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

Sax ace Snake Davis and Olympics musical director Robin A Smith team up at NCEM

Snake Davis: Return to York

SAXOPHONIST extraordinaire Snake Davis returns to the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, on Thursday with a new venture.

Once part of the York band Zoot & The Roots, this time Snake will be teaming up with award-winning arranger, composer and pianist Robin A Smith.

“Snake and Robin have been sparring partners for decades,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin. “Together their recorded work helped spearhead the Classic Chillout movement 20 years ago, but the duo live in concert are something else.”

Snake’s return to York fills him with enthusiasm. “I’m really excited to have a trio of shows booked with Robin,” he says. “We’re really looking forward to our concert at the NCEM. It’s one of our favourite venues as the acoustics and ambience of St Margaret’s Church are so perfect for us. We can’t wait to come back with our new show.”

Snake Davis and Robin A Smith: Sax and piano partnership in concert at NCEM

Saxophonist-to the-stars Snake has contributed soulful solos to Lisa Stansfield’s Change, M People’s hits, Take That’s A Million Love Songs and plenty more besides.

Robin A Smith was musical director for the London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony and his versatility has seen him work with Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Kanye West, The 2 Cellos, Rod Stewart and Mike Oldfield.

“Thursday’s unmissable, enthralling and highly accessible show will celebrate the joy and power of music across multiple styles and genres, from classical to folk, pop to jazz,” says Delma.

Tickets for the 7.30pm concert are on sale at ncem.co.uk, on 01904 658338 and on the door.

York Early Music Festival rejoices in return to full-strength programme from July 8

Director Harry Christophers (holding rail, sixth from left) with seemingly rather more than 16 in The Sixteen, playing York Early Music Festival on July 9

FOR the first time since 2019, the York Early Music Festival will be at full strength this summer for nine days of concerts, talks and workshops under the theme of Connections.

Highlights during the festival run from July 8 to 16 include The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars and Gabrieli Consort & Players, all at York Minster, and the return of the York International Young Artists Competition.

The programme also features gamba specialists Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin; The Gonzaga Band; The Rose Consort of Viols; the University of York Baroque Ensemble; Orí Harmelin; Profeti della Quinta; the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists and Ensemble Voces Suaves.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 658338, at ncem.co.uk or via email to boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with discounts available for Friends and under 35s.

“The festival presents a series of concerts linked together through a maze of interconnecting composers, shining a light on the many connections that hold us together in the past and into the future,” says director Delma Tomlin, explaining the festival theme.

“This year’s theme is Connections, connecting and indeed reconnecting music, artists and, of course, our audiences,” says York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

Concerts will be supported by a series of illustrated talks, workshops, opportunities to ‘Come and Sing’ and informal recitals at a festival presented in historical venues such as York Minster, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, St Lawrence’s Church and the festival headquarters, the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), in the medieval St Margaret’s Church building in Walmgate.

The festival’s grand finale will be the York International Young Artists Competition 2022, wherein ten groups from across Europe will give informal recitals at the NCEM at 10am and 2pm on July 14 and 15 before competing for the prize on July 16. 

The winners will receive a professional CD recording contract from Linn Records, a cheque for £1,000 and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the NCEM. Additional prizes will be supported by Cambridge Early Music, the European Union Baroque Orchestra Development Trust and the Friends of York Early Music Festival.

“We are delighted to be presenting a nine-day festival of music in our beautiful city, staged in some of the country’s most architecturally stunning buildings,” says Delma.

“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 York International Young Artists Competition, showcasing and nurturing the performers of the future.

The Tallis Scholars: Making Choral Connections at York Minster on July 11

“We’re so pleased to be back at full strength, and we can’t wait to welcome you to York for what promises to be one of the most exciting festivals to date.”

Those unable to attend are advised that the festival will be offering many of the concerts online across the summer. Full details will be available from ncem.co.uk.

Audience safety and comfort is a continuing priority in an ever-changing environment for the NCEM and York Early Music Festival. Check out the full guidance at ncem.co.uk/covid-guidelines.

The 2022 York Early Music Festival programme:

July 8, 7.30pm: Paolo Pandolfo & Amélie Chemin, viola da gamba duo, Heavans Joy, The World of the Virtuoso Viol, at NCEM, York.

July 9, 9.30am: Master And Pupil, workshop led by The Gonzaga Band director Jamie Savan, at Clements Hall, Nunthorpe Road, York. Singers and players of Renaissance wind and string instruments look at the polychoral repertory of Giovanni Gabrieli and Heinrich Schütz.

Ensemble Voces Suaves: Schutz happens at St Lawrence’s Church on July 15

July 9, 12 noon: The Sixteen Insight Day, at NCEM, York. Insight Day explores stories behind The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage repertory. Discover more with singer and practical scholar Sally Dunkley, organist Robert Quinney and a consort of Sixteen singers.

