York Early Music Festival launches cultural partnership with Flanders, led off by Utopia and Cappella Pratensis concerts

Utopia: Making their York Early Music Festival debut at the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York

YORK Early Music Festival is launching a cultural partnership celebrating the musical heritage of Flanders at next month’s event.

Two world-class ensembles from northern Belgium, Utopia and Cappella Pratensis, will be performing in York as part of the new collaboration, organised in association with the Alamire Foundation, in Leuven, and AMUZ, a thriving arts centre in a disused baroque church and former Augustine monastery in Antwerp, with support from the Flanders government.

“The partnership celebrates the historic ties between York and Flanders from the medieval period, built on the trading of wool by enterprising merchants, through to the present day,” says festival director Dr Delma Tomlin, the first woman governor in the 660-year history of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall.

“The York Early Music Festival has worked with our partners in Flanders for 25 years and we have a similar mind-set to supporting and developing Early Music ensembles, with a willingness to provide opportunities.

“We are particularly delighted to be part of this exciting new partnership, the beginning of a new collaboration with artists and colleagues based in Flanders in what is a considerable investment on their part. I would like to say a huge thank-you to the Almire Foundation, AMUZ and the Flanders Government for their support.

“This marks a very important moment in this city’s musical history and highlights York’s historical relationship with Flanders, giving us the opportunity to celebrate our cultural heritages. We look forward to building on this partnership in the future with the embassy to fly the flag for York and Flanders.”

Both concerts will take place on July 12, firstly Flemish vocal ensemble Utopia – “hot favourites in Antwerp,” according to Delma – making their York debut at the festival’s home, the National Centre for Early Music, in a 6pm programme entitled Salve Susato: Treasures from Antwerp’s Golden Age.

Cappella Pratensis: Returning to York for July 12 concert in the Quire of York Minster

“Utopia invite you to meet Tielman Susato, a composer known today mostly for his instrumental works but who flourished in 16th-century Antwerp as a publisher of vocal music by Josquin, Lassus, Gombert, Crecqillon, Clemens non Papa and Susato himself,” says Delma.  “His Missa [mass] In Illo Tempore and motet Salve Quae Roseo will sit at the heart of this programme.”

At 9pm, in the Quire of York Minster, Cappella Pratensis and I Fideli will be directed by Stratton Bull in a hour-long programme of Jacob Obrecht and Jacobus Barbireau works.

“Obrecht and Barbireau were two prominent representatives of Franco-Flemish polyphony with connections to the Church of Our Lady – today’s Antwerp Cathedral – around 1500,” says Delma.

“In his masses and motets Obrecht was an innovative user of the cantus firmus technique in which polyphonic fabric weaves around an existing melody, as in his celebratory Missa, Sub Tuum Praesidium. Osculetur Me, Barbireau’s only surviving motet, will complete the programme.”

Delegates from Flanders will host a reception in York Mansion House to welcome the artists and celebrate this new partnership on July 11 – aptly Flanders National Day – in the presence of York’s Civic Party and representatives of York industries with links to Flanders.

Bart Brosius, General Representative of Flanders in the United Kingdom and Ireland, says: “Flanders and York share historical connections through several key aspects of their heritage and centuries of cultural and economic exchanges. We share bustling medieval markets, elegant Gothic architecture, entrepreneurship and academic excellence.

“We are celebrating this connection in York in July through Early Music. We are delighted to work with the local authorities, the University of York and the renowned York Early Music Festival. We also look forward to welcoming our friends from York later in the summer for the Flanders Festival Antwerp.”

This marks a very important moment in this city’s musical history and highlights York’s historical relationship with Flanders,” says York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

Established in 1977, York Early Music Festival celebrates music from the medieval to the baroque within an array of historic venues across the city, attracting an array of world-class artists and audiences from all over the world.

Among the 2024 highlights will be the festival climax on July 13, the York International Young Artists Competition, a groundbreaking event held every two years where young ensembles compete for a professional recording contract with Linn Records, a £1,000 cheque and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music.

