QUICK thinking by York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin saved the day when violinist Rachel Podger fell victim to the dreaded “pingdemic”.
Rachel had to self-isolate at the last minute, foregoing her 9.15pm live performance of The Violinist Speaks at St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, on July 13.
In a flash, Delma asked Croatian-born Baroque violinist Bojan Cicic to step into the breach, as he had arrived in York already to perform with Florilegium at the National Centre for Early Music the following night.
Not only did he say ‘Yes’ at only three hours’ notice, but also he played the very same repertoire that Rachel had selected: JS Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major; Giuseppe Tartini’s Sonata in B minor; Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s Passacaglia in G minor, for solo violin, and Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor, for solo violin.
Nothing was announced on social media beforehand by the festival organisers; only the audience was alerted of the late change by email, whereupon Bojan duly “wowed” his socially distanced crowd.
Rachel subsequently recorded The Violinist Speaks without an audience at the NCEM for a digital livestream premiere at 7.30pm last Saturday. Her online concert is now available on demand until August 13; on sale until August 9 at: ncem.co.uk/events/rachel-podger-online/ncem.co.uk
ENCOUNTERS, the 2021 York Early Music Festival, will be briefer than first trailered.
Already cut from its usual ten days under Covid constraints, the live festival will now run from July 12 to 15, rather than until July 16 after the Government’s Step 4 lockdown easement was delayed from June 21 to July 19.
This has ruled out the participation of Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose, winners of the 2019 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, along with Ensemble Clément Janequin, from France, and the Italian-Spanish trio sonata ensemble La Vaghezza. In their stead come two late additions: British vocal ensemble The Gesualdo Six and Florilegium.
“The festival may have shrunk from ten days to four, but it’s still jam-packed with concerts, which will be one hour in length, with no interval and no reserved seating, audience members being seated on arrival within social bubbles” says festival director Delma Tomlin.
“Because any musicians who lived outside of the UK had to consider the need to quarantine or the consequences of a positive Covid test once here, it just wasn’t worth the complications for them or us.
“The good news is that L’Apothéose will now play their Young Artists’ Showcase and record here next March; we hope to carry EEEmerging artists La Vaghezza over into the 2022 festival, though that will not be possible for Ensemble Clément Janequin, and the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition will definitely return at next summer’s festival, after the competition couldn’t happen this year.”
Delma expects that plenty of international musicians who had to forego performing in the 2020 festival, after being booked for the aborted original programme, will now play at the 2022 event. “The festival is filling up already, but not yet with a theme in place!” she says.
In another sign of Covid-times, the 2021 festival is a non-brochure event. “We had boxes and boxes of brochures that we then had to recycle, once everything changed, and since then we’ve doing everything online,” says Delma.
“So we’ve been reliant on people looking online constantly for updates and programme details for our 2020 Christmas festival, the Awaken concert series, the Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival, and now this summer’s festival, but I can confirm we’ll produce print in the autumn for the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival.”
Roll on Monday’s opening concert “At last, we’re able to welcome audiences back to York in person,” says Delma. “The theme of Encounters, most vitally between audience and artists, seems particularly pertinent at this time when we can celebrate the joy of music making and being back together again to appreciate these glorious sounds together.
“For over a year, our home of St Margaret’s Church has been missing the energy and excitement that live audiences bring to us and we can’t wait to throw our doors wide open again.”
Both the opening and closing concerts will be performed twice at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate: Monteverdi String Band, led by Oliver Webb, on July 12 at 6.30pm and 8.45pm and The Gesualdo Six on July 15 at the same times.
“We’ll clean everything down and put the same concert on 90 minutes later,” explains Delma. “The 6.30pm concerts are sold out but we still have tickets available for the later performances.
“Oddly enough, The Gesualdo Six were meant to be playing at a festival in France at this time but couldn’t go, so we’ve been able to accommodate them, and Ensemble Clément Janequin, who can’t come here, will now be playing in France!”
Florilegium step into the festival breach to perform a Celebrating Bach programme at the NCEM on Wednesday at 7.30pm, joining a line-up of guest artists such as harpsichordist Steven Devine with Robin Bigwood (St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, Tuesday, 1pm) and violinist Rachel Podger (St Lawrence’s Church, Tuesday, 9.15pm).
