York Early Music Christmas Festival at the double as online weekend is added to NCEM socially distanced live concerts

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the National Centre for Early Music, the other online.

Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures in place in the mediaeval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, from December 4 to 12, complemented by a new online weekend festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of home.

After the success of the streamed York Early Music Festival, held remotely from July 9 to 11,  the NCEM will present York Christmas At Home from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

York Early Music Christmas Festival’s live concerts will be staged with socially distanced cabaret-style seating and the option to pre-order drinks, including a warming mulled wine. Tickets cost £20.

Matthew Wadsworth: York Christmas At Home streamed concert with Kate Bennett Wadsworth

The line-up comprises:

Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, December 4, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort, The Great Mystery, December 5, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, December 7, 4.30m and 7pm;

Joglaresa, Bring Us Good Ale, December 8, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort: Concerts at both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home

The York Waits, The Waits’ Wassail, Music for Advent & Christmas, December 9, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano, Frederick Long, baritone, and Peter Seymour, harpsichord, Bacchus Is A Pow’r Divine, December 12, 4.30pm and 7pm.

In addition, the 7pm concerts by Joglaresa on December 8 and The York Waits the next night will be live-streamed, with tickets available at £10.

The York Christmas At Home programme will feature many of the NCEM’s favourite artists, who have “worked tirelessly to deliver a joyful selection of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits”.

The concerts will include works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Dowland and many others, with harpsichords, recorders, lutes, trumpets, oboes, theorbos and glorious voices, plus verse by John Donne, George Herbert and others.

Bethany Seymour, left, Frederick Long and Helen Charlston: On song at the NCEM and online

A York Christmas At Home festival pass costs £50, covering all nine concerts, while individual concerts cost £10.

Artists taking part are:

The Marian Consort in a programme of vocal music from Renaissance Italy;

The Chiaroscuro Quartet, performing Mozart’s late Prussian Quartets;

Palisander with their Mischief And Merriment programme;

Illyria Consort, performing seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe;

Singers Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston and Frederick Long exploring the theatrical genius of Purcell and John Blow with harpsichordist Peter Seymour;

Theorboist Matthew Wadsworth and cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth, sharing an extravaganza of Venetian music;

Illyria Consort: Seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe

Spiritato!, presenting The Leipzig Legacy with music by Bach and Fasch;

Steven Devine, continuing his 2020 project to share Bach’s Preludes & Fugues: Book 3;

Stile Antico, completing the weekend with a return to the Renaissance for their very own Nine Lessons and Carols.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says:  “The York Early Music Christmas Festival was created in 1997 to introduce audiences to the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the Medieval to the Baroque, intertwined with the sagas, stories and tales of the north.

“This year, I’m delighted to be able to carry on the tradition, welcoming audiences to our beautiful home, St Margaret’s Church. I’m also thrilled to spice things up, introducing our online festival York Christmas At Home, an array of amazing music, which can be enjoyed well beyond Christmas and into Twelfth Night.”

Full programme details for both Yuletide festivals can be found at ncem.co.uk. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk/york-christmas-at-home/

Next year’s York International Young Artists Competition postponed until July 2022

Winners: L’Apothéose in the grounds of the National Centre for Early Music after their success in the 2019 York International Young Artists Competition. Picture: Jim Poyner Photography

THE 2021 York International Young Artists Competition is to be postponed for a year.

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the prestigious classical music event will take place on July 13 to 16 2022 instead and subsequently will be staged every two years.

The competition is open to Early Music ensembles with a minimum of three members, who must have an average age of 32 years or under with a maximum age of 36. 

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. 

This longstanding competition for young ensembles takes place at the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, as part of York Early Music Festival. 

​Recognised as an international platform for emerging talent in the world of Early Music, the competition attracts musicians across the globe, offering a boost to young professional careers with opportunities for performance, recording and broadcasting and international exposure.  

“Every year, we are overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

The 2019 competition final included ten ensembles with artists from 14 different countries. Winners L’Apothéose, from Spain, received a professional recording contract from Linn Records, a £1,000 prize and chances to work with BBC Radio 3 and the NCEM.  

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin says:“The competition brings together young musicians of the highest calibre and is one of the highlights of the York Early Music Festival. With the competition attracting artists from all over the world, in the current climate we decided to move it to 2022.

“Every year, we are overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists and we hope that up-and-coming ensembles will take the opportunity to enter this world-renowned competition.” 

