York Early Music Christmas Festival opens week of music, minstrels and mystery

Beth Stone and Daniel Murphy of Flutes & Frets: Sold-out opening concert today at York Early Music Christmas Festival 2023

MUSIC, Minstrels and Mystery is the theme of the York Early Music Christmas Festival 2023, running from tomorrow to December 9.

This annual celebration conjures up the spirit of Christmas past with an array of atmospheric music, primarily at the National Centre for Early Music, in the medieval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, complemented by concerts at Bedern Hall and the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Opening at the beginning of Advent, the festival features a host of world-class artists from the Early Music world, celebrating the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the medieval to the baroque.

To complete the Christmas experience, many concerts take place by candlelight, with mince pies and mulled wine available at most events.

Already the festival has been previewed on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune on November 26, when festival artists the Gesualdo Six spoke to Katie Derham and performed a selection of their work.

Both immersive Gesualdo Six concerts with the Fretwork Viol Consort at 6pm and 8.30pm on Saturday have sold out. Marking composer William Byrd’s 400th anniversary, Secret Byrd will theatrically intersperse Byrd’s private mass for secret worship with his virtuosic music for strings.

Sold out too are Saturday’s opening concert, European Court and Salon Music, by Flutes & Frets (Beth Stone, flute, and Daniel Murphy, lute, theorbo, guitar) at Bedern Hall at 11am, backed by funding from the European Festival Fund for Emerging Artists, and December 9’s Bach Christmas Oratorio concert at 7pm by the Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.

Festival director Delma Tomlin will host an introductory talk at Sunday’s 6.30pm concert, A Christmas Song – The “original” Messiah, by festival debutants The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen at the NCEM. The Harmonious Society’s 14 musicians and singers face a busy three days of travel, playing Canterbury on Saturday, York on Sunday and Durham on Monday.

Baroque In The North: Festive sweetmeats from Versailles to Rome on December 9 at the NCEM

Fiddlesticks, a new ensemble featuring former festival advisers Kati Debretzeni and Steven Devine, will make their festival debut too with Monday’s 7pm NCEM programme of European court music for three violins and continuo. Earlier that day, the NCEM’s youth instrumental ensemble, Minster Minstrels, will be working on Christmas repertory with Fiddlesticks in the afternoon.

Further festival highlights will be The Marian Consort, performing music written for the festive court, on Thursday and Ceruleo’s Love Restor’d, a theatrical Restoration England programme of Henry Purcell, John Blow and John Eccles works, on Friday, both at 7pm at the NCEM.

On December 9, Baroque In The North will play this festival for the first time, performing Panettone or Bûche de Noël?, Festive Sweetmeats, featuring works by Esprit-Philippe, Chédeville, Vivaldi and Corelli at the NCEM at 11am.

In addition, the Minster Minstrels will work with the Harmonious Society’s baroque trumpeter Will Russell on Sunday, while Owain Park, director of The Gesualdo Six, is inviting singers to join him for a choral workshop, designed to celebrate the music of Willam Byrd on Saturday and Sunday at Bedern Hall.

The York Early Music Festival Christmas Box Set, featuring a selection of recorded highlights from the festival, plus this year’s York Early Music Festival and Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, is on sale now and will be available to enjoy online from December 15 to the end of January 2024. Highlights include concerts by violinist Rachel Podger and the Dunedin Consort, the Scottish baroque ensemble. The box set costs £50 or concerts can be bought individually at ncem.co.uk.

Ahead of the week of festive music, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “Our Christmas festival is one of the highlights of the city’s Christmas calendar. This December we are delighted to present an array of atmospheric Christmas concerts featuring music from the medieval times, through the ages and ending with Bach’s glorious Christmas Oratorio.

“The concerts are the perfect way to celebrate Yuletide and we look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new ones at the special time of year.”

Full programme details can be found at ncem.co.uk/yemcf/. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

The Marian Consort: Performing music composed for the festive Stuart court in For Delighting The People – A Jacobean Christmas on December 7

York Early Music Christmas Festival programme highlights

Saturday, 11am: Flutes & Frets, European Court and Salon Music, Bedern Hall, Bedern. SOLD OUT.

FLUTES, lutes, theorbo and guitar introducing music of European courts across the ages, performed by NCEM Platform Artists Beth Stone and Daniel Murphy, who received grant from European Festivals Fund for Emerging Artists, leading to concerts in Antwerp, Krakow and York. Final concert of tour for young duo selected for annual International Artist Presentation in Flanders. Flutes & Frets will return to York next spring for Baroque Around The Books library tour.

Saturday, 6pm and 8.30pm, The Gesualdo Six & Fretwork Viol Consort, Secret Byrd, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate. Both SOLD OUT.

CREATED and directed by Bill Barclay, this 80-minute immersive experience marks the 400th anniversary of composer William Byrd with a mix of voices, viols and theatricality. A small number of audience members sit and stand among costumed musicians who gather by candlelight to worship in secret as Byrd’s setting of the Ordinary is mixed with his most probing instrumental works, played where the five Proper sections of the Mass would take place.

Sunday, 6.30pm, The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen, A Christmas Song – The “original” Messiah, NCEM.

PRESENTING the only surviving Nativity story in England set to music in the baroque era: the original Messiah and possibly the first oratorio in English. Full title: the anonymous Messiah. A Christ -Mass Song for Voices and Instruments, circa 1720. Complete with tuneful shepherd dialogues, the joyful song of the Virgin Mary, Three Wise Men arias and even a ‘halleluia’ chorus. Plus offertory by Prague composer Simon Brixi.

Monday, 7pm, Fiddlesticks, Three Parts on a Ground: European Court Music for three violins and continuo, NCEM

VIOLINISTS Huw Davies, Kati Debretzeni and Debbie Diamond are joined by harpsichordist Steven Devine for glorious programme of the Pachelbel Canon, a new arrangement of the Corelli ‘Christmas’ Concerto and Bach Concerto for three violins.

Thursday, 7pm, The Marian Consort, For Delighting The People – A Jacobean Christmas, NCEM

DIRECTED by Rory McCleery, one of the festival’s favourite vocal groups returns for a special seasonal programme from the Golden Age of English composers at their most unbuttoned and celebratory, featuring music written for the famously festive Stuart court. Plus more intimate, introspective sacred works by Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes and Bull.

Friday, 7pm, Ceruleo, Love Restor’d, NCEM

IN the summer of 1660, London’s theatres are reopening after 18 long years of Puritan rule: time for one Henry Purcell – the “English Orpheus” – to make his entrance on the musical stage to lead a musical revolution and new English baroque music. Ceruleo’s programme runs the gamut of Restoration English music, encompassing some of Purcell’s most famous pieces, alongside his lesser-known works and those by John Blow and John Eccles, while also celebrating the first female stars of the English stage.

Saturday, December 9, 11am, Baroque In The North, Panettone or Bûche de Noël? Festive Sweetmeats, NCEM

THIS multi-instrumented programme by Amanda Babington (violin, recorder, musette), Clare Babington (cello) and David Francis (harpsichord) showcases their debut album, Music For French King. Be prepared to fly from Versailles to Rome with works by Esprit-Philippe and Nicholas Chédeville, Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Enjoy the Advent spirit too with a tempting set of “French Noëls”. Musette, you ask. 18th century French bagpipes.