The competition also offers prizes supported by the Cambridge Early Music Festival, the European Union Baroque Orchestra Development Trust and Friends of York Early Music Festival.

Presented by keyboard musician Steven Devine at the NCEM from 10am to 5pm, the 2024 competition final will feature Rubens Rosa, Ensemble Bastion, (Hanse) Pfeyfferey; Ayres Extemporae; Apollo’s Cabinet; Pseudonum; Trio Altizans and Friedrichs Nebelmeer Ensemble.

Swiss-based ensemble Brezza also were selected for the final but have since had to withdraw from the competition. 

The finalists will spend time in York performing informal concerts and learning from experts before the July 13 final, when festivalgoers will discover who will follow in the footsteps of such past winners as Protean Quartet, L’Apothéose, Barroco Toutand Sollazzo Ensemble.

The 2024 festival has the theme of Metamorfosi for eight days of concerts and illustrated talks focusing on the human voice and song, with The Gesualdo Six, Concerto Soave, Vox Luminis and The Sixteen among the vocal specialists taking part.

Among the sell-outs are Florilegium on July 7  and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on July 8, both at the NCEM. BBC Radio 3 will be recording Florilegium, Cubaroque (July 7, NCEM), The Gesualdo Six (Chapter House, York Minster, July 9), Apotropaik (Holy Trinity, Micklegate, July 10) and the International Young Artists Competition for later broadcast. The competition final will be streamed live too.

For the full programme and ticket details, head to: ncem.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Ryan Collis and Charlotte Robertson win the 2024 NCEM Young Composers Awards

National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award winners Ryan Collis, left, and Charlotte Robertson, seated, at the NCEM

RYAN Collis and Charlotte Robertson are the winners of the 2024 National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Awards.

Ryan won the age 19 to 25 years category with Lux Divinae; Charlotte, the 18 years and under category with A Wonderous Mystery.

Presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3, the final of the 17th NCEM Young Composers Awards took place at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, on May 16.

This year, the NCEM and BBC Radio 3 invited aspiring young composers to create a new work for The Tallis Scholars. Composers were asked to write for unaccompanied voices, setting the 16th century text Mirabile Mysterium (A Wondrous Mystery) either in the original Latin or the English translation.

Composers were encouraged to create music that responds to the imagery of the words and, like the polyphonic vocal music of the European Renaissance, has a sense of melodic direction.

Compositions by the eight young finalists were workshopped during the day by composer Professor Christopher Fox, professional singers from York ensemble Ex Corde and their director Paul Gameson, in the presence of Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars.

In the evening, Ex Corde and Paul Gameson gave a public performance, live streamed to ensure that friends and families from across the United Kingdom were able to join in.

The live streamed performance is available on the NCEM Young Composers Award website at https://www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk/

The shortlisted composers and pieces were:

19 to 25 years

Thomas Shorthouse, Mirabile Mysterium;Tingshuo Yang, Mirabile Mysterium; Ryan Collis, Lux Divinae; Reese Carly Manglicmot, Mirabile Mysterium.

18 and under

Matty Oxtoby, Mirabile Mysterium; Charlotte Robertson,  A Wondrous Mystery; Jamaal Kashim, Mutationem ac Stabilitatem; Selina Cetin, Nativitas Salvatoris Nostri.

“It was wonderful to welcome these talented young people to York for a day sharing music and ideas,” said NCEM director Delma Tomlin

The 2024 panel of judges were BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, NCEM director Delma Tomlin and Tallis Scholars director Peter Phillips.

Ryan Collis and Charlotte Robertson’s winning works will be premiered by The Tallis Scholars in a public concert at Saffron Hall, Saffron Walden, on Sunday, October 20, when the performance will be recorded for later broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Delma Tomlin said: “We are delighted to welcome back the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble The Tallis Scholars, directed by our good friend Peter Phillips, as the partners for 2024.

“An annual event on the NCEM’s busy calendar, the Young Composers Award is becoming increasingly popular with aspiring young composers and recognised as an important landmark in their careers.

