Joseph Rowntree Theatre adds new string to bow as York String Quartet makes debut

The York String Quartet: Making Joseph Rowntree Theatre debut this Sunday

THE York String Quartet will grace the Joseph Rowntree Theatre stage in York for the first time on Sunday night.

As the JoRo reopens after lockdown, York audiences are being offered a wider choice of performances, the result of both the trustees’ desire to attract new hirers and differing groups’ need to look for suitable venues.

Graham Mitchell, the Haxby Road theatre’s community engagement director, says: “We’re delighted that the York String Quartet has chosen our venue for its first show post-lockdown.

“We haven’t often had this type of show on stage and we know it’ll attract a new audience into the theatre, perhaps people who don’t even know who we are or what we offer.”

In the York String Quartet line-up are Fiona Love, violin, Nicola Rainger, violin, Vince Parsonage, violin and viola, and Sally Ladds, cello.

The 7.30pm programme will comprise: J S Bach’s  Brandenburg No. 3 in G major; Dvorak’s Quartet No. 12, ‘American’  1st movement, Allegro Ma Non Troppo; Beethoven’s  Quartet No. 13 op. 130, 5th movement ‘Cavatina’, Adagio Molto Espressivo, and Schubert’s Quartet No. 13 D.804 in A minor, ‘Rosamunde’, last movement, Allegro Moderato.

A selection from classical, pop, jazz, shows, television and film in a quiz format will follow the interval. Tickets cost £8 to £13 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Tomorrow’s Meat Loud – The Duo show, with its invitation to “buckle up and get ready for a ride into Hell”, has been cancelled.

Founded by Meat Loud, alias Andy Plimmer, and session singer and vocal coach Sally Rivers, the show is built around Bat Out Of Hell, complemented by other Meat Loaf slices of rock opera and songs penned by Jim Steinman for Bonnie Tyler, Cher, and Celine Dion. Sally has worked with Annie Lennox, Cher and Mick Hucknall, among others.

Alas, tomorrow night is now a case of All Revved Up With No Place To Go.

Losing their Loaf: Meat Loud – The Duo’s Meat Loaf tribute show show at the JoRo tomorrow is off

Bev Jones Music Company reopen Joseph Rowntree Theatre with Strictly Cabaret

Strictly Cabaret performers Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford, Larry Gibson and Claire Pulpher

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, reopens its doors tonight with Covid-secure measures, socially distanced seating plan and the first of three performances of Strictly Cabaret.

Bev