REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Solem Quartet & Friends, Ryedale Festival Finale

Solem Quartet: “A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks”

Ryedale Festival Finale: Solem Quartet & Friends, Hovingham Hall, Hovingham, July 31

AFTER including four Schubert events over its opening weekend, Ryedale Festival closed with three substantial Schubert offerings over its final two days. His ever-popular Octet was the last event on this programme, following two pieces by the American composer Florence Price.

Alhough she died nearly 70 years ago, Price has only really come to prominence in the past decade, after the chance discovery of a cache of her scores. Summer Moon, composed in 1938, was among them. Its pastel shades are well adapted to string quartet and generated an elegiac aura.

Her variations on “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” proved equally appealing, evolving naturally and showing more than mere craftsmanship in their modulations. These tasters suggested that she deserves to be better known by British audiences.

So to the Schubert. The Solem’s first violin, Amy Tress, led the proceedings most effectively. The extra instruments – clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass – added more than the expected resonance and took some adjustment: double bass and horn, although expertly handled, sounded boomy and over-exuberant respectively in the Allegro.

Things settled down, however, in the slow movement, which was allowed to breathe, with cool ensemble over the long dominant pedal and pregnant pauses before the coda.

Brio in the scherzo was nicely complemented by a smooth trio. In the succeeding variations, Stephanie Tress’s cello sang engagingly in the main melody and the whole ensemble ruminated gently thereafter. The minuet really danced and its trio had the lightness of a Viennese pastry.

In the finale, the return of the opening material might have been a touch more menacing, but the acceleration to the end was genuinely exciting. A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks: Christopher Glynn and his cohorts deserve the utmost praise for assembling them and in next to no time.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton, Ryedale Festival, 17/7/2021

Carolyn Sampson: Ryedale Festival concert was “Elysium indeed, however you define it”. Picture: Marco Borggeve

Ryedale Festival: Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton, St Peter and St Paul Church, Pickering, July 17

THE name Elysium covers a multitude of … well, pleasures. To the ancient Greeks, it was where the blessed, especially heroes, decamped after death. For the rest of us, it means paradise, with a small or large ‘p’.

Either way, it was the umbrella for soprano Carolyn Sampson’s late-night Schubert recital; she had also given it in the afternoon. Joseph Middleton was her piano partner, a top-notch combination. How typical of artistic director Christopher Glynn to bring in big names right at the start of the festival.

Schubert had a Damoclean sword of disease hanging over the last third of his life, so thoughts of the afterlife cannot have been far from his mind. Perhaps, like the young nun, he looked forward to peace after life’s storms, exquisitely encapsulated in Sampson’s pianissimo Alleluias at the end of Die Junge Nonne, without vibrato.

There again, Elysium is doubtless a place of endless melody, prefigured by Goethe’s Ganymede, where little tunes keep bursting out as he soars upward and we felt his excitement at what lay ahead.

Romantic poets often use moon and stars as stand-ins for heavenly realms. The opening of Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata colours the setting of Holty’s first An Den Mond (To The Moon). There is melancholy, too, in Goethe’s poem of the same name. Both here conveyed the idea of the voice as the reflection of the soul.

The brisker dactyls of Die Sterne (The Stars) showed a happier side to starlight, contrasting with the wonderful stillness this duo delivered in Nacht Und Träume’ (Night And Dreams) where moonlight gleams gently. There was a wonderful delicacy in Sampson’s tone for Der Liebliche Stern (The Lovely Star), tinged with sadness as the star contemplated its own reflection.

There was sunlight in the programme too. In Auf Dem Wasser Zu Singen (To Be Sung On The Water), it glinted on the waters of Middleton’s piano, eventually evoking escape from the passage of time.

A thrillingly rapid account of Der Musensohn (The Son Of The Muses) really danced with glee. In total contrast, Du Bist Die Ruh (You Are Peace) was consummately sustained by Sampson. Similarly, Middleton had tinted in little details of the nightingale’s twitterings with delicacy.

So to Schubert’s setting of Schiller’s Elysium, virtually a cantata, where rapid changes of mood require a chameleon-like approach. This duo was more than equal to its demands: light and shade, sun and storm and eventually an endless wedding feast, a heaven to die for, certainly.