“It was wonderful to welcome these talented young people to York for a day sharing music and ideas at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church. I’d like to say a special thank-you to Dr Christopher Fox, Peter Phillips, Paul Gameson and Ex Corde, for their inspiration, hard work and invaluable support, and of course to my fellow judges.  

“We’re looking forward to hearing the winning compositions performed by The Tallis Scholars in Saffron Walden in the autumn and broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.”

Les Pratt said: “Radio 3 prides itself on being the home of classical music that is known to many, as well as a place where audiences can discover the latest trends and creations.

“Through our support for young composers, thanks to our partnership with NCEM, we are making sure that the art form is kept alive, and always looks to the future. That’s why we can’t wait to share these wonderful new compositions with listeners at home on the Early Music Show and on BBC Sounds.”

The Tallis Scholars said: “Commissioning and performing the works of living composers has been an important part of the long life of The Tallis Scholars, alongside our performances of Renaissance sacred polyphony. To be able to work with young composers is a great privilege and to see how they respond to ancient texts and renaissance settings of those texts is endlessly fascinating.”

Beverley & East Riding Early Musical Festival: Who is taking part in concerts, workshops and talks from May 24 to 26?

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

THE 2024 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival opens on Friday with a 7.30pm concert by rising stars El Gran Teatro del Mundo, sponsored by the Embassy of Spain.

Based in Spain, this young instrumental group captivated audiences on their British tour last year and will be visiting Beverley for the first time to perform Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church.

Undertaking a magical musical journey through the night, these specialists in French music from the time of the Sun King bring to life the operas of the Grand Siècle with instrumental interpretations of scenes where darkness will be the best ally of love and sleep, death’s best friend.

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), the charitable York organisation behind the festival, welcomes the new sponsorship. Director Delma Tomlin said: “This is the first time we have received sponsorship from the Embassy of Spain, in London, and we are absolutely delighted to be working together to promote Spanish music through the ages.

“The Embassy’s generous financial support – supporting the travel costs from Spain – makes all the difference and we are thrilled to be able to welcome such fabulous musicians to perform here in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

José María Robles Fraga, Minister Counsellor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Embassy of Spain, said: “This newly stablished partnership provides a unique opportunity for Spanish musicians performing in the UK.

“We are very proud to support this initiative and we are confident that audiences at the Beverley Early Music Festival will enjoy the immense talent of this Spanish ensemble”.

Running from May 24 to 26, this year’s festival takes the theme of Threads of Gold, weaving together stories of Beverley’s remarkable history through music and song, combined with a distinctly Spanish twist.

El Grano Teatro del Mundo: Performing Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church on Friday

“This year we are threading together music, history and song – designed to entertain, to engage and to intrigue,” says Delma.  “There’s a wealth of music and drama in store and as always, there are plenty of opportunities to make music as well as enjoy it – so we hope to weave you a tapestry of delights for 2024.”

Further concerts with a Spanish theme include Nigel Short directing the award-winning choir Tenebrae in their acclaimed interpretation of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass for six voices – a masterpiece of the Spanish Golden Age – at Beverley Minster on Saturday at 7.30pm.

In the festival finale on Sunday at 7.30pm at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, The Telling present their heart rend(er)ing music theatre show Into The Melting Pot.

Written by Clare Norburn and directed by Nicholas Renton, it tells the stories of the women of medieval Spain torn apart by religious intolerance, performed by actor Suzanne Ahmet as Blanca, Patience Tomlinson as Queen Isabella (offstage voice), singers Clare Norburn and Avital Raz, Emily Baines, recorders and doucaine, Giles Lewin, oud, and Jean Kelly, harp & percussion.

Music and theatre collide in this fully staged show that heads back to 1492 Spain for a story of migration, community and conflict. At twilight on her final night in Seville, a Jewish woman lights the lamps. She is being forced to leave Spain and set sail for an uncertain future.

