Ashley Karrell’s digital portrait of Merchant Adventurers’ Hall’s first woman governor, Dr Delma Tomlin, goes on show at Easter

Photographer Ashley Karrell with his portrait of Dr Delma Tomlin, first woman governor of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall in York. Picture: Ashley Karrell

THE Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, in York, is celebrating its first woman governor with a specially commissioned photo portrait of Dr Delma Tomlin MBE.

She was appointed to the role in 2022, becoming the first female incumbent since the hall’s foundation in 1357.

Dr Tomlin is the founder and long-standing artistic director of the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, and the director of York Early Music Festival, York Early Music Christmas Festival and Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival.

Oil paintings of past governors are on display around the hall, in Fossgate, and from this Easter they will be joined by the new digital portrait by Ashley Karrell in the Great Hall.

In a move away from traditional oil painting to the 21st century digital age, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall commissioned Karrell, an award-winning director, producer, photographer and artist, to create the highly original work.

Already he had made his mark in Yorkshire as the first black portrait photographer to be commissioned for the permanent collection at the stately home of Harewood House, working on the Missing Portraits series that features Leeds West Indian Carnival founder Arthur France MBE and actor David Harewood OBE.

Karrell also made the hybrid film #BlackBoyJoyGone, nominated at the 2023 Grierson Awards, and the multi-award-winning dance theatre film Displaced.

Dr Tomlin said: “It was such an honour to take up the role of the first female governor of this venerable organisation, which has a 660-year history. To reflect this new direction, we decided to take a different approach to commemorate the occasion and commissioned the award-winning Ashley Karrell to work with us. We hope that visitors will be as excited as we are by this historic photo portrait.”

Ashley Kerrall’s digital photographic portrait of Dr Delma Tomlin. Copyright: Ashley Karrell

Karrell said: “I’m truly grateful to Dr Delma Tomlin and the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall for the opportunity of creating this significant portrait. My art is captivated by stories about human experiences, the exploration of community and social engagement.

“This image is one of one; what we created speaks of history, representation, celebration and triumph. To be a small part of the 660-year history of this institution gives me joy and I hope the audience will feel strength and humility within the eyes of our first female governor. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your story.”

The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York’s oldest medieval building, continues to engage audiences with an innovative approach, attracting visitors from all over the world. The hall is home to many collections, including silver, furniture and paintings, which provide a glimpse into its rich history. It also remains the everyday base for the 160 members of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of the City of York.

This Easter’s unveiling of the photo portrait coincides with the launch of a free digital museum guide through the arts and culture app Bloomberg Connects. The app gives access to expertly curated content and guides to more than 350 museums, galleries, sculpture parks, gardens, and other cultural spaces.

Over the past few years, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall has reached wider audiences with exhibitions and has increased its digital offer. Visitor numbers continue to go from strength to strength, as illustrated by the Two Rivers interactive exhibition attracting a big audience with its revelations of the fascinating history and importance of the city’s rivers.

Lauren Marshall, the hall’s museum director, said: “We’re very excited about our new digital guide, which we hope will make the visitor experience at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall even more enjoyable.

“We’ve been delighted by the ever-increasing interest in this amazing medieval building, one of the most stunning in the UK, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from York and beyond in the months to come.”

Dr Delma Tomlin, DUniv, MBE: the back story

Delma Tomlin

FOUNDER and artistic director of the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, promoting music from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Director of York Early Music Festival, York Early Music Christmas Festival and Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival.

Acknowledged expert in the promotion of the medieval York Mystery Plays.

In 2000, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York for her work in the city. In 2008, she received an MBE for Services to the Arts in Yorkshire & Humberside. In 2018, she was appointed Cultural Champion for York. In 2020, she was elected an Honorary Freeman of the City of York.

Ashley Karrell: the back story

AWARD-WINNING director, producer, photographer and artist with more than two decades of experience. His work includes films, television, visual art, theatre productions and commercial and experimental video across the UK and beyond.

Captivated by stories of human experiences, the exploration of community and social engagement.

Known for his hybrid film #BlackBoyJoyGone, nominated at 2023 Grierson Awards; multi-award-winning dance theatre film Displaced;  feature film and documentary of Geraldine Connorʼs stage masterpiece Carnival Messiah, winner of Peopleʼs Choice Award for Best Documentary at Trinidad Film Festival.

