Theatre@41 combines the new and familiar in autumn and winter of theatre, music, comedy, cinema and pantomime rehearsals

Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Helen Bauer in Madam Good Tit at Theatre@41 in October

NEW partnerships, returning performers, comedy acts aplenty and community theatre regulars make up the autumn and winter season at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York.

One year on from throwing open its doors post-pandemic, the black-box studio will play host to Yorkshire and national companies and artists alike.

“We’re doing all right, whether by chance or design!” says chair Alan Park.  “In the year since we took over the programming, there’s been a nice balance between comedy, music and theatre, with a focus on new writing, as well as continuing our relationships with York Stage, Pick Me Up Theatre, White Rose Theatre, York Settlement Community Players and York Musical Theatre Company.

“The mailing list has gone up from 40 to 2,000 and we feel that people are invested in the building, our charity status, the work we present, and want us to do well. There are plenty of people who run theatres, but we want to run a ‘movement’ and we think we’re getting there.”

Colin Hoult in The Death Of Anna Mann. Picture: Linda Blacker

Looking ahead to the new season, one new partnership finds Theatre@41 linking up with York promoter Al Greaves’s well-established Burning Duck Comedy Club, complementing his programme at The Crescent (and previously at The Basement at City Screen Picturehouse).

“Maggie Smales, one of our trustees, reached out to Al,” says Alan.  “Initially, comedy promoters were contacting us directly, and we were doing maybe two comedy shows a season, but we got in touch with Al to say ‘we don’t want to tread on your toes, but we’d love to work with you’, and so now we have six shows this autumn through linking up with Al.”

Among those shows will be Lauren Pattinson’s It Is What It Is on September 16; Colin Hoult, from the Netflix series After Life, presenting The Death Of Anna Mann  on October 8; the returning Olga Koch, star of her own BBC Radio 4 series, in Just Friends on October 15 and fellow Edinburgh Festival Fringe Best Newcomer nominee Helen Bauer’s Madam Good Tit, on October 22. Look out too for Taskmaster winner Sophie Duker next April.

Returning to Theatre@41 will be Dyad Productions, following up the sold-out I, Elizabeth with Christmas Gothic, adapted and performed by Rebecca Vaughan, on November 26 and 27, and  Sarah-Louise Young, building on the sold-out success of Alan’s favourite show so far, An Evening Without Kate Bush, by presenting her charming yet cheeky West End and Off-Broadway cabaret hit Julie Madly Deeply, a tribute to Julie Andrews.

Sarah-Louise Young in her Julie Andrews tribute, Julie Madly Deeply. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Further returnees will be East Riding company Other Lives Theatre Productions in Landmarks, Nick Darke’s environmentally topical story of a farming family feud, and Nunkie Theatre’s Robert Lloyd Parry with two more gripping MR James ghost stories by candlelight in Oh, Whistle on November 25.

“We’ve had a lot of good feedback from artists, such as Olga Koch’s agent,” says Alan. “We know there’s paint peeling off walls, the roof is leaking, but we believe in making the artists welcome, like giving them a little York Gin pack on arrival. We try to be a friendly venue where everyone will want to come back.”

Endorsements for Theatre@41 are spreading, leading to debut visits by Mark Farrelly in his Quentin Crisp show, Naked Hope, on September 7 and Olivier Award-winning actor and director Guy Masterson, staging his one-man adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol on November 24.

Seven York companies and performers are booked in. Robert Readman’s Pick Me Up Theatre will stage Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical Jr from September 23 to October 2 and The Sound Of Music from December 16 to 30 in the Christmas slot. York Settlement Community Players will perform Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning Broadway comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike from November 3 to 5.

Rebecca Vaughan in Dyad Productions’ Christmas Gothic. Picture: Ben Guest

White Rose Theatre will deliver The Last Five Years, an emotionally charged musical full of upbeat numbers and beautiful ballads by Jason Robert Brown that tells the story of two lovers over the course of five years, with Cathy starting her tale at the end of the relationship and Jamie telling his story from the beginning. Directed by Claire Pulpher, it will run from November 9 to 12.

Barnstorming country-rock band The Rusty Pegs will play Rumours (Again!) in a 45th anniversary celebration of the Fleetwood Mac nugget on October 9, after giving Theatre@41’s re-launch gig post-Covid; Jessa Liversidge will sing Some Enchanted Sondheim on October 9, and York Musical Theatre Company will mark their 120th anniversary with A Musical Celebration on October 13 and 14.

Spookologist and ghost-botherer Doctor Dorian Deathly, a winner in the 2022 Visit York Tourism Awards, will make his Theatre@41 debut with his Halloween show, A Night Of Face Melting Horror!, from October 26 to 31.