The Society of Strange & Ancient Instruments present their weird and wonderful Trumpet Marine Project (The Citadel, Gillygate, Wednesday, 1pm, sold out); lutenist Jacob Heringman celebrates Josquin des Prez in Master of the notes II: Inviolata (Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate, Wednesday, 9.30pm, sold out) and bass Matthew Brook, in tandem with York classical leading light Peter Seymour, performs Amore Traditore – Cantatas for bass and harpsichord (St Lawrence’s Church, Thursday, 1pm).
Delma is particularly delighted to announce that the festival will be working in partnership with the Alamire Foundation, in Flanders, to present a long-awaited concert at York Minster by renaissance vocal ensemble Stile Antico in Tuesday’s 7.30pm programme of Josquin des Prez – Master of the notes I: Missa Sine Nominee on the 500th anniversary of the Franco-Flemish genius’s death.
The live festival may be shorter, but the event will still run to Sunday in an online festival, YEMF ’21 Online, available from Thursday to the weekend, after the success of last summer’s first online package.
“This will include concerts recorded during the festival alongside specially commissioned highlights by the Rose Consort of Viols and the University Baroque Ensemble,” says Delma.
“The Gesualdo Six will open this four-day online festival with a live streamed concert from the NCEM on Thursday at 6.30pm.
“The online festival provides us with the opportunity to share some of the festival highlights with the widest possible audience, presenting concerts filmed by digital producer Ben Pugh and sound engineer Tim Archer in some of the city’s stunning venues: Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, St Lawrence’s Church and St Margaret’s Church,” says Delma.
“Going online extends the festival’s reach internationally, giving us the chance to boost our ticket income possibilities, so while we use small venues, such as lutenist Jacob Heringman playing to 60 people in candlelight at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, the decision to embrace online opportunities means others can enjoy it too. This provides a new stream of income at this time, turning around our business strategy on a pin.”
All next week’s concerts will be streamed, except for Stile Antico, whose Josquin des Prez programme instead will be available online at Laus Polyphoniae 2021, part of the Flanders Festival that runs in Antwerp from August 20 to 29.
The NCEM and York Early Music Festival have embraced the need to explore digital opportunities since the pandemic took hold. “The acquisition of Tim Archer, who I’ve known through our relationship with BBC Radio 3, has been key to this. When Tim left Radio 3, I asked him to work with us as our sound engineer, and he’s since worked alongside Ben Pugh on our festivals and the Awaken spring event,” says Delma.
“On top of that, we’ve been very grateful to have been granted Culture Recovery Fund funds to support our sustainable strategy,” says Delma.
“We’ve received two funding boosts, the first for the acquisition of digital equipment, the second to help to cover the loss of income after we lost £100,000 from our usual revenue streams because of the pandemic lockdowns.”
Reflecting on the changes brought on by the need to react to Covid times, Delma says: “It has pushed us very specifically into a whole new world of digital sharing and income generation, running parallel with that, and all our staff have been willing to adapt and embrace the changes. We’ve also been determined to make the online service as simple to use as possible, requiring only your email address.
“The other very positive thing has been our blossoming relationship with The Crescent [community venue] and The Fulford Arms, especially with Harkirit Boparai and Chris Sherrington, and the Independent Music network, putting on the Songs Under Skies concerts in the NCEM garden last summer and this summer.”
Post-festival, the YEMF ’21 Online concerts will be available to view on demand until August 13 2021 and tickets will be on sale until August 6 at ncem.co.uk. Live festival tickets are selling fast, with social distancing measures still in place to limit numbers, so hurry, hurry to book at ncem.co.uk before you are too late to be Early next week.
Did you know?
THE 2021 York Early Music Festival concerts by Rachel Podger, The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments and The Gesualdo Six will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show in late-July.
YORK Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters for its five-day run from July 12 to 16.
Presented by the National Centre of Early Music (NCEM), the annual festival of classical concerts will include a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Franco-Flemish genius Josquin des Prez.
“This year’s festival theme is one of encounters, most vitally between audience and artists, which seems particularly pertinent at a time when the festival can welcome audiences back to an array of York’s wonderful historic venues,” says director Delma Tomlin.
“We’re particularly delighted to announce that we’ll be working in partnership with the Flanders-based Alamire Foundation to present one of the highlights of the festival, a long-awaited concert by vocal ensemble Stile Antico.”