First black portrait photographer commissioned for permanent collection at Harewood House, near Leeds, photographing Missing Portraits series, featuring Leeds West Indian Carnival founder Arthur France MBE and actor David Harewood OBE

2022-24 marks the release of eight new short films, touring theatre shows and photography projects.

For more information, go to: Social media links: Instagram – @ashleykarrell; Facebook – @ashleykarrell; X/Twitter – @ashleykarrell

Who’s playing at 2022 York Early Music Christmas Festival and on NCEM’s festive online box set? Full programme here

Solomon’s Knot: Premiering Johann Kuhnau’s Christmas Cantatas on December 16. Picture: Dan Joy

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival 2022’s combination of music, minstrels, merriment, mulled wine and mince pies can be savoured from December 8 to 17.

The live festival will be complemented by a festive online box set, comprising highlights of seven concerts available to watch on demand from 12 noon on December 19 to January 31 2023.

Run by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, the 2022 festival features both Early and folk music performed by an array of artists from Great Britain, Europe and York itself.

“The NCEM welcomes old friends and new faces for this musical celebration of Christmas,” says director Dr Delma Tomlin. “As well as concerts from some of the world’s foremost exponents of Early Music, this year’s Christmas programme brings you festive cheer from The Furrow Collective, Green Matthews and The York Waits, thanks to a special Events and Festivals Grant from Make It York.

“This is the perfect choice for an atmospheric Yuletide evening away from the crowds as the York Early Music Christmas Festival transports you to a magical Christmas past, with mice pies and mulled wine available at most concerts.”

La Palatine: Opening York Early Music Christmas Festival 2022 with Fiesta Galante concert

Returning after their sparkling debut in York last year, French baroque ensemble La Palatine open the festival on December 8 at 7pm at the NCEM with Fiesta Galante, a festive and colourful spread of different musical genres marking the accession of the Bourbons to the Spanish throne in 1700.

These rising stars of Creative Europe’s EEEmerging+ programme – to support the development of young professional ensembles – will be performing acrobatic sonatas, dancing cantatas and guitar pieces, capturing how the new Italianate spirit spread through Spain. Led by soprano Marie Théoleyre, the highlight will be Nebra’s sacred cantatas.

“The relationship with Europe (through EEEmerging) has been fabulous, allowing us to share these wonderful musicians’ skills,” says Delma. “Post-Brexit, the bridges will still be there; they still want to collaborate, and so do I.

“Last December, La Palatine made the audience cry…in a very positive way with the beauty of their music, especially the last song. Marie Théoleyre is such an engaging singer. People were still not getting out to many concerts, and there was such a sense of joy in being there.

“La Palatine will be here for a few days, and as part of their residency, for Restoration, a UK network of Early Music promoters, they will be presenting a private concert to be shared online, giving the promoters the chance to talk to the artists with a view to further engagements.”

Ensemble Augelletti: Invitation to Pick A Card! Picture: Luke Avery

Expect to hear fantasias as they have never been played before when improvising violinist Nina Kumin gives an illustrated concert as part of this University of York PhD student’s doctorate in Telemann’s Fantasy: The Genius Behind The Music (NCEM, December 9, 12.30pm, free admission).  

Looking at how fantasias capture the style and the spirit of the Baroque, this Peter Seymour pupil will open with Telemann’s fantasias for solo violin, then will address two questions: how did baroque musicians create fantasias, and from where did they gain inspiration?

Kumin, by the way, has taken over as the director of the Minster Minstrels, the NCEM’s Early Music ensemble for school-age musicians.

In Pick A Card! (NCEM, December 9, 7pm), London’s Ensemble Augelletti explore playing card designs from the 14th century to the present day, connecting each card to a different piece of music to tell seasonal stories of people, places and animals in winter.

Olwen Foulkes, recorders, Ellen Bundy, violin, Carina Drury, cello, Toby Carr, lutes, and Benedict Willliams, keyboards, play music by Handel, Corelli, Rossi, Purcell and Ucellini to conjure up cosy evenings of playing cards around a fire, an ancient pastime for family celebrations and gatherings.

Clowning around in Ensemble Molière’s Good Soup performance on December 12

Audiences can enjoy a brace of intimate yet extrovert celebrations of JS Bach’s music in solo violin lunchtime concerts over the festival’s two weekends. Festival favourite Bojan Čičić returns to the NCEM to interpret Bach’s Sonatas (December 10, 1pm) and Partitas (December 17, 1pm), ahead of the release of his latest recording with Delphian.