Saturday, December 9, 7pm, Yorkshire Bach Choir & Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Bach Christmas Oratorio, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York. SOLD OUT.

WRITTEN in 1734, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is heard rarely in its complete form, encapsulating rituals of belief, the human spirit’s diversity and the ecstatic joy in the Christmas message. Enjoy all six cantatas written for the feast days of Christmas and New Year, works that demand the largest and most spectacular orchestral forces Bach ever required. Soloists will be soprano Bethany Seymour, countertenor Robin Blaize, tenor Jonathan Hanley and bass Frederick Long.

Green Matthews: Dickens of a festive good time in A Christmas Carol In Concert

Festive folk concerts at NCEM

YULETIDE celebrations at the NCEM will be bookended by three festive folk nights: St Agnes Fountain, tonight; The Furrow Collective on December 5 and Green Matthews, December 19, all at 7.30pm.

Presented by the Black Swan Folk Club, St Agnes Fountain lines up with Chris While on vocals, guitar, bodhran, dulcimer, darbuka and percussion; Julie Matthews on vocals, piano, guitar, accordion and gazouki, and Chris Leslie on fiddle, mandolin, tenor guitar, bouzouki, ukulele, banjo, oud, whistle, Native American flute and “anything else he can lay his hands on”.

Postponed from last year, The Furrow Collective perform We Know By The Moon with Lucy Farrell on viola, voice and saw; Emily Portman on banjo, concertina and voice and Alasdair Roberts on guitars and voice.

Playing the NCEM for the second Christmas season in a row, Green Matthews turn Dickensian for A Christmas Carol In Concert, performed by Sophie Matthews, voice and flute, Chris Green, voice, guitar, mandocello and piano, and Jude Rees, voice, oboe and melodeon. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk

NCEM welcomes global applications for York International Young Artists Competition. Entry deadline: January 15

Protean Quartet: Winners of the 2022 York International Young Artists Competition, pictured at the NCEM

APPLICATIONS from ensembles across the world are invited for next year’s York International Young Artists Competition. The closing date is January 15 2024.

This longstanding competition for young ensembles will take place from July 10 to 13 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, as part of York Early Music Festival 2024.

The final will take place on Saturday, July 13 with a day of public performances at the NCEM. The first prize includes a recording contract from Linn Records; a £1,000 prize; opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and a concert at the 2025 York Early Music Festival.

Further prizes on offer include: the Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize, the Cambridge Early Music Prize and one for The Most Promising Young Artist/s, endorsed by the EUBO Development Trust. 

The competition is open to early music ensembles with a minimum of three members and an average age of 32 years or under and a maximum age of 36 for individuals.

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

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

Festival director and NCEM founder Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be staging the Young Artists competition once again in 2024. One of the highlights of our festival, the competition takes place every two years and fills every corner of the NCEM with music and laughter. 

“We believe it is extremely important to nurture and develop young talent, and the competition provides an important opportunity for young artists and musicians not just from the UK but from all over the world.” 

Last year’s winners, Protean Quartet, say: “We were delighted and honoured to win the main prize in 2022. Taking part in the competition was an amazing experience. It was wonderful performing at the NCEM’s home, the beautiful St Margaret’s Church, and meeting the other ensemble who were taking part. The prize provides a real boost to our confidence, profile and careers.”

Protean Quartet performed at last summer’s festival, as did 2019 winners L’Apothéose, who say: “Winning the York competition was an extremely important and prestigious recognition of our career. It was wonderful to return to York for the recording of our CD with Linn Records and to appear at the York Early Music Festival last July.”

For details of how to apply, head to: www.yorkcomp.ncem.co.uk or email yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk

York Early Music Festival will be all smoke and mirrors and full of Byrd song from July 7

York countertenor Iestyn Davies: Performing Eternal Source Of Light concert with Ensemble Jupiter on July 8. Picture: Chris Sorensen

YORK Early Music Festival 2023 takes the theme of Smoke & Mirrors with many of next month’s concerts reflecting the religious uncertainty of life in Tudor times.

Running from July 7 to 14 in York’s churches and historic buildings, the nine-day extravaganza of concerts, talks and workshops features The Sixteen, Ensemble Jupiter & Iestyn Davies, Rachel Podger and the City Musick among its headline performers.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “This year’s outstanding line-up of artists also includes Carolyn Sampson, RPS Vocal Award winner Anna Dennis, Alys Mererid Roberts and Helen Charlston, leading the charge for women across the ages.

“We are also presenting some of the most accomplished emerging ensembles from across Europe, including the 2019 and 2022 winners of the York International Young Artists Competition, who we are delighted to be welcoming back to York.”

The 2023 festival commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of one of England’s most celebrated composers, William Byrd, a man who lived a life beset by “smoke and mirrors” – hence the festival theme – as a practising Roman Catholic composer working for a constantly threatened Protestant Queen.

Mezzo soprano Helen Charlston: July 10 concert with theorbist Toby Carr at the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

“The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort will share music of state and church for voices and viols, in Byrd At Elizabethan Court, at the National Centre for Early Music, directed by Rory McCleery on July 11,” says Delma.

“You can learn about his keyboard music with harpsichord supremo Francesco Corti in Musica Transalpina, also featuring toccatas and variations by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Peter Philips, at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on July 10, and take a ‘Byrd pilgrimage’ around the churches of York with York Minster organist Benjamin Morris at All Saints’ Church, North Street, on July 12, and St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, and St Denys’s Church, Walmgate, on July 13.

“You can also enjoy the heavenly sounds of Byrd’s liturgical masterpieces in The Sixteen’s A Watchful Gaze concert with the York Minster Choir, directed by Harry Christophers at York Minster on July 9, when Byrd’s legacy will be taken firmly into the modern day with two new works by Dobrinka Tabakova, Arise, Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity.”

Tickets are still available for several prominent festival concerts, not least The Sixteen, the festival’s opening concert by The City Musick on July 7 and York countertenor Iestyn Davies with festival debutants Ensemble Jupiter on July 8, both at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Directed by William Lyons, The City Musick’s Renaissance big band – 20 musicians in all – will be focusing on the legacy of David Munrow in an homage to his iconic 1970s’ recordings but with a modern twist.

Apotropaïk: Performing at All Saints’ Church on July 12

Lyons’s band brings together – deep breath – consorts of recorders, strings, shawms, crumhorns, racketts, dulcians, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, cornetts, sackbuts, keyboard, lutes and percussion to delight in the joy and richness of Renaissance instrumental sounds and dance styles, from sombre almains and pavans to effervescent bransles, galliards and ciaconnas.

Directed by lutenist Thomas Dunford, Ensemble Jupiter join with Iestyn Davies to perform Eternal Source Of Light, a selection of Handel’s most beautiful arias from the 1740s and ’50s, as heard on their award-winning Eternal Heaven album collaboration. Expect a seamless sequence of the secular and the sacred, the tranquil and the tempestuous, the sumptuous and the sophisticated.

On July 12, sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis and Alys Mererid Roberts join the Dunedin Consort to perform Out Of Her Mouth, three miniature cantatas written by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Performed in three historic venues, the NCEM at St Margaret’s Church, the Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers Hall, Fossgate, and the hall’s Undercroft, these works by a woman, about women and for women reveal the stories of three Biblical women narrating their own complex, heart-searching experiences.