July 9, 7.30pm: The Sixteen, Author Of Light, at York Minster. Harry Christophers directs a choral programme focused on Hubert Parry’s Songs Of Farewell.

July 10, 2pm: The Early Music Show, BBC Radio 3 live broadcast presented by Hannah French with selected festival guests, at NCEM; free to those attending a festival event. Immediately afterwards, violinist Kati Debretzeni presents delayed 2020 York Biennial Lifetime Achievement Award to violinist Catherine Mackintosh.

July 10, 4.45pm: Minster Minstrels, Fairest Isle, directed by Ailsa Batters, at Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York. NCEM’s youth instrumental ensemble performs music from the late 17th-century theatre, court and household to demonstrate the influence of the new Italian and French styles in post-Restoration England.

July 10, 7.30pm: The Gonzaga Band, Venice 1629, directed by cornett player Jamie Savan, at NCEM, York. Vocal works by Claudio Monteverdi and Alessandro Grandi and virtuosic Baroque instrumental music by wind player Dario Castello and violinist Biagio Marini feature in a series of snapshots from an extraordinary year in the life of this most musical of cities.

The Gonzaga Band: Snapshots of Venice, 1629 on July 10

July 11, 10.30am: Schutz In Venice, illustrated talk by Jamie Savan, at Bedern Hall, York. On his second visit to Venice in 1628-29, German composer Heinrich Schütz would surely have met Monteverdi, by now maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, but this talk also introduce lesser-known 1620s’ Venetian innovators in modern vocal and instrumental music.

July 11, 1pm: Rose Consort of Viols, with virginals player Steven Devine, Music For Severall Friends, at NCEM, York. Anniversary-marking concert of viol consort works by two British composers, the conservative Thomas Tomkins (born in 1572) and the more radical Matthew Locke (b.1622).

July 11, 7.30pm: The Tallis Scholars, Choral Connections, at York Minster. Director Peter Phillips explores connections between Josquin des Prez and his successor at the Sistine Chapel, Palestrina; Byrd and his English forebear Taverner.  

July 12, 10.30am: An Italian In London, illustrated talk on The Case of Angelo Notari, musician and spy, by Jonathan Wainwright, at Bedern Hall, York. Italian-born Notari moved to England in 1611, making his career as a court musician. Little was known about his time in Italy, until recently, prompting this examination of his  life and (newly attributed) compositions.

July 12, 1pm: La Vaghezza, Sculpting The Fabric, at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, York.  Stars of the EEEmerging+ programme, this young Italian ensemble presents early-17th century Italian works by Cavalli, Merula, Vitali, Fontana and Rossi from debut album Sculpting The Fabric.

Gabrieli Consort & Players: Re-creating a Venetian Coronation at York Minster on July 13

July 12, 7.30pm: Profeti Della Quinta, Lamento d’Arianna, Italian Renaissance music from Rore to Monteverdi, at NCEM, York. Winners of the 2011 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition take a journey that connects early 16th-century ‘classical’ madrigal to Monteverdi’s ‘operatic’ solo madrigals in 17th-century Mantua. 

July 13, 1pm: University of York Baroque Ensemble, Mannheim Travels To Fife,
Early Symphonists and Two Brothers, at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, York. Highlighting works by Mannheim symphony kick-starter Johann Stamitz, Italian brothers Giovanni Battista and Giuseppe Sammartini, Johann Christian Bach and Scottish composer Thomas Erskine.

July 13, 7.30pm: Gabrieli Consort & Players, A Venetian Coronation, 1595, directed by Paul McCreesh, at York Minster. Spectacular re-creation of the festive Coronation Mass of the Venetian Doge Marino Grimani at St Mark’s, Venice, in 1595, to mark the Gabrieli Consort’s 40th anniversary.

July 13, 9.45pm: Ori Harmelin, Neshima: The Hebrew For Breath, at Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate, York. Theorbo specialist explores arrangements of madrigals, motets and chansons by Cipriano de Rore, Josquin des Prez and Thomas Tallis, complemented by Harmelin’s compositions and Irishman Simon McHale’s The Orbo.

July 14 and July 15, 10am and 2pm: International Young Artists Competition Recitals 1 and 2, at NCEM, York. Informal recitals featuring all the ensembles taking part in the 2022 competition, performing music from the Middle Ages to the early Classical period, introduced by master of ceremonies Professor John Bryan.