York’s Yorkshire Bach Choir and the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists return to the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York (December 10, 7pm to 10pm), with soprano Bethany Seymour and Hannah Morrison, tenor James Gilchrist and bass Johnny Herford as the soloists for Handel’s Brockes Passion.

After languishing in the margins of musical history, Handel’s only Passion setting – first performed in Hamburg in 1719 – receives its debut performance in the North of England, with its vivid mixture of chorales, choruses and emotive recitatives, under conductor Peter Seymour.

Baroque ensemble Spiritato and York vocal group The Marian Consort join forces at the NCEM (December 11, 5pm) to present Inspiring Bach, an exciting, moving and profound performance featuring music and composers admired by Johann Sebastian Bach: Pachelbel, JC Bach, Knupfer and Buxtehude.

“These large-scale, uplifting works, composed after the trauma of the Thirty Years War, have a remarkable resonance today,” says Delma. “Featuring composers you might surmise were inspired by Bach or inspired the man himself, this is music form the very soul of the 17th century, crowned with soaring melodies and the glorious sound of trumpets and drums.

Ensemble Molière: NCEM’s New Generation Baroque Ensemble

“We’re delighted Spiritato are returning to York; they’re an absolutely smashing young ensemble, working incredibly hard to present unfamiliar repertoire and making a real go of it.”

To celebrate French playwright Molière’s 400th anniversary, Ensemble Molière, the first NCEM/BBC Radio 3/Royal College of Music New Generation Baroque Ensemble, re-create a time of environmental catastrophe, war and pestilence set around the table of the Sun King, Louis XIV, in Good Soup at the NCEM (December 12, 7.30pm).

“Very different from a normal baroque programme”, the evening of music, absurdist theatre, slapstick and puppetry features works by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Couperin, Marais, Dumont, Charpentier and Jean Chardevoine, complemented by clowns and performers James Oldham and Lizzy Shakespeare. Klara Kofen is the dramaturg and puppeteer; Rachel Wise, the movement director and fellow puppeteer.

The NCEM and partners will be seeking a new New Generation ensemble from next September. In the meantime, Ensemble Molière will record their debut album at the NCEM next spring, on top of their work for BBC Radio 3.

The Orlando Consort’s Matthew Venner (countertenor), Mark Dobell (tenor), Angus Smith (tenor) and Donald Greig (baritone) mark their final year of performing and recording together with Adieu, presenting a selection of pieces they have particularly enjoyed singing over the past 35 years, at the NCEM (December 15, 6.30pm, moved from 7.30pm).

The Orlando Consort: Saying goodbye with Adieu, an evening of music and conversation on December 15

The mellifluous sequence of music from across Europe ranges from the hypnotic beauty of 1,000-year-old polyphony, through the Medieval age, and onwards to the early Renaissance.

In addition, Consort members will be sharing reflections on their musical journey in a handful of behind-the-scenes touring anecdotes. That journey included a commission from Gabriel Jackson to mark the opening of the NCEM in 2000.

The main festival concludes with Solomon’s Knot’s focus on Johann Kuhnau’s Christmas Cantatas, directed by Jonathan Sells, now at the NCEM, rather than the Lyons (December 16, 6.30pm).

“Three hundred years after his death, it must be high time to bring Johann Kuhnau – the 16th cantor of the Thomasschule in Leipzig – out of the eclipsing shadow of his well-known successor, JS Bach,” says Delma.

The Furrow Collective: Opening their winter tour at the NCEM on December 2

“Thanks to the pioneering work of scholar and countertenor David Erler, his sparkling works are ever more widely available. Solomon’s Knot return to the festival to give three of them their UK premiere in York, to be followed by a second performance at Wigmore Hall, in London, the next day.

“Featuring full choir and orchestra – 25 performers in all – these cantatas will ‘raise the roof’ of our 2022 Christmas celebrations, with festive trumpets, horns, and drums providing the perfect soundtrack for Christmas and New Year.”

In further festive concerts at the NCEM, English/Scottish band The Furrow Collective present We Know By The Moon, a spine-tingling evening of storytelling and harmony, bringing light into the wintry gloom (December 2, 7.30pm), while modern-day balladeers Green Matthews evoke the spirit of Christmas past, bringing600 years of music to life in a riot of sound and colour (December 17, 7.30pm).