This concert has sold out, as have the The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort’s celebration of Elizabeth I and her courtiers, festival artistic advisor Helen Charlston’s July 10 concert with theorbist Toby Carr at the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall, and violinist Rachel Podger’s return to the NCEM with theorbist Daniele Caminiti on July 13.

Violinist Rachel Podger: Returning to the National Centre for Early Music on July 13

Mezzo soprano Charlston and Carr explore the intimate sound-world of solo voice and theorbo in Battle Cry: She Speaks, those battle cries resounding down the centuries in song; Podger and Caminiti perform Hidden In Plain Sight, celebrating the virtuosity of the violin and its place on the concert platform.

The NCEM Platform Artists’ showcase for emerging European ensembles opens with 2019 EEEmerging+ Prize winners The Butter Quartet’s Well Met By Moonlight on July 9, moved to the NCEM after selling out Bedern Hall, followed by Apotropaïk, who scooped three prizes in last year’s York International Young Artists Competition, performing songs from a 13th century re-telling of the story of Tristan and Isolde, on July 12 at All Saints’ Church

2019 winners L’ Apothéose, from Spain, launch their new album, recorded at the NCEM last year, with a July 13 programme of Carl Stamitz chamber works from the 1780s, back at the NCEM.  2022 prize winners The Protean Quartet perform Tempus Omnia Vincit there on Juy 14 ahead of recording their debut album with Linn Records.

The festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 will be awarded to baroque trumpet player Crispian Steele-Perkins at the NCEM on July 9 immediately after the live edition of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, broadcast from there.

For the full festival programme and tickets, visit: ncem.co.uk.

I Zefirelli: July 6 concert at the National Centre for Early Music

I Zefirelli to play July 6 concert in NCEM gardens as part of week-long residency

AWARD-WINNING young instrumental ensemble I Zefirelli will arrive in York from Germany on July 4 for a week-long residency.

They will perform Mr Handel In The Pub! on July 6 in the National Centre for Early Music gardens, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, where they will present a very particular blend of folk and early music as seen through the lens of life in London in the 1700s.

The ensemble will be undertaking the residency as part of the EEEmerging + programme, a large-scale European cooperation project that promotes the emergence of new talent in early music.

In the I Zefirelli line-up are Luise Catenhusen, recorder; María Carrasco, baroque violin; Jakob Kuchenbuch violoncello, viola da gamba; Tobias Tietze, lute, theorbo, baroque guitar, vihuela; Jeroen Finke, percussion, baritone, and Tilmann Albrecht, harpsichord, percussion.

Tickets for the 6.30pm to 7.30pm concert cost £10 at www.ncem.co.uk/events/i-zefirell. Refreshments will be available.

National Centre for Early Music in full bloom for spring season of concerts and more

Arsen Petrosyan: Armenian duduk specialist, playing music from his homeland on March 10

AFTER a quiet start to 2023 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, the spring concert season begins to bloom in full in early March.

Before then, the NCEM’s community singing group meets for a Cuppa And A Chorus session on February 20 at 2pm, with further sessions to follow on March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19 and July 24.

“After the Covid lockdowns, we’re opening up for more members to join this popular chance to connect through singing,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

I Can Play, the NCEM’s programme for sharing music-making opportunities with D/deaf children across York, continues this season at Milthorpe School, on February 25 and March 18, with support from the York children’s charity Lollipop.

“We started this programme several years ago, went online during Covid, and then moved to the York Music Centre, based at Millthorpe School, in September,” says Delma. “It’s lovely for the children to feel part of the broader activity there.”

Guitars at the double: Lulo Reinhardt & Yuliya Lonskaya

The NCEM’s Family Friendly umbrella reopens for Leeds company Opera North’s Little Listeners performance of Mini Vixen on February 26 at 11.30am and 1.30pm.

Based on the music and story of Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen and led by a cast of professional opera singers and musicians, this musical adventure takes place in a mystical woodland where a Vixen meets a Fox. As their friendship grows, they discover how working together is vital to protect their home and the habitat around them.

Singing and movement is encouraged at this interactive, relaxed, fun concert, where Opera North invites you to “experience the magic of opera, storytelling and music, whatever your age”. 

“For Opera North’s singers, Mini Vixen gives them an opportunity to work in very different circumstances and develop their professional skills,” says Delma.

What follows is an NCEM spring diary of “thought-provoking concerts, guaranteed to entertain, to intrigue and to make you smile,” says Delma.

Andrew McCormack Trio: Terra Firma concert on April 28

First up will be multi-instrumentalists, composers and folk scholars The Rheingans Sisters on March 3. Nominated for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Peak District siblings Rowan and Anna play instruments made largely by their luthier father, Helmut Rheingans.

Further folk concerts will be performed by Leveret, the all-English trio of Sam Sweeney, fiddle, Andy Cutting, button accordion, and Rob Harbron, concertina, on March 15 and Firelight Trio, featuring Moishe’s Bagel accordion and piano player Phil Alexander, on March 29.

Leveret rely on mutual trust and musical interaction to create new settings of their repertoire in the moment, while Firelight Trio’s Alexander, Gavin Marwick (fiddle) and Ruth Morris (nyckelharpa) play European folk, from Swedish polkas to Scottish reels, French waltzes to klezmer, topped off with original tunes.

Make a note of two more folk gigs already booked for the autumn: Scottish fiddle quartet RANT (Bethany Reid, Anna Massie, Lauren MacColl and Gillian Frame) on September 21, and The Furrow Collective’s night of story-songs and seasonal carols, rearranged for December 5 (after last December’s visit had to be postponed).

Jazz bookings are led off by the piano-driven Andrew McCormack Trio’s Terra Firma concert with bassist Joe Downard and American drummer Rod Youngs on April 28. 

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Devine Moments on slide guitar

The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project delivers jazz, heavy metal, Flamenco, Tango and Turkish-influenced music from Pete Oxley, Nicolas Meier, bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti on May 18.

The University of York Jazz Orchestra combines standards and new compositions, under the direction of the Roller Trio’s James Mainwaring on June 16. Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge and special guest Kit Holmes promise blues, folk, jazz and African grooves on June 18 at 6.30pm as part of the York Festival of Ideas.

On the international front, Armenian duduk player Arsen Petrosyan leads his quartet in Hokin Janapar: My Soul’s Journey, his March 10 return to the NCEM to play traditional, early, classical and sacred music from his homeland after a Making Tracks concert there four years ago.

Django Reinhardt’s grand-nephew, the gypsy swing, North African and Indian-inspired guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, from Germany, pairs up with folk, jazz and bossa nova guitarist Yulija Lonskaya on May 9 in his NCEM debut.

The Instituto Cervantes, National Centre for the Promotion of Music and NCEM link up for Beyond The Spanish Golden Age, Music Of The Spanish Enlightenment, two 7pm concerts backed by Inaem, the Spanish Ministry of Sport and Culture, with funding from the European Union’s Nextgeneration.eu fund.

Concerto 1700: 18th century Spanish string trios on May 14

Spanish early music ensemble La Galania perform 17th century works of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death with soprano Raquel Andueza on May 13; violinist Daniel Pinteno’s Concerto 1700 focus on 18th century string trios by Castle, Boccherini and Brunetti on May 14 in their York debut.