Even more of a rarity was Schubert’s only song as a melodrama, Abschied Von Der Erde (Farewell To The World), given as an encore – pure delight, and filled with the reconciliation the composer undoubtedly achieved near his end. Elysium indeed, however you define it.

Review by Martin Dreyer

‘We don’t make music for an audience; we make music with the audience,” says Ryedale Festival director Christopher Glynn

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe: Playing Ryedale Festival on two days

HOW does a festival reinvent itself for the Covid-confused summer of 2021? 

At Ryedale, celebrating its 40th year, although not in the way it had planned, the answer is a one-off, late-announced, open-ended, can-do-spirited programme of summer events that brings inspiring performers to play together in beautiful Ryedale places from this weekend to July 31 .

Presenting 40 live concerts to celebrate its 40 years, Ryedale Festival welcomes performers such as Jess Gillam, Abel Selaocoe, Carolyn Sampson, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Lara Melda, Milos, the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, BBC Big Band, Kathryn Tickell and Tenebrae, as well as Poet Laureate Simon Armitage – and many more besides.

The Festival will be popping up in Pickering Parish Church; All Saints’, Kirkbymoorside; Hovingham Hall; St Olave’s Church, York; Birdsall House and Church; St Peter’s Church, Norton; Duncombe Park; the Milton Rooms, Malton, and Ampleforth Abbey.

Events will be around one hour long, with no intervals and reduced capacity to prioritise audience safety, but multiple performances to enable as many people as possible to attend.

Ryedale Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn. Picture: Gerard Collett

Artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “We’ve brought together a wonderful programme of British-based artists that is both vibrant and diverse. The formats of our concerts have changed but the core elements are what they have always been: great music, beautiful Ryedale locations, and audiences.

“Because, for performers like me, after the experience of the past year, one thing seems clearer than ever before: we don’t make music for an audience; we make music with the audience.” 

The festival’s two weeks of summer music opened last night (17/7/2021) with the Albion String Quartet’s programme of Haydn and Shostakovich at St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton, and soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist Joseph Middleton’s all-Schubert recital, themed around Elysium, the ancient Greek concept of afterlife, in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Pickering.

Today, cellist Hannah Roberts joined the Albion String Quartet for Schubert’s String Quintet at All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside, at 5pm and St Michael’s Church, Malton, at 9pm, followed by a third performance tomorrow at 11am at St Olave’s Church, York.

Birdsall House and Church is the scene for a double concert tomorrow from 5pm. Fresh from her Proms debut, British/Turkish pianist Lara Melda plays Rachmaninov and Chopin’s epic third sonata in the house, while classical guitarist Miloš plays Villa Lobos, Bach and Albeniz, among others, at the church.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage: Marsden poems

The format of the double concert encompasses a two-hour interval, when the audience is invited to picnic in the grounds of Birdsall House between the two performances.

Poet Simon Armitage grew up among the hills of West Yorkshire and always associated his early poetic experiences with the night-time view from his bedroom window. Now Poet Laureate, he visits the Milton Rooms, Malton, on Tuesday to read from Magnetic Field: The Marsden Poems, his compendium of poems about the village where he grew up. The 40-minute 11am and 3pm readings and question-and-answer sessions each will be followed by a book signing.

On Wednesday, in Cubaroque at 11am and 9pm at All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, tenor Nicolas Mulroy and guitarist and theorbo player Toby Carr perform a rare combination of music from two golden ages, as songs of love, sorrow and faith by baroque composers Purcell, Monteverdi and Strozzi speak across the oceans and centuries to modern Latin-American standards by Silvio Rodríguez, Caetano Veloso, Pablo Milanés and Victor Jara, who gave voice to a continent emerging from years of suppression.

At the Palladian-style Hovingham Hall on Wednesday at 3pm and 6pm, Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment violin soloists present music written for violins alone, highlighting the contrasts, textures and colours of an instrument that is usually on top of the sound-world of string instruments.

The programme takes in solos by master composer-performers, programmatic duets, profoundly beautiful trios, concertos for four violins and new arrangements.

Tina May: Singing with the BBC Big Band

On Thursday at 3pm and 6pm, trailblazing Jess Gillam leads her ensemble in an electrifying programme at St Peter’s Church, Norton, designed to inspire you to reflect, dance and smile with the aid of compositions by Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Björk, Thom Yorke, Will Gregory, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Piazzolla.

