Hazel Gould.

Mezzo-soprano Victoria Simmonds

Developed through sessions in Ryedale schools, a one-off event for young people and online workshops with choir members, together they have explored local folklore and ideas, creating new segments of text and music that Barber and Gould have worked into the new song cycle.

Conducted by Caius Lee, the Ryedale Primary Choir schoolchildren and the Ryedale Voices, Harmonia and The RyeLarks choirs will be joined by Kirkbymoorside Town Junior Brass Band, Simmonds and Barrett.

Alison Davis, who runs the three adult choirs, says: “We are thrilled to be part of this community song cycle and have enjoyed working with John and Hazel since January. It was great to see them at choir rehearsals and they’ve taken away a good idea of our level and style and have written some incredible original material for us, quite different from our usual music.”

In amongst the new music, Simmonds will sing works by Schubert (The Erl King), Handel and Rebecca Clarke. Shining Brass will play Mendelssohn’s Baba Yaga and traditional folk tunes, such as The Lyke Wake Dirge and The Lark In The Morning, arranged by Barber.

Ryedale Voices: One of the choirs performing at St Peter’s Church, Norton

Rosie Barrett creates original stories that bring heritage to life, often commissioned by museums, including Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, where she has worked on its latest exhibition, Believe It Or Not?

Running until November 17 (closed on Fridays), the exhibition showcases more than 200 objects connected with magical thinking and folk beliefs, many of them being explored in Across The Whinny Moor.

Rosie says: “I’ve always had a particular fondness for folklore, which I believe connects us deeply with our ancestors. When we hear the stories that the people of the past heard, we are sharing in the emotions and experiences that they shared, and, by reinventing folk tales, we ensure that they stay relevant for each generation. “

Writer Hazel Gould says: “I love to go walking and often use walking time as a way to clear my head. If I can resist the temptation to listen to a podcast or music, the time I spend walking can often be incredibly helpful if I have an idea that I’m struggling with or need to develop.

Harmonia: On song for Across The Whinny Moor

“There’s something about the rhythm of walking that allows my thoughts a bit of free range, away from the distractions of a busy life, and it becomes a place where the imagination can blossom. 

“Walking and stories seem to be perfect partners, so we were delighted to discover more about the Lyke Wake Walk and wanted to use this map across the moors as a way to bring together some of the stories from the rich folklore of the region.”

Hazel continues: “It has been a huge pleasure to learn more. I have loved working alongside our primary school groups and adult choirs to talk about these tales and create songs together, from angry hobs to misunderstood women, sometimes called witches. We hope you like it too.”

Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “Enabling and celebrating local music making is very important to the festival. Presented in association with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation and Ryedale Folk Museum, Across The Whinny Moor brings together the Ryedale Primary Choir, storyteller Rosie Barrett, local choirs run by Alison Davis, the Kirkbymoorside Town Junior Brass Band, star mezzo-soprano Victoria Simmonds and conductor Caius Lee.

Sing when you’re swinging: Ryedale Primary Choir

“John and Hazel have harnessed the rich and wild ideas of all these performers, and we are very excited to hear the result on June 8. Join us!’’

Music foundation chief executive officer Cathy Grant says: “The young people involved in the community song cycle have been brought together by the Richard Shephard Music Foundation, the charity helping to increase musical opportunities for children in our region.

“They come from the Ryedale Primary Choir and local primary schools and are aged between seven and 13. Overall, around 120 children have taken part in songwriting workshops, in-school singing workshops or choir rehearsals, and a group of these will be in the final performance on Saturday, singing alongside the adult choir and other musicians.”

Ryedale Festival presents Community Song Cycle: Across The Whinny Moor, a walk through stories and songs by John Barber and Hazel Gould, world premiere, St Peter’s Church, Norton, June 8, 4pm. Box office: ryedalefestival.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/1173652657.

Victoria Simmonds performing at the world premiere at St Peter’s Church on June 8
Ryedale schoolchildren singing at the Across The Whinny Moor premiere

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Harriet Burns & Christopher Glynn, March 6

Soprano Harriet Burns. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

Harriet Burns & Christopher Glynn, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

THIS was almost the recital that never was. Aboard a train from London that broke down in Peterborough, pianist Christopher Glynn arrived half an hour late by taxi. There was compensatory wine on the house for punters before eventually soprano Harriet Burns opened zestfully with three unaccompanied folk-songs, which I took to be Scottish.

With return trains to be caught, that left barely an hour for the announced programme of Schubert and English settings followed by Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Inevitably this had to be seriously abridged, although no announcement was made about what was to be omitted. The duo warmed in with Schubert’s ‘An Sylvia’, crisply delivered, and hit full stride with his ‘Frühlingsglaube’ (Faith In Spring) where the soprano’s duplets were impeccably counterpointed by the piano’s triplets.

The only other Schubert to survive the butchery was ‘Der Einsame’ (The Recluse), which was beautifully restrained, evoking the pleasures of solitude, not least through the lovely legato produced by Burns.