“Each night, Dorian will be hot-footing over here after doing his Deathly Dark ghost tour for a cabaret evening with a bar of the dead and cocktails,” says Alan. “He came to us with the idea, and we thought, ‘yeah, let’s do it’. He has a huge following, so we’re delighted he wanted to come here.”

The horror! The horror” The poster for Doctor Dorian Deathly’s Halloween show, A Night Of Face Melting Horror!

Paul Birch, one of the stand-outs in York Theatre Royal’s Green Shoots showcase for new work in June, will bring his improv group, Foolish, to Theatre@41 for the third time. On September 15, he will host a night of ad-hoc comedy improvised from suggestions written in chalk on the stage floor under the title of Cobbled Together.

Seeking to foster a growing relationship with The Groves community, Theatre@41 will play host to the inaugural Groves Community Cinema: a weekend of classic films old and new right on residents’ doorsteps when visitors will be invited to “pay what you feel”, with support from an ARG Events and Festivals Grant in partnership with Make It York and City of York Council.

“Historically, we’re on the edge of The Groves, and maybe The Groves has never quite felt this is The Groves’ theatre, but we hope that putting on a community cinema weekend will make it feel more like it’s part of their community, rather than people just walking past our doors,” says Alan.

Olga Koch: Returning to Theatre@41 to present Just Friends

September 10 will offer Encanto Singalong at 2.30pm and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind at 6pm; September 11, Kes at 2.30pm and Nomadland at 6.30pm.

Three more new additions add to the sense of momentum at Theatre@41. Firstly, £5,000 funding from City of York Council and the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation will ensure the lighting rig “no longer wobbles”; secondly, the theatre will resume being a polling station for elections.

Last, but not least, the Monkgate building will be turned into the rehearsal rooms for veteran dame Berwick Kaler’s Grand Opera House pantomime, Old Granny Goose. “We’re giving them multiple rooms, including the dance studio,” says Alan. “They’ll have the run of the building basically.”

For performance times and to book tickets for the new season, head to: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Pantomime dame Berwick Kaler and daft-lad sidekick Martin Barrass will be rehearsing Old Granny Goose at Theatre@41 ahead of its run at the Grand Opera House, York

Big Ian launches The Big Christmas Care Singalong for all manner of homes

Sax to the max: Saxophonist Snake Davis recording his solo rendition of Silent Night for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

BIG Ian Donaghy has launched The Big Christmas Care Singalong for care homes across the country and beyond.

In any other year, the York fundraiser, musician, public speaker and dementia campaigner would have been leading a team of volunteers giving a family Christmas Day to older people living alone in the city with his Xmas Presence gathering, as they have for the past five years.

“Unfortunately, as with almost everything this year, it’s had to be cancelled because of Covid-19,” says Ian, who instead has created a “Play as Live online event to bring everyone together to sing with one voice with The Big Christmas Care Singalong”.

Samantha Holden: one of the guest singers taking part in the Singalong

After hatching his plan to unite the world of care this Christmas with The Big Christmas Care Singalong, Ian took over a warehouse with the help of Mark Parker, of AV Matrix.

“Socially distanced with great care and a green screen, one by one, singers and musicians were invited to perform carols and other Christmas mainstays,” says Ian, who conscripted the talents of Jess Steel, Graham Hodge, Jessa Liversidge and Samantha Holden (who has performed with Michael Bublé), accompanied by the omnipresent George Hall on piano.

Saxophone player to the stars Snake Davis – his CV spans Amy Winehouse, Take That, Paul McCartney, The Eurythmics and George Michael – recorded a haunting solo sax version of Silent Night. London session singer and pianist Sam Tanner, who has played with members of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Rod Stewart, performed a reggae version of White Christmas.

Tony, once Brian Clough’s favourite pub landlord, pictured in his Nottingham care home, enjoying The Big Christmas Care Singalong

Expect a setlist ranging from the carols Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Away In A Manger and In The Bleak Midwinter to a soulful version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and a raucous rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas, bringing together people from all over the world.

“The performers are superb and the whole thing has a warmth to it that’s needed to lift this year,” says Ian. “A bespoke version of the Christmas Care Singalong created for Nottingham and care homes in the Midlands was broadcast on Tuesday, and afterwards they said: ‘It gave us a real lift to see some of our families involved on the screen sending messages and telling us about their Christmas memories’.

“In fact, the Singalong has already been seen by thousands of care homes all over the world with feedback like ‘Christmas ISN’T cancelled’, from Sam Barrington, an award-winning care consultant from Scarborough, and ‘the perfect gift to us this Christmas – thank you for bringing the UK and Australia together’, from Alana Parker in Sydney.”

Sam Tanner performing his reggae version of White Christmas for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

Ian is delighted that people from all over the world have sent in videos of their Christmas memories and of them singing their festive favourites. “Let’s just say there’s a range of quality but we have included everyone. We have people with learning difficulties and dementia singing alongside the people who support them,” he says.