In the NCEM’s last Christmas concert, the stalwart York Waits celebrate the 45th anniversary of their re-creation of York’s historic city band with The Waits’ Wassail in Music for Advent and Christmas, exploring festive music from the 14th to the 17th century (December 20, 7.30pm).

For full programme details, go to Tickets are on sale on 01904 658338, at or in person from the NCEM.

El Gran Teatro Del Mundo: Part of the NCEM’s online box set

FOR the festive online box set, the NCEM concerts by La Palatine, Bojan Čičić, Spiritato & The Marian Consort, The Orlando Consort and Solomon’s Knot will be filmed and recorded by Ben Pugh and Tim Archer, formerly of the BBC’s Manchester studios, to enjoy from the comfort of home.

The set will be completed by El Gran Teatro Del Mundo’s concert, The Art Of Conversation, filmed on November 20. A festival pass costs £45 for the seven concerts; individual concerts, £10, at, and the concerts may be watched any number of times.

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “York Early Music Festival is one of the highlights of the city’s Christmas calendar and the online programme offers the chance for everyone to enjoy these glorious concerts wherever they are in the world, giving access to people unable to go out or attend.

“As always, we’re welcoming old friends and new to the festival, which features an extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. Our programme is the perfect accompaniment to Yuletide festivities and can be streamed well beyond Twelfth Night, so  if you can’t join us in York this year, you can celebrate with us at home from December 19 to January 31.”

York Early Music Christmas Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin: “Welcoming old friends and new”

Adam Possener and Christopher Churcher win 2022 NCEM Young Composers Awards

Winners Adam Possener, left, and Christopher Churcher at the National Centre for Early Music

ADAM Possener and Christopher Churcher have won the 2022 National Centre for Early Music Composers Awards.

Possener was victorious in the age 19 to 25 category with his composition 52°N 20.5° E; Churcher, the 18-and-under age group with Arborescent.

The final of the 15th annual competition, presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3, was live-streamed last Thursday (19/5/2022) from the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

Compositions by the eight finalists were played for the first time by former BBC Radio 3 New Generation artists Consone Quartet, who specialise in performances with period instruments using gut strings. Their concert programme also included Franz Josef Haydn’s String Quartet in D, Opus 71 No. 2.

Dr Christopher Fox: Leading the workshop with young composers at the NCEM

The event followed a day-long workshop with the young composers at the NCEM, led by Dr Christopher Fox, Emeritus Professor of Music at Brunel University, and Consone Quartet, where the finalists – all based in the UK – were invited to enter into the musical sound world of one of the quartet’s favourite composers, Fanny Mendelssohn.

The 2022 panel of judges were: BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin and Consone Quartet.

Churcher’s Arborescent and Possener’s 52°N 20.5° E will be premiered by Consone Quartet at Stour Music Festival on June 24, when it will be recorded for broadcast later in the year on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, the weekly programme that airs every Sunday from 2pm to 3pm and on BBC Sounds.

Consone Quartet with winners Adam Possener, third from left, and Christopher Churcher

Delma Tomlin says: “Once again, we enjoyed an array of outstanding music at the NCEM, and I’d like to congratulate all our composers for their outstanding work. It was an absolute joy to welcome them to our home at St Margaret’s Church for an incredible day of exploring the world of composition. 

“I’d also like to say a massive thank-you to my fellow judges and to BBC Radio 3; their continued support is invaluable and enables us to continue to stage this major annual award.”

Alan Davey says: “Music will only exist as long as young people keep putting their minds and spirits to it and feel compelled to keep creating it – breathing new life into the art form and bringing their own personal insights and approaches.

NCEM Composers Awards finalists with Dr Christopher Fox and Consone Quartet

“That’s why supporting young composers is one of Radio 3’s main missions, and we can’t wait to share these wonderful new compositions with our listeners on the Early Music Show and on BBC Sounds.”

The live streamed performance is available on @yorkearlymusic.

Delyth Field and Jacob Fitzgerald win NCEM Young Composers Awards prizes in York

Young Composers Award winner Delyth Field with Palisander at the National Centre for Early Music, York

DELYTH Field and Jacob Fitzgerald have won the 14th National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award prizes.

Presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3, the finals were streamed last night (13/5/2021) from the NCEM in York. 

Delyth Field won the age 19 to 25 category with “Kagura Suite for Recorders”, inspired by Kagura, the oldest form of dance in Japan.