Renowned for their vibrant and expressive performances of music from the Renaissance, Stile Antico will perform in the resplendent surroundings of York Minster on July 13.
Among the guest artists for the 2021 event will be: violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook, working with Peter Seymour; the Monteverdi String Band, led by Oliver Webber; a York favourite, harpsichordist Steven Devine, with Robin Bigwood; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments with their “weird and wonderful” Trumpet Marine Project; EEEmerging artists La Vaghezza, specialising in music from the 17th and 18th centuries, and the ever entertaining Ensemble Clement Janequin.
“The NCEM is also delighted to welcome Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose back to York as part of the Young Artists Showcase,” says Delma. “L’Apothéose last appeared in the city in 2019 when they won the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition and The Friends of York Early Music Festival prize. This year they will be recording a CD with Linn Records, which was part of their prize.”
Established in 1977, York Early Music Festival celebrates York’s myriad medieval churches, guildhalls and historic houses through “historically informed music-making of the highest international standard”. The festival is considered the jewel in the crown of the NCEM’s annual programme, drawing visitors from across the world.
“At last, we are able to welcome audiences back to York in person and we can’t wait!” says Delma. “ This year’s theme of Encounters celebrates the joy of music-making and being back together again to appreciate these glorious sounds together.
“For over a year, our home of St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, has been missing the energy and excitement that live audiences bring to us and we can’t wait to throw our doors wide open again. We hope you will join us for this five-day celebration of music and friendship in our beautiful city, bringing you world-class music from stunning surroundings.”
The festival concerts will take place in a Covid-secure, comfortable environment. “All tickets are unreserved and audience members will be seated on arrival within social bubbles,” says Delma. “Each concert will last about an hour without an interval. Covid advice will be updated according to government guidelines.”
York Early Music Festival also will be available online from July 15 to 18. YEMF ’21 Online will include concerts recorded during the festival alongside commissioned highlights, with guests including The Gesualdo Six and The Rose Consort Of Viols. Full details and tickets will be released on Wednesday, June 16.
Tickets for the live festival are on sale at ncem.co.uk
YORK EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2021 LISTINGS
Monday, July 12, 1pm, NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, York: Illustrated talk: Oliver Webber, “Un non so che di frizzante: the madrigal as a cauldron of creativity”.
Monday, July 12, 6.30pm and 8.45pm, NCEM: Monteverdi String Band, with soprano Hannah Ely, The Madrigal Re-imagined.
Tuesday, July 13, 1pm, St Lawrence Parish Church, York: Steven Devine & Robin Bigwood, The Bach Circle.
Tuesday, July 13, 7.30pm, York Minster: Stile Antico, Sine Nomine: Josquin des Prez.
Tuesday, July 13, 9.15pm, St Lawrence Parish Church: Rachel Podger violin, The Violinist Speaks.
Wednesday, July 14, 1pm, NCEM: The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments, The Trumpet Marine Project.
Wednesday, July 14, 7.30pm, NCEM: La Vaghezza, Sculpting The Fabric.
Wednesday, July 14, 9.30pm, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York: Jacob Heringman, lute,Inviolata: Josquin des Prez.
Thursday, July 15, 11am, NCEM: Illustrated talk: John Bryan, Josquin des Prez: the first of the “great composers”?
Thursday, July 15, 1pm, Matthew Brook & Peter Seymour, Amore Traditore – Cantatas for bass and harpsichord.
Thursday, July 15, NCEM, 6.30pm and 8.45pm: Ensemble Clement Janequin, Mille Regretz: Josquin des Prez.
Friday July 16, 1pm, NCEM: L’Apothéose, The Family Stamitz.
SONGS Under Skies will return to the glorious gardens of the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, in June.
Five outdoor acoustic double bills will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.
As with last September’s debut series, season two of the open-air, Covid-safe Songs Under Skies will be presented by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), working in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance.
Gates will open at 6.30pm for the acoustic double bills from 7pm to 8.30pm with a 30-minute interval between sets. Each concert costs £8 and tickets must be bought in advance, either in “pods” for family groups or as individuals at tickets.ncem.co.uk.
Social distancing will be strictly observed and masks must be worn inside the NCEM but will not be required in the gardens.
NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re very excited to be bringing you the second Songs Under Skies: a feast of acoustic music taking place in our beautiful gardens, the perfect spot for a June evening in the sunshine.
“We’re also glad to be working once again with our partners The Fulford Arms, The Crescent and York Music Venues Network to begin the long-awaited revival of live music in our city. Last year Songs Under Skies was a complete sell-out and we’re looking forward to welcoming back audiences for these summer nights of music by these talented musicians.”
Harkirit Boparai, from The Crescent and the York Music Venues Network and North East regional coordinator for the Music Venues Alliance, says: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with the NCEM for another short run of outdoor concerts to take place in their beautiful gardens, with a stellar line-up of musicians from York and beyond heralding the return of live gigs to York.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that cultural organisations in the city have been able to collaborate in ways that they didn’t before, and after the success of our last series in the autumn, it’s been great to work with the NCEM team once again.”
Among the first arts organisations to stream online concerts, the NCEM has been keeping music alive since the beginning of lockdown, attracting a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.
Over the past year, the NCEM staged socially distant events when possible and streamed concerts and festivals from St Margaret’s Church.
In June, this will continue with the streaming of the very first Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival Online with concerts, walks and talks from the Yorkshire market town where the first festival was staged 35 years ago. This summer’s York Early Music Festival will run from July 12 to 16; a full line-up announcement is expected today (17/5/2021).
Last year’s inaugural Songs Under Skies presented Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton on September 2; Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney, September 3; Kitty VR and Boss Caine, September 9; Wolf Solent and Rosalind, September 10; Polly Bolton and Henry Parker, September 16, and Elkyn and Fawn, September 17.
Full details of this summer’s Songs Under Skies can be found at: ncem.co.uk/songs-under-skies/.
BEVERLEY Early Music festivities for 2021 will have a new look in May and June.
As the Government’s phases of easing lockdown unfold, the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), York, and the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival will present, not one, but two musical celebrations from the East Yorkshire town.
Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival ’21 Live will run from May 28 to 30, followed by Beverley ’21 Online: Concerts, Talks and Hidden Gems on June 5 and 6.
Social-distancing restrictions and the festival’s commitment to accommodating all those who booked for last year’s postponed festival mean that only a limited number of tickets are on sale for the “in person” concerts at the end of May.
All the concerts, however, will be available to enjoy in the specially created digital festival, Beverley ’21 Online, on the first weekend in June.
Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to be returning to Beverley and we’ve been working hard to ensure that our 2021 festival is available for everyone to enjoy. “As well as producing a live festival, for the first time we are delighted to invite you to join our festival online, which showcases of the majesty of the glorious county town of Beverley.”
Delma continues: “Beverley ’21 Online is a specially commissioned digital version of the festival filmed around the town and audiences will be able to enjoy all the concerts from the weekend, plus talks and exclusive footage of some of Beverley’s magnificent historic buildings.
“We hope you’ll join us for this joyous celebration of wonderful music set against the backdrop of this beautiful Yorkshire town.”
Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival ’21 Live, Friday, May 28 to Sunday, May 30
May 28, Beverley Minster, 7.30pm to 8.40pm: Stile Antico, Toward The Dawn, sold out
This programme charts a course from twilight to sunrise, seductive and unsettling in equal measure. Thrill to the spine-tingling sounds of Allegri’s beloved Miserere and enter into the glorious sound world of Nico Muhly’s Gentle Sleep, a haunting setting of words by Shakespeare, written especially for the 12 voices of Stile Antico.
Singers: sopranos Helen Ashby, Kate Ashby, Rebecca Hickey; altos Emma Ashby, Cara Curran, Hannah Cooke; tenors Andrew Griffiths, Jonathan Hanley, Benedict Hymas; basses James Arthur, Will Dawes, Nathan Harrison.
May 29, St Mary’s Church, 12.30pm to 1.30pm: Alva, Angels In The Architecture
Vivien Ellis, voice, Giles Lewin, fiddles and bagpipes, and Leah Stuttard, mediaeval harps, perform songs and melodies spanning 1,000 years, revealing stories hidden in the stones of the beautiful St Mary’s Church.
May 29, Toll Gavel United Church, 7.30pm to 8.30pm: La Serenissima with Tabea Debus, recorder, “The Italian Gang”, sold out
Life-affirming music of 18th-century Venice, featuring Sammartini and Vivaldi, directed by Adam Chandler.