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 say: “Winning the competition was a turning point in our career, bringing us to the attention of both a wider audience and professionals throughout Europe.”

For details of how to apply, ensembles should go to ncem.co.uk or send an email to yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk.

Young Composers Award night to be live-streamed from NCEM on November 11

“We’ve been working hard to give our aspiring finalists the best possible experience, even though we won’t be able to welcome them, their friends and family to York,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

THE winners of the Young Composers Award 2020 will be revealed by the National Centre for Early Music, York, in a live-streamed performance on November 11.

At 7pm, Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble, the consort of the Ebor Singers, will perform each of the shortlisted pieces for a panel of judges.

The Coronavirus pandemic enforced the postponement of the 2020 awards, but next month online audience can watch the re-scheduled finals free of charge, tuning in to hear music from the composers of the future performed by artists of the highest calibre.

This national annual award is open to young composers up to the age of 25 and resident in the UK in two age categories: 18 years and under and 19 to 25 .  For the 2020 award, composers were invited to create a new polyphonic work for unaccompanied choir, setting either the Our Father (Pater Noster) prayer from St Matthew’s Gospel or the first and last verses of George Herbert’s poem The Flower.

Competing for the 18 years and under award will be Ethan Lieber’s composition The Flower, Eilidh Owen’s As If There Were No Such Cold Thing and Emily Pedersen’s Pater Noster.

Seeking the prize in the 18 to 25 final will be Noah Bray’s Our Father, Sam Gooderham’s Late-Past, Caitlin Harrison’s The Flower, James Mitchell’s The Lord’s Prayer and Fintan O’Hare’s Come Passing Rain.

The live-streamed performance will follow a day-long workshop when the young composers will join composer Christopher Fox, Professor of Music at Brunel University, and Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble.

Judging the finals will be The Tallis Scholars’ director, Peter Phillips; BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt and NCEM director Delma Tomlin. The winners, one from each age category, will be announced after the concert. 

The Young Composers Award is deemed an important landmark in the careers of aspiring composers. Every year, the winning compositions are performed in public and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show. This year’s winning works will be premiered by The Tallis Scholars in a public performance at the Cadogan Hall, London, on March 24 2021.

Delma Tomlin says: “Once again, the NCEM Young Composers Award has attracted attention from all over the UK. This year, we will be live-streaming the excitement and inviting audiences, friends and aspiring young composers and musicians to join us for this highly regarded annual event.

“For everyone working in the arts and entertainment, the last few months have not been easy. We’ve been working hard to give our aspiring finalists the best possible experience, even though we won’t be able to welcome them, their friends and family to York. We hope to be able to celebrate in style next year with the public performance at the Cadogan Hall.”

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, says: “Nurturing young composers is one of our key missions here at BBC Radio 3: we are keen on discovering new voices and supporting emerging talent.

“In the current circumstances, our commitment is more urgent than ever, as we need to make sure creativity survives and thrives in these unprecedented times. We can’t wait to delight our audiences broadcasting the winning compositions by some of the most promising young composers in the UK.”

The NCEM was among the first arts organisations to live-stream performances and festivals as a response to the lockdown. The first concert, broadcast on March 21, attracted more than 60,000 viewers from all over the world, from as far afield as Australia and Japan.

For full details on how to watch the Young Composers Award 2020 performance, go to ncem.co.uk.

NCEM, Crescent and Fulford Arms line up 12 acts for Songs Under Skies garden gigs

Amy May Ellis: Opening open-air concert of the Songs Under Skies series in York

SONGS Under Skies will bring together the National Centre for Early Music, The Crescent, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance for a September series of open-air acoustic concerts in York.

Taking part will be Amy May Ellis; Luke Saxton; Dan Webster; Bella Gaffney; Kitty VR; Boss Caine; Wolf Solent; Rosalind; Polly Bolton; Henry Parker; Elkyn and Fawn.

The setting will be the garden of St Margaret’s Church, home of the NCEM, for six double bills that will mark the return of audiences to the verdant Walmgate premises for the first time since the March lockdown.

Concerts for last month’s online York Early Music Festival had to be recorded and filmed behind closed doors at the NCEM, with no audiences, for digital streaming from July 9 to 11.