Her tale echoes down the ages to the personal stories of people of all faiths and backgrounds affected by politics and war today, as she tunes into a community of stories told by Jewish, Christian and Muslim women, soundtracked by plaintive Sephardic songs and lively Spanish medieval music.

The newly appointed BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble Augelletti make their sold-out Beverley festival debut with A Curious Mind at St Nicholas Church, Beverley, on Saturday at 10am.

Focusing their musical lens on an ever curious and well-connected York clergyman and musician, Edward Finch, Ensemble Augelletti tell his singular story and perform some of his compositions and arrangements alongside music by his friends Purcell, Handel and Geminiani.

On Saturday, harpsichordist Steven Devine returns to Beverley with virtuoso violinist Bojan Čičić in a 4pm programme of Handel Sonatas at Toll Gavel United Church, melding GF Handel’s violin sonatas with those of the Italian-born violinist and composer Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli.

Tenebrae: Performing Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass at Beverley Minster on Saturday. Picture: Sim Canetty-Clarke

In A World Of Inspiration at Toll Gavel United Church on Sunday, the London Handel Players present a 3pm programme of Baroque works from Baroque composers from Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands, India and the British Isles.

The festival’s opening illustrated lecture by Dr John Jenkins at St Mary’s Church on Friday at 4pm has sold out. Under the title of “…and oil dripped from the golden tomb”, the University of York co-director of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society recalls a Medieval Pilgrimage to St John of Beverley.

From his death in 721, to the destruction of his golden shrine in Beverley Minster in 1541, John of Beverley was the most important saint in the East Riding, prompting pilgrims to flock to his golden and bejewelled shrine from near and far.

By the close of the Middle Ages, thanks to the miracles he worked for the kings of England, St John had become a saint of national importance on a par with St George. Dr Jenkins’s lecture reveals why pilgrims came, or in some cases were forced to come, to Beverley, and the unique and wonderous spectacle the Minster canons provided for medieval visitors.

In the festival’s second lecture, at Toll Gavel United Church Hall, on Sunday at 4.30pm, Professor Melanie Giles, from the University of Manchester, reveals more of the ancient history of the East Riding in Ancient Threads and Enchanted Garments: Stories of preserved textiles from Iron Age and Roman Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Ancient textiles, made of both vegetal and wool fibres, are rarely preserved in archaeological contexts because of their organic and fragile nature. In this talk, Prof Giles shares the story of some rare examples, ranging from the edge of Iron Age cloaks, bags and containers from Arras burials in East Yorkshire to threads and garments found with bog bodies dating to the early Roman period in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Instrumentalists are invited to The Birth Of The Orchestra, a day-long workshop led by members of El Gran Teatro del Mundo at Hexagan Music Centre, Beverley, on Saturday at 9.30m.

This workshop on Baroque orchestral performance practice, based on the writings of George Muffat with additional music by Corelli and Lully, will be directed by Julio Caballero in the company of fellow El Gran Teatro del Mundo musicians Miriam Jorde, oboe, Bruno Hurtadoviol, cello, and Andrés Murillo, violin.

Ensemble Augelletti: Making Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival on Saturday morning

The workshop is open to players of Baroque oboe, traverso, bassoon, recorder and string players with Baroque instruments or modern instruments with gut strings and Baroque bows. Music will be provided and is available to download on the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk, for private practice before the event. Participants should be confident sight-readers.

Singers have two workshop options: festival debutants SongPath’s uplifting blend of walking, talking and music-making, setting off from Hengate Memorial Gardens on Saturday at 1.30pm to 3pm, followed by Tenebrae’s choral workshop, Music of the Spanish Golden Age, at Hexagan Music Centre on Sunday at 9.30am.

Contralto Jess Dandy, mezzo-soprano Joanne Harries and recorder player Olwen Foulkes lead a 90-minute singing walk around Beverley in Songpath, inviting participants to “immerse yourself in an outdoor experience that transcends conventional concerts, exploring mental well-being through the transformative power of music and nature”. Wear suitable clothing and footwear and bring a brolly, they advise.