Thousands of care homes will be playing the Christmas Singalong on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Hospitals and hospices are planning to make an event of it too.

For example, HC-One, the UK’s largest care provider, is embracing it in their 320 care homes. “Watching it on Tuesday, we laughed, cried and sang together – and this beautiful event features so many of our residents having fun,” says Roberta Roccella, HC-One’s head of Quality of Life.

George Hall playing piano for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

“This is a perfect event to bring everyone together. This has been the toughest year ever in care. Throughout the pandemic, Ian was asked to create the national film campaign for Health Education England to recruit the next generation of nurses into social care, so he saw the huge sacrifices people were making for those they cared for in the pandemic.”

During lockdown, when the venues where he usually does his public speaking were turned into Nightingale hospitals, Ian wrote and published a book, A Pocketful of Kindness, to celebrate the power of community and connection.

Now comes The Big Christmas Care Singalong. “This free online event has been universally welcomed by care homes, supported living, hospitals and hospices, both in the UK and Australia,” says Ian. “The joy of it is that if someone is isolated in their own room, they can have their very own private Christmas concert. Christmas can come to them.

Care home staff showing their support for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

“The Singalong can also be accessed in any home at www.thebigchristmassingalong.com, so you too can enjoy it and get an insight into the year people have had in care. In a year where very few television programmes are being made, it will be a welcome change from seeing celebrities on web cams or Del Boy as Batman yet again.”

The Big Christmas Care Singalong is going international in a year when embracing technology has been so vital to communication. “Alana Parker and Nick Wynn in Australia have got involved to spread the word far and wide beyond our shores,” says Ian. “Technology has come so far in the last year. Everyone is far more tech savvy.”

Soulful York singer Jess Steel recording her contribution to The Big Christmas Care Singalong

The online event also incorporates a Jackanory-style story narrated by the Bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan, with illustrations by Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband. Television presenter Angela Rippon makes a surprise appearance too.

“Expect something that is somewhere between a Christmas concert, You’ve Been Framed and Gogglebox,” says Ian. “But we hope it will warm people’s hearts and show those who work in our care homes, hospitals and hospices just how invaluable they are.”

Summing up his wishes beyond the impact of The Big Christmas Care Singalong in Covid-19 2020, Ian says: “The vaccine has given us a light at the end of the tunnel but we are still in the tunnel! Despite some people’s wreckless behaviour and lack of consideration for others, we hope that the score at the end of this year will read Covid 19 Kindness 20.”

“Expect something that is somewhere between a Christmas concert, You’ve Been Framed and Gogglebox,” says Ian Donaghy, organiser of The Big Christmas Care Singalong

More Things To Do in and around Tier 2 York at little merry Christmas time and beyond. List No. 22, from The Press, York

Blending into the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott in an anything-but-smoothie moment in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

CHRISTMAS is on the way, in whatever form the Government allows you to wrap it up, but tiers will not be shed in the world of entertainment.

Charles Hutchinson picks his way through what’s on in the days ahead and in 2021 too.

Jessa Liversidge: Celebrating her favourite musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s at Sunday’s concert

Nostalgic concert of the week: Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present her celebration of female icons at the reopened JoRo this weekend, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Maddock.

Expect an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. “One minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow,” she says. “Moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Have yourself a medley little Christmas: York Guildhall Orchestra musicians box up their musical gift for you

Home comfort and joy: York Guildhall Orchestra’s Lockdown Christmas Medley, on YouTube

PERFORMED by more than 50 amateur York musicians, all playing in their own home, then seamlessly stitched together for YouTube by John Guy’s technical wizardry, here comes York Guildhall Orchestra’s Christmas Medley.

Arranged by conductor Simon Wright, they keep to the Wright time as they “play together” for the first time since February’s York Barbican concert, medleying their way through Hark!, The Herald Angels Sing, Ding Dong!, Silent Night And We Wish You A Merry Christmas. View their four-minute smile at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuoW6gvkGxk.

Elf and safety: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, the Covid-secure drive-in cinema, parks up at Elvington Airfield tomorrow

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

NOT only have Vue York at Clifton Moor and Everyman York, in Blossom Street, reopened but 2020’s socially distanced, car-contained drive-in boom hits the Christmas movie market from tomorrow too.

The apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema takes over Elvington Airfield for three days to show: December 18, from 12 noon, Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, from 12 noon, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, from 11am, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

Clowning around: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus

Children’s virtual show of the week outside York: Pocklington Arts Centre presents Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus, from Saturday

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s show Magic Circus from 2.30pm on December 19, available on YouTube for up to seven days.

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, this fast-moving hour-long show, full of magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the hands of the clowns. Disaster!