Boss Caine: Sharing the September 9 bill with Kitty VR

Songs Under Skies will take place on Wednesday and Thursday evenings between September 2 and 17. Gates will open at 6.30pm for each 7pm start; acts will perform either side of a 30-minute interval with a finishing time of 8.30pm. Social distancing will be strictly observed and masks must be worn inside the NCEM but will not be required in the garden.

Dates for the diary are: September 2, Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton; September 3, Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney; September 9,  Kitty VR and Boss Caine; September 10, Wolf Solent and Rosalind; September 16, Polly Bolton and Henry Parker; September 17, Elkyn and Fawn.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re thrilled to be able to welcome artists and audiences back to our home at St Margaret’s Church, thanks to the invaluable help of our York partners, and I’d like to say a huge thank-you to them.

“We hope that this marks the beginning of a gradual and safe return to being able to bring you much more music over the months to come.

“We’re thrilled to be able to welcome artists and audiences back to our home at St Margaret’s Church,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

Like all arts organisations, the last few months have been difficult, but we’re lucky to have received overwhelming support from our loyal audiences and from our funders, to whom I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks. We hope you’ll be able to join us for these wonderful Songs Under [the] Skies of our beautiful city.”

Chris Sherrington, who runs The Fulford Arms and is the North East regional coordinator for the Music Venues Alliance, says: “Both The Crescent community venue and The Fulford Arms are excited to be working with our York Music Venue Network partners, the NCEM, to help fill some of the cultural vacuum that has sadly been affecting York since March.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring our expertise together and programme a beautiful series of shows in a safe and stunning space with a range of amazing talent. We hope this will be the first of many such endeavours.”

Bella Gaffney expressing her joy at the Songs Under Skies season being confirmed

The NCEM has been one of the first arts organisations to stream online concerts, seeking to keep music alive since the beginning of lockdown and attracting a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 in the process.

Over the past few months, the NCEM has streamed a series of concerts from its archives, followed by the aforementioned York Early Music Festival Online with its combination of concerts and talks. The Director’s Cut, Delma’s selection of festival concert highlights, is available to download and keep. Go to ncem.co.uk for more details.

Songs Under Skies tickets cost £6 per show and audiences are invited to buy tickets for family groups or as individuals. Seating will be in pods with a maximum audience capacity of 50. Full details can be found at tickets.ncem.co.uk/.

NCEM to take part in New Generation Baroque Ensemble nurturing scheme

“This partnership with BBC Radio 3 and the RCM is a wonderful opportunity and a chance to really make a difference,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, is collaborating with BBC Radio 3 and the Royal College of Music in a project to inspire British classical talent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble Scheme will support the “ongoing professionalisation” of a selected early music ensemble over a two-year period, with one ensemble being chosen each year.

The focus will be on providing opportunities for live performance, broadcasting sessions on BBC Radio 3, mentoring, coaching and provision of rehearsal facilities in the early years of a baroque group’s professional career.

It is envisioned the ensemble will be a primarily instrumental group of three to six musicians, who perform repertory from 1600 to 1800 using historically informed playing techniques, instruments and stylistic conventions.

The ensemble must be based in Britain throughout the programme and should be available for studio recordings, coaching sessions, open rehearsals and performances in York, Beverley and London, as well as being interested in developing management and professional career skills.   

It is envisaged the first group will join the programme from October 2021.  The NCEM will act as the central administration and point of contact for the duration of the project, and ensembles will be expected to enter into a formal contract with the NCEM.

Please note that selection will be made by the NCEM, BBC and RCM on the basis of talent spotting, appraisal and recommendation. The scheme is not a competition and there is no application process. For information on all NCEM opportunities, email ngbe@ncem.co.uk.

This nurturing and support project aims to counter the trend for ensemble playing –practised widely by young British early music instrumentalists during their formative years – losing momentum after post-graduate studies.

While the main scheme has been postponed in response to the Coronavirus crisis, the team behind it wanted to still support young players at this turbulent time by offering access to experts in the field as part of a special development day.

The New Generation Baroque Ensemble developmental workshop will be held at the Royal College of Music, London, on Sunday, November 15.

The autumn event, organised in strict compliance with guidelines on social distancing, will give ensembles an opportunity to present selected repertoire to representatives from the NCEM, BBC Radio 3 and RCM, receiving feedback on the session and generally on career development.