Otherwise we were left with two cuckoo songs, Ireland’s ‘Earth’s Call’ and Gurney’s neo-Elizabethan ‘Spring’, both of which use the bird to conjure that season. They were the highlight of the evening, voice and piano echoing and embracing one another.

Christopher Glynn: Train broke down en rioute to York

Vaughan Williams’s Four Last Songs, settings of poetry by his second wife Ursula, deserve to be heard in their entirety. Here we had to be content with an effectively intimate account of ‘Tired’. Glynn’s whirlwind pianism in Stanford’s setting of Whitman’s ‘Joy, Shipmate, Joy!’ brought the first half to a suitably ecstatic close.

A very brief interval – the lights remained dimmed – allowed Glynn to change out of his jeans into a full suit. Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder were not what they should have been. But it was not the fault of the performers. The composer goes to considerable lengths to graduate his response to the first three songs, settings of Hermann Hesse, so that when he reaches the fourth, Eichendorff’s ‘Im Abendrot’ (At Sunset), the analogy between twilight and approaching death is crystal clear.

The soprano’s bravest efforts to build the necessary atmosphere were annihilated by ignoramuses who insisted on applauding after each song. York audiences should know better. Even so, there were some lovely individual moments from both performers, although Burns was inclined to expand and contract her sound too regularly on longer notes. Glynn’s piano was impeccable, not least in the touching interlude before the last verse of ‘While going to sleep’.

Let us hope that this duo will soon be invited back and perhaps even offered beds for the night. We might then hear the Strauss cycle again and the Vaughan Williams one in full, along with plenty of Schubert, of course. They – and we – deserve nothing less.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Fleur Barron & Christopher Glynn, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: Picture: Victoria Cadisch

CHRISTOPHER Glynn, known to most in this area as artistic director of the Ryedale Festival, has an uncanny knack of talent-spotting musicians with great futures ahead of them and bringing them not only to Ryedale, but also to University of York’s music department.

His latest find, already an established star on both sides of the Atlantic, is the mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron. Her programme was a combination of German – mainly Brahms – lieder alongside Spanish canciónes, with a handful of Chinese folksongs for good measure.

Homecoming was the theme of the evening, with Brahms’ three settings of poems by Klaus Growth on Heimweh (Homesickness) at the start, a poet who hailed from the same area as the composer’s family. She tapped into the nostalgia theme best in the second song, about wanting to find the sweet road back to childhood.

Folksong was more important to Brahms than any other lieder composer and seven of his folk arrangements here proved the point. The justly famous Vergebliches Ständchen (Vain Serenade) found Barron in coquettish vein, which suited the lighter side of her flexible tone. So too did Feinstliebchen…(Sweetheart, You Mustn’t Go Barefoot), where she handled the punch-lines adroitly.

Equally impressive here was Glynn’s agile treatment of the accompaniments, some of which are unusually intricate. Berg’s Four Songs, Op 2, written in his mid-twenties (1909-10), range neatly from the ultimate lullaby of Schlafen, Schlafen (Sleep, Sleep) to Warm die Lüfte’ (Warm The Breezes) – his first piece of atonal writing, and the only one of the four songs not about sleep. Both performers enjoyed breaking out into its fiery climax after their earlier restraint. Its ending was also deeply felt.

Not that her German was less than competent, but there was the feeling that Barron was much more comfortable, both with the language and the style, in her two Spanish cycles; they suited her outgoing personality.

The Five Negro Songs of the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge were inspired by Marian Anderson’s singing of spirituals in Barcelona during the 1930s, but are also strongly overlaid by Cuban influences and the effects of colonialism. Although better known in their orchestral versions, it was good to hear them with piano alone.

The catchy lilt of Habanera Rhythm was deeply Spanish, although the implied violence of Chévere (The Dandy) needed darker tone. In the famous Canción de Cuna (Lullaby), Barron found a touching sadness in the little black boy’s innocent sleep.  Her witty singing and Glynn’s dancing piano made the final Canto negro a high-spirited treat.

Hard to summarise the Chinese songs, whose Western-style accompaniments made them sound almost Scottish. Suffice to say, a flower drum song drew laughter and applause and later several Chinese students in the hall nodded approval.

Both performers clearly revelled in the veritable mosaic of Spanishness that makes up Falla’s Siete Populares Canciónes. Barron let her hair down here, showing real flair as she dived into chest tone more than once. Glynn’s rapid staccato in the Murcian seguidilla and the changing tempos of Jota, an Aragonese dance-song, were especially memorable.

We had needed a touch more of this panache earlier in the evening from Barron, but her genuine mezzo remains a powerful instrument. I hope we shall hear her here again soon.

Review by Martin Dreyer, November 8

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Ailish Tynan and Christopher Glynn

Soprano Ailish Tynan

Ailish Tynan and Christopher Glynn, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, May 3

I ABSOLUTELY love Schumann’s Liederkreiss: a sublime marriage of Eichendorff’s poems.