Grammy Award-winning Rajasthan slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays the NCEM for the first time, accompanied by table player Pandit Subhen Chatterjee, in Devine Moments on May 22. York Festival of Ideas welcomes American countertenor Reginald Mobley and French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon for a night of songs written by black composers such as HT Burleigh, Florence Price and J Rosamond Johnson, together with a reflection on the origins of Negro spirituals and slave songs, on June 13.

From 6.30pm to 7pm, Dr Matthew Williams, who runs the University of York’s black music programme, gives an illustrated talk on how Negro spirituals, a hymn to resilience and a symbol of hope and faith in humanity, influenced ragtime, barbershop, jazz, gospel, blues, rock techno and electronic music. After the concert, he hosts a Q&A session with Mobley and Trotignon.

The snappily attired Budapest Café Orchestra switch between gypsy and folk-flavoured music  in their unconventional set of Balkan and Russian pieces, Romantic masterpieces and Gaelic folk anthems on June 22.

Further highlights include Frame Ensemble musicians Irine Rosnes, violin, Liz Hanks, violin, Trevor Bartlett, percussion, and Jonny Best, piano, accompanying the April 18 screening of the BFI digital restoration of Frank Hurley’s 1919 film, South (U): Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic.

American countertenor Reginald Mobley: Singing songs by black composers at York Festival of Ideas

Hurley photographed Shackleton’s 1914-1916 expedition to Antarctica aboard Endurance, during which the ship was crushed by ice, leaving the crew stranded. Unseen since it sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915, the wreck of Endurance was found at last in March 2022.

The University of York Baroque+ Day on May 7 features Consone Quartet with basset clarinet player Emily Worthington, performing works by Haydn, Stadler and Mozart at 12 noon.

Consone Quartet members and University of York students will be holding a free masterclass (booking required) at 2.30pm. The day ends with Lucy Russell and Rachel Gray directing the University Baroque Ensemble in Ah! Vienna – Vienna Before Mozart, featuring Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali and Fox pieces.

Improvising violinist Nina Kumin presents A Baroque Fantasy on May 14 at 10.30am, a free concert where she focuses on fantasy, from and freedom by letting the solo violin fantasias of Nicola Matteis take centre stage.

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023 Final will be held on May 12 at 7pm, when the selection of new pieces written for The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble will be played.

Raquel Andueza & La Galania: 17th century Spanish music of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death on May 13

In the second Family Friendly concert of 2023 for children aged five upwards, parents and carers, the London-based Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment performs a newly crafted version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by Hazel Gould, on April 1 at 10.30am.

In this fun-packed show, Kirsty is a bird and Tim is a bird catcher who needs to catch a new bird every day to take to the Queen. Kirsty wants to remain free, whereupon Tim is caught in a dilemma when the Queen sets them a series of challenges. Will music save the day?

During the York Festival of Ideas, the NCEM plays host to Claudio Kon Do Brasil, an introduction to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, run by Brazilian-born musician, percussionist and workshop leader Claudio Kron, who moved to Britain 30 years ago and now lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

“Guaranteed to keep you on your toes”, two sessions will be held on June 17: 10.30am to 12 noon for teenagers and adults; 2pm to 3.30pm for children aged seven upwards and their families.

All concerts at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, start at 7.30pm, unless stated otherwise. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

NCEM and BBC Radio 3 seek entries for Young Composers Award competetion

Wind-blown: The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble members Adrian France, Tom Lees, Gawain Glenton, Conor Hastings, Andy Harwood-White and Emily White

ENTRIES are sought for the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023.

Each year the award is presented by the National Centre for Early Music, York, in association with BBC Radio 3, who welcome the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble as partners for next year.

Young composers are invited to write a new piece for this virtuoso period instrument group based on a popular tune from the Spanish “Golden Age” of the 16th and 17th centuries, creating their composition in the same spirit by using the melody as a starting point for musical ideas.

The award is open to young composers resident in Great Britain up to the age of 25 and is judged in two age categories: 18 and under and 19 to 25. 

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin says: The Young Composers Award continues to be one of the highlights on the NCEM’s calendar and is an extremely important part of the organisation’s work.

“For the 2023 awards, we are delighted to be working with the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, an award-winning group with a host of distinguished recordings to its name.

“The winning compositions will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, a wonderful way to launch the careers of aspiring young composers.”

NCEM direcor Dr Delma Tomlin: “The Young Composers Award continues to be one of the highlights on the NCEM’s calendar”

BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey says: “Here at Radio 3, we believe that it is vital to encourage and support creative exploration, as this is the only way to keep classical music alive with the idea of an ever-growing canon, attracting new audiences with a sense of exploration and discovery.

“That is why we are so proud to partner with the National Centre for Early Music once more for its 2023 Young Composers Award. This collaboration enables us to expose our audiences at home to some of the brightest talents in Early Music practice, broadcasting their works on our Early Music Show.”

Gawain Glenton, the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble’s co-director, says: “A key part of our mission as an ensemble is to expand the horizons of our beautiful instruments.

“We’re therefore thrilled to return as the ensemble-in-residence and can’t wait to see what the young composers write for us. Pieces from our last appearance in 2018 have since become part of our core repertoire. We’re looking forward to once again showcasing the work of the UK’s wonderful young artistic voices.”

Composers must register their interest by 12 noon on February 17 and scores should be submitted by March 17 2023. Full details, including the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble’s guide on how to write for their instruments, can be found at: https://www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk/

The shortlisted composers will be invited to a collaborative workshop at the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, led by composer Christopher Fox and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble. In the evening, the shortlisted pieces will be performed with the judges present, when the two winning compositions will be announced. The NCEM will meet all travel and accommodation costs for those selected to attend.

The winning works will be premiered in a public performance at the Stoller Hall in Manchester on November 9 2023, when the concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show. 

National Centre for Early Music launches new season of diverse musical adventures, films and festivals led off by Making Tracks

Jean Toussaint: Performing with his jazz quintet at the NCEM tomorrow

THE National Centre for Early Music’s autumn season of jazz, folk, global and early music and films opens today with the return of Making Tracks at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

First set up by a network of British venues in 2010 and re-launched in 2019, the project selects young world music professionals, bringing them together for a two-week residency and national tour designed to reach across social, cultural and geographical divides and to foster a deeper appreciation of musical and cultural diversity.

Eight musicians will be performing as soloists and collaboratively. In the line-up will be oud player Alaa Zouiten, from Morocco/Germany; Swedish fiddler Anna Ekborg; Scottish lever harpist and composer Lucie Hendry, based in Denmark, and Scottish Highlands smallpipes, whistle, pedals and fiddle player, composer, instrument maker, educator and musical director Malin Lewis.

So too will Cherif Soumano, the rising star of the kora from Mali, now living in Paris; Leeds folk singer, folklore songwriter, guitarist and shruti box player Iona Lane; Iranian-born tar, setar and daf player and vocalist Shabab Azinmehr, from Belgium, and Ranjana Ghatak, a London singer, composer and tanpura player embedded in the classical and devotional Hindustani vocal tradition, who is also part of the Yorkston/Thorne/Ghatak trio with James Yorkston and Jon Thorne.

As part of their residency, the Making Tracks musicians also will be hosting a free music workshop for young people.

Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1982 and moved to London in 1987, will be showcasing his latest album tomorrow.

Songs For Sisters Brothers And Others reflects on the turbulent Covid-19 years. “The pandemic caused me to focus on the fragility of life and the fact we’re here one moment and gone the next,” he says of penning songs as a “tribute to my wonderful siblings while they were still around to enjoy it”.