May 30, Toll Gavel United Church, 3pm to 4pm: Kati Debretzeni, violin, Through The Eye Of A Lens
A virtual tour of Europe through the “lens” of a violin, performed by one of the world’s leading exponents.
May 30, St John’s RC Church, Beverley, 6.30pm to 7.30pm: Ex Corde, Heaven On Earth: Thomas More’s Utopian Dream
Reflections based on Thomas More’s Utopia with vocal music by Robert Fayrfax and Josquin des Prez, plus the premiere of a commission by Christopher Fox, inspired by More’s vision, directed by Paul Gameson.
May 29 and 30, Beverley Ballad Walks; Saturday, In And Around Beverley Minster, 4pm; Sunday, It All Happened In Beverley!, 10am, and In And Around Beverley Minster, 1pm
Taking place over the live festival weekend will be the hugely popular Ballad Walks, led by singer Vivien Ellis, brimming with songs and stories from the streets. The tales span 800 years of history and reveal Beverley’s sometimes murky past, as well as the fascinating tales of inhabitants.
Beverley ’21 Online, Saturday, June 5 and Sunday, June 6
TO ensure the festival can be enjoyed by the widest possible audience, all five concerts will be filmed and available online, with an added bonus of many exclusive treats.
Historian David Neave will talk about the Pilgrims of the East Riding, who left these shores in 1638 to set out for a new, and better, world in North America; Stile Antico share the music of the period through a specially commissioned film available to all ticket holders; and John Bryan, Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Huddersfield, introduces the festival from the Rococo splendour of Beverley Guildhall.
There also will be opportunities to visit some of Beverley’s hidden gems in the company of guest curators Fiona Jenkinson and Dr Jennie England.
Further details of Beverley ’21 Online will be available from May 6.
For full Beverley Early Music festivities details, times and ticket prices, go to: ncem.co.uk.
Tickets are on sale now online at ncem.co.uk/whats-on-bemf/, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01904 658338, but due to limited capacity, some events may be sold out already, and the organisers will be operating a waiting list via email sent to email@example.com.
THE York Early Music Foundation, the charitable body that administers the National Centre for Early Music, will receive £25,000 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.
The foundation is one of more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the second round of awards.
The grant will aid the foundation to recover from loss of income over the past year, and the CRF2 monies also will help to ensure that the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival can take place again in May 2021.
This will enable the foundation to welcome both a small, socially distanced, audience and a new online public to the Beverley event, as well as supporting East Yorkshire school-aged children to enjoy their music-making.
The Beverley festival, postponed in 2020, is supported by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is acknowledged as one of the region’s cultural highlights.
Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM, said today: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Council England for awarding us this much-needed grant. This support provides an important lifeline to help the organisation recover from lost revenue, ensuring that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer.”
The York Early Music Foundation is among thousands of cultural organisations across the country to benefit from awards of more than £300 million from the Culture Recovery Fund announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today.
More than £800 million in grants and loans has been awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations “transitioning back to normal” in the months ahead.
Mr Dowden said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced.
“Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors, helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.
“We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”
The funding awarded today comes from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, together with Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
ENSEMBLE Augelletti will make their York debut on Saturday at the National Centre for Music’s online weekend celebration of the rise of spring, Awaken.
Founded and directed by recorder specialist Olwen Foulkes, the young, up-and-coming ensemble will perform A Spring In Lockdown, an intriguing tale of 18th century music-making from an English debtors’ prison.
Premiered at 3pm on Saturday (27/3/2021), on sale until April 23 and available to watch on demand until April 30, the concert will feature Olwen, recorders; Ellen Bundy and Alice Earll, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; Carina Drury, cello; Harry Buckoke, double bass; Toby Carr, theorbo, and Benedict Williams, chamber organ.
Winner of the FBAS Young Artists Competition in Italy in 2019, the ensemble explores the chamber music and concertos performed on the London theatre stages in the first decades of the 18th century.
Hence Olwen’s focus on trumpeter John Grano in A Spring In Lockdown: “In the spring of 1729, Grano, dubbed ‘Handel’s trumpeter’, was serving the end of a sentence, incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea debtors’ prison,” she says.
“The prisoner kept a diary detailing his musical exploits as he composed, taught, organised concerts, and tried to maintain a performance schedule from the ‘home’ of his cell.