This performance by Irish soprano Ailish Tynan and pianist Christopher Glynn was simply superb; the songs fresh and full of insight, of rediscovery.

In Der Fremde had that remoteness, palpable longing, a heartfelt intermezzo and the oh-so-delicately delivered Mondnacht, with the delicious, gentle melodic embellishments. And then, not sure when, three things happened to jolt me out of this musical love-in.

A young lady in front decided to check for text messages; this suddenly morphed into a coughing fit by the singer, and the resuming cycle was in English; albeit an impressive translation by Jeremy Sams (commissioned by Christopher Glynn). I was so immersed, captivated by the performance, I hadn’t realised. Some reviewer, eh?

The recital had opened with Grieg’s Sechs Lieder. What was obvious from the outset was the instinctive musical chemistry between the performers. For example, the genuine sense of fun and cheeky exchanges in Lauf der Welt, the quietly driven urgency and touching reflection of Goethe’s Zur Rosenzeit and blending of vocal line and piano accompaniment in the closing Ein Traum.

Much of the second half was dedicated to settings of James Joyce. Bridge’s Goldenhair was fluent and hugely enjoyable, Barber’s Solitary Hotel came across as sultry, smouldering music-making with a passionate tango-influenced accompaniment.

Pianist Christopher Glynn

But the most rewarding was John Cage’s The Wonderful Widow Of Eighteen Springs. Ms Tynan sang the minimalist vocal line without any vibrato; it sounded like an elegant sacred chant.

Christopher Glynn’s percussive commentary – hitting the lid or other parts of the piano in a variety of ways with his fingers and knuckles – was so nuanced, almost ritualistic. The performance had an other-worldly quality, which gently dramatised Joyce’s nocturnal, expressive text. 

The sexy, Spanish dancing lady was flirtatiously animated by Ms Tynan in a much-appreciated encore. Personally, I would have left the last word with Joyce and Edmund Pendleton’s Bid Adieu; a moving farewell with a lovely soft landing.

All of which doesn’t lead me to the performance of Strauss’s Four Lieder, op.27, but here we are. The performance was simply sublime. Ruhe, Meine Seele was latent with expectation, simmering with sadness.

In Cäcilie, the  floodgates opened in an almost operatic outpouring of emotion. The idiomatic pianism and, at times, telling recitative delivery in Heimliche Aufforderung were really effective.

But it was the performance of Morgen! that moved me to the core, as it always does. A most exquisite piano opening by Christopher Glynn, then the bleeding in of Ms Tynan’s vocal line into the piano narrative producing a deeply touching musical image of lyrical togetherness. Magical. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop at the close.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Roderick Williams & Christopher Glynn

Roderick Williams: “Such a perfectionist about diction”

Roderick Williams & Christopher Glynn, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, January 18

IT used to be said that a successful service in church was one where you came out feeling better about life because the sermon was so good. The feeling is similar when you go to a concert that fulfils every expectation and warms the soul. This was one of those rare occasions.

Christopher Glynn has commissioned new English translations of three of Schumann’s song cycles of 1840 from Jeremy Sams and has given York the honour of hearing their premieres.

Satisfyingly, it was a full house that greeted the first of these, Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love). That was not all. Three other Schumann lieder prefaced the cycle. A further 16 followed the interval, including a Quilter cycle, all under the umbrella of “Tell Me The Truth About Love”. By any standards it was a feast.

For anyone who knew the Schumann cycle in the original German, the translation initially sounded wrong. No fault of Sams, but the original words kept floating to the surface of one’s memory. Yet in the end there was a gain; there had to be. Roderick Williams is such a perfectionist about diction that he clearly relished using his native tongue. It soon became infectious.

Presumably for copyright reasons, no translation was available. But just to take a single example, ‘Ich Grolle Nicht’. This began ‘I won’t complain, despite my pain’. Williams’s baritone positively dripped with irony, made possible by a translation that captured exactly what Heinrich Heine, the original poet, had in mind. The only disappointment was his decision not to take the optional high note in the penultimate phrase.

Throughout the cycle the flow of the words was hugely satisfying, matching the original syllable for syllable. Just occasionally, Sams failed to find enough syllables and had to resort to melisma (setting a syllable to more than one note). But this was unusual. This translation is a stylish achievement.

Christopher Glynn: “Extraordinary perceptions coming from his piano”

It almost goes without saying that Williams was totally inside the music. But he could not have done it without the equally extraordinary perceptions coming from Glynn’s piano, allied to an uncanny sense of timing. The postlude, larded with exquisite rubato, seemed to encapsulate all the feelings that had gone before, a perfect précis.

The second half was more free ranging. Four more lieder included three 19th century ladies, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn and most notably Josephine Lang, whose harmonically gorgeous Abschied (Farewell) made a strong impact. All three deserve much more recital exposure.

Before them we heard Quilter’s Seven Elizabethan Lyrics and marvelled anew at his modern twist on old harmonies. ‘The Faithless Shepherdess’ was wonderfully crisp, while the setting of Ben Jonson’s ‘By A Fountainside’ was tenderly evocative. Williams is well suited to this cycle, which brings out the full compass of his baritone.