Ori Harmelin: Theorbo concert at Merchant Adventurers’ Hall on July 13

July 14, 7.30pm: Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Bach’s Other Leipzig, directed by Peter Lawrence, at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, York. Not only composing for two churches when in Leipzig, Bach also wrote four ‘Lutheran masses’ in 1738/39 and the Coffee Cantata for Zimmermann’s Caffeehaus, a miniature comic opera on the pressing subject of coffee addiction, featured here.

July 15, 4.30pm: Come and Sing Handel’s Messiah, at St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York. Peter Seymour, conductor, and Ben Horden, organ, invite allcomers to Come and Sing a selection of choruses from Handel’s Messiah in a short rehearsal and performance.

July 15, 7.30pm: Ensemble Voces Suaves, Enrico Sagittario: Heinrich Schütz in Italy, at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, York. Exploration of the Italian side of German composer Heinrich Schutz, putting music from his debut collection alongside madrigals by Gabrieli and Monteverdi that inspired him, plus toccatas for theorbo by Girolamo Kapsberger, an Italian composer with roots in Germany.

July 16, 10am: York International Young Artists Competition, at NCEM, York. 2022 competition, featuring ten groups, will be presented by John Bryan and judged by Edward Blakeman, from BBC Radio 3; Albert Edelman, president of Réseau Européen de Musique Ancienne; Linn Records producer and recording engineer Philip Hobbs;  violinist Catherine Mackintosh and harpsichordist and professor Barbara Willi.

Profeti Della Quinta: Italian Renaissance music from Rore to Monteverdi at NCEM on July 12

Hope springs eternal in jam-packed concert season at National Centre for Early Music

Cantoria: Celebrating Early Music Day with El Jubilate concert on March 18

THE Spring Season is up and running at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York.

In a busy first week, last Monday, folkloric duo Heal & Harrow’s Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl paid a humanising tribute to those persecuted in the 16th and 17th century Scottish witch trials.

Last Friday, the Grace Smith Trio – Smith on fiddle, Sam Patridge, concertina, and Bevan Morris, double bass – performed with the participants in the National Youth Folk Ensemble (NYFE) programme, under the artistic direction of Partridge. The NCEM hosted the NYFE’s first residency in two years for workshops leading up to the concluding concert.

Saturday’s University of York Song Day took the theme of Shakespeare In Love in a programme devised by pianist and Ryedale Festival director Christopher Glynn, who was joined in a lunchtime concert by soprano Rowan Pierce and tenor Ed Lyon and later by mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge in a masterclass for student singers.

Moishe’s Bagel: Door-to-door delivery of klezmer and folk music on March 9

The University of York Baroque+ Day will follow on June 4 with the theme of 100 Years In Berlin: a day to explore the musical life of the Prussian capital – from the Baroque to the early Romantic period – in three concerts in the company of the University Baroque Ensemble, under the direction of Rachel Gray and guest leader Catherine Martin; pianist and broadcaster David Owen Norris and classical wind specialists Boxwood & Brass.

On Sunday evening, the Songlines Encounters Festival presented Kayhan Kalhor and fellow Iranian, musician and composer Kiya Tabassian, Kalhor’s student of many years, in an evening of exquisite improvisations. Kalhor is a virtuoso of the Persian spiked fiddle, the kamancheh, but here he performed on the setar, a four-stringed lute with 25 movable frets, often associated with Sufism.

“Our spring season is jam-packed with musical delights, welcoming in a new year with more than a little hope that 2022 will be happier and healthier for us all,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

“Guest artists will include some of the finest folk, jazz, global and early music specialists on the circuit today, with highlights including the welcome return of sax virtuoso Snake Davis, the ever-entertaining Moishe’s Bagel and folk legends Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham, whose concert is finally on after repeated postponements in lockdown.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin: “Welcoming in a new year with more than a little hope that 2022 will be happier and healthier for us all”

“As ever, we offer a warm welcome to artists from across the world and are particularly delighted to welcome the vibrant strings of VOŁOSI; qanun specialist Maya Youssef, from Syria, and the sparklingly young vocal ensemble Cantoria from Spain. All are guaranteed to bring warmth, entertainment and joy to our audiences.”

Coming next, on March 9, will be the return of Edinburgh’s Moishe’s Bagel with their cutting-edge klezmer and folk music, combining life-affirming Eastern European dance music, Middle Eastern rhythms and virtuoso improvised performances. Expect new pieces alongside favourites.

On March 11, Scottish folk duo Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham combine humorous banter with heartstring-tugging tunes, joyous reels and melodies aplenty in a partnership that has runs to 30 years now.

Booked for March 17, powerhouse English folk trio Faustus have spent much of the past two years researching and writing new material from the poetry of the 1860s’ Lancashire Cotton Famine, resulting in moving new songs, as heard on the Cotton Lords EP. 