Zoe Rahman: Giving a foretaste of her 2023 album on November 9

Joining him in his quintet in York will be Freddie Gavita, trumpet, Jonathan Gee, piano, Conor Murray, bass, and Shane Forbes, drums.

THE NCEM is offering a reduced ticket price for those who book simultaneously for Toussaint’s gig and the Zoe Rahman Trio’s NCEM debut on November 9, when the exuberant British/Bengali pianist and composer steeped in jazz and classical music will be introducing compositions from her forthcoming album, set for release next year.

Rahman has worked with George Mraz, Courtney Pine and Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Orchestra music and won the Ivor Novello Impact Award at the 2021 Ivors Composer Awards, a MOBO award and British Jazz Award and has been nominated for the Mercury Prize. In York, she will be performing with Gene Calderazzo on drums and Andrea Di Biase on bass and will be working with York Music Forum too.

Fresh from the BBC Proms, Welsh harpist Catriona Finch teams up once more with Senegalese kora specialist Seckou Keita on Saturday in their multi-award-winning duo to mark May’s release of their third album, Echo, on Rough Trade.

Combining classical and folk, traditional and contemporary, Finch and Keita’s tender musical alliance explores different cultures and shared humanity “as their fingers flow like opposing tributaries into a single river of sound”.

The folk programme takes in co-promotions with the Black Swan Folk Club for Irish singer and bouzouki player Daoirí (pronounced ‘Derry’) Farrell, performing songs from album True Born Irishman and A Lifetime Of Happiness, on October 12 and performers and authors John Watterson (aka Fake Thackray) and Paul Thompson presenting Beware Of The Bull, The Enigmatic Genius Of Jake Thackray on October 28 at 8pm.

They will be combining humorous Thackray songs with stories of the late Jake in the wake of publishing their biography charting the life of the Leeds topical comedy songwriter, poet and journalist.

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita: Welsh harp and Senegalese kora

THE NCEM’s own folk promotions will be led off by Scottish multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer John McCusker & Friends on November 2, after the former Battlefield Band fledgling marked his 30th anniversary as a professional musician by releasing his Best Of compilation from solo records and television and film soundtracks in 2021.

Lady Maisery, the innovative award-winning English vocal harmony trio of Hazel Askew, Hannah James and Rowan Rheingans, play on November 16.

All composers and multi-instrumentalists in their own right, they perform intelligent and thoughtful folk arrangements of both trad repertoire and original compositions, whether unearthing a feminist twist hidden in a traditional tale, delivering a poignant anti-war ballad or drawing on myriad influences in their own songs.

On December 2, The Furrow Collective ­– Lucy Farrell viola, saw, voice, Rachel Newton, harp, fiddle, voice, Emily Portman, banjo, concertina, voice, and Alasdair Roberts guitars, voice – present Winter Nights, a spine-tingling evening of harmony and storytelling, bringing light into the wintry gloom.

On December 17, Green Matthews evoke the spirit of Christmas past in Gaudete, spanning 600 years of music that brings the festive season to life in a riot of sound and colour. In the line-up are Chris Green and Sophie Matthews, cittern, English border bagpipes, shawm, guitar, flute and piano accordion; Chris Matthews and Emily Baines, woodwinds, and Richard Baines, violin.

Bookers for any two of Lady Maisery, The Furrow Collective and Green Matthews will receive a £5 discount; book all three for an £8 saving.

The NCEM’s Family Friendly show “for a while” presents Mish Mash Productions in a return to York with Strange Creatures, a musical adventure for children aged four to seven and families alike, on Sunday, October 16 at 1.30pm and 3pm.

Lady Maisery: English vocal harmonies on November 16

Violin, viola and cello combine to create a magical world inspired by the book Beegu, written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon and performed by arrangement with Penguin Random House.

On the film front, Victor Sjöström’s 1921 Swedish silent movie The Phantom Carriage will be shown with live musical accompaniment on October 26 as part of York Ghost Week 2022.

In this 100-minute Dickensian ghost story and deeply moving drama that inspired a 12-year-old Ingmar Bergman to make films, the last person to die before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve is doomed to ride Death’s carriage, collecting souls for the year ahead.

This eerie and innovative Swedish classic also was a showcase for ground-breaking special effects as well as haunting visuals, now to be complemented by the spontaneous performance of Frame Ensemble, a quartet of northern musicians – Irine Røsnes, violin, Liz Hanks, cello, Trevor Bartlett, percussion, and Jonny Best, piano, specialising in improvised silent film.

The Aesthetica Short Film Festival will be returning to the NCEM during its November 1 to 6 run, showcasing 300 films in a celebration of independent cinema that connects audiences through powerful storytelling.

The international festival spans comedies to dramas, immersive virtual realities to family-friendly animations, alongside masterclasses.

The NCEM may be the National Centre for Early Music but its brief under director Delma Tomlin is far broader. Three examples are Singlr An Appera on October 23 at 8pm, klezmer and Balkan band She’Koyokh on October 30 at 6.30pm and Manasamitra’s Slumber Stories and Dusk Notes on November 11 at 5pm and 7.30pm respectively.

She’Koyokh: Klezmer and Balkan band from London

Organised by Lydia Cottrell of SLAP, Loré Lixenberg’s Singlr An Appera is a dreamlike musical evening in the Singlr salon where ambient electronic tracks and live musicians accompany the vocalised conversations of the Singlr app participants.   

London’s international seven-piece klezmer and Balkan band She’Koyokh will be presenting Klezmer With Nightingales, a night of energetic klezmer combined with ancient Sephardic songs, reflecting the diversity of Jewish heritages, the history of migration and the musical integration that has taken place across Europe and beyond over hundreds of years.

In the band are Çiğdem Aslan, vocals, Susi Evans, clarinet, Meg Hamilton, violin, Matt Bacon, guitars, Živorad Nikolić, accordion, Paul Moylan, double bass, and Christina Borgenstierna, percussion.

In Leeds-based Manasamitra’s Slumber Stories, stories from around the world swirl together with semi-improvised music to create the background to a restful, rejuvenating and meditative rest-time story ritual for adults and children alike.

For Dusk Notes, vocalist Supriya Nagarajan and musician and soundscape artist Duncan Chapman unite with designer Pritpal Ajimal in a spiritual work that speaks to the Hindu gods, particularly Krishna, the god of compassion, tenderness and love.

Combining songs whose melodies date back to the 2nd and 3rd century, Dusk Notes has ragas to suit the mood of a mellow winter evening at the time of twilight just before the sun goes down.

Early music enthusiasts should look out for the young Spanish instrumental group El Gran Teatro del Mundo, who head to the NCEM on November 20 at 6.30pm after a week-long debut British tour. These rising stars of the EEEmerging programme promise a sparkling concert of 17th and 18th century works by Vivaldi, Telemann and Fasch.

Leveret: Springing into spontaneous action next March

Organised by the NCEM, the 2022 York Early Music Festival’s run from December 8 to 17 features such guest artists as Solomon’s Knot, the Orlando Consort and Bojan Cicic. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/yemcf.