What a Carr-y on: Alan Carr rearranges York Barbican gigs for 2021…and 2022

Who should have been in York this week? Alan Carr: Not Again, Alan!, York Barbican, now re-scheduled

ALAN Carr, comic son of former York City footballer Graham Carr, had been booked in to perform Not Again, Alan! at York Barbican again and again this week, four nights in fact, from Wednesday to Saturday, on his first tour in four years.

Covid kicked all that into touch, but all tickets remain valid for the new dates. December 16 2020 is now in the diary for January 14 2022; December 17 for January 15 2022; December 18 for December 18 2021, and December 19 for the same day next year.

TV and radio presenter Carr will muse on the things that make his life weird and wonderful, from his star-studded wedding day to becoming an accidental anarchist; from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer. “Three words spring to mind,” he says. “Not again, Alan!”

Crystal clear: Fairfax House raises a glass to a Georgian Christmas in A Season For Giving

Exhibition for the winter: A Season For Giving, Fairfax House, York, running until February 7

THE Christmas installation at the Georgian home of the Terry family, Fairfax House, ironically will not be open from December 21 to January 5, so catch it before then or afterwards (Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm).

On a festive journey through the townhouse collections, room by room, magical scene by magical scene, meet Noel Terry for a 1940s’ family Christmas, join a raucous Georgian Christmas dinner party, and much more besides. Visits must be pre-booked.

Having a ball: Amy J Payne, Julia Mariko Smith and Marie Claire Breen in Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella for Opera North

Opera North at Christmas:  Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella, ONDemand from today

OPERA North’s Whistle Stop Opera version of Cinderella was booked into the NCEM in York and Pocklington Arts Centre but Covid ruled No Show. Instead, parents and children aged five upwards can enjoy it online at home over the school holidays.

Filmed at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, John Savournin’s magical musical production stars Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella, Amy J Payne as Prince/Stepmother and Julia Mariko Smith as Fairy Godmother, drawing on various versions of the rags-to-riches tale, such as Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pauline Viardot’s operetta Cendrillon and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. For more details on how to watch, go to operanorth.co.uk

Braced for it: Van Morrison will play two nights at York Barbican next May

Big-name Irish signings for York Barbican in 2021: Van Morrison, May 25 and 26, and Chris De Burgh and Band, October 15

NORTHERN Irishman Van Morrison, 75, has booked a brace of Barbican gigs for the spring; Southern Irishman Chris De Burgh, will follow him to York next autumn.

In September, Morrison launched three protest songs, one every two weeks, railing against safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19: Born To Be Free, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown. Will he unmask any of them next May? Wait and see.

De Burgh & Band’s only Yorkshire date of The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits tour will support his upcoming album of the same name (except for the Other Hits part, obviously).

Arrowing experience: Chris De Burgh & Band will perform his 2021 tour show, The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits, at York Barbican

And what about?

JUST a reminder, York has two pantomimes on the go: York Theatre Royal’s newly extended Travelling Pantomime tour of the city and York Stage’s “musical with pantomime braces on”, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate.

You’ve got to fight for your right to panto: Faye Campbell’s hero takes on Reuben Johnson’s villain in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

Jessa raises her voice to favourite female icons in Sunday night’s Songbirds show

Jessa Liversidge: Sunday celebration of female icons in her Songbirds concert at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present Songbirds, her celebration of female icons through the decades, at the reopened Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Sunday.

She will be accompanied at the 7.30pm concert by Malcolm Maddock on piano. “Malcolm and I launched the show a year ago in Tollerton, then performed it at Helmsley Arts Centre in January,” says Jessa.

“Both shows received a fantastic response from audiences and we were all set for an April performance at the Rowntree Theatre, but it was not to be.

“However, we were able to put together a live-stream highlights version at the end of July, but we can’t wait to perform to a live theatre audience together again this weekend.”

Jessa has devised such one-woman shows as her tribute to wartime women, ‘Til The Boys Come Home, and a musical theatre compilation, Some Enchanted Sondheim. Songbirds, her late-2019 addition, is an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

“The show came about as I wanted to pay tribute to some of my favourite female musical icons, even though they come from a wide range of styles,” she says.

“So, one minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow, performing some of her most well-known songs, like Barry And Freda, with all the verses…moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Jessa Liversidge performing with Michael Maddock: “We have a wonderful collaborative relationship, and Malcolm is such a sensitive and responsive accompanist,” she says.

In the past few years, Dundee-born Jessa has become a huge fan of Carole King. “Through the lockdowns of the summer, I collaborated with Gary Stewart, a fantastic solo musician, as well as a member of Hope & Social and his own Graceland band – who happens to be our neighbour – to create some socially distanced Carole King and James Taylor collaborations,” says Jessa.

“Now, there are five Carole King songs featured in Songbirds and so many more I would like to do. Maybe a full tribute show is on the cards next.”

Songs by musical heroes from her teenage days, fellow Scot Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet, will feature too.