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe is joined by pianist Benjamin Powell on Thursday at 11am and 9pm at Birdsall House, Birdsall, as he highlights the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions in a programme that complements his own work Nagula with compositions by Debussy, James Macmillan, Ravel and Schedrin.  

Selaocoe returns on Friday at 3pm and 6pm with Sirocco, his energetic, joyful collaboration with Manchester Collective and Chesaba, at the Milton Rooms, Malton. Their great storm of music celebrates the warmth and diversity of folk traditions from across the globe, from Purcell to Stravinsky, original African folk to Danish folk songs.

The BBC Big Band and jazz chanteuse Tina May perform timeless feel-good numbers from the classic era of swing, all arranged and curated by leader Barry Forgie, on Saturday at 5pm and 8pm at the Scarborough Spa Grand Hall. Expect Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman works, plus a few surprises along the way.

On Sunday, July 25, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason performs a wide-ranging programme of contrasting sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Gubaidulina at Duncombe Park at 3pm and 5.30pm.

Amy Thatcher and Kathryn Tickell: Playing the Milton Rooms, Malton

The festival’s second week opens with speaker Lucy Beckett discussing Rievaulx and Mount Grace: Contrasting Histories on July 27 at 11am and 3pm at St Michael’s Church, Malton. Twelve miles apart, both mediaeval monasteries were abolished by Henry VIII, but their glory days were nearly four centuries apart, and the difference in their histories makes for a gripping tale.

Fresh sounds merge with ancient influences when Kathryn Tickell, British folk scene luminary and Northumbrian piper, and her close collaborator, accordionist and clog dancer Amy Thatcher, of The Monster Ceilidh Band, perform at the Milton Rooms, Malton, on July 27 at 5pm and 8pm.

Coco Tomita, winner of the strings category in this year’s BBC Young Musician competition, joins pianist Simon Callaghan to play Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Poulenc’s Violin Sonata at Duncombe Park on July 28 at 11am and 3pm.

Directed by Nigel Short, Tenebrae sing Renaissance Glories, music from the Golden Age of Spanish art, on July 29 at the Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth Abbey at 7.30pm. The closing piece will be Tomás Luis de Victoria’s luminous Requiem Mass of 1605, full of humanity and beauty.

All Saints’ Church, in Hovingham, plays host to two Young Artist Day concerts on July 30.  The first, at 11am and 6pm, promises a wide-ranging programme from pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, who journeys from Bach to Ligeti to Schubert’s most virtuosic work for solo piano, Wanderer-Fantasy.

York artist Jake Attree: Ryedale Festival exhibition at Helmsley Arts Centre

In the second, two fast-rising artists, violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux and pianist Ljubica Stojanovic, present works by Biber, Schubert and Brahms (“Rain” Sonata) at 3pm and 9pm.

The final concert, by Solem Quartet and Friends at Hovingham Hall on July 31 at 3pm and 6pm, is filled with music of optimism and friendship, led off by Florence Price’s tribute to her extraordinary friend, the jazz musician and singer Memry Midgett, Summer Moon, and her arrangement of the folk song Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes. Schubert’s Octet, a work of dazzling invention and uplifting lyricism, is the finale.

Throughout July and August at Helmsley Arts Centre, York-born artist Jake Attree presents The Spirit Of The North, an exhibition inspired by time spent in and around Ryedale, dedicated to the memory of Dr Richard Shephard, York composer and headmaster.

“I want the paintings, oil pastels and drawings to have a sense of the places that inspired them, whether York, the landscape around Welburn, the River Derwent at Malton, or a view across the Howardian Hills from Pickering Castle,” says Jake, whose studio is at Dean Clough, Halifax.

“Completely dependent on the subject while simultaneously independent of it, these works are a celebration of Paul Cézanne’s idea that art is ‘a harmony that runs parallel to nature’ and full of a sense of what it feels like to spend time in North Yorkshire.” 

The full programme and ticket details can be found at ryedalefestival.com.

Ryedale Festival’s 40th anniversary to start with online spring classics. Nicola Benedetti in June and 40 summer events to follow

Ryedale Festival: Going online for 40th anniversary spring season of concerts

RYEDALE Festival’s 40th anniversary celebrations will burst into life with the online Spring Festival from May 2 to 8.