Choral singers are invited to join Tenebrae’s experienced workshop leader Joseph Edwardsto work on some of the repertoire from Saturday’s n their programme. Music for the day includes Alfonso Lobo’s Versa est in Luctum and Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Taedet Anima and Astiterunt Reges Terrae.

The workshop is open to all voices with some sight-singing experience. The afternoon concludes with a short informal performance of music studied during the day, open to all, free of charge.

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival runs from May 24 to 26. Box office: 01904 658338,  ncem.co.uk or in person from Beverley Tourist Information Centre, Customer Service Centre, Cross Street, Beverley. Full programme: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/bemf.

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival: the back story

ESTABLISHED in 1988 to celebrate Beverley’s historic association with musicians from medieval times.

Blessed by a wealth of ecclesiastical buildings and musical carvings in stone and wood in both Beverley Minster and St Mary’s Church, making it the “perfect place for a festival of early music”.

Supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and administered by National Centre for Early Music, York.

Annual festival combines concerts, illustrated lectures and associated workshops.

Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy launch educational early music mini-tour of Explore York libraries

Beth Stones and Dan Murphy of Flutes & Frets: Heading out on Explore York library mini-tour

MUSICAL duo Flutes & Frets embark on a mini-tour of three York community libraries tomorrow (14/3/2024) in a National Centre for Early Music cultural wellbeing initiative.

Working in partnership with Explore York Libraries and Archives, flautist Beth Stones and frets player Dan Murphy are taking Baroque Around The Books to Tang Hall Explore Library at 11am tomorrow morning; Clifton Library at 3pm tomorrow afternoon, and Explore: Acomb Library Learning Centre at 11am on Friday. Pre-booking is advised for the Acomb performance at http://ncem.co.uk/baroque-around-the-books/

The tour will continue with an invitation-only concert for NCEM members tomorrow at 2.30pm at Fairfax House, to be recorded for online viewing on March 21 as part of the NCEM’s Early Music Day celebrations. 

Tickets are free for these informal concerts under a new NCEM initiative in tandem with Explore York, supported by the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust, in a project that illustrates the NCEM’s ongoing commitment to support, encourage and nurture the skills of emerging artists in the UK and beyond.

 To conclude the tour, Flutes & Frets will head to the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, later on Friday to work on Italian baroque repertoire with The Minster Minstrels, an ensemble that provides musical opportunities for children from across York, supported by the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust and York Music Hub in partnership with York Arts Education.

Delighted to invite Flutes & Frets to York for a residency, library tour and children’s NCEM workshops, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re thrilled to be able to be working with the wonderful Flutes & Frets, who appeared in York last December at the York Early Music Christmas Festival.

“Baroque Around The Books will give the people of York the chance to enjoy these fabulous concerts completely free of charge, as we work to share the joy of music making with our partners at Explore York.”

Dave Fleming, Explore York’s innovation, creativity and learning service developer, says: “The initiative emerged from Explore York’s longstanding working relationship with the NCEM, which has been developed over many years. We’ve worked collaboratively with NCEM on successful projects and initiatives over the years, such as Cuppa And A Chorus and now this.”

Assessing the role of music in libraries, Dave says: “Music contributes to Explore York’s commitment of bringing high-quality cultural experiences into our libraries for York residents to enjoy within their communities and right on their doorstep.

“York’s network of community libraries are trusted spaces: safe, creative environments, welcoming to everyone. We have developed out network of libraries as cultural spaces in the heart of communities.”

Crucially too, Explore York is now a National Portfolio Organisation (NPOs), designated by Arts Council England. “NPO recognises Explore’s cultural contribution in creating and promoting artistic experiences, supporting artists, and engaging communities. Opportunities to bring musical experiences into our libraries contributes to what we are as an NPO,” he says.

“Bringing such experiences into libraries aligns with Explore York’s status as an NPO and enhances its cultural offerings. Therefore, the role of music in libraries is seen as integral to fulfilling Explore York’s mission and enriching the cultural experiences available to residents.”