Still on the Christmas theme, The York Waits – Tim Bayley, Lizzie Gutteridge, Anna Marshall, Susan Marshall, William Marshall and singer Deborah Catterall – focus on The Mirth & Melody Of Angels, Music for Christmas and The Festive Season from Medieval and Renaissance Europe, as they celebrate the 45th anniversary of their re-creation of York’s historic city band, on December 20.

Booked into the diary for 2023 already are two folk nights: The Rheingans Sisters on March 3 and Leveret on March 15. Book for both concerts by October 31 to save £5.

The Rheingans Sisters make playful, powerful music that is contemporary yet deeply anchored in folk traditions, performed on myriad instruments, many made by their luthier father. Nominated for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, in 2020 they released their fourth album, Receiver.

Leveret brings together three of England’s finest folk musicians, fiddle player Sam Sweeney, button accordionist Andy Cutting and concertina player Rob Harbron, whose natural, relaxed musicianship is not arranged in the conventional sense. Instead, they rely on mutual trust and spontaneous musical interaction to create new settings of their repertoire in the moment, with no two performances ever alike.

The NCEM is supported by City of York Council, Make it York, Arts Council England, Creative Europe and Mayfield Valley Arts Trust.

All concerts start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise. Tickets can be booked on 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

Spanish ensemble El Gran Teatro del Mundo to play York as finale to first UK tour promoted by NCEM in November

El Gran Teatro del Mundo: First UK tour concludes at NCEM in York

SPANISH baroque ensemble El Gran Teatro del Mundo will embark on their debut British tour in November, organised by the National Centre for Early Music, York, in its first venture as promoters.

The tour is supported by the Creative Europe EEEmerging+ programme [whose bridge-building work concludes next summer alas] and the Ministry of Culture of Spain through INAEM, the National Institute for Performing Arts and Music.

Winners of the Diapason d’Or for their first album, Die Lullisten, the six-piece ensemble previously won the Cambridge Early Music Prize at the 2019 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

The ensemble comprises Claudio Rado, violín, Michael Form, recorders, Miriam Jorde, oboe,
Bruno Hurtado, cello, Jonas Nordberg, archlute, and director Julio Caballero, harpsichord.

Rising stars of the EEEmerging+ programme, El Gran Teatro del Mundo have performed at prestigious venues and festivals all over Europe, such as: Festival Oude Muziek Utrecht; Festtage Alter Musik Basel; Musikinstrumentenmuseum Berlin; Musica Antica Urbino; Festival d’Ambronay; Centro Botìn Santander; the Riga Early Music Festival and the Festival Baroque de Tarantaise in France.

Specialising in music from the 17th and 18th centuries played on oboe, recorders, cello, theorbo and harpsichord, the ensemble will celebrate the genius of Vivaldi, Telemann and Fasch in a tour programme of work entitled The Art Of Conversation.

“We are delighted to be initiating this exciting UK tour,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

El Gran Teatro del Mundo will appear at St John Smith’s Square, London, November 14; Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of Southampton, November 15; Cambridge Early Music, November 16; Lakeside Arts, Nottingham, November 17, and St George’s, Bristol, November 18. The grand finale, at the NCEM on November 20, will be filmed.

El Gran Teatro del Mundo say: “The 2019 York Early Music competition was a wonderful experience for us and we were really looking forward to coming back to the UK. After a very long wait, we can finally share with the British public the wide range of emotions and feelings that our energetic programme conveys. 

“We are especially grateful to the NCEM for their support and dedication in making this tour possible. We are working to make it a great artistic and human experience for everyone.”

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to be initiating this exciting UK tour and to work with promoters from across the country as we welcome this impressive young instrumental group.

“We first welcomed El Gran Teatro del Mundo to York in 2019 when they took part in the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.  We were impressed with their talent and artistry, and they have continued to go from strength to strength, recently winning the coveted Diapason d’Or. 

“This is the first chance to invite them post-Covid restrictions, and we can’t wait for them to return to the NCEM this autumn.”

Tickets for the 6.30pm York concert are on sale on 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

Protean Quartet win York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

Protean Quartet: First prize winners at York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

PROTEAN Quartet, from Germany, have won first prize at the 2022 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

“We are so proud to receive this wonderful prize which will widen the opportunity for us to share our music far and wide,” they said afterwards. “We were competing against some amazingly talented musicians and we are privileged to receive this great honour.”

They overcame fierce competition from six highly talented international ensembles in the biennial competition, organised by the National Centre for Early Music, York, in a day-long series of performances by the competitors on July 16.

Protean Quartet – Javier Aguilar, Edi Kotler, violins, Ricardo Gil, viola, and Clara Rada, cello – receive a professional recording contract from Linn Records, £1,000 cash prize and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the NCEM.

Under the title Tempus Omnia Vincit, they performed Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz and Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 in A minor (Rosamunde), Allegro ma non troppo and Andante.

After Inflammabile and Ensemble L’Aminta, both from Austria, and Fair Oriana, from Great Britain, had to withdraw due to unforeseen circumstances, the final featured Protean Quartet; ApotropaïK, from France; Ensemble Augelletti, from GB; Harmos Winds, from the Netherlands; Liturina, from GB; Palisander, from GB, and UnderStories, from Italy.

Triple success: ApotropaïK, from France, won the EEEmerging+ Prize, Friends of York Early Music Prize and Cambridge Music Prize

During the two days before the weekend competition, each ensemble presented an informal recital under the guidance of York Early Music Festival artistic advisors John Bryan and Steven Devine.

The aim of these recitals was to give finalists the opportunity to adapt to the performance space and become familiar with the York audience in advance of the competition.

Each group then gave their final recital to a distinguished judging panel at the NCEM, comprising: Edward Blakeman, from BBC Radio 3; Albert Edelman, president of Réseau Européen de Musique Ancienne, 2019-2022; Philip Hobbs, Linn Records producer and recording engineer; violinist Catherine Mackintosh and harpsichordist Professor Barbara Willi.

The 2022 competition was presented by John Bryan, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Huddersfield and a member of the Rose Consort of Viols.

At the end of the competition, judging panel chair Philip Hobbs said: “The last three years have been extraordinary and extremely challenging for all young musicians. The calibre of musicianship we have seen is a tribute to their tenacity and dedication. The standard we see keeps going up and up and I would like to applaud all those who have taken part in this incredible day.”

Story of success: UnderStories, from Italy, won the Most Promising Young Artist prize

NCEM director and festival administrative director Delma Tomlin said: “It was wonderful to see the return of the competition and share the joy of being together again.

“The performances from these seven ensembles were of the highest calibre – congratulations to all. I would like to thank them and extend special thanks to our panel of judges for their hard work and support and to John Bryan and Steven Devine for their expertise and invaluable help.”

The EEEmerging+ Prize, Friends of York Early Music Prize and Cambridge Music Prize were all scooped by ApotropaïK, who performed Bella Donna, music from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.

A cash prize of £1,000 for the Most Promising Young Artist – individual instrumentalist or ensemble specialising in baroque repertoire – was awarded to UnderStories, whose performance featured works by Benedetto Marcello, Antonio Caldara and Antonio Vivaldi.

The competition provided a spectacular finale to the ten-day festival in a return to a full-scale live event that connected friends old and new through concerts, recitals and workshops staged in historic venues around York.

Competition highlights and music from the winning recital will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show later this year.

York Early Music Festival rejoices in Connections in full return to live concerts

The Sixteen: Performing Hubert Parry’s Songs Of Farewell in York Minster. Picture: Firedog

THE 2022 York Early Music Festival takes the theme of Connections on its return to a full-scale event after the Covid restrictions of 2020 and 2021.