An Anglo-American group completed the evening, including Sophie Hannah’s witty The Pros And Cons and a nicely declamatory I Said To Love, the title song of Finzi’s Thomas Hardy cycle. William Bolcom’s Toothbrush Time was the natty encore. Williams and Glynn make a first-class pairing.

A ‘pre- recital’ featured four singers, all of whom showed promise, although none really made use of their words. They would do well to emulate Williams.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Margaret Fingerhut/Acis & Galatea/Mystical Songs at Ryedale Festival, July 20

Margaret Fingerhut: “Found no difficulty with being a chameleon to cover the various styles”

THERE is nothing like a festival binge: three performances in a single day. You can’t do it at any other time.

So why not? A morning recital in a country house, a Handel serenata in an ancient shrine in the afternoon, and an evening with Elgar and Vaughan Williams in a mediaeval church. Wonderfully varied fare.

Margaret Fingerhut has always been an explorer of unusual piano repertoire and I have long admired her excellent taste, mostly through her recordings. In Birdsall House she mounted a travelogue, which traversed Europe before crossing to the Far East and the Americas. She found no difficulty with being a chameleon to cover the various styles.

There was an oddly Moorish flavour to two of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, before she brought out the big melody in Liszt’s Les cloches de Genève like a chorale amid the chimes. Albéniz’s Castilla was Spanish to its core, twinkling with flamenco virtuosity, before a more sombre excursion to the Three-Peaks gorge in the Crimea, courtesy of Kharkiv-born Sergei Bortkiewicz. A long silence followed its moving conclusion. Six of Bartók’s highly rhythmic Romanian folk-dances restored a happier atmosphere.

Roxanna Panufnik was present for the world premiere of her Babylonia, which took us to Iraq. After Fingerhut had commissioned it, they together determined to commemorate their Jewish roots by delving into the music that had flourished in the Iraqi Jewish community since the Babylonian captivity (586 BC), before it was persecuted into exile after 1948.

Their choice fell on a song by the Moroccan poet Dunash ben Labrat (10th Century AD), whose five verses alternate longing for better times with anger at enemies. Panufnik leans heavily on the Phrygian scale – E to E on the white notes of the piano – which is commonly found in contemporary jazz, some pop music (e.g. Metallica) and even in North Indian classical raga.

Essentially, she has compiled a theme and variations. The song-theme was first plucked inside the piano – which sounds gimmicky but conjured a distant, personal world – before being fully enunciated on the keyboard.

The Maxwell Quartet: Artists in residence at Ryedale Festival

At first, the theme was elaborated with ornamentation, but drifted towards the minor as its basic yearning was painted in ever-darker colours, reaching an angry climax in a growling bass that stopped abruptly. High, ‘washing’ chords restored hope, even an element of sunshine. This was briefly clouded by menacing cross-rhythms, before a grandiose, almost Lisztian climax, which in turn dwindled into a serene silence.

In its barely ten minutes, Babylonia conveys an immense range of emotion. Fingerhut caught the work’s bittersweetness superbly. It was a memorable premiere.

Thereafter we darted to the Australian outback, courtesy of Sculthorpe’s Djilile, ragtime America, Hong Kong in the rush hour as imagined by Abram Chasins, ending in Argentina with a couple of Piazzolla’s trademark tangos. It might have been a breathless tour but for Fingerhut’s stylistic versatility.

The afternoon, in the Saxon church of St Mary, Lastingham, saw the second (of three) performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. In the absence of any other description, we may safely call this a Ryedale Festival Opera production, which was directed by Monica Nicolaides and conducted by Eamonn Dougan. The small forces involved might suggest a shoestring budget but the show’s ingenuity proved otherwise.

The only slight deficiency was that the orchestra contained only one cello, where Handel specified two. Otherwise the two excellent oboists, Angelika Stangl and Kate Bingham, doubled on recorders as happened at its public premiere in 1732.

Without any props, other than the church’s fixed furnishings, the chorus provided their own. So, for example, when the birds twittered, they dangled avian cut-outs on strings like puppets. Nor were there any costumes: all were dressed as for a rehearsal. But the show compensated in liveliness what it lacked in lavishness.

Nicolaides made a virtue of the sacred setting by overlaying a veneer of religion, especially in having the body of Acis, draped in aquatic blue, taken up to ‘heaven’ (the pulpit), where he was crowned with a golden chaplet. Thus Arcadia took on an eternal hue, doubtless enhanced by the new fountain into which Acis was transformed.

The production also made the chorus – a separate group of five singers bar one overlap with the principals, the Corydon of Emilia Bertolini (whose original aria was happily restored) – seem a more essential part of the action than usual, involved with the travails of the lovers at every point. They produced a moving, motet-style blend at Acis’s demise.