“I haven’t abandoned musical theatre completely,” says the York Musical Theatre Company regular. “I’ve included Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand in my list of icons, and songs such as Feed The Birds and The Way We Were are featured, as well as The Sound Of Music and On A Clear Day.”

Looking forward to playing once more with Malcolm Maddock, Jessa says: “Having worked together so much, we have a wonderful collaborative relationship, and Malcolm is such a sensitive and responsive accompanist.

“We’ve performed live together for the filming of the St Leonard’s Hospice Light Up A Life service – now available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xkWheW34xB8 – and that was such a special moment, especially in the beautiful setting and acoustic of Selby Abbey.”

Sunday’s stage at the JoRo will be very simple and intimate. “The stars of this show are the songs,” says Jessa. “I will not be doing impressions of these legends or presenting tribute acts.

Out in the country: Mick and Jessa Liversidge taking in a breath of fresh Yorkshire when working on their Fields And Lanes recordings in lockdown

“What I aim to do is perform this massive range of songs in a way that is loyal to the original but also true to my own style. Every single song in this programme I love performing for different reasons, and I hope that passion comes across to the audience too. 

“But unusually for December 20, this will not be a festive show, though Malcolm and I have found a way of including at least one festive-themed song in the evening while staying true to the Songbirds theme.”

Jessa and her husband, fellow performer Mick, have played their part in the reopening of the JoRo theatre in Haxby Road, York. “In September, Mick and I performed our Fields And Lanes show there as a test for their Covid safety procedures,” she reveals.

“We were really pleased to be able to help the theatre in this way, and it has allowed the theatre to finalise their procedures and guidelines, enabling them to reopen and make the theatre visit as safe as possible for all guests and performers.

“It also allowed us to test out our outdoor poetry and song-based show in an indoor setting and it worked really well. 

“So, in 2021, we’re excited to be working together on a Fields And Lanes project for Helmsley Arts Centre, involving members of the community in workshops, leading up to a performance in March.”

Jessa advises: “There’ll be very limited places on these workshops as we hope to work very closely with people on their singing and poetry interpretation skills – and the final performance will be available both as a live theatre show and a live stream. Details will be on the Helmsley Arts Centre website from January.”

Jessa Liversidge in a still moment from one of her daily Singing For All Advent Singalongs throughout December

Meanwhile, this ever-busy people’s champion has been trying to keep all her singing groups going online amid the strictures of the pandemic. “This has been a particular challenge for my Singing For All group,” she says.

“I set up the group as a Community Interest Company in the summer – something I’d been meaning to do for a while – and, after nine months of drastically reduced participation due to the Covid situation, with so many of my members not being online, Singing For All is struggling to keep going.”

Aware that the “magic of Christmas would have to be a bit different for everyone this year”, Jessa decided to do a daily Singing For All Advent Singalong throughout December.

“Every day, I go live on Facebook and sing a festive song or two, while saying a little about how special Singing For All is, with a virtual busking hat so that people can help if they are able to. The Advent Singalongs can be found on my Facebook page and YouTube.”

On Saturdays throughout this month, Advent Singalong and Field Sing are being combined, with the festive songs being sung outside despite the inclement weather. Take a look at December 12’s results at https://youtu.be/lMUKkR7RR9s and at Jessa’s website blog on her busy festive diary at https://jessaliversidge.com/index.php/news/ 

Turning to 2021’s diary, Jessa says: “My hopes for next year are that I can somehow continue to keep singing and helping others find the singing joy, however I can. With any luck, at least some of that may be with live audiences and choirs.” 

Tickets for Sunday’s show are on sale at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

Mick and Jessa, Fields and Lanes, poems and songs, under an Easingwold willow tree

MIck and Jessa Liversidge in the Yorkshire open air during their Fields And Lanes lockdown project

JESSA and Mick Liversidge are to perform Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree, an uplifting hour of timeless songs and poetry, in the open air at Easingwold Community Library on Sunday afternoon.

“Fields And Lanes is a joint project for Mick and me, inspired by the wonderful reaction we’ve had to our outdoor poetry and songs in lockdown,” says Jessa, the song half of the creative Easingwold couple, whose performances can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.

“It’s been a great structure for us through the weird and difficult times we’ve all been going through: a way of expressing ourselves creatively, choosing and learning the songs and poems, and we’ve had such warm responses from a wide range of people.

Mick Liversidge performing one of the 82 outdoor poems he recited online once lockdown began

“To begin with, when lockdown started, it was great for those who couldn’t get out – and a nice way to see the countryside as well.”

Actor Mick chalked up 82 outdoor poetry readings before calling a temporary halt to his regular routine on September 9 when learning dialogue for acting work demanded his attention.