Expressions of interest in taking part should be submitted by Friday, October 9, with full details at ncem.co.uk.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “The NCEM has been thoroughly supportive of the professional development of early music ensembles since its inception – working nationally, and internationally through the Creative Europe EEEmerging programme and the biennial Young Artists Competition.

“This partnership with BBC Radio 3 and the RCM is the culmination of many years’ work to promote UK-based instrumental ensembles.  It is a wonderful opportunity and a chance to really make a difference.”   

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, says: “Throughout the pandemic, one of our main concerns as broadcasters has been to support performers and composers in these difficult times, through leading on the return to live music, new commissions and replays of archive performances.

“The New Generation Baroque Ensemble Scheme’s November workshop is further testament to our support for upcoming and established artists on the scene at a time of much uncertainty in the world.”

Ashley Solomon, the RCM’s head of historical performance, says: “I am delighted that the RCM will be involved in this new initiative in collaboration with our colleagues at the BBC and NCEM.

“Nurturing and inspiring the new generation of historical performers is part of our ethos at RCM and I look forward to working with and mentoring the successful ensemble. It is a wonderful and unique opportunity for these New Generation Baroque Ensembles as they embark on their professional careers.”

The BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble Scheme joins the stable of talent projects run by the BBC, such as BBC Introducing Classical/Jazz/World, New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers.  

York Early Music Festival goes digital from today for three days of online concerts

A socially distant Consone Quartet recording their Breaking The Habit concert at the otherwise empty NCEM for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival

THE 2020 York Early Music Festival will be streamed online from this evening until Saturday.

Replacing the Covid-cancelled Method & Madness-themed live event from July 3 to 11, the revised remote festival now combines performances and talks by a line-up of performers based in England.

The virtual festival will be headlined by York countertenor Iestyn Davies and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny in a concert streamed live tonight at ncem.co.uk, complemented by performances recorded over the past ten days by Steven Devine, Richard Boothby, Consone Quartet and Matthew Wadsworth.

Stile Antico will close the three-day event with a live concert on Saturday, performed, like all the rest, with no live audience at the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate.

Since the decision was taken to cancel this year’s live festival, under the Coronavirus lockdown, organisers have been working hard behind the scenes to deliver the weekend-long programme of music.

Digital producer Ben Pugh’s technical equipment for recording the Consone Quartet concert for streaming on Saturday afternoon

To bring the online festival together, the NCEM has linked up with digital producer Ben Pugh, who has brought his ubiquitous expertise to the concert recordings and will be on hand, at a distance, to stream the live Davies & Kenny and Stile Antico concerts.

“We’ve purchased more video and sound equipment, so it’s more like a TV studio environment now,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which will help with social distancing.”

Tonight, at 7.30pm, Davies and Kenny present A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Robert Burton, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Barnabe Googe, Ben Jonson, William Leighton, Henry Peacham, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain.  

“To place John Dowland’s artistic output squarely in the frame of ‘Elizabeth melancholia’ is to strip away a richer layer of biography that lies within his crafted lines of music and words,” says Davies.

“Rather, by embracing the songs and solo lute airs as the expressions of a man seeking to find words to say how we fail, we engage in a dialogue that enriches both us and the artistic subject of John Dowland himself.”

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor opens the virtual 2020 York Early Music Festival tonight in tandem with theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny

Tomorrow, John Bryan begins the day with an illustrated introduction to the festivities at 10.30am, highlighting how each concert is linked by a theme of fantasy. This will be followed at 1pm by lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth playing works by Kapsperger, Piccinini, Dowland and Francesco da Milano, plus Echoes In Air, a piece written specially for him by Laura Snowden.

“In a world where live music is in a very fragile place, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this programme, while being sensitive to the fact that so many artists and arts organisation are in very difficult circumstances,” says Wadsworth.

“I have put together a programme of some of my favourite 17th century music, ending with a wonderful new piece written for me in 2019 by guitarist and composer Laura Snowden.

“When I was asked in 2019 to give a concert in the 2020 festival, I, along with everybody else, had no idea that we would be facing a pandemic together. As we adjust to a new normal, and start to find our way again, I am ever more convinced that music and the arts are an absolute necessity, not a luxury.”

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth recording tomorrow’s Echoes In Air concert

Wadsworth continues: “I am reminded how, when I moved abroad for the first time in 1997 to study in The Hague, I felt very lost and out of place.