Stone and Murphy’s repertoire spans the medieval to the contemporary, backed by a passion to use instruments from throughout history to create a story that both enthrals and educate. “The educational element of these concerts lies in the opportunity for the audience to experience high-quality classical music performed by internationally renowned musicians,” says Dave.

“In addition to the performances, the musicians will engage the audience by discussing the history and background of the music being played. This approach allows the audience to deepen their understanding and appreciation of classical music, turning the concert into an enriching educational experience.”

Beth and Dan say: “We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances and so in this programme, we focus on taking the audience on a chronological journey of some of our favourite pieces: a chocolate-box selection of almost 500 years of music.”

Here Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy discuss libraries, music and books with CharlesHutchPress.

“We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances,” say Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy

When did you form your partnership, where and why?

“Interestingly, Covid helped form the duo. We met while studying at the Royal College of Music, in London, and after collaborating on modern flute and guitar, we realised the potential that our specialisation in historical performance might bring our combination of instruments.

“Beth had been very keen to try playing with lute compared to harpsichord, and Covid brought out a renewed sense of need for chamber music.”

What was the highlight of your York Early Music Christmas Festival concert last December?

“The previous night to our 11am concert, we had a chaotic journey up to York due to train cancellations, meaning we arrived at the hotel at 4am, so to wake up to a cold, frosty morning but have a sold-out audience that had many warm comments to make afterwards made it all worthwhile!”

How did the Baroque Around The Books mini-tour come about?

“Delma has been incredibly supportive of us as an ensemble and believed that we would be appropriate for the intimate setting of libraries. We’re enthusiastic to make the most of our portability and enjoy performing in the types of venues that are harder to accommodate live music.”

Libraries are associated with silence, peace and calm! Does that add to the joy of making music there?

“Every venue has its charm. Libraries in particular tend to bring people that weren’t expecting to find music, especially children and families. As the Italian 15th century philosopher Marsilio Ficino wrote, music is ‘nothing but the decoration of silence’.”

How did you put together the programme for Baroque Around The Books?

“We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances and so, in this programme, we focus on taking the audience on a chronological journey of some of our favourite pieces: a chocolate-box selection of almost 500 years of music.”

How have books had an impact on your musical selections?

“They haven’t had a direct impact on the programme we’re performing but musical treaties inform the way we play and so affect our approach to all our concerts.”

In what way is the concert educational?

“We encourage our audience to see a bigger picture and think about the changes that instruments and compositional styles have undergone throughout the history of music. Similarly to how a documentary might try to capture hundreds of years in a short space of time.”

The poster for Flutes & Frets’ Baroque Around The Books mini-tour of York libraries

Do you have a target audience?

“Not particularly! We appreciate the attention of anyone and everyone.”

What will Friday’s workshop session with The Minster Minstrels involve?

“We’ll be spending some time working with them on Italian baroque repertoire that they’re currently exploring and hopefully sharing some insight in how to approach and interpret early music.”

In a nutshell, what is the relationship between music and books?

“Both are expressions of thoughts, emotions, creativity and storytelling.”

If you could recommend one book each, what would it be?

Beth: “No book means more to me than the Bible, so that’s an easy choice.”

Dan: “It was The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss that first inspired me to develop an interest in lute playing, so that’s always my first recommendation.”

When you arrive home, what do you reach for first: music or a book?!

“Music usually!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

York Early Music Christmas Festival programme highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Festive folk concerts at NCEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apotropaïk: Performing at All Saints’ Church on July 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guitars at the double: Lulo Reinhardt & Yuliya Lonskaya

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew McCormack Trio: Terra Firma concert on April 28

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

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

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

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

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

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Devine Moments on slide guitar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENTRIES are sought for the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita: Welsh harp and Senegalese kora

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Maisery: English vocal harmonies on November 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’Koyokh: Klezmer and Balkan band from London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leveret: Springing into spontaneous action next March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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