Roderick Williams: “Reserved his full powers for the Mystical Songs”

Henry Ross was an appealing Acis, with clean diction and varied tone-colour; ‘Love In Her Eyes Sits Playing’ had a shapely lilt. His attractive Galatea was Caroline Blair, who delivered ideally straight tone and crisp runs. Matthew McKinney made an over-eager Jack-the-lad of Damon, whose later attempt to act as pacifier was out of character.

Dressed in a stick-on bow-tie, which matched his pomposity, Edward Jowle’s Polyphemus benefited from his admirably fluid bass-baritone. It jarred that he was encouraged to be so physically aggressive towards Galatea. Dougan kept his six-piece ensemble finely attuned to his singers. Nestling in a valley next to the moors, this location evoked Arcadia even before a note had been sounded.

So, to the evening in the church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, where the Maxwell Quartet – one of the artists in residence – was joined by baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Christopher Glynn. A first half of Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor was complemented by Vaughan Williams after the interval, five folk song arrangements followed by the Five Mystical Songs, which gave the evening its title.

The two main themes in the piano quintet were nicely contrasted and neatly complementary, one ghostly, like wisps of smoke among trees, the other warming to a ferocious climax accelerating into the recapitulation, in which Glynn was sensitive enough not to outweigh his colleagues. The fade-out rests were effective. Serenity was the watchword in the Adagio, with the two lower strings predominant.

A broad sweep characterised the finale, the main tune brushing aside ghostly memories from the first movement and ushering in the sunshine key of A major, as optimism took over from doubt. All five players played their hearts out here.

Roderick Williams has considerable prowess as a composer and brought his skills to bear on lively arrangements for string quartet of Vaughan Williams’s piano accompaniments to five folk songs. As singer he gave a jolly swagger to Captain Grant, with elegiac contrast in She’s Like The Swallow, a Newfoundland song, as was Proud Nancy.

But he reserved his full powers for the Mystical Songs. The exhilaration of Easter kept bubbling through, and George Herbert’s private excitement in I Got Me Flowers was contrasted by its triumphant closing line, ‘There is but one, and that one ever.’

Williams has a tender affection for words that showed most clearly in Love Bade Me Welcome. He was marvellously resonant in the closing Antiphon, boldly affirmative, as were the strings. His remarkable charisma brings an extra aura to everything he sings. An unforgettable end to a glorious day.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Ryedale Festival celebrates joy of Mystical Songs in Williams and Maxwells pairing

Baritone Roderick Williams: 2022 Ryedale Festival artist in residence

THE 2022 Ryedale Festival is under way, embracing 300 performers in 52 concerts from this week to July 31.

Under Christopher Glynn’s artistic directorship, the festival will find a special place for Handel and Vaughan Williams’s music; six world premieres will be performed and the 50th anniversary of Swedish supergroup Abba will be celebrated.

A strong line-up of artists in residence will be in Ryedale for the festival. Baritone Roderick Williams will lead two of the four concerts marking the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth, accompanied by pianist Glynn and fellow artists in residence the Maxwell Quartet.

At their heart of the festival will be Mystical Songs on July 20, when Williams and the Maxwell Quartet end their residencies by joining Glynn at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, for an hour-long 8pm programme that brings together two spiritual high points of early 20th century British music.

Edward Elgar’s mysterious and deeply personal Piano Quintet in A minor will be performed alongside Vaughan Williams’s visionary Five Mystical Songs, complemented by Roderick Williams’s new arrangements of Vaughan Williams’s folk-song settings of Captain Grant, She’s Like The Swallow, Proud Nancy, O Who Is That Raps At My Window? and Harry The Tailor.

Christopher Glynn: Ryedale Festival director, pianist and “matchmaker”

“I’ve wanted to bring both Roddy and the Maxwells to the festival for a long time, not for one concert but for residencies, and having got them both signed up, I thought it would be nice for them to do a collaboration,” says Christopher.

“Then I thought about what the music should be, and I was drawn to this amazing moment in Elgar’s career: his incredible late-chamber works, his Indian summer.

“To go with that, you have Vaughan Williams going into the British Library, burying himself in Elgar’s score and coming up with his Mystical Songs. Putting these spiritual high points together will be so uplifting.”

Christopher talks of the Maxwell Quartet’s “fresh” impact on Vaughan Williams’s works. “That’s great because the Maxwells have a special relationship with folk music that they’ve brought to arranging these folk pieces,” he says.

“We’ll have a couple of days together and it’ll be an interesting time because both Roddy and the Maxwells are wonderful storytellers.”

The Maxwell Quartet: Ryedale Festival artists in residence, teaming up with Roderick Williams for Mystical Songs

Welcoming this summer’s residencies, Christopher says: “They’re really important because they allow for the audiences to develop something deeper with the musicians, finding they have a connection with the artists that grows when they see them several times.

“It’ll be exciting to see what comes out of the partnership, and it’s all about creating things that are entirely unique: a one-off chance to hear these artists performing together. It’s a moment in time and no-one knows if the chemistry will work but…”

…This is where Glynn, the pianist as much as artistic director, comes into play as “the matchmaker” when he sees the potential for an affinity between musicians on the concert platform. Roll on July 20 to find out what fireworks flare up when the Maxwells meet Roddy!