Aly Bain & Phil Cunningham: Playing together for three decades

In the line-up will be Benji Kirkpatrick, from the Seth Lakeman Band, Steeleye Span and Bellowhead; Saul Rose, from Waterson:Carthy, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band and Whapweazel, and Paul Sartin, from Bellowhead and Belshazzar’s Feast.

Cantoría celebrate the 2022 Early Music Day with El Jubilate, a March 18 programme drawn from the Spanish songbooks of the Renaissance, brimful of desire, passion and sin, but fiery devotion, love, joy and solitude too.

At 7pm, Cantoria – featuring soprano Inés Alonso, countertenor Oriol Guimera, tenor Jorge Losana and bass Valentin Miralles – explore a world of demons, saints and people that lived with the same complicated emotions that we face today.

This Spanish ensemble gave a performance at the Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival four years and have participated in the EEEMerging+ programme for two years. They will be in residence at the NCEM in March, leading up to the concert.

Trish Clowes with her My Iris band members: Seeing eye to eye in York on May 3. Picture: Brian Homer

Innovative folk accordionist, vocalist and clog dancer Hannah James, a key figure in the revival of English percussive dance, unites with globetrotting, post-classical, improvisational French cellist Toby Kuhn for Sleeping Spirals, an April 8 concert full of playful chemistry, warmth and soul, as they resume their new project started last autumn.

On April 20, led by British composer and violinist Christian Garrick, Budapest Café Orchestra perform a blistering barrage of traditional folk and gypsy- flavoured music that takes in the Balkans and Russia, Klezmer laments, Romanian doinas, Hungarian czadas and their own re-imaginings of big tunes by classical greats.

Flook, in the NCEM diary for April 27, take inspiration from Irish and English sources, weaving and spinning traditionally rooted tunes over precise acoustic grooves with a bold, adventurous musical imagination, as whistle player Brian Finnegan, flautist Sarah Allen, guitarist Ed Boyd and bodhran player Joihn Joe Kelly have been doing for more than 25 years.

Saxophonist-to-the-stars Snake Davis is welcomed back to the NCEM on April 28, this time in a new venture with arranger, composer and pianist Robin A Smith, musical director for the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012.

Snake Davis and Robin A Smith: New venture at the NCEM on April 28

Sparring partners for decades, spearheading the Classic Chillout movement 20 years ago, they now team up to celebrate the joy and power of classical, folk, pop and jazz music.

Another saxophonist, Trish Clowes, leads her jazz band My Iris in their York debut on May 3, providing pianist Ross Stanley, guitarist Chris Montague and drummer James Maddren with a high-intensity platform for individual expression and improvisation, delivering driving grooves and lingering melodic lines, as they “seamlessly morph between earthy restlessness and futuristic dreamscapes”.

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival returns to the NCEM on May 10 to present the 1929 Indian box-office smash A Throw Of The Dice (PG), accompanied by an improvised live score by Utsav Lal, a young Indian pianist noted for his innovative piano renditions of Hindustani ragas.

Based on an episode from The Mahabarata, this lavishly romantic silent film tells the story of rival Indian kings – one good, one bad – who fall in love with the same woman. Filmed in India with 10,000 extras, 1,000 horses, 50 elephants and an all-star Indian cast, it rivals Cecil B De Mille for screen spectacle.

VOŁOSI : Seeking to “exceed the limits of string instruments” on May 23

After 700 concerts in 34 countries, the string-driven VOŁOSI make their NCEM debut on May 23, led by violinist Krzysztof Lasoń and cellist Stanisław Lasoń, who first joined forces with traditional performers deep in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains in 2010. From those roots, the Polish band seek to “exceed the limits of string instruments” with their modern, powerful and emotional playing.

On June 9, Maya Youssef, queen of the qanun, the 78-stringed Middle Eastern plucked zither, showcases Finding Home, an album that takes a journey through memories and the essence of home, both within and without, as she explores the emotional and healing qualities of music.

“It’s about finding that place of peace, that place of softness, comfort and healing, which manifests in everyone in a unique way, from finding home in nature to the people who make us feel that sense of relief and peace,” says Maya, who will be joined by the musicians from the recording sessions that were rooted in the Arabic classical tradition but forged pathways into jazz, Western classical and flamenco styles too.

For Maya, who was born in Damascus, Syria, and has lived in the UK since 2012, the act of playing music is a both a life and hope-affirming act and an antidote to what is happening, not only in Syria, but across the world.

This will be the first of three concerts to be staged at the NCEM under the umbrella of the York Festival of Ideas. In the second, on June 12, guitarist, composer and ukulele virtuoso Richard Durrant at last cycles into York on his Covid-delayed Music For Midsummer musical pilgrimage from Orkney to Brighton Open Air Theatre for the summer solstice.