Scottish-Italian violinist Nicola Benedetti and her trio then will launch Ryedale’s 40th Anniversary: Live and In Person series in Pickering on June 4.

Ryedale’s Summer Festival, from July 16 to August 1 will present such artists as Jess Gillam, Isata Kanneh-Mason, 2019 BBC Young Musician Coco Tomita, Abel Selacoe and the BBC Big Band, with many more names to be announced soon.

Solace, escape and hope will be at the heart of Ryedale Festival’s online-only Spring Festival, available on RyeStream, the festival’s streaming platform at ryedalefestival.com/ryestream/.

Nicola Benedetti: Launching Ryedale Festival’s Live and In Person series on June 4

Seven inspiring performances, each lasting approximately 50 minutes, will be filmed and shared over a week early next month, in collaboration with Castle Howard, the Yorkshire Arboretum and North East naturalist and filmmaker Cain Scrimgeour, whose camerawork will capture spring’s arrival in Yorkshire. 

The Spring Festival will kick off a 40th anniversary year wherein Ryedale Festival will reveal 40 headline events in “one-off, late-announced, open-ended, can-do bursts” that will enable the festival to remain responsive to the unique circumstances of Covid-clouded 2021 and still be as creative and flexible as possible. 

Clarinet and piano duo Michael Collins and Michael McHale will open the online festival on May 2 at 3pm with Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, a virtuoso showpiece by Widor and the spellbinding sonata that Poulenc composed for Benny Goodman.

On May 3, from the Long Gallery at Castle Howard, two of the brightest stars on the British piano scene, Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy, will perform Schubert’s gypsy-inspired piano duet, Divertissement à la Hongroise at 8pm.

Fair Oriana: Mixing renaissance and baroque with flavours of folk, medieval and contemporary music on May 4

The next day, soprano vocal duo Fair Oriana will mix renaissance and baroque with flavours of folk, medieval and contemporary music from the Great Hall, Castle Howard, in an 11am concert of imagination, innovation and intimacy entitled Now Is The Month Of Maying.

Rising York mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and festival director Christopher Glynn, on piano, will take over the Long Gallery for Nature Is Returning on May 5 at 8pm. Spring- inspired songs by Schumann, Brahms, Copland and Finzi will be complemented by extracts from Charlston’s Isolation Songbook, her 2020 commission to reflect lockdown lives in music.

On May 6, in The Beauty Of The North at 1pm,the trademark joie de vivre of the Maxwell Quartet will illuminate St Mary’s Church, Ebberston, with one of Haydn’s most sparkling quartets (Opus74, No.1), alongside Scottish folk music and Anna Meredith’s tribute Teenage Fanclub, the Scottish grungy power-pop band that she loved as a teenager.  

Friday night, May 7, will see the fast-rising combo The Immy Churchill Trio toast the arrival of spring with a late-night session of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook at Helmsley Arts Centre. Vocalist Immy Churchill will be joined by Toby Yapp, on bass, and Scottie Thompson, on piano, for this Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year programme at 9pm.

Helen Charlston: 2020 commission to reflect lockdown lives in music. Picture: Ben McKee

Finishing the online spring celebrations back at Castle Howard with The Lark Ascending on May 8 at 3pm, the virtuosic London Mozart Players and violinist Ruth Rogers will perform an irresistible chamber programme of Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending and Vivaldi’s Springfrom The Four Seasons.

The Spring Festival season will be available to view on RyeStream until the end of May. Each concert is free-to-view but with the request of a donation to support the festival.

Director Christopher Glynn says: “We are delighted with our Spring Festival, which promises to be a wonderful mix of great music in beautiful places. I asked our fantastic line-up of performers to reflect a hopeful, springtime theme in their programmes, which we’ll interweave with footage specially created by the superb wildlife filmmaker, Cain Scrimgeour, who is spending several days capturing spring’s arrival in and around the Yorkshire Arboretum.

“I’ve asked Cain simply to capture what we might have seen – if we were lucky – on a country walk to attend the concerts in person, and to reflect the importance of nature as a place of solace, escape and regeneration during lockdown days.”