“Our concert will explore some of his fascinating diary entries from a very different kind of lockdown and will include music that he was performing, writing, and listening to, by Francesco Geminiani, Grano, William Corbett, John Baston and of course Mr Handel.”
Ensemble Augelletti recorded the concert at the NCEM’s home of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on March 15. “I’d been there in the past, performing Shepherds Of Bethlehem with Fieri Consort at the York Early Music Christmas Festival in December 2019,” says Olwen.
“But this is the first time the ensemble has played there. Since lockdown started last March, it was one of the few times we could play together because the NCEM is such a big space.”
How did Olwen settle on A Spring In Lockdown for Saturday’s concert? “Delma [NCEM director Delma Tomlin] offered us some proposals, giving me the chance to propose this programme, which is completely bespoke for the Awaken festival,” she says.
“I’d been reading the diary of John Grano, a trumpeter, flautist and recorder player, written in 1728, when, in some ways, London was very similar to now. So much of the musician’s experience resonated with us today, reading of when he was working in West End theatres, at the Haymarket and the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.
“Grano was the principal trumpeter in Handel’s orchestra for 15 years and is likely to have played in the premiere of Handel’s Water Music.
“For our concert, one of the pieces we’ll play will be the only surviving publication of Grano’s music.”
Ensemble Augelletti made the recording with Ben Pugh, omnipresent at the NCEM’s online recordings for the 2020 York Early Music Festival and Early Music Christmas Festival.
“The one thing we found strange was taking a bow to an empty room, which made us realise how much we miss playing to an audience,” says Olwen.
“I last played to a full audience a year ago, on March 15, with Dramma Per Musica at the Barnes Festival, and the last performance by Ensemble Augelletti was to a very, very small audience in the London Sound Galler, for an online festival with The Gesualdo Six in September.”
Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti released their debut album, Indoor Fireworks, in November 2019, taking the name Augelletti [little birds] from the aria Augelletti Che Cantate from the first act of Handel’s opera Rinaldo.
“We’d been playing together for a while, and when I did that CD, I was thinking about where I wanted the group to progress, and I thought it would be lovely to have a new identity for the group, so I said, ‘Can we call ourselves an ‘ensemble’?’ and that’s when we became Ensemble Augelletti,” says Olwen.
Her ensemble has plans to make a new recording this year, but Olwen will remain quiet on its exact nature, subject to the outcome of a “big funding application”. “But I can say it’s really exciting and will be another project celebrating musicians that we don’t necessarily know of as a composer,” she says.
Unlike so many of us whose first encounter with playing music is a forlorn blow on a recorder, Olwen’s journey was different. “I actually started playing the recorder second! I started with the violin when I was five,” she recalls. “I didn’t start the recorder till I was 11 and that was to keep my sister Ethnie – now an acoustic and electronic composer – company in a recorder group.
“I just fell in love with the recorder at the point, but I’d found that love in the opposite way to the usual graduation to another instrument!”
Olwen went on to study at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London from the age of 13 to 18, and later as the Christopher Hogwood Scholar at the Royal Academy of Music, and a career specialising in recorders has ensued.
Once the easing of pandemic strictures allows, she would love to perform to an audience in York, taking a bow in more familiar fashion. “It is such a lovely place to play,” she says.
The Awaken weekend will run online on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28. The full programme and ticket details can be found at ncem.co.uk.
How to view The Awaken weekend of concerts will be shown on ncem.co.uk. On the day before the festival starts, all bookers will be emailed the viewing links and clear navigation to the concerts from the home page will be added.
The NCEM advises: “Please ensure that you have a strong broadband connection, and you may want to use external speakers or headphones to maximise your experience. If you experience any difficulties with the concerts, please contact us and we will do our best to help you via ncem.co.uk.”
THE National Centre for Early Music, in York, is to play host to an online celebration of music for springtime on March 27 and 28.
The weekend programme of Awaken will feature celebrated British musicians, working across a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”.
The two days of festivities will begin with a musical whistle-stop tour led by the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park at 1pm on March 27. Beyond These Shores: A York Tapestry will explore the musical “jewels in the crown” of Renaissance Europe, as revealed in the stained glass and manuscripts of the City of York.
The journey will show off some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, such as Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate; St Olave’s Church, Marygate, and the mediaeval splendour of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate.