Maya Youssef: Finding Home at the NCEM on June 9

Expect plenty of tales from the road, as well as original guitar music, British-flavoured folk and Bach on the uke as he celebrates the release of his Rewilding album.

For the third concert, double bassist and composer Alison Rayner leads her vibrant, award-winning quintet through “songs without words” on June 17 in the company of Buster Birch, drums, Deirdre Cartwright, guitar, Diane McLoughlin, saxophones, and Steve Lodder, piano.  

Their music-making combines richly nuanced compositions, rhythmic interplay and folk-infused melodies with a cinematic quality, a love of improvisation and a strong sense of narrative.

Already booked for the autumn are She’koyokh, an international seven-piece klezmer and Balkan band from London, on October 30 (6.30pm) and Scottish fiddler, composer John McCusker, celebrating his 30th anniversary as a professional musician, on November 2.

Performances start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise. Box office: 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

Consone Quartet team up with NCEM and BBC Radio 3 for Young Composers Award

Consone Quartet: Partners in the NCEM Young Composers Award 2022

COMPOSERS aged 25 and under are invited to write a new work for string quartet for the NCEM Young Composers Award 2022.

Each year, the award is presented by the National Centre for Early Music, in York, in association with BBC Radio 3. For 2022, they are delighted to welcome the Consone Quartet, the BBC New Generation Artists, as creative partners, as announced on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on November 21.

Composers are asked to write a new piece – three to four minutes in length – for string quartet, working alongside the Consone Quartet’s Agata Daraškaite, Magdalena Loth-Hill, Elitsa Bogdanova and George Ross, who play ‘period’ instruments using gut strings.

For next year’s award entries, they invite young composers to learn about the musical sound world of one of their favourite composers, Fanny Mendelssohn, a talented pianist who wrote 400 works but never enjoyed the acclaim that brother Felix received.  “This is the opportunity to create a new piece which explores this fascinating time in musical history,” they say.

Shortlisted composers will be invited to the Award Day at the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, when the shortlisted compositions will be presented by the Consone Quartet in a workshop led by composer Professor Christopher Fox.  In the evening, the Consone Quartet will perform each of the pieces for a panel of judges.

The two winning pieces, one from each age category (see below), will be premiered by the Consone Quartet at Stour Music Festival on June 26 2022, when the performance will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

This major national annual award is open to young composers up to the age of 25, resident in the UK, and is divided into two categories: 18 and under and 19 to 25.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “The Young Composers Award is one of the most important dates in the NCEM’s calendar and gives us a vital opportunity to work with the wider community. Last year, we received an astonishing number of applications from all over the UK and we’re sure that enthusiasm to take part will just keep on growing.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin: “Thrilled to be working with the Consone Quartet”

“For 2022, we’re thrilled to be working with the Consone Quartet, who will be guiding the shortlisted composers and performing their pieces. They’ll be joined in York by composer Professor Christopher Fox to host a day of workshops with the shortlisted candidates before the public performance in the evening. 

“This year, the compositions will be performed at the prestigious Stour Music Festival and, of course, broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show – a brilliant beginning for any young composer.”

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, says: “As Covid  restrictions lift and we are able to celebrate the return of live music to UK stages, BBC Radio 3 believes it is vital to give appreciation and encouragement to young composers and performers who represent the future of music in this country.

“That is why we are so proud to partner with the National Centre for Early Music’s 2022 Young Composer Award. Each year, it enables us to help audiences at home discover the brightest talents in Early Music practice, broadcasting their works on our Early Music Show.”

Consone Quartet are “thrilled to be joining forces” with the NCEM for the Young Composers Award. “Having competed in the NCEM’s International Young Artists Competition, we appreciate how much these sorts of opportunities can help to kickstart a young musician’s career,” they say. “We cannot wait to hear what the shortlisted composers have written, to work in more detail with them and eventually to perform their works.”

The Young Composers Award is an integral part of the NCEM’s work, with comments from the 2021 awards illustrating the impact and importance of the experience. Witness: “I have gained confidence in myself. Hearing my piece come to life was an incredible experience,” said one. “Great contacts and lots of fun!” said another. “Christopher Fox’s insightful comments, always thinking outside the box,” enthused a third.

The deadline for registration is 12 noon on Friday, February 18 2022; the deadline for submission of scores is 12 noon, Friday, March 18. Shortlisted candidates will be informed by April 8 and will be invited to attend the Award Day in York on May 19.

Terms and conditions and details of how to take part in the NCEM Young Composers Award 2022 are available at: youngcomposersaward.co.uk/2022 or by emailing info.composers@ncem.co.uk.