In a further festival residency, the National Youth Choir will be performing a 1pm programme on the theme of the environment, the coast and the north-eastern fishing industry at the Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, on July 22, taking in works by Vaughan Williams, Bob Chilcott’s Weather Report, the Yorkshire premiere of Errollyn Wallen’s 40-part When The Wet Wind Sings and the uplifting finale of Joanna and Alexander Forbes L’Estrange’s Green Love.

“This will be a completely contrasting residency with a very different energy, leading to the performance in Scarborough,” says Christopher. “We’re also setting the National Youth Chamber Choir up to perform with Philharmonia Baroque in a programme of Handel works at Hovingham Hall [July 25, 2pm], and it’ll be interesting to see if sparks fly there, especially because director Richard Egarr started his career in the National Youth Choir.”

Roberts Balanas: Premiering Abba medley on electric violin at Come And Sing Abba!

San Francisco period instrument orchestra Philharmonia Baroque (and their British director Egarr) will be making their Ryedale Festival debut. “This is the first time they’ve toured the UK and they’re a fantastic group,” says Christopher. “We managed to get some backing to bring them over after their management came over to scout out the festival – and they loved it!”

Members of the National Youth Orchestra also will join guest electric violinist Roberts Balanas and conductor/choral leader Ben Parry at the Milton Rooms, Malton, from 3pm to 5pm on July 23 for Come And Sing Abba!. You can take part too, rehearsing and then performing Abba’s greatest hits, featuring Balanas’s world premiere of his Abba medley.

Abba at Ryedale Festival, Christopher…how come?  “I spotted there was a significant Abba anniversary this year, and though I was appointed to run a classical festival, the question is: what constitutes classical music,” he says.

“If music is 50 years old, is that not classical music?! We’ve come up with a concert that nods to Abba and classical music all in one.”

For full festival details, go to: ryedalefestival.com. Box office: 01751 475777; ryedalefestival.com; in person from Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering, second floor, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am to 2.30pm.

Mystical Songs will be among the concerts to be recorded for broadcast on RyeStream in collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Who’s performing at Ryedale Festival and when in a July event full of Handel, Vaughan Williams and even an ABBA sing-song?

Baritone Roderick Wilson: Artist in residence at 2022 Ryedale Festival

THE 2022 Ryedale Festival will embrace 300 performers in 52 concerts from July 15 to 31, kicking of the event’s fifth decade of inspiring performances in beautiful North Yorkshire locations.

Under Christopher Glynn’s artistic directorship, the festival will find a special place for Handel’s music, including a pop-up production of his magical opera Acis And Galatea that will visit three churches.

The music and legacy of Ralph Vaughan Williams will be in focus too, as will the genre-blending elan of Errollyn Wallen and the 50th anniversary of Swedish supergroup Abba.

The Kanneh-Mason family will open the festival on July 15 with a concert by the seven brothers and sisters from Nottingham, aged between 11 and 24. On July 16, Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason will be in conversation with Edward Seckerson in House of Music: Raising The Kanneh-Masonsa joyful celebration of this extraordinary musical story.

Six world premieres will take centre stage. Julian Philips will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams with Looking West, a new work inspired by the ancient stories and landscapes of northern England. 

Composer Julian Philips: World premiere of Looking West

Roxanna Panufnik’s Babylonia will go on an imaginative journey to the Middle East, while Errollyn Wallen and Tarik O’Regan will explore the myth of creation in their co-composed work Ancestor, to be premiered by Philharmonia Baroque. 

Joseph Howard’s community song cycle Seven Mercies celebrated the heritage and talent of Pickering on May 21; Robert Balanas will be debuting an ABBA medley for solo violin, and Callum Au will be bringing a new work co-commissioned with Spitalfields Festival.

A strong line-up of artists in residence will be in Ryedale for the festival. Baritone Roderick Williams will lead two of the four concerts marking Vaughan Williams’s anniversary with Christopher Glynn and fellow artists in residence the Maxwell Quartet, as well as leading a singing masterclass with talented young artists. The Gesualdo Six will perform two vibrant programmes in Ampleforth Abbey and Castle Howard.

The festival’s two ensembles in residence, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque (in their first UK tour for more than a decade), will present one of Handel’s Dixit Dominus, a tour-de-force of vocal and instrumental virtuosity that bubbles with the energy and exuberance of youth.

Ryedale Festival Young Artists will be in the spotlight too. Violinist Roberts Balanas will perform a late-night candlelit concert, while Scottish accordionist Ryan Corbett will set out on a “troubadour trail” across Ryedale, bringing music – from the grandeur of Bach to the romance of Tchaikovsky – to beautiful and little-known churches across the region.

The Maxwell Quartet: Artists in residence

Soprano Siân Dicker and pianist Krystal Tunnicliffe will create a relaxed, informal and interactive concert for people living with dementia, their friends, family and carers – and anyone else who would like to attend. Bassoonist Ashby Mayes will collaborate with Krystal Tunnicliffe in an enterprising programme at a coffee concert.