Jacob Fitzgerald won the age 18 and under category with “murmuration”, composed in response to the natural dance performed by starlings across the skyscape.

Young composers living in the United Kingdom were invited to create a new work for recorder quartet based on dance-forms from across all eras and cultures. Although they were writing for instruments from the Baroque era, they were not limited to dance forms of that period. 

The eight finalists’ compositions were performed by recorder quartet Palisander after a day-long workshop at the NCEM led by composer Christopher Fox, professor of music at Brunel University, working alongside Palisander and the shortlisted composers.

Mollie Carlyle, Delyth Field and Lux Knightley took part in the 19 to 25 category; Jacob Fitzgerald,  Matty Oxtoby, Adam Spry, Shuchen Xie and Shoshana Yugin-Power in the younger final. 

The 2021 panel of judges were BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin and Palisander.

Young Composers Award winner Jacob Fitzgerald with recorder quartet Palisander after last night’s final

“Kagura Suite for Recorders” and “murmuration” will be premiered by Palisander at St John’s Smith Square, London, as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music, where the September 20 performance will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Delma said: “The NCEM Young Composers Award continues to attract composers of the highest calibre from all over the UK and the standard of compositions this year was extremely high.  I’d like to congratulate all our composers for their impressive work, and we hope that they enjoyed this unique and rewarding experience. 

“Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we had to stage last year’s awards online, so we were especially thrilled to be able to welcome young composers to our home of St Margaret’s Church in Walmgate. As always, I would like to say a massive thank-you to my fellow judges and the fabulous Palisander, who will perform the pieces at St John’s Smith Square on September 20.

“Last but not least, I would like thank our partners, BBC Radio 3, for their continued and invaluable support, which enables us to continue presenting these important awards.”

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, said: “We are proud to support the NCEM’s Young Composers Awards once again as part of Radio 3’s mission to find and support young talent and to promote new music, in this case work inspired by early music.

“The project reflects the excellence of young talent and the quality of work that young composers are producing. We warmly congratulate the winners and look forward to sharing performances of their works later this year on the Early Music Show.”

The streamed performance is available to watch at and the Facebook page, @yorkearlymusic.

Who won the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award last night?

On screen: National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award winners Eilidh Owen and Finton O’Hare, with their fellow competitors on Zoom , at last night’s live-streamed final

FINTON O’Hare and Eilidh Owen have won the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award prizes in York.

O’Hare emerged as the victor in the 19 to 25 age group, Owen likewise in the 18 and under category, at last night’s final live-streamed from the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate.

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the 13th iteration of the NCEM award invited young composers living in the UK to create a new polyphonic work for unaccompanied choir, setting either the Our Father (Pater Noster) prayer from St Matthew’s Gospel or the first and last verses of George Herbert’s poem The Flower.  

The eight finalists’ compositions were performed by York musicians Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble, the consort of the Ebor Singers.

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

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

The evening also featured performances of works by Owain Park and Alexander Campkin, winners in 2010 when Owain took home the 18 and under prize. Both have  become well established composers, providing good examples and inspiration for the 2020 entrants. Music by Alec Roth and Ben Parry was performed too.

“This year has been very different, moving the final and the workshop online, but we’re sure that the composers enjoyed this exciting experience,” said NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin

Last night’s final followed a day-long online workshop from the NCEM, where composer Christopher Fox, professor of music at Brunel University, and Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble were joined virtually by the young composers. 

The 2020 panel of judges were BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, The Tallis Scholars’ director, Peter Phillips, and NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Reflecting on the 2020 competition, played out against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, Delma said: “The NCEM Young Composers Award continues to attract composers of the highest calibre from all over the UK.

“This year has been very different, moving the final and the workshop online, but we’re sure that the composers enjoyed this exciting experience. We’re looking forward to the concert at the Cadogan Hall next year with the wonderful Tallis Scholars performing the winning pieces.”

Next March’s London premiere of O’Hare and Owen’s compositions will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Delma concluded: “Congratulations to our talented young composers and a special thank-you to the Ex Corde Vocal Ensemble, who helped make the award possible. I’d also like to say a big thank-you to my fellow judges and, last but not least, BBC Radio 3 for their invaluable support

“We look forward to meeting in person for the 2021 award. Details will be announced on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on November 29.”