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

YOUNG ENSEMBLES SOUGHT FOR YORK INTERNATIONAL YOUNG ARTISTS COMPETITION 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sollazzo Ensemble: “Winning the competition was a turning point in our career”

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

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

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

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

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

Details of how to apply can be found at yorkcomp.ncem.co.uk; alternatively, send an email to yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Siglo de Oro: Mexican melodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pocket Sinfonia: Dark journey through wintery nights

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

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

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

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

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

Joglaresa: Carols, lullabies, dance tunes and wassails

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

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

Tickets remain available for concerts unless stated otherwise at ncem.co.uk/york-early-music-christmas-festival/ and on 01904 658338.

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

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

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

The seven festival highlights in the box set are:  

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

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

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

Prisma: Baroque joy in the York Christmas Box Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For tickets and more information, go to: ncem.co.uk/events/york-christmas-at-home-festival-pass/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Details of how to apply can be found at yorkcomp.ncem.co.uk; alternatively, send an email to yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk.

York Early Music Christmas Festival boosted by City of York Council grant

NCEM director Delma Tomlin: “Delighted to receive grant”

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, is to receive a generous grant from City of York Council’s Additional Restrictions Grant fund.

This financial support will help with the cost of staging this year’s York Early Music Christmas Festival from December 3 to 11.

The city council’s discretionary scheme has supported York businesses affected by the lockdowns but not eligible for the Lockdown Restrictions Grant or Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed Businesses) payments.

In doing so, it has helped businesses that, although not legally required to close, were still severely impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

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

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

The festival presents a variety of concerts, many by candlelight, in its celebration of Christmas through the ages. This year’s programme features artists from the UK and Europe, including the return of The Gesualdo Six, who took York Early Music Festival by storm last year; Yorkshire Bach Choir performing JS Bach’s Mass in B minor, plus 17th century Christmas, Mexican style, from Siglo de Oro.

The NCEM is fully open once more, staging its year-round programme of concerts, spanning early music, jazz, folk, and global sounds in the medieval St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate.

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

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

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

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

Tickets for the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival go on sale from tomorrow at ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338.

National Centre for Early Music reaps autumn harvest of jazz, world and folk concerts… and a classic icy silent film

Arm in arm: Wife-and-husband duo Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman celebrate 25+ years together in On Reflection at the National Centre for Early Music, York, on October 20

THE autumn and Christmas season of jazz, world, folk, film and classical music at the still socially distanced National Centre for Early Music, York, is under way

Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, returned to St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, last Friday to launch the NCEM programme in the company of pianist Andrew McCormack and bass player Orlando le Fleming.

Tonight, the Black Swan Folk Club presents Devonian folk singer-songwriter John Smith, supported by Hannah Reed at 7.30pm.

Known for his intimate song-writing, honey-on-gravel voice and pioneering guitar playing, Smith has toured internationally for 15 years, and his session-musician guitar skills have been in demand from Joan Baez and Tom Jones.

Saxophone returns tomorrow at 7.30pm when Tim Garland (saxophone, bass clarinet), Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano) celebrate 20 years together as the highly adventurous, ground-breaking British jazz ensemble Acoustic Triangle.

Olcay Bayir: Turkish singer makes her NCEM debut on October 10

Noted for their site-specific work, particularly in sacred buildings, such as St Margaret’s Church, they draw on wide-ranging influences, from ancient themes and folk styles, through impressionism and the jazz era, to the avant-garde, in Garland and Simcock’s compositions, complemented by works by Henry Purcell, John Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Cole Porter and Maurice Ravel.

A third jazz highlight will be Byron Wallen’s Four Corners showcasing London trumpet player Wallen’s new album, Portrait, on November 10, with guitarist Rob Luft, bass player Paul Michael and drummer Rod Youngs.

Conceived when sitting in the central square in Woolwich, the album’s nucleus is Anthem For Woolwich, composed in response to Wallen being struck by the community around him with its mixture of ages and nationalities.

Taking inspiration from “the timeless sound of the human soul from all corners of the Earth”, Wallen explores and reinvents blues, mode and groove landmarks, while also drawing on early Renaissance music, Central and East African rhythms and polyphony and the works of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk.

“I’m hoping that York Music Forum’s Ian Chalk will be able to organise for young York jazz players to play with Byron and take part in the concert,” says Delma.

Out of the woods: Fiddle player Sam Sweeney re-emerges with his Unearth Repeat album and concert on November 19. Picture: Elly Lucas

The autumn season presents three world-class guitarists, demonstrating their contrasting styles: Brit Martin Taylor, Spaniard Juan Martin and Italian Antonio Forcione.

First up, on October 15, Grammy-nominated Harlow jazz guitarist Martin Taylor shows why he is widely regarded as the world’s foremost exponent of solo jazz and finger-style playing.