“I asked our fantastic line-up of performers to reflect a hopeful, springtime theme in their programmes,” says Ryedale Festival director Christopher Glynn. Picture: Gerard Collett

On Friday, June 4 ,in-person music making returns to Ryedale Festival at Pickering Parish Church at 4pm and 8pm, when Nicola Benedetti will open her festival residency by launching the Live and In Person series, joining her regular chamber music partners, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk, to perform one of Beethoven’s wittiest and most loveable works and an inspired piano trio by Brahms.

Glynn adds: “There will be no brochure and no ‘big-reveal’ of the programme this year. Instead, our 40th anniversary will be a ‘build-as-we-go’ festival, where the full 40-piece jigsaw gradually comes into view.

“We will still concentrate wonderful performances in July, but we will also remain as creative and flexible as possible to make the very best of this different landscape for both artists and audiences.”

Planned in a spirit of optimism and renewal, and bringing some of the most exciting artists of the moment to North Yorkshire, the programme for Ryedale’s Summer Festival will consist of 40 headline events, some that may be repeated or shared on RyeStream.

Abel Selacoe: South African cellist confirmed to play at Ryedale Festival’s summer celebrations with more details to follow. Picture: Mlungisi Mlungwana

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Streetwise Opera/Roderick Williams/Carducci Quartet, July 26

Carducci Quartet: Harmonies melted in and out

Streetwise Opera/Roderick Williams/Carducci Quartet, Castle Howard Long Gallery, July 26

SO to RyeStream’s finale. It opened with the advertised – presumably filmed in advance – grand ensemble performance of Schubert’s The Linden Tree, otherwise known as Der Lindenbaum, sung in a Jeremy Sams translation.

The choir consisted of members of Streetwise Opera and Genesis Sixteen (The Sixteen’s junior offshoot), with Roderick Williams starring in brief baritone solos, accompanied by pianist Christopher Glynn and the Brodsky Quartet.

The song represents one of the few comforting moments in Die Winterreise (Winter’s journey), justification enough for its inclusion here. Apart from Williams, who appeared to be strolling along a farm track on open downs, all the rest were seen in isolation (the Brodskys also outdoors), some blowing away lime leaves marked with optimistic mottos. It was a brave effort and remarkably tidy, if not quite what Schubert had in mind.

The serious part of the proceedings involved the Carducci Quartet, under the resolute leadership of Matthew Denton, in works by Philip Glass and Beethoven. Glass’s Third String Quartet is derived from his score to Paul Schrader’s experimental 1984 film Mishima. Its six movements all employ minimalist techniques, though in the Carducci’s hands there were clear-cut distinctions of mood between them.

Roderick Williams: “Appeared to be strolling along a farm track on open downs”

Some were merely relentless, testing the ensemble’s concentration. But elsewhere, shifting accents – groups of four notes made to sound as if in groups of three, for example, thereby teasing the ear (you could call it trompe l’oreille) – kept interest alive as harmonies melted in and out.

While one can genuinely admire the technical prowess of both composer and performers here, it is harder to become emotionally involved with such repetitive processes. The Carducci were as persuasive as one could imagine.

Their Beethoven – the Op 95 Quartet in F minor, nicknamed “Serioso” for that rare marking in the second half of its second movement – was another matter altogether. The work was written in the white heat of Beethoven’s emotional turmoil after his rejection by Therese Malfatti and reflects the composer at his most volatile. The terseness of the Carducci’s approach was just what the doctor ordered.

Their crisp unison at the start presaged tight ensemble throughout the opening movement. Even the seemingly gentle Allegretto had an underlying tension, preparing for the extremely violent outburst of the serioso section, which is actually a scherzo (though joke-free). The unsettled rondo’s ending – a devil-may-care piece of opera buffa in F major – came as much-needed light relief. The Carducci know their Beethoven well, if this reading is anything to go by. Let us have them back in the flesh when conditions allow.

A final word on Patrick Allan’s camera work, which has generally been first-class. With the Carducci, we predominately saw individual players, when the great joy with string quartets is seeing the players’ interaction – which in turn is an aid to listening. This we were largely denied. No matter, this concert series has generally worked superbly. It is available online, free of charge, until August 16. Strongly recommended – but do make a donation if you possibly can.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn, July 25

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen: “Her Elgar was immaculate”. Picture: Patrick Allen

Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 25

THE violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen was to have been the mainstay of Ryedale Festival’s final weekend, giving an Elgar programme in tandem with pianist Christopher Glynn on Saturday afternoon and then leading her Albion Quartet on Sunday evening.