Last night’s live-streamed performance can be viewed at

Director Delma Tomlin picks digital York Early Music Festival highlights for Music Of Our Time download

Elizabeth Kenny and Iestyn Davies performing in the stillness of the empty National Centre for Early Music, York, at the 2020 York Early Music Festival Online on July 9

MUSIC For Our Time, the Director’s Cut download of highlights from this month’s inaugural York Early Music Festival Online, is available from today.

Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin has chosen her festival favourites, ranging from York countertenor Iestyn Davies and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny’s opening concert on July 9, A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, to vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s closing performance on July 11.

Taking part in the 2020 festival too were lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine, lyra viol player Richard Boothby and Consone Quartet.

All the concerts were recorded by digital producer Ben Pugh at the empty National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York.

Iestyn Davies provides an exclusive introduction to the £4.99 download celebration of “the extraordinary success of the very first York Early Music Festival Online, which attracted a huge audience from across the UK and as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States”.

“The wonderful music can be enjoyed time after time,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin after picking her highlights for the Music For Our Time download

Delma, director of the NCEM, says: “I’d like to say a huge thank-you to all those who joined us online. We have been overwhelmed by the warm wishes we received from our worldwide audience, which inspired me to choose a selection of my favourite highlights from the weekend to share with you, so that the wonderful music can be enjoyed time after time.

“The enthusiastic response shows the voracious appetite for early music and the power it has to engage and excite audiences far and wide.”

Festival favourites Stile Antico, who presented Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, say: “Such a delight to be able to perform from York: there is nothing quite like live music-making! Many thanks to the wonderful York Early Music Festival for the invitation and for all the technical wizardry. We hope that you all enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed singing.”

Among comments shared on social media by online audiences, one enthused: “Great music and really liked the commentary which builds a bridge to the (remote) audience.”

Another said: “Thoroughly enjoyed everything this year. The internet presentation, while necessary under the circumstances, has made the festival much more accessible.”

Consone Quartet performing at the National Centre for Early Music, York, for the 2020 York Early Music Festival

A third exclaimed: “An absolute delight! So glad the festival was able to come into our homes this year.” A fourth concluded: “What a collection of talented performers! A wonderful couple of days.”

Looking to combine the early with the cutting edge, the NCEM was among the first British arts organisations to use digital technology to live-stream concerts during the Covid crisis.

The series began with recitals by Steven Devine and the Brabant Ensemble, filmed at St Margaret’s Church shortly before lockdown and broadcast live to an audience of over 60,000 people. Since then, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

To download the Music Of Our Time – The Director’s Cut log, go to and follow the step-by-step guide. 

“Watch this space!” says Delma. “The NCEM will be announcing full details of its forthcoming programme on the website and via social media very soon.”

Greatest hits of digital York Early Music Festival picked for video by director Delma

The home service: York Early Music Festival’s opening online concert, featuring Elizabeth Kenny and Iestyn Davies, mid-stream last Thursday

YORK Early Music Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin is compiling a video of “personal favourites” from last week’s online event.

“We had a blast,” she says, reflecting on the success of the three-day virtual festival of four pre-recorded and two live concerts, streamed from the National Centre for Early Music from July 9 to 11.

“It was fabulous to be able to host musicians at the NCEM from across England – and to welcome online audiences from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States.”

Concert recordings were in the hands of digital producer Ben Pugh, filming the socially distant musicians at an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, the NCEM’s home in Walmgate.

Artists and audiences alike have given positive feedback to a digital event arranged once the Covid-19 lockdown enforced the cancellation of the Method & Madness-themed live festival from July 3 to 11.

“It was such a success that we’re now pulling together a compilation video of my personal favourites from 2020 Online. Details very soon!” promises Delma.

“We had a blast,” said administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin after the inaugural digital York Early Music Festival, held last week

The revised remote festival of concerts and talks was headlined on July 9 by York countertenor Iestyn Davies – lockdown hair in need of a cut, by his own later admission – and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny.

Streamed live last Thursday, they presented A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain, among others.

In a surprise encore, they mined the modern-day melancholia of a Mancunian man, Morrissey, digging deep into the pit of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Performances recorded over ten days ensued, by lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine and lyra viol player Richard Boothby last Friday and BBC New Generation artists Consone Quartet last Saturday afternoon.

Vocal ensemble Stile Antico closed the festival with a live streamed concert, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, that evening.

“We’d purchased more video and sound equipment, so it was more like a TV studio environment for the recordings,” says Delma. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which helped with social distancing.”

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