“It all began at the beginning of lockdown,” he recalls. “I was due to appear in a play at the end of March: it was a two-hander, so lots of dialogue learned and lots of work put in by all involved, for nothing.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share a selection of our songs and poems with an actual live audience,” says Jessa Liversidge, looking forward to Sunday afternoon’s performance. Picture: Rebecca Rowan

“So, I was feeling a bit lost and down, but we saw Sir Patrick Stewart had decided to recite a Shakespeare sonnet a day to keep him active, which prompted Jessa to suggest I should do the same with passages of Dickens.”

Mick took that advice on board but decided that his love of poetry should lead him to recite his favourite poems instead. “So, what I did was find a poem, learn it and go out into the beautiful countryside around here the following day and recite it,” he says.

“That’s what I did during lockdown, one day looking for a suitable poem, making sure it wasn’t too long, learning it during the evening, ready for ‘outdoor poem’ recital the following day.

Mick Liversidge as Malvolio in York Shakespeare Project’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York, in September

“It became harder as the weeks progressed as I had to find new poems that I’d not heard before. The positive side of that is I’ve found some real gems. I’ve loved doing this and it really has kept my brain active and ready for the next job when it comes along.”

Mick wrote on Facebook on September 9: “After 8I ‘outdoor poems’, today’s No. 82 will be my last…for now. I’ve loved reciting them so much and many of the poems have genuinely moved me to tears, so I’ve decided I’m going to continue reciting one a week for the foreseeable future. I’m looking forward to getting out into the countryside as the seasons change and finding new poems.”

Meanwhile, Easingwold Community Library has been running socially distanced, Covid-secure events under its beautiful willow tree, the latest being Sunday’s all-seated show starring Jessa and Mick at 2pm.

“It’s a beautiful space, under an amazing willow tree, and the forecast looks promising,” says Jessa

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to share a selection of our songs and poems with an actual live audience, after months of performing to our phones and laptops,” says Jessa, whose diary is invariably busy with teaching and choir-leading sessions for Singing For All, the York Military Wives Choir, youth choirs and more singing groups besides.

“On Sunday, Mick will include some of the most well-known poems such as John Masefield’s Sea Fever and W H Davies’s Leisure and even some Spike Milligan.

“The songs, from pop classics by Carole King and The Beatles to gentle folk songs, and even my own take on a Harry Lauder classic, will all be sung unaccompanied, apart from my new performing friends, the real songbirds.” 

Back for more: Mick and Jessa hope to do more Fields And Lanes shows

Places for Fields And Lanes Under The Willow Tree must be booked in advance on 07526 107448 or via ecl.generalenquiries@gmail.com to ensure that everyone is aware of and agrees to the safety procedures. Tickets are free, with a pay-as-you-feel collection on the day.

“It’s a beautiful space, under an amazing willow tree, and the forecast looks promising,” says Jessa, who is keen to do further performances.

“With both of our busy schedules during normal times, it has been so lovely to work on this project together, and we hope to roll it out to other suitable venues in the next year. So, if anyone involved with an outdoor space would like us to bring Fields And Lanes to them, it can be arranged. You can send a message via https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.”

York Musical Theatre Company help VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations go with a swing in day of song on Facebook

Jessa Liversidge: In the mood for the 1940s

HOW are your VE Day 75th anniversary celebrations going on this beautifully sunny May holiday?

Should you be in need of musical accompaniment, York Musical Theatre Company members are on hand through the day with a rolling programme of 1940s’ songs on the company’s Facebook page.

Familiar Forties’ favourites have been recorded for the occasion by Jessa Liversidge (When The Lights Go On Again); Eleanor Leaper (From The Andrews Sisters…to The Eleanor Sisters! Bei Mir Bist Du Schon!); Flo Taylor (Lili Marlene) ; Marlena Kelli (a Rita Hayworth tribute) and Matthew Ainsworth (the ballad I’ll Be Seeing You, accompanied by Jessica Douglas).

Look out too for a heap of photographic memories from York Musical Theatre Company’s When The Lights Go On Again performances.

Go to facebook.com/yorkmusicaltheatrecompany. Make sure to check out Jessa Liversidge’s Facebook page too; she sang plenty more 1940s’ songs live from midday today as part of the VE Day 1940s Performers Extravaganza series of concerts from living rooms. You can still hear her performance at facebook.com/Jessasongsfromtheheart/.

York Music Hub shares online platforms to keep young talent on song in lockdown

In sunnier times: York Music Hub musicians playing outside the Spurriergate Centre, York

YORK Music Hub is responding to the Covid-19 lockdown by launching an online sharing site, #YMHShare.

The idea is to build an online forum featuring music making and creativity by the young people of York, celebrating the fantastic talent within the city. 

The site has been put together by Squeegee Design, the York web design company based at Lancaster House, James Nicolson Link, and is monitored and updated regularly with content sent in from families, individuals and groups.

“The #YMHShare initiative is for anyone who had a concert cancelled, a festival pulled, an exam postponed or indeed anyone who’s using this time to work on being musical,” says Molly Newton, York Music Hub’s strategic manager.