In the event, she appeared on Saturday only and the Carducci Quartet played Beethoven when the Albion had been promised in Schubert. These are unpredictable times and we must go with the flow of RyeStream, the revised, online festival.

But her Elgar was immaculate. Her lack of sentimentality gave it a feeling of freshness, while consistently sustaining the composer’s momentum. The heart of her recital was Elgar’s only surviving violin sonata of 1918 (he had destroyed another written 30 years earlier).

Even bearing in mind that the violin was the composer’s own instrument, I cannot remember it sounding more personal than it did here. Elgar had waited till relatively late in life to compose his three greatest chamber music works – the others being the string quartet and the piano quintet – but they hinge on his transition from great
patriotic topics to a more sober sensitivity, doubtless brought on by the Great War.

Christopher Glynn: His piano pairing with Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s violin was always tautly intertwined. Picture: Gerard Collett

Those two strands are reflected in the two themes of the Violin Sonata in E minor’s opening Allegro: Waley-Cohen contrasted them beautifully, the one with resolute, forceful rhythms, the other with calm arpeggios (prefigured by the piano in the first theme).

The quirky Romance was straight out of an earlier era, echoing the rural serenity that the Elgars had found when they moved from London to a small Sussex cottage in 1917. It did not prevent this duo from reaching an impassioned climax, though they remained emphatic in the muted, closing bars.

This pairing, always tautly intertwined, responded to one another most closely in the wistfulness of the finale, where Glynn’s piano neatly echoed many of the violin’s phrases. Waley-Cohen’s long bows in the reminiscence of the Romance were especially effective, before the coda brought a spirited close.

The rest of the programme gave us Elgar’s three most famous salon pieces for the violin. The seriousness of Chanson de Nuit was complemented by a more playful Chanson de Matin, as if reflecting emergence from our present crisis. Salut d’Amour (played as an encore) would have gladdened the gloomiest heart: English music at its most cheery.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: RyeStream, Ryedale Festival online, Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn, July 24

Rowan Pierce: “Proved extremely telegenic, her calm features responding well to close-up camera-work”

Rowan Pierce and Christopher Glynn, Music For A While, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 24

ROWAN Pierce’s soprano brought a ray of sunshine into this online festival, albeit under cover of candlelight.

Her partner in a “taster” – and tasty – programme was the ever-versatile Christopher Glynn, Ryedale Festival’s artistic director. They opened with Purcell and dipped into a cross-section of lieder from Schubert to Grieg, before landing squarely in English repertory again (via three folksongs), topping it all off with optimism from Richard Strauss.

It was a mouth-watering selection that whet the appetite for their early return in proper concert conditions.

So much of the poetry was keenly suited to our present plight. Music for a While, in Purcell’s famous setting of Dryden, “shall all your cares beguile”. It made the perfect opener. Similarly composed on a ground (a repeating phrase in the bass) is O Solitude, My Sweetest Choice!, a translation from the French by Katherine Philips. It invited us to treat lockdown as a bonus.

Christopher Glynn: Deft colourings. Picture: Gerard Collett

The sunshine first appeared in Schubert’s Im Haine (In The wood), where sunbeams slanting through the trees bring peace, wiping out our woes. It was tenderly treated, as was a Schumann love-song. Pierce took flight with Mendelssohn, before bringing us flowers courtesy of Strauss and Grieg.

Blow The Wind Southerly was a daring choice, given its association with Kathleen Ferrier, but this prayer for a fair voyage benefited from Pierce’s unsentimental approach. Alan Murray’s I’ll Walk Beside You, one of the very last drawing-room ballads, offered touching support, before joyful abandon from both performers in Quilter’s setting of Love’s Philosophy. Donald Swann’s The Slow Train aptly brought tearful nostalgia, while Strauss’s Morgen! (Tomorrow) promised sunshine ahead.

Pierce proved extremely telegenic, her calm features responding well to close-up camera-work. The clarity of her vowel sounds, unusually distinct for a soprano, also helped her many mood-changes throughout – as did Glynn’s deft colourings. Every listener will have yearned for more from these two. Next year perhaps?                           