“Music and the lute were a constant, and I realised I could take this source of security anywhere with me. I feel that same comfort and sense of reassurance today, knowing that live music – that most precious shared listening experience between artist and audience – has a past, present and a future.” 

At 3.30pm, harpsichord player Steven Devine performs JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Preludes & Fugues, from Book 1: Nos. 13 to 24. At 7.30pm, lyra viol player Richard Boothby plays music by Ferrabosco, Jenkins and Lawes,  alongside William Corkine’s virtuoso settings of popular tunes such as Come Live With Me and Be My Love. 

The BBC’s New Generation artists Consone Quartet open Saturday’s online programme at 1pm with Beethoven’s String Quartets Opus 18, Nos 2 & No 3.

“Performing Beethoven’s music is both an exciting and an exhausting experience,” says violinist Magdalena Loth-Hill, who plays alongside Agata Daraskaite, violin, Elitsa Bogdanova, viola, and George Ross, cello.

Devine inspiration: Steven Devine at the harpsichord in the stillness of the deserted National Centre for Early Music, recording Bach’s Preludes and Fugues

“The abrupt changes of dynamic, key and direction require the musicians to be alert and adaptable, both musically responsive and elastic in technique. This opus is particularly fascinating because it marks an important turning point in the history of the string quartet.

“It is clearly influenced by the classical form and structure of ‘Papa’ Haydn’s work, yet the listener can sense the winds of change blowing, and a new musical language on the horizon.”

At 3.30pm, York Early Music Festival luminary Peter Seymour, a titan of the York classical music world, will introduce the story behind his recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The festival closes with vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s 7.30pm programme, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, featuring works by Raffaella Aleotti; Sulpitia Cesis; Maddalena Casulana; Pierre de la Rue; Margaret of Austria; Leonora d’Este; Thomas Tallis; John Sheppard; William Byrd; John Taverner; John Bennett and Richard Carlton.

The 16th century saw an unprecedented number of female rulers,” says Delma, setting up the concert’s premise. “From the powerful Medici women of Italy to the great Tudor queens of England, women across Europe held more power than ever before. 

“Many of these monarchs used their patronage to facilitate the production of music of exquisite beauty by the finest composers of the day, extravagant showcases of their power contrasting with intimate and personal compositions. 

The recording set-up for Consone Quartet’s York Early Music Festival concert

“The century also saw the first publication of music by female composers, often Italian nuns, whose convents supported musical groups of astonishing ability.” 

Drawing attention to BBC Radio 3’s festival broadcasts, Delma says: “As an added treat, Radio 3 is presenting its Early Music Show from the festival on Sunday at 2pm, as we celebrate 35 years of supporting emerging ensembles through the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

“Radio 3 then completes our celebrations with two magnificent performances from our archive: The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, on July 14, recorded in York Minster in 2015, and Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX1, recorded in 2014 and now broadcast again on July 15.”

The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has  reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

It is not too late to book tickets for the latest batch at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package costing £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

“At this complicated time, it’s a great joy to be able to share music with our audiences once again,” says Delma. “The digital festival is a first for the NCEM and we look forward to people’s reactions.  Whatever else, everyone gets a front row seat!”  

“I would also like to thank Arts Council England, City of York Council, JWP Creers, Shepherd Group and Creative Europe for their invaluable support.”


Stile Antico, back in the days when you could share a stairway. Social distancing will prevail at their July 11 concert at the NCEM. Picture: Marco Borggreve

Did you know?

AFTER Saturday’s concert, Stile Antico will stay on at the NCEM for three days of recordings for their Mayflower project, now put back to 2021.

NEWSFLASH!

MARTIN Dreyer’s reviews of tonight’s opening concert by Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny and Saturday’s closing concert by Stile Antico will run on the CharlesHutchPress website.

2020 York Early Music Festival CANCELLED

The poster and brochure cover for the now cancelled 2020 York Early Music Festival

THE 2020 York Early Music Festival, Britain’s biggest event in its field, is off.

“Following current government advice on the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Centre for Early Music has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 festival, due to take place this July,” says administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin.

“Regretfully, we have finally had to take this decision for the safety of our artists and audiences. This is hugely disappointing for everyone involved, and indeed the hospitality industry in York. 

York countertenor Iestyn Davies’s Bach concert should have been a festival high point. . Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

“The festival, started in 1977, is the UK’s largest festival of its kind and is firmly established within the cultural calendar. I would like to thank our wonderful patrons, friends, funders and supporters who have helped us at this difficult time.  Many have donated and we are hugely appreciative of everyone’s kindness.” 

