Spring to Awaken for weekend of online celebration at NCEM on March 27 and 28

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor will perform with viol specialists Fretwork at the Awaken weekend

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.

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park, middle, back row

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.

“Through music, Awaken brings us the promise of hope, joy and warmth for the coming months,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“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 boxoffice@ncem.co.uk. 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 Consone Quartet: Performing Schubert’s Quintet in C major with cellist Alexander Rolton on March 28

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.

The Gesualdo Six vocal consort to take up March residency in York for Early Music Day

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six…and director Owain Park (third from left, back row)

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.

National Centre for Early Music director Delma Tomlin: Planning the programme for Early Music Day

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.” 

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

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

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

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

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

Liam Byrne: viol player with the hipster look

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

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

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

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

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

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

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

WHAT’S STILL ON: Never too late for Early Music Day as NCEM streams concerts from behind closed doors

Devine intervention: Steven Devine’s concert WILL still happen, streamed across Europe from York. Picture: Guy Carpenter

EARLY Music Day will go ahead at the National Centre for Early Music, York, tomorrow but behind closed doors.

“Our doors may be temporarily closed, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, but we’ll still be celebrating Early Music Day and streaming our concerts all around Europe, so join us for two wonderful concerts this Saturday (March 21),” says director Delma Tomlin. “There will also be a selection of concerts available to enjoy online over the coming weeks.”

Tomorrow’s programme at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, begins with a 1pm concert by harpsichordist Steven Devine, performing the first in a series of Bach Preludes and Fugues, and ends with The Brabant Ensemble’s 6pm programme of A Monk’s Life: Music From The Cloisters, 1550-1620.

From The Cloisters, from the NCEM: The Brabant Ensemble still in concert tomorrow. Picture: Alain Le Bourdonnec

“Sublime choral music from the Renaissance performed by this Oxford ensemble offers the perfect end to a fabulous day of music,” says Delma.

“I am so grateful to our talented array of musicians who are determined that Early Music Day will still happen somehow and have agreed to perform behind closed doors.

“Even if you can’t be with us in person, we hope that you will join us for this day of music, a joyful celebration which normally takes place with our European partners and friends in beautiful venues.”

“Music has the power to uplift and inspire us all,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

Looking ahead, Delma says: “We are pausing our operations until the end of April and will be in contact with everyone who has booked to attend concerts that are due to take place within this period.

“We ask that you are patient with us during this difficult time and wait for us to contact you. Regular updates about future concerts and more concert footage will be posted on our website, ncem.co.uk, and via social media, so please keep checking.”

To watch Saturday’s concerts follow: https://www.facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/

“Music has the power to uplift and inspire us all and although our building may be closed, we will be sharing a selection of concerts from our archives online for us all to enjoy,” says Delma, on an upbeat final note.