Next, in his solo concert Melodic Beauty And Rhythmic Passion on October 29, Andalusian flamenco master Juan Martin performs pieces from his latest album Guitar Maestro.

Intense, artistic, passionate, unpredictable and formidably inventive jazz guitarist Antonio Forcione, from Molise, Italy, returns to the NCEM on November 26, blessed with “the hands of a tarantula and the heart of a lion”, as one reviewer put it.

Twenty albums to his name, Forcione has toured extensively, to Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and the Caribbean, as well as Europe.

Martin Taylor: Finger-style guitar playing on October 15

“The wonderful acoustics of the NCEM’s beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church provide the perfect setting for the acoustic guitar, adding a special touch of magic to the experience,” says director and programmer Delma Tomlin.

World music is represented by not only Juan Martin but also Olcay Bayir, from Gaziantep, Turkey, and the welcome return of Making Tracks.

Making her NCEM debut on October 10 – and appearing on the cover of the NCEM’s September to December brochure to boot – Olcay Bayir focuses on ancient poems and original songs in Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian in Dream For Anatolia: an evening of music and words that reflect her Anatolian heritage. Note the earlier starting time of 6.30pm.

Set up in 2010 and relaunched with an ambitious new model in 2019, followed by a digital edition in 2020, Making Tracks brings together young artists from the UK and around the world to showcase unique musical traditions, initiate collaborations and contribute towards a global community of environmentally engaged musicians.

Full details of November 1’s NCEM concert are yet to be confirmed but the eight diverse musicians from Britain and Europe have been chosen.

Antonio Forcione: Returning to the NCEM on November 26

Scottish folk multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer John McCusker has cancelled his John McCusker Band 30th Anniversary Tour date on October 3, although The Wishing Tree Tour gig by John Doyle, John McCusker & Michael McGoldrick is still in the diary for The Cresent, York, on November 3.

The enduring folk partnership of wife and husband Kathryn Roberts & Seth Lakeman marks 25+ years of making music with On Reflection at a rearranged NCEM concert on October 20.

Co-promoted by the Black Swan Folk Club, this celebratory night takes a whistle-stop tour through their artistic journey from the early days of folk supergroup Equation to latest album Personae, via a nod or two to their extracurricular musical adventures.

After his Unfinished Violin Project, former Bellowhead fiddle player Sam Sweeney returns the NCEM on November 19 to promote his latest album, Unearth Repeat, wherein he embraces the groove and swagger of traditional English folk and the huge sound, flair, energy and festival spirit of bands from the Celtic and Scandinavian music scenes.

Sweeney first played the NCEM when director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. This time he will be joined by Jack Rutter on acoustic guitar, Louis Campbell on electric guitar and Ben Nicholls on double bass.

Nanook Of The North: Robert J Flaherty’s 1922 film will be accompanied by an improvised live score by Frame Ensemble at a Yorkshire Silent Film Festival screening on October 14

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival plays host to Nanook Of The North (certificate U, 79 minutes) on October 14, when the pioneering 1922 documentary film will be accompanied by a live score by Frame Ensemble, a quartet of improvising musicians that specialises in creating spontaneous soundtracks for silent film.

“Pianist Jonny Best, who runs the film festival [as well as being a musician, researcher, producer, educator and writer], will be doing the accompaniment with his ensemble,” says Delma. “I find it so enthralling that they create such musical magic out of nowhere.”

Filmed by director Robert J Flaherty in the vast Canadian Arctic, where Nanook and his family live under an endless sky and in conditions of unimaginable cold, Nanook Of The North is a mix of recorded reality and staged drama, depicting the everyday struggle of the Innuit (Eskimo) people to stay alive.

From the bitter chill of the northern reaches of Arctic Quebec to Christmas at the NCEM in the form of the York Early Music Christmas Festival 2021, running from December 3 to 11.

Guest musicians include The Gesualdo Six; Joglaresa; Pocket Sinfonia; Prisma; tenor James Gilchrist and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, plus the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, presenting JS Bach’s B Minor Mass, with more details to follow in a separate preview shortly. 

Green Matthews: Midwinter Revels in the mood for Christmas on December 16

.Christmas revelry continues with modern-day folk balladeers Green Matthews on December 16. That night, Chris Green and Sophie Matthews perform Midwinter Revels: A Celebration Of Christmas Past, a seasonal selection of stories, carols, winter folk songs and tunes played on a plethora of weird and wonderful instruments.

Delma says: “We’re so pleased to be able to bring you this wonderful season of music for all tastes and to welcome friends old and new back to our home in York. We decided: let’s get dates in the diary and enjoy music-making again and try to get back to a sense of normality.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians, and we’re also looking forward to the return of our community singing group, Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as the latest in our not-to-be-missed series of silent films with live music. We hope to see you at the NCEM very soon.”