Martin Dreyer

Exit Ryedale Festival, enter RyeStream, the digital Ryedale Festival for Covid times

Ready, willing and Abel to take part in the digital RyeStream festival: South African-born cellist Abel Selaocoe.

FOR the first time, Ryedale Festival is going virtual, in response to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The revamped remote classical festival will be streamed on the online platform RyeStream from Sunday, July 19 to July 26, with one concert a day without an audience in attendance.

Three locations are being used: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, pre-Raphaelite Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.

In the line-up will be pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, with a 3pm recital of Beethoven and the American piano repertoire on Sunday; violinist Rachel Podger’s Guardian Angel baroque concert on Monday, 11am; clarinettist Matthew Hunt and Tim Horton’s Fantasy Pieces on Tuesday, 1pm, and Anna Lapwood’s organ works by Bach and Barbara Heller on Wednesday, 11am.

Cellist Abel Selaocoe will complement music and stories from his native South Africa with baroque works on Thursday, 6pm; Yorkshire soprano Rowan Pierce and pianist Christopher Glynn, the festival’s artistic director, will combine traditional song with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg in Music For A While on Friday, 9pm; Glynn will then accompany violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen in an evening of Elgar, invoking the comforting scenes of the English countryside, next Saturday at 3pm.

Streetwise Opera: Performing remotely at RyeStream’s closing concert

The closing concert, next Sunday at 6pm, will present Streetwise Opera, Roderick Williams, Brodsky Quartet, Genesis Sixteen and the Carducci Quartet. “The Carducci Quartet will be a live-streamed performance, but the Streetwise Opera performers – of whom many are affected by homelessness – will be joining us virtually, from around the country,” says Christopher.

He started working on the RyeStream festival six weeks ago. “It has been a race against time and I’m grateful to all the artists who agreed to perform at very short notice,” he says.

“For the locations, I tried to choose three beautiful spaces that represent the range of venues used by the festival and could be filmed effectively. The festival is incredibly lucky to have such stunning locations to perform in and I wanted to try to give a sense of that.

“The authorities at all three venues have been incredibly generous in helping us achieve this.”

In choosing the artists for the eight concerts, Christopher had to consider social-distancing regulations, measures that ruled out the festival opera, for example. “At the time of arranging the concerts, it was clear that anything bigger than two people on stage was going to be very difficult, though we did manage to include a string quartet – one made up of two married couples!” he says.

“In general, I approached artists who lived within driving distance of the festival: at the time arrangements were being made it wasn’t clear what travel would be possible.

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason: Opening recital at RyeStream. Picture: Robin Clewley

“I also sought to include younger performers in the mix and tried to pick different artists to those that I was aware were appearing in high-profile live streamed series elsewhere.”

Artists will be tailoring their RyeStream programmes to meet the requirements of the new format. “We have tried to adapt everything to suit the new format,” says Christopher. “It’s a steep learning curve!”

Not least facing up to the challenge of filming the concerts. “We’re using several cameras, in the hope of giving a sense of the venue as well as the performance, and live-streaming the results, with the brilliant Patrick Allen looking after all aspects of sound and vision,” says Christopher.

Unlike last week’s online York Early Music Festival, he has decided RyeStream should be free to view, with donations welcome. 

“This was a hard call,” he says. “I do have reservations about adding to the amount of free material online, because the downsides are clear and it’s a situation which cannot continue indefinitely without devaluing the whole currency of live performance.

“On the other hand, research shows that, for the moment, inviting donations is more effective than putting content behind a paywall, and that it’s probably necessary to establish the habit of viewing online – to prove it can be a rewarding experience in its own right – before starting to charge for it.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen: Playing Elgar works on July 25. Picture: Patrick Allen

“Things may be slightly different for festivals with a more specialist slant, such as the York Early Music Festival (which I watched with much enjoyment) or the Oxford Lieder Festival.

“But for a more general programme like ours, it seemed right to go with a donation model for now, while making it clear that we will need to charge in a more structured way for content in the future.”

RyeStream viewers can stream the concerts “again and again” or watch them if they missed the live-stream, until August 16. “In general, we have to realise that people’s lives are very different and no one time of day will suit everyone,” says Christopher.