“So much hard work has gone into school productions, concerts and all kinds of events, and #YMHShare offers a virtual alternative. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far, as many of York’s young musicians have uploaded digital performances and video-link collaborations, and groups have taken this opportunity to showcase previous triumphs in absence of planned concerts.” 

York Music Hub had two major events cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic: the Schools Choral Festival in March and the upcoming city-wide showcase Hubfest2020, now in its second year.

Molly Newton: York Music Hub strategic manager

“The Schools Choral Festival usually takes place at the University of York in March,” says assistant strategic manager Craig Brown. “This year would have seen nine primary and five secondary schools perform.

“Hubfest2020 would have built on the success of the inaugural festival last year, featuring 15 primary and eight secondary schools. The festival is a showcase of all youth music within the city; last year’s festival attracted more than 1,000 young people to make music as part of the event.”

The hub’s response to 2020’s cancellations has been to curate the hard work in a virtual space, as young people, families, groups of friends and bespoke online collaborators come together for this initiative, drawing on the many providers and musicians in a “central area of celebration”. Cue #YMHShare, a sharing platform for a “whole host of music making from any and all young people in and around York”, aged five to 21.

“From next Monday (April 20), when school term would be restarting, we’re launching YMH Online Learning,” says Molly. “This will be a dedicated section of #YMHShare where downloadable resources, YouTube live and Zoom music-making sessions will be posted for anyone to get involved with.”

These sessions will kick off with the York Music Hub Zoom Choir, led by York singer and entertainer Jessa Liversidge, the ubiquitous driving force behind so much online singing activity in York and beyond at present, on Mondays at 2.15pm.

Open to any singer aged eight to 18 -18 from York and the surrounding area, the Zoom Choir offers the chance to connect with other singers, take part in fun vocal warm-ups to develop your vocal technique and learn songs in a range of styles: a “fantastic way to wind down and interact with others in these strange times”.

” I’m raring to go with the young singers of York,” says online-singing driving force Jessa Liversidge

“I’m hoping to attract young people who are missing the inspiring feeling of connecting with others through song,” says Jessa. “I can’t wait to see who signs up for a Monday afternoon, after a day of doing work at home (or at school); those who would enjoy seeing and hearing other melodious youngsters on screen. All young singers are welcome, whatever their previous singing experience.”

Jessa adds: “How the York Music Hub Zoom Choir evolves and what we can achieve depends very much on who gets involved, and how long the lockdown continues.

“I have all sorts of fantastic songs planned to work on with the group, as well as some lag-resistant experiments, and I’m really looking forward to getting going. After a short, self-taught crash course in Zoom choirs these past few weeks with my adult groups, I’m raring to go with the young singers of York.”

Singing For All @TheHub will take place on Fridays at 11am. All are invited to tune in to these lively singing sessions suitable for all ages, again led by Jessa Liversidge. “We want to get everyone involved and lift your spirits with songs and singing games, from well-known school assembly songs, partner songs and rounds to classic pop tunes and even some new songs to learn,” says Molly. “Tune in every Friday at 11am, live on the York Music Hub YouTube channel.”

Ukulele Stars tuition will be open to all ages on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am, with these fun and interactive YouTube sessions being led by Steven Hawksworth, of Hawkulele fame. No previous ukulele experience is necessary.

Curriculum-based GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition sessions for Key Stages 4 and 5 will run throughout the summer term, led on Wednesdays from April 22 at 11am by York Arts Barge Project co-founder, workshop leader, teacher and bass player Christian Topman.

York Music Hub GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition session tutor Christian Topman

These tutorials will be delivered via Zoom but also will be available every week to catch up on via York Music Hub’s YouTube channel. They are aimed at students in Year 9 to 13 who will need to access the Zoom app to join in with the live sessions. They can contact Christian directly at christian@yorkartseducation.org.uk with any composition ideas 

Those needing more information regarding the sharing site or any of the online sessions should contact info@yorkmusichub.org.uk.

Summing up the importance of music-making at this time, Molly says: “It seems to me that music is our salvation. It’s what we turn to in times of celebration and sadness; it keeps us calm or builds us up, it helps us relax, escape, endure, survive.

“It’s the medium through which we express and share our feelings. As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music.

“The internet is now flooded with “virtual” responses to current events: isolation compositions; play-off challenges; streamed concerts and Broadway shows; balcony performances and quarantine choirs.”

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating,” says Molly Newton of her love for musical interplay

Molly’s passion for music oozes from her whenever she leads a project or performance. “I was lucky enough to have hugely supportive parents and inspiring music teachers in my youth and grew up believing that anyone can achieve musically, regardless of their perceived ability or intellect,” she says.

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to see hundreds of young people flourish and grow through music-making opportunities.”

Why is music such a good educative tool, Molly? “I’m going to draw from Plato, who said: ‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’.