The weekend’s grand finale, on March 28, will feature I Fagiolini in Super-Excellent, directed by Robert Hollingworth in a 7pm concert filmed in York. They will be joined by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble to present a multi-choir extravaganza of music from the Italian Renaissance, taking a musical journey across Spain to the New World and back again.
Also appearing in Awaken will be York international countertenor Iestyn Davies, performing with the instrumental viol specialists Fretwork on March 27, as they bring light to the 17th century world of JC Bach and his contemporaries, interlaced with the 20th century genius of Ralph Vaughan Williams, in a 7pm programme entitled The Sky Above The Roof.
Directed by Olwen Foulkes, rising stars Ensemble Augelletti will make their York debut at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, presenting A Spring In Lockdown on March 27 at 3pm, and BBC New Generation artists The Consone Quartet will perform Schubert’s Quintet in C major with cellist Alexander Rolton on March 28 at 3pm.
Looking forward to the reawakening weekend, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “As we gradually move into spring, we are delighted to bring you Awaken, which through music brings us the promise of hope, joy and warmth for the coming months.
“Since the very first lockdown, we have continued to bring you some of the finest music streamed from our beautiful base of St Margaret’s Church. For Awaken, we’ve branched out further and are very excited to be able to show off some of the city’s architectural gems, which provide us with a fitting backdrop for the glorious music.
“We’re also pleased to welcome back some of our most popular performers and to introduce a few new faces. We hope you’ll join us for these sublime sounds of spring.”
Tickets cost £10 for individual online concerts or £40 for a weekend pass on 01904 658338, at ncem.co.uk or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Full programme details can be found at: ncem.co.uk/awaken. The concerts will be available on demand until April 30.
Before Awaken, The Gesualdo Six will mark Early Music Day by performing a 3pm concert on March 21, toasting the genius of Josquin des Prez, French composer of the Renaissance age. The live-stream from the NCEM will form part of the annual celebrations organised in association with the European Early Music Network, REMA.
The musicians taking part in Awaken will be:
The Gesualdo Six: Owain Park, director; Andrew Leslie Cooper, Guy James, countertenors; Josh Cooter, Joseph Wicks, tenors; Michael Craddock and Sam Mitchell, basses.
Ensemble Augelletti: Olwen Foulkes, recorders, director; Ellen Bundy, Alice Earll, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; Carina Drury, cello; Harry Buckoke, bass/gamba; Toby Carr, theorbo; Benedict Williams, harpsichord/organ
Fretwork: Richard Boothby, Emily Ashton, Joanna Levine, Asako Morikawa, Sam Stadlen, viols, with Iestyn Davies, countertenor.
Consone Quartet: Agata Daraškaite, Magdalena Loth-Hill, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; George Ross, cello, with Alexander Rolton, cello.
I Fagiolini: Robert Hollingworth,director; Martha McLorinan, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Long, Greg Skidmore, singers; William Lyons, Nicholas Perry, dulcians, shawms; Catherine Pierron, James Johnstone, organs; Eligio Quinteiro, Lynda Sayce, theorboes, guitars.
English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble: Gawain Glenton, Conor Hastings, cornetts; Emily White, Miguel Tantos-Sevillano, Tom Lees, Hilary Belsey, Andrew Harwood-White, Adrian France, sackbuts.
STORY Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, an online project for primary schools, will be launched by the National Centre for Early Music, York, next month.
Funded by East Riding Music Hub and presented by York ensemble Eboracum Baroque, led by director, conductor, trumpet player and teacher Chris Parsons, the project is suitable both for pupils who are in school or those learning from home.
This specially created work, based on the book The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, includes a live-streamed performance broadcast from the NCEM’s home, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on Tuesday, March 23 at 2pm.
The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day performance will be available to download from ncem.co.uk and can be accessed to watch again until Friday, May 28, and it will be accompanied by a raft of resources and activities, such as arts, crafts, drawing and painting.
Through story-telling, Story Orchestra provides a light-hearted introduction to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As the music unfolds, the story follows the adventures of a little girl and her dog as they travel through the four seasons and discover the beautiful sounds of Vivaldi’s 1723 composition.