“I love the idea that people can watch again and again, because it is genuinely one of the great advantages of live-streaming.”

Might Ryedale Festival be tempted to stream live concerts at future festivals, with a charge for the screening, if, for example, a concert has sold out? “Yes, this is very much in our plans. There’s nothing like a crisis to move things forward! There are exciting possibilities for all festivals if we can successfully integrate digital and physical platforms,” says Christopher.

“I love the idea that a live Ryedale Festival event can also be enjoyed online by a housebound pensioner in Pickering, a music-lover in Portsmouth – or, for that matter, in Peru! – as well as the audience at the venue. And of course, even if you have attended a concert in person, you may want to watch it again online.”

“We have set the bar high and said that we want to create a whole new festival experience,” says Ryedale Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn. Picture: Gerard Collett

As Sunday approaches, Christopher is looking forward most to gauging the reactions of RyeStream viewers. “We have set the bar high and said that we want to create a whole new festival experience,” he says. “It will be interesting to see which aspects of live-streaming people enjoy and which need more thought. There’s a real sense of stepping into a new world!

“If anything good has come out of Covid-19 for the Ryedale Festival, it would be that we have quickly established a new online platform, one that can add a new dimension to the festival even when ‘normal’ concert conditions return.”

Post RyeStream, thoughts will turn to 2021. “It’s too early to say anything with certainty but in general we remain committed to bringing great live music and musicians to beautiful Ryedale locations, and to being as inventive as we can in the way we do it,” promises Christopher.

However, the dark clouds of the Coronavirus pandemic hang over Ryedale Festival, like so many music events across the country. “We have opened a festival appeal and received some very welcome help from the Emergency Fund set up by Arts Council England,” says Christopher.

“We trust that people will understand and make a donation – something equivalent to the cost of a ticket – after watching the live-stream concerts. Looking further ahead, so much is uncertain. The vast majority of our festival income comes directly from box-office sales – around 10,000 individual tickets were sold last year – and if we cannot return to ‘normal’ concert-giving, this will be a huge challenge.”

For full details on the 2020 festival programme and how to stream RyeStream, go to ryedalefestival.com/.

Violinist Rachel Podger: Guardian Angel programme at RyeStream festival on July 20

RYESTREAM festival programme

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason will open the festival with an afternoon recital of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 2 in A Major, alongside classics from the American piano repertoire such as Gershwin’s Three Preludes.

Sunday, July 19, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Violinist Rachel Podger will play baroque masterpieces, such Biber’s The Guardian Angel, Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 in D major and Vilsmayr’s Partita 5 in G minor.

Monday, July 20, streamed at 11am from the Chapel, Castle Howard.

Clarinettist Matthew Hunt and pianist Tim Horton will explore fantasy in music, encompassing Jörg Widmann’s Fantasie, Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata.

Tuesday, July 21, streamed at 1pm from Long Gallery, Castle Howard.

Virtuoso organist Anna Lapwood will play works by Bach, Barbara Heller and Frescobaldi in one of Yorkshire’s most ancient churches.

Wednesday, July 22, streamed at 11am from St Michael’s Church, Coxwold.

Rowan Pierce: Yorkshire soprano performing Music For A While with pianist Christopher Glynn at All Saints’ Church, Helmsley. Picture: Gerard Collett

Cellist Abel Selaocoe will draw on the music and stories of his native South Africa, interwoven with baroque masterpieces such as Dall’Abaco’s Capriccio No. 3 in E flat major.

Thursday, July 23, streamed at 6pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Pianist and artistic director Christopher Glynn and soprano Rowan Pierce will perform Music For A While, combining traditional songs with works by Purcell, Schubert, Schumann and Grieg

Friday, July 24, streamed at 9pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen and Christopher Glynn will play Elgar works, pairing Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin with his Violin Sonata in E Minor to invoke the comforting scenes of the English countryside.

Saturday, July 25, streamed at 3pm from All Saints’ Church, Helmsley.

Streetwise Opera performers will join Roderick WilliamsBrodsky Quartet and Genesis Sixteen remotely to perform Schubert’s The Linden Tree. The Carducci Quartet will then close the festival with Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No. 3, Mishima, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, No. 11, Serioso. 

Sunday, July 26, streamed at 6pm from the Great Hall, Castle Howard.