Nevertheless, in light of these pandemic times, a reduced capacity will be in operation. “The NCEM realises that audiences are returning to live events with caution, and for added safety and comfort, we are reducing our capacity so that social distancing is possible,” explains Delma.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“We are continuing to operate with many safety precautions in place and recommend mask wearing and hand sanitising.”

Tickets for the autumn season are on sale on 01904 658338 and at ncem.co.uk, joined by the York Early Music Christmas Festival from October 4. “Tickets for all concerts are selling quickly, so early booking is advisable,” recommends Delma.

“So far, there’s definitely a substantial core audience who do want to return, and we’re so fortunate that there’s no fixed seating, so we can give people more space, and hopefully they will feel more comfortable with that and will gain confidence as we come into the winter.

“That’s why we’re retaining social distancing while ensuring there’s still a three-pronged energy between the venue, the artist and the audience.”

Performances start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise.

Ensemble Molière are first New Generation Baroque Ensemble with NCEM, Royal College of Music and BBC Radio 3 support

Ensemble Molière: First New Generation Baroque Ensemble

ENSEMBLE Molière will be the first New Generation Baroque Ensemble from October, backed by the National Centre for Early Music, York, BBC Radio 3 and the Royal College of Music.

The new scheme will showcase and nurture exceptional British-based ensembles in the early years of their professional careers in the baroque sphere, supporting them to new heights of professionalism and artistry over two years, using the range of expertise, performance and recording opportunities available through each partner organisation.

A new group will join the programme in 2023 to begin a new two-year programme, helping to encourage UK Baroque ensembles of the future, supporting artists at a crucial stage in their careers. 

Comprising five musicians playing on historic instruments, Ensemble Molière combine flute, violin, bassoon, viola da gamba/cello and harpsichord in creative programmes from the 17th and 18th century repertoire, performed at many of the leading Baroque and Early Music festivals.

Chosen through a non-competitive process to become the first New Generation Baroque Ensemble, ensemble musicians Flavia Harte, Alice Earll, Catriona McDermid, Kate Conway and Satoko Doi-Luck can build on their early success through residencies at the NCEM and Royal College of Music (RCM) and a regular presence on BBC Radio 3, enabling them to further develop their professional skills, reputation, profile and artistry.

BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show will feature Ensemble Molière on Sunday, September 19 at 2pm in the first of a series of regular updates, performances and features about the group.

Ensemble Molière say: “We are thrilled and honoured to be appointed the first ever BBC New Generation Baroque Ensemble and to become part of the New Generation family. We are looking forward to collaborating with the wonderful team from three organisations – BBC, RCM and NCEM – as well as to the opportunities and experiences we will enjoy on the scheme, including live performances and broadcasts.

“It will be a fantastic springboard for Ensemble Molière and will help us reach the next step as a group. We are very grateful to the New Generation Baroque Ensemble team for their support.”

“Ensemble Molière have an amazing future ahead of them,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are thrilled to be part of this UK-based venture that takes place over the next two years and we look forward to welcoming Ensemble Molière, who will be performing in our festivals in Beverley and York.  

“It’s wonderful to be working with the Royal College of Music and BBC Radio 3 once again and this is a fabulous opportunity for Ensemble Molière, who have an amazing future ahead of them.”

BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey says: “For some time, we have been keen to see if we can offer help and support to UK-based period-instrument ensembles in the early stages of their careers to allow them to develop and thrive with the same kind of spirit of innovation and adventure we see in the best ensembles across the world.  

“With this new scheme – as with our hugely successful New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers programmes – we want to support the best new talent and by working in partnership with the chosen Baroque ensembles and with the NCEM and RCM, we hope to build an even richer world of  ambitious, innovative  and thrillingly excellent music-making for the future.

“We are delighted to welcome Ensemble Molière and look forward to working with them over the coming years to bring their extraordinary music to wider audiences.”

Professor Ashley Solomon, head of historical performance at the Royal College of Music, says: “I am absolutely delighted that together with our colleagues at the NCEM and BBC Radio 3 we have appointed Ensemble Moliere as the first ensemble in the New Generation Baroque Ensemble scheme that we are now launching.

“Nurturing and inspiring the new generation of historical performers is part of our ethos at the Royal College of Music and I look forward to working with and mentoring the players in this exceptional ensemble. We hope that this unique opportunity will help support and enable them to thrive.”

Ensemble Molière’s musicians are:  Flavia Hirte, flute; Alice Earll, violin; Catriona McDermid, bassoon; Kate Conway, viola da gamba/cello, and Satoko Doi-Luck, harpsichord.