This online project finds the NCEM continuing to be at the forefront of engaging digitally with schools and communities. During the past year, the NCEM has offered an extensive package of teaching resources to contribute to learning, health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be bringing you this exciting project for primary schools that will now be available online from March 23. We had planned to take it to schools across the East Riding in the run-up to the 2021 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, but circumstances have compelled us to rethink.
“We’re very grateful to the East Riding Music Hub for their support in enabling us to share this magical project online with schools across the region. The music of Vivaldi tells a wonderful story of the seasons, from the shivering chills of winter through to the haze of the summer heat.
“We’re also looking forward to working with Eboracum Baroque, a young professional group of musicians who are experts in sharing their enthusiasm for music, encouraging children to discover their creativity.”
Emma Calvert, head of the East Riding Music Hub, adds: “The NCEM has responded to the need for children to have access to high-quality creative activities, whether at home or school, to support their wellbeing during the pandemic, and the East Riding Music Hub is thrilled to be partnering with the NCEM and Eboracum Baroque to bring you Four Seasons.
“With the added resources available to schools, it allows you to build an exciting programme of art and craft activities alongside the online performance, accessible to those learning in school or accessing remote learning from home.”
The NCEM will be launching additional resources for primary schools this spring:
* Songs On Safari with the Gesualdo Six and Eboracum Baroque;
*Palisander Project, a selection of videos from young recorder quartet Palisander, partners in the Young Composers Award 2021;
*Musical News, providing lesson plans, resources and other inspiration for teachers and pupils aged seven to 11.
Full details will be available soon. Tickets for the March 23 live-stream cost £15 for a standard ticket for the whole school, £10 for East Riding schools, and can be booked at: http://www.ncem.co.uk/story-orchestra-project/
THE Gesualdo Six will lead the National Centre for Early Music’s celebrations for Early Music Day 2021 on March 21 by embarking on an online whistle-stop musical tour of York.
The Cambridge vocal consort’s concert will be a streamed at 3pm as part of a day when musical organisations throughout Europe will come together for a joyful programme of events to mark JS Bach’s birthday.
During its residency – an alternative G6 summit – The Gesualdo Six will spend almost a week in York performing in a variety of locations on a musical trek around the city that will be filmed and shared in March.
The film is designed to celebrate the beauty of this historic city and its musical influences, showcasing many of York’s venues that have been unable to open their doors since last March.
Directed by Owain Park, The Gesualdo Six brings together some of Britain’s finest young consort singers: countertenors Guy James and Andrew Leslie Cooper; tenors Josh Cooter and Joseph Wicks; baritone Michael Craddock and bass Sam Mitchell.
Formed in March 2014 for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, the ensemble gave more than 150 performances at major festivals in the UK and abroad in its first five years.
The Gesualdo Six has been awarded the Choir of the Year prize at the Classical Music Digital Awards and its album Fading was awarded Vocal Recording of the Year by Limelight.
Looking forward to the March residency, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to welcome our good friends The Gesualdo Six, who will be spending time in York, taking advantage of some of the atmospheric acoustics within the city walls and performing a concert, a very special treat for Early Music Day.
“The concert will be shared with our friends and colleagues in Europe and beyond, as we join together for this wonderful annual celebration.”
Against the backdrop of the Brexit severance from Europe, Delma says: “I’d also like to say a special thank-you to REMA, the Early Music Network in Europe, for their hard work helping to make sure the celebrations continue.”
She adds: “Other delights in store in March include performances by many artists who have supported us over this difficult year, recording behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church [the NCEM’s home in Walmgate, York]. You might not be able to be with us in person, but we hope you can still join us for a feast of fabulous music.”
Director Owain Park welcomes the chance for The Gesualdo Six to undertake a residency in York. “After a challenging year, it has been a delight to put our minds to this incredibly exciting project,” he says.
“We have long admired the work of the NCEM in York and so it has been an immense privilege to curate a musical journey that weaves through the city’s historic venues. Chiming with the NCEM’s spring celebrations, we aim to highlight the extraordinary power of collaboration and unity in a world where the seeds of division are increasingly sown.”
Delma concludes: “Venues for the filming in York will be confirmed very soon. Please check our website, ncem.co.uk, and social media platforms for regular updates and more details of this year’s programme of Early Music Day celebrations.
“The NCEM has put in place many changes to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the artists, audience and staff. All performances and filming will take place following current Government Covid-19 guidelines.”