Taking place in glorious ecclesiastical buildings around the city from July 8 to 16, the festival celebrates the joy of music, fusing musicians and their stories across the ages.

“Concerts are linked together through a maze of interconnecting composers,” says festival administrative director Delma Tomlin. “We’re delighted to be able to shine a light on the many connections that hold us together in the past and into the future.”

At the heart of the 2022 festival will be concerts by three of the best-known Early Music ensembles in the resplendent York Minster, each starting at 7.30pm.

Directed by Harry Christophers, The Sixteen present a sublime programme of choral works focused around Hubert Parry’s Songs Of Farewell, complemented by mediaeval carols, works by poet and lutenist Thomas Campion, Howells and Parry and a new commission by Cecilia McDowall, on July 9 in the Nave. 

Profeti Della Quinta: Playing music to connect with the deepest of emotions, from love and delight to loss and despair, in Lamento D’Arianna

Under the title of Choral Connections, Peter Phillips directs The Tallis Scholars in the Chapter House in a sold-out July 11 programme of Josquin des Prez, Palestrina and Byrd works.

In the Nave, on July 13, Paul McCreesh directs the Gabrieli Consort & Players in A Venetian Coronation: a spectacular recreation of the 1595 Coronation Mass of the Venetian Doge Marina Grimani at St Mark’s, Venice.

“The Gabrielis are playing a remarkable piece on a scale that wholly suits York Minster,” says Delma. “It has that feeling of ‘We’re back’ writ large about it.

“This lavish sequence of festive music has become synonymous with these performers through recordings in 1989 and 2012 and combines brilliance and solemnity in a compelling and kaleidoscopic programme of masterpieces for combinations of voices, cornetts and sackbuts.

“A Venetian Coronation has been performed in many of the world’s greatest cathedrals and concert halls and is revived here in celebration of the Gabrielis’ 40th anniversary.”

Gonzaga Band: Making their York Early Music Festival debut

The festival’s opening concert, Heaven’s Joy: The World Of The Virtuoso Viol, will be given by the viola da gamba duo Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on July 8 at 7.30pm.

Taking a trip through time and space, they find connections between the late-Elizabethan music of eccentric soldier Tobia Hume and the later improvisatory divisions of Christopher Simpson, through French baroque suites by the mysterious Mr de Ste. Colombe and the “devilish” Forqueray, to reach the classical calm of Christoph Schaffrath in Berlin via JS Bach.

On July 10, at 7.30pm, the Gonzaga Band make their festival debut at the NCEM with works from Venice 1629 by Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, wind player Dario Castello and violinist Biagio Marini, under director and cornett player Jamie Savan. In the ranks too is organist and harpsichord player Steven Devine, in his last year as a festival artistic advisor.

Further festival highlights will be The Rose Consort Of Viols’ Music For Severall Friends (NCEM, July 11, 1pm); festival debutants La Vaghezza – an EEEmerging+ ensemble from Italy – presenting Sculpting The Fabric (St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, July 12, 1pm), and another festival newcomer, theorbo specialist Ori Harmelin (Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate, July 13, 9.45pm).

Profeti Della Quinta, 2011 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, return to the NCEM on July 12 to perform Italian Renaissance music from Rore to Monteverdi at 7.30pm; The University of York Baroque Ensemble focus on Mannheim Travels To Fife (St Lawrence’s Church, July 13, 1pm); Peter Seymour directs festival regulars Yorkshire Baroque Soloists (St Lawrence’s Church, July 14, 7.30pm), and Ensemble Voces Suaves highlight Heinrich Schutz In Italy (St Lawrence’s Church, July 15, 7.30pm).

Ensemble Voces Suaves: Italian madrigal magic at St Lawrence’s Church

Delma is delighted by the resumption of Minster Minstrels, the NCEM’s youth instrumental ensemble, who will be performing late 17th century theatre, court and household music in Fairest Isle at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on July 10 at 4.45pm.

“Given the pressure on young people’s studies over the past two years, director Ailsa Batters has done really well in bringing them back together again,” she says.

The York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2022 provides the grand festival finale on July 16 from 10am to 5.30pm at the NCEM, preceded by informal NCEM recitals by the ten pan-European ensembles on July 14 and 15 at 10.30am.

The winners will receive a professional CD recording contract from Linn Records, a £1,000 cheque and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music.

“We’re delighted to be presenting a nine-day festival of music in our beautiful city, after we were caught last year in Boris Johnson’s indecision about whether venues could open or not,” says Delma.

Delighted to be connecting and reconnecting: York Early Music Festival administrative director Delma Tomlin

“We were, however, able to stream the 2021 festival, drawing new audiences online, but it’s lovely to see our patrons return because that’s what festivals are all about: a celebration of being together.

“Some of this year’s artists were meant to be with us two years ago; some of them, last year. The Young Artists should have been with us last year, and it’s wonderful that we’ll have 43 young musicians coming to York for the competition. It’s amazing that these young groups have been able to keep going, to keep their spirits up, and to still be coming to York a year later than first planned.”

Delma concludes: “This year’s theme is Connections, connecting and indeed reconnecting music, artists and, of course, our audiences. As always, we’ll be celebrating the glorious music of the past but also looking forward, as we’re able, at last, to stage the International Young Artists Competition, showcasing and nurturing the performers of the future.

“We’re so pleased to be back at full strength for what promises to be one of the most exciting festivals to date.”

For the full programme, head to: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/york-early-music-festival/. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

BBC Radio 3 will be recording the concerts by Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin, The Sixteen, the Gonzaga Band and Gabrieli Consort & Players for broadcast, along with the  York Early Music International Young Artists Competition 2022. The Early Music Show will be broadcast live from the festival on July 10 at 2pm.

NCEM launches ambitious Alignment online festival packed with highlights from 2022

Cantoria: Three concerts from the Spanish ensemble’s York residency will feature in Alignment online

THE National Centre of Early Music, York, is to celebrate the array of music staged in York and Beverley this year by presenting Alignment, its most ambitious online festival yet. 

Highlights of the packed NCEM musical calendar will be available to download from August 1 to 30 and are on sale now.

The festival features 14 concerts from the 2022 spring season, recorded by the NCEM’s specialist digital team in glorious historic buildings.

“There’s a chance to enjoy music from the Renaissance through to the Baroque with a nod to the contemporary just to keep us on our toes,” says Delma Tomlin, the NCEM’s director .

The Alignment recordings includes Spanish vocal group Cantoria in a film made during their spring residency at the NCEM. Their vocal and instrumental programme encompasses the lives of Tudor Queens Catherine of Aragon and Mary, married to Philip of Spain, in St Mary’s Church, Bishophill, the NCEM’s home at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, and the mediaeval Merchant Adventurers Hall, Fossgate.

Florilegium: JS Bach concert, recorded at Beverley Minster

Further highlights include the music of JS Bach presented by Florilegium, recorded in Beverley Minster; two festival favourites, EEEmerging ensembles Prisma and Sarbacanes, and Ensemble Molière, the first BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble.

The featured ensembles are:

Cantoría; Prisma; Ensemble Molière; Profeti della Quinta; Florilegium; Rose Consort Of Viols; Gonzaga Band; Sarbacanes; La Vaghezza; University of York Baroque Ensemble; Orí Harmelin; Ensemble Voces Suaves; Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists.