“However, regardless of how much music can support the learning of other subjects, music is important in its own right in that it’s a fundamental aspect of all societies.

“Music is a truly collaborative subject, a universal language, and learning it enables a global communication with others that transcends borders and cultures. It’s a subject that teaches creative thinking, discipline, confidence, resilience, patience, perseverance, diligence, achievement and joy, to name but a few!”

“As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music,” says Molly Newton, as she builds up the York Music Hub online sharing forum

In these strange, alien, disconnected days, Craig has noted our power still to be creative and musically resilient. “The #YMHShare site has really embodied a public celebration of the arts,” he says. “Within this feed, we see so much of the appreciation, value and celebrations of music.

“We speak to many of the city’s instrumental teachers, who are continuing to give private lessons through video links, and it is clear that pupils and parents really value the role that music is playing, offering an escape, opportunity of relaxation, or providing a welcome challenge.”

Looking ahead to when musicians can meet up again, how may York Music Hub celebrate? “We’re already planning a ‘Post-Lockdown’ celebration and are hoping that we will be able to bring as many schools, providers and young people together in a truly collaborative and inclusive way,” says Molly.

“Given the uncertainty and challenge we’re all facing, we’re hoping that when this is all over, we will be able to bring people together through music and remind ourselves how joyful it feels to play and sing together.”

Roll on that day. In the meantime, make a home for music at home.

Lockdown makes Jessa determined to stay on song with online singing sessions for all

Jessa Liversidge: still on song, online

AFTER her Singing For All choir had everyone singing I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing at A Night To Remember at York Barbican, now Jessa Liversidge wants to reach the world to sing online.

The York singer, entertainer and singing group tutor, leader and inspiration is going virtual in response to these Coronavirus lockdown days.

“Going from running seven different singing groups a week, plus other sporadic ones, to having to cancel them all, I was faced with a big challenge,” says Jessa. “But I’ve been buzzing with ideas to keep people singing and to keep their spirits up in these strange times and I have a lot planned.”

Not only planned but coming to fruition already too. “I held my first virtual choir session on March 18, mainly Easingwold folks but some extras, including some singing leaders from all over, who came along to check out a session from a singer’s perspective,” says Jessa.

“We did it again last night, building an online community choir with people from Easingwold, Helmsley, York, and even other parts of the country – people who knew me from elsewhere.”

Jessa Liversidge leading her Singing For All choir at Big Ian’s A Night To Remember charity concert at York Barbican on February 29. Picture: David Harrison.

How does it feel, performing together across the ether in our new social-distancing, stay-at-home world? “It is, of course, very different to a real in-person choir, but very uplifting and great fun,” says Jessa. “The good news is that everything is on screen, so you don’t need to provide the lyrics!

“I’ve had some fantastic feedback from people too; the best quotes being ‘A wonderfully positive hour’ and ‘On a challenging day, when it felt hard to be bright and cheerful, this was just a perfect end to the day. It was great to let someone with a really joyful personality take you on a different type of musical journey, a real sharing of community spirit’”

Jessa intends to run these sessions weekly on Wednesday evenings at 7pm. “People will need to contact me on 07740 596869 or email me at jessaliversidge@googlemail.com to find out how to join,” she advises.

She has started up York Military Wives Choir sessions too online, the first one being held on March 19 for one of 70 such choirs across the country.

“I’m also setting up some free open-to-anyone sessions, starting with a live stream Singing For All session on YouTube that I held on Monday morning this week at 11am: the time the Easingwold Singing For All usually meets,” Jessa says.

“It was great to let someone with a really joyful personality take you on a different type of musical journey,” said one participant in response to joining Jessa Liversidge’s virtual choir session

“I’m so worried about some of the group as Singing For All has been a lifeline to so many, and lots of them are now isolated in more than one way, so this is important for them.”

Not only Easingwold Singing For All took part this Monday morning. “We had people joining in from their living rooms, again from across the country, and that singing session is now available on You Tube,” says Jessa. “Hundreds of people have watched it already, and we had people joining in as families and even with three generations. Hopefully these sessions will now happen every Monday morning.”

A further Singing For All virtual session will be running on Tuesday mornings at 11am, this one on Zoom, set in motion last Tuesday. To take part in these interactive  sessions, you will need to ring or email Jessa.

She hatched one other project, abruptly halted by the Covid-19 lockdown’s dictum on social distancing, banning gatherings of more than two people. “I was going to try out some very spread-out, non-contact park sings,” says Jessa.

“Inspired by the Italians singing from their balconies, I thought this was the nearest we could get to it, but that has had to fall by the wayside. Instead I’m going to record myself singing outdoors, put that on social media and then people can sing along to that.”

Anything else still to come, Jessa? “Yes, youth choirs.” Watch this space…and keep watching your space too, two metres apart; you know the drill by now.