The 2020 festival was to have run from July 3 to 11 with a theme of “the Method & Madness of musical styles, from the wild excesses of the Italian Renaissance, through the soothing virtuosity of Bach, to the towering genius of Beethoven”.

Among the artists would have been York’s international countertenor Iestyn Davies, performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort; The Sixteen, singing The Call Of Rome at York Minster, directed by Harry Christophers, and Barokksolistene, from Norway, with their vivacious festival opener, Alehouse.

Barokksolistene: Norwegians would have opened the 2020 York Early Music Festival. Picture: Knut Utler

Lined up to take part too were Rose Consort of Viols; Voces Suaves; Prisma; Profeti della Quinta; L’Apothéose; Hubert Hazebroucq & Julien Martin and The Society of Strange & Ancient Instruments, launching their Trumpet Marine project.

Further concerts in the festival diary were by the University Baroque Ensemble; harpsichordist Steven Devine and Consone Quartet. Festival stalwart Peter Seymour would have directed a performance of Handel’s opera Orlando, with Carolyn Sampson, Helen Charlston and Matthew Brook among the soloists.

Delma has confirmed the 2021 festival will run from Friday, July 9 to Saturday, July 17.  “Guest artists scheduled to join us next summer include The Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, Brecon Baroque, led by violinist Rachel Podger, and gamba specialist Paolo Pandolfo,” she says. Further highlights will include the 2021 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

L’Apothéose: Winners of the 2019 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, featuring in the June 13 online archive concert. Picture: Jim Poyner

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, York, will continue to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online in its 20th anniversary year. Next up, on May 30 at 1pm, will be one of the last concerts by the European Union Baroque Orchestra, recorded in March 2017.

On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill of Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners, L’Apothéose.

To view these concerts for free, follow https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Director of the National Centre for Early Music and administrative director of the York Early Music Festival

The 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival is still in the diary, with Delma working on the programme at present.

NCEM presents vocal group Voces Suaves in Facebook streaming premiere today

Voces Suaves: Madrigals At Your Service streaming today (April 18)

THE National Centre for Early Music series of Facebook streaming premieres presents vocal ensemble Voces Suaves this afternoon at 1pm.

Over the coming weeks, the York music venue, at Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, will be streaming a line-up of past performances from the NCEM archives.  

In today’s Facebook concert, Voces Suaves perform Madrigals At Your Service, focusing on the musical treasures of the Italian Renaissance and re-creating the magnificence of the courts of Ferrara and Mantua, with music by Monteverdi, Gesualdo and Wert.  

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “This group of nine professional singers are graduates of the Creative Europe EEEmerging programme and have performed at major European concert venues and festivals, taking audiences and critics by storm. 

Palisander: Online concert coming next on May 2

“This performance, recorded at St Lawrence’s Church in York, was a highlight of the 2018 York Early Music Festival and it forms the third in a series of NCEM Online concerts designed to welcome audiences from across the world into the extraordinarily rich world of early music.”

Future streaming concerts include a 2019 performance by the recorder ensemble Palisander on Saturday, May 2, at 1pm. “The group have been part of the EEEmerging programme too and their debut album, Beware The Spider!, released in 2017, received outstanding reviews from the critics,” says Delma.

Palisander’s concert was recorded in the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, at the 2019 REMA Conference. 

To join the merry streaming throng, simply click on to the NCEM’s Facebook page @yorkearlymusic. Alternatively, log on to the NCEM’s website, ncem.co.uk, and click on the news section. 

Future concerts and streaming dates will be announced at ncem.co.uk.

Never too late for Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival 2020, now in 2021

Stile Antico: Taking steps to play Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival in 2021. Picture: Marco Borggreve

THE 2020 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival is off…until next year.

The postponed event will now take place over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 28 to 30 2021, with many of this year’s artists already re-booked for next spring.

“The good news is that Stile Antico, La Serenissima, Alva, Matthew Wadsworth – sadly not Julia Doyle, but I’ll work on a ‘new’ soloist – David Neave and Vivien Ellis have all been able to work with us to re-create the festival next year,” says festival director Dr Delma Tomlin.

They will be joined by others yet to be announced. “All will be working to re-create the festival and to open up new opportunities to be involved,” says Delma.