Further highlights will include the London Mozart Players with pianist conductor Martin James Bartlett; The National Youth Choir of Great Britain performing a programme on the theme of environment; Pete Long and Friends playing 100 Years Of Jazz In 99 Minutes and fast-rising soloists such as violinist Johan Dalene, cellist Bruno Phillipe, trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary, harpsichordist Richard Egarr and pianists Rebeca Omordia and Alim Beisembayev. Renaudin Vary will give a brass masterclass too.

Dame Janet Baker will be in conversation with Edward Seckerson and a visit from poet, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay will be among the literary events. Family concerts will include a musical version of the modern children’s classic Izzy Gizmo.

For the final gala concert, trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary will join the Royal Northern Sinfonia for a sunny-spirited concerto at the heart of an eclectic programme that will take in  lyricism of two English romantics, a Bach-inspired work by Errollyn Wallen and one of Haydn’s most rousing and witty symphonies.

A new partnership with the Richard Shephard Foundation is working in primary schools to transform the festival’s engagement with children across Yorkshire. Already this has supported Seven Mercies, a new Community Song Cycle by Joseph Howard and Emma Harding at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, on May 21. Inspired by the church’s famous murals, this celebration of local heritage and talent took the theme of countering difficult times through small acts of kindness.

Dame Janet Baker: In conversation at Duncombe Park

Seven Mercies is one of two major elements of the festival taking place outside the main festival in July. Post festival, on October 29, the Hallé Orchestra and Chorus, Natalya Romaniw, Alice Coote, Thomas Atkins, James Platt and conductor Sir Mark Elder will perform Verdi’s mighty and dramatic Requiem in York Minster.

First-time ticket-buyers can attend selected events for £10, under-18s for £5. All are invited to watch the free-to-view additional content that will be shared on the digital platform RyeStream.

Artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “From legendary artists such as Dame Janet Baker to stars of the new generation like the Kanneh-Masons, we’ve brought together a line-up of international quality to perform in stunning locations across the beautiful area of Ryedale, from historic old churches to magnificent stately homes.

“As always, the festival is a celebration of music and place, and how they can enhance each other. I’m especially pleased that we are working with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation to bring musical opportunities to primary school children across Yorkshire, and that hundreds of tickets will be available from as little as £5 for under-18s and first-time attenders. We look forward to welcoming music-lovers from far and wide to Ryedale this summer.”

For full details, go to: ryedalefestival.com. Box office: 01751 475777; ryedalefestival.com; in person from Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering, second floor, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am to 2.30pm.

Opening concert: The Kanneh-Mason family of musicians

2022 Ryedale Festival programme

July 15, 7pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

Opening Concert

Kanneh-Mason Family

July 16, 3pm, St Michael’s Church, Malton

House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason

July 16, 8pm, St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton

Johan Dalene, violin

Charles Owen, piano

July 17, 3pm, Helmsley Arts Centre

Family Concert

July 17, 7pm, Duncombe Park

Pre-concert talk: Katy Hamilton

London Mozart Players: July 23 concert

July 17, 8pm, Duncombe Park

The Wanderer

Roderick Williams, baritone

Christopher Glynn, piano

July 18, 11am, Helmsley Arts Centre

Shakespeare’s Infinite Variety

Lucy Beckett, speaker

July 18, 3pm to 5pm, Helmsley Arts Centre

Roderick Williams, masterclass

July 18, 7pm, Sledmere House and Church

Double Concert

July 19, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Slingsby

The Maxwell Quartet

Christopher Glynn: Ryedale Festival artistic director

July 19, 2pm, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley

Pre-concert talk

Katy Hamilton

July 19, 3pm, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley

Acis And Galatea I

July 19, 9.30pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Late-Night Folk

July 20, 11am, Birdsall House

Margaret Fingerhut, piano

July 20, 3pm, St Mary’s Church, Lastingham

Acis And Galatea II

July 20, 7pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Pre-concert talk

Katy Hamilton

Trumpet player Lucienne Renaudin Vary. Picture: Simon Fowler

July 20, 8pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Mystical Songs

Roderick Williams & The Maxwell Quartet

July 21, 11am, St Nicholas Church, Husthwaite

Troubadour Trail I

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 21, 3pm, St Michael’s Church, Malton

Acis And Galatea III

July 21, 8pm, Birdsall House

Bruno Phillipe, cello

Tanguy de Williencourt, piano

July 22, 1pm, Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough

National Youth Choir

Poet Lemn Sissay:

July 22, 3pm, St Hilda’s Church, Sherburn

Troubadour Trail II

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 22, 8pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

100 Years Of Jazz In 99 Minutes

Pete Long and Friends

July 23, 11am, Holy Cross Church, East Gilling

Troubadour Trail III

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 23, 3pm to 5pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Come and Sing ABBA!