Four different online packages are available:

Complete Box Set, £70, including all 14 concerts.

Platform Artists, £30, focusing on emerging talent with Cantoría, La Vaghezza, Prisma and Sarbacanes.

Baroque In A Box, £40: Ensemble Molière, Florilegium, Gonzaga Band, Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin, University of York Baroque Ensemble and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists.

Renaissance Revels, £30:  Rose Consort Of Viols, Orí Harmelin, Profeti della Quinta and Ensemble Voces Suaves.

All individual concerts are priced at £10.

Delma says: “it’s been an action-packed year so for the NCEM with the Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival, an outstanding York residency with young Spanish ensemble Cantoria, and now the upcoming York Early Music Festival.

“We wanted to share this wonderful music far and wide, so we’ve put together a programme of many of this year’s highlights for this online celebration. We hope that those of you who couldn’t attend the concerts, or indeed those of you who did and want to enjoy the concerts again, will join us for some musical magic this summer.”

Full details can be found at: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/alignment/

Catherine Mackintosh to receive York Early Music Festival Lifetime Achievement Award

Catherine Mackintosh: Lifetime Achievement Award

AFTER a two-year wait, violinist Catherine Mackintosh will be presented with the York Early Music Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award on July 10.

The belated ceremony will take place during the 2022 York Early Music Festival, to be held from July 8 to 16.

Known to the profession as Cat, Mackintosh is a pioneering force in the British early music scene. After picking up a treble viol while studying at the Royal College of Music, London, she never looked back.

Consort-playing gave her the foundations of understanding the aesthetics and language of baroque music, soon to be translated to the violin. She led various orchestras, notably Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music, and later co-founded and led the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for two decades.

As a founder of the Purcell Quartet, Cat recorded and performed all the major works of the baroque trio-sonata repertoire – and much more – the world over. She was also Britain’s pioneer and champion of the viola d’amore.

Cat’s influence as a teacher and educator has been far-reaching, with many generations of violinists, violists and other instrumentalists passing through her hands at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Conservatoire The Hague, as well as on numerous courses worldwide. 

Cat will be interviewed from the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, by Hannah French on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on July 10, broadcast live from the festival. Post-show, she will be presented with the award, in front of an audience, by Romanian-born Israeli violinist Kati Debretzeni, who studied Baroque violin with Cat at the Royal College of Music.

The York Early Music Lifetime Achievement Award honours major figures for making a significant difference to the world of early music. Previous winners were: Kuijken String Quartet in 2006; Dame Emma Kirkby, 2008; James Bowman, 2010; Jordi Savall, 2012; Andrew Parrott, 2014; Anthony Rooley, 2016, and Trevor Pinnock, 2018.

Commenting on the award, Cat says: “I ask myself…is it really an achievement to have enjoyed 50 years doing what I love with people I love and admire? Only in the sense of having survived this long! 

“Anyway, I am tremendously touched and honoured to receive this award and to join the list of the previous recipients – all friends and colleagues from whom I’ve learnt much and with whom I have happily travelled this musical road.”

NCEM director and festival artistic director Delma Tomlin enthuses: “I’m delighted that Catherine will finally be receiving this award after a rather long wait!  She has a long association with the NCEM and the festival.

“Her wonderful career, not just as a performer, but also as a mentor and teacher, has had an extraordinary impact on the world of early music. We can’t wait to welcome her to York and celebrate this amazing achievement with her this July.”

The full festival programme and ticket details can be found at ncem.co.uk/what’s-on/yemf/.

Mezzo soprano Helen Charlston appointed artistic adviser to York Early Music Festival

Helen Charlston: New artistic adviser to the York early Music Festival. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

MEZZO soprano Helen Charlston is to become an artistic adviser to the York Early Music Festival from this month.

Helen’s appointment covers the 2022-2024 festivals, joining fellow advisers John Bryan, Lindsay Kemp and Peter Seymour.

She is taking over from harpsichordist Steven Devine, who will stand down after this summer’s festival.

Since York Early Music Festival began in 1977, guest advisers have included Robert Hollingworth, Catherine Bott, Elizabeth Kenny and Thomas Guthrie.

The cover artwork for Helen Charlston’s lockdown album, Isolation Songbook

Helen is establishing herself as a key performer in the next generation on British singers. Winner of the London Handel Competition in 2018, she was a founder participant in the Rising Star of the Enlightenment’s programme, working frequently as a soloist alongside the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

She is a member of the Jardin des Voix academy’s Young Artist Programme with Les Arts Florissants, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and a 2018 City Music Foundation Artist.

This year, Helen makes her debut in San Francisco with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, singing Irene in Handel’s Theodora. She also will perform with the Dunedin Consort, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, RIAS Kammerchor, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and La Nuova Musica, as well as making her debut at the Cheltenham and Norfolk & Norwich Festivals.

Helen won the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize in the 2021 Kathleen Ferrier Awards and is heard regularly on the concert platform with prominent British collaborative pianists. She has performed at Oxford Lieder Festival, Leeds Lieder, the Ryedale Festival, the Wigmore Hall and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Helen Charlston: BBC New Generation artist

Her debut album, Isolation Songbook, was commissioned in response to the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown for release on Delphian Records in March 2021, after she premiered 15 songs and duets with Michael Craddock and Alexander Soares, written during lockdown in 2020  as a musical response to the changing world in which we found ourselves.

Her second solo album, Battle Cry She Speaks, will arrive on May 27, again on Delphian Records. Inspired by the music of Strozzi, Purcell and Monteverdi, the recording is centred on a new song cycle for Helen and lutenist Toby Carr.

She began singing as chorister and head chorister of the St Albans Abbey Girls Choir. She studied music at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she held a choral scholarship from 2011 to 2015, and was a scholar on the Pembroke College Lieder Scheme, led by pianist Joseph Middleton.

The artwork for Helen Charlston’s May 27 album, Battle Cry She Speaks

Helen has a long-standing association with the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, where she has appeared in many concerts in both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Early Music Festival, larger performances with the Yorkshire Bach Choir and at the University Song Days held there.

She was a member of Fieri Consort when they won the Cambridge prize in the 2017 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

Delma Tomlin, York Early Music Festival administrative director and NCEM director, says: “We are delighted to welcome Helen as a new artistic adviser, joining our already established team of experts.

“Artistic advisers play an important part in the development of our work, and we are sure Helen’s expertise and experience will be huge assets to the festival.  Helen has a long association with York and we are looking forward to working with her.

“Helen’s expertise and experience will be huge assets to the festival,” says York Early Music Festival administrative director Delma Tomlin

“We are sure she will bring some brilliant and fresh ideas as we move towards York Early Music Festival 2023.”

Helen says: “I’m very excited to be joining the York Early Music team as artistic adviser. It’s such an honour to be working with one of Europe’s most important and progressive Early Music festivals, with a reputation for promoting and championing the work of young emerging artists.

“I always love performing in York and now I can look forward to spending more time working in this beautiful city and soaking up the atmosphere of the fabulous medieval splendour of the festival’s hub in St Margaret’s Church.”

York Early Music Festival 2022 will run from July 8 to 16. Find the full programme at: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf/

“It’s such an honour to be working with one of Europe’s most important and progressive Early Music festivals,” says Helen Charlston