“Our festival team has already begun the huge task of re-booking tickets for next year and issuing refunds. They are asking for patrons to bear with them at this difficult time as they work through hundreds of requests, processing re-bookings and refunds as quickly as possible.”

“Given the current circumstances, postponement will not be a surprise,” says Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin

Explaining the decision, in light of the Coronavirus pandemic, Delma says: “Regretfully, we have had to take the heart-breaking decision to postpone the festival until next year. We would like to thank our audiences for their continued support.

“Given the current circumstances, postponement will not be a surprise, but we know how disappointing it is for our audiences and supporters; for the many school children who would have been involved with our Vivaldi extravaganza, and of course, for the artists themselves.”

Delma continues: “Hopefully, the postponement is better news than ‘just’ a cancellation. So, we look forward to seeing you again as soon as possible: in Beverley in May 2021, if not before. 

“I would also like to say a huge thank-you to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Arts Council for their continuing support, which has made all the difference to the artists involved and has helped secure next year’s festival.”

La Serenissima: Now Beverley bound in 2021 rather than 2020. Picture: Eric Richmond

Beverley Early Music Festival began in 1988 and takes place every year in the churches and historical buildings of the East Yorkshire’s market town, where the festival weekend comprises performances, walks, talks and workshops.

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Early Music, in York, is helping to keep music alive “at this critical time” by broadcasting concerts from its archive online. “To enjoy the concerts, visit ncem.co.uk and click on to the link in the news section marked NCEM Facebook page,” says Dema, the NCEM’s director. “Concerts are free and a Facebook account is not needed.”

Confirmed concerts at Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival 2021:


Stile Antico: Friday, May 28 2021, 7.30pm, Beverley Minster.
Choral Workshop with members of Stile Antico: Saturday, May 29, 10am, Toll Gavel United Church.
Alva: Saturday, May 29, 12.30pm, St Mary’s Church.
Ballad Walk: In and around Beverley Minster: Saturday, May 29, 4pm.
La Serenissima: Saturday, May 29, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church.
Ballad Walk: It All happened In Beverley: Sunday, May 30, 10am.
Ballad Walk: In and around Beverley Minster: Sunday, May 30, 1pm,
Matthew Wadsworth: Sunday, May 30, 7pm, St James’s Church, Warter.

Byrne and Nordberg’s Early Music Day concert at NCEM goes online on Saturday

Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg and Irish viol player Liam Byrne in concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, in 2019

LIAM Byrne and Jonas Nordberg’s 2019 concert at the National Centre for Early Music, York, will be streamed online on Saturday at 1pm.

This follows the NCEM’s live stream of two Early Music Day 2020 concerts, performed behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, by harpsichordist Steven Devine, playing Bach Preludes and Fugues, and later by The Brabant Ensemble in an evening programme of A Monk’s Life: Music From The Cloisters, 1550-1620.

Those concerts drew more than 63,000 views from across the world. “Messages arrived from Japan, Indonesia, South Africa, from people in lockdown in Italy and others waking up to wonderful music in the United States,” says NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Liam Byrne: viol player with the hipster look

This Saturday’s streaming will feature the 2019 Early Music Day concert by virtuoso Irish viol player Liam Byrne and Swedish lutenist Jonas Nordberg. “The delicious sonic combination of viol and lute from 17th century France made for an incredible evening last year and was also broadcast by BBC Radio 3,” says Delma.

“Now, music lovers can join us again for this fabulous feast by simply logging on to our Facebook page @yorkearlymusic.”

Described by the New York Times as “defying expectations with an obscure instrument and a hipster look”, Byrne is no stranger to the NCEM, where last year he collaborated with the Walmgate venue on the NCEM Young Composers Award 2019, working with the finalists and later performing their work at a concert in Bristol.

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

Byrne, professor of viola da gamba at the Guildhall School in London, is regarded by many as the leading viol player of his generation; lutenist and guitarist Nordberg has performed all over the world, with many recordings to his name.

“Last year’s concert at the NCEM was one of the highlights of York’s cultural calendar, with electrifying performances by both musicians,” says Delma.

“Now, in these strange times, we are discovering more and more how the power of music is bringing us together and lifting our spirits. We hope you can join us for this wonderful concert by these two extraordinary musicians. Our doors may be temporarily closed but we will continue to bring a selection of fabulous music over the coming weeks.”