July 23, 8pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

London Mozart Players

July 24, 3pm, James Holt Concert Hall, Kirkbymoorside

Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band

July 24, 6.30pm, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside

Alim Beisembayev, piano

July 24, 9.30pm, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside

Late-Night Candlelit Concert

Roberts Balanas, violin

July 25, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Rebeca Omordia,piano

July 25, 2pm, Hovingham Hall

National Youth Chamber Choir

Philharmonia Baroque

July 25, 7.30pm, Duncombe Park

Dame Janet Baker

In conversation with Edward Seckerson

The Gesualdo Six. Picture: Ash Mills

July 26, 11am, St Lawrence’s ’s Church, York

Music For A While

Rowan Pierce & Philharmonia Baroque

July 26, 8pm, Ampleforth Abbey

The Gesualdo Six

July 27, 11am, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold

Lucienne Renaudin Vary, trumpet

Félicien Brut, accordion

July 27, 7pm, Castle Howard

Triple Concert

July 28, 11am, St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby

Ashby Mayes, bassoon

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

July 28, 3pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Dementia-friendly Concert

Siân Dicker, soprano

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

Harpsichordist Richard Egarr: A Byrde In The Hande candlelit concert

July 28, 7pm, Duncombe Park

Stephen Kovacevich, piano

July 28, 9.30pm, St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale

Late-Night Candlelit Concert

Richard Egarr, harpsichord

July 29, 11am, St Peter’s Church, Norton

Inner City Brass

July 29, 3pm to 5pm, James Holt Concert Hall, Kirkbymoorside

Brass masterclass

Lucienne Renaudin Vary

July 29, 7pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

A Garden Of Good And Evil

Philharmonia Baroque

July 30, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Siân Dicker, soprano

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

July 30, 3pm, The Galtres Centre, Easingwold

Lemn Sissay

My Name Is Why

July 30, 6pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Pre-concert talk

July 30, 7.30pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Looking West

July 31, 3pm, The Worsley Arms, Hovingham

Jazz in the Garden

July 31, 5pm, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Festival Service

July 31, 6.30pm, Hovingham Hall

Final Gala Concert

Royal Northern Sinfonia

Lucienne Renaudin Vary, trumpet

Post-festival concert: October 29, 7.30pm, York Minster

Hallé Orchestra and Chorus

Verdi: Requiem

Natalya Romaniw, soprano

Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano

Thomas Atkins, tenor

James Platt, bass

Sir Mark Elder, conductor

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Ryedale Festival premiere of Seven Mercies, Church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, May 21

Kathryn Rudge: “Inspired soloist”

RYEDALE Festival floated a powerful reminder of its status in the community with this world premiere of a new song-cycle written by a Pickering-born composer and largely performed by inhabitants of Ryedale.

Joseph Howard’s Seven Mercies was inspired by mediaeval murals in Pickering Church, which have only recently been brought back to life and decoded from beneath the whitewash of centuries.

They refer to specific acts of kindness – properly titled Seven Acts of Corporal Mercy – mentioned by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount and illustrated here by stories from the Bible.

Howard’s music is built around Emma Harding’s poetic libretto, which at its core delivers a song-cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano. Its sections use different female characters whose hardships have been alleviated by someone else’s generosity, often put into a modern context: a refugee, for example, or a hospital patient prevented by Covid regulations from receiving visitors.

That is the backbone of the work and no doubt it could stand alone. But it is immensely coloured and given depth by several choral and brass interludes, as well as introduction, prologue and finale.

Joseph Howard: Pickering-born composer of Seven Mercies

Much of the text here has been devised by choir members themselves. Ryedale Festival Community Choir, under Em Whitfield Brooks, and Ryedale Primary Schools Choir (taken from Pickering Community Junior School and Gillamoor C of E and St Joseph’s RC Primary Schools), conducted by Holly Greenwood-Rogers, were joined by a brass quintet of junior members from Kirkbymoorside Town Band and bell ringer Pam Robb.

Kathryn Rudge was the inspired soloist. Her clean, clear, beautifully projected mezzo was exactly suited to evoking the plight of the desperate and the downtrodden, and Christopher Glynn’s fluently controlled piano gave her superb underpinning. When she took to the pulpit for the finale, she soared angelically above and through the combined forces below, as if offering divine support.

Both choirs had evidently been keenly trained. They represented the voices of the community coming to the aid of the needy. Where the adults were sympathetic and affectionate, the children were infectiously enthusiastic, an apt balance. The young brass were impressive too, in an early fanfare, a lament and a smooth duet for cornets.

Howard’s music, which was always attuned to the text, divided into two styles: a thoughtful, modal English for the soloist that was reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and a much more universal, generally major-key and strongly rhythmic approach for the ensembles. This made sense with such a wide range of talents on hand: all were shown to best effect.

We may thank the Richard Shephard Music Foundation for its association with an occasion that both highlighted an important piece of local history and underlines what a force for good the Ryedale Festival continues to be. The festival itself will run from July 15 to 31 with full details at ryedalefestival.com.

Review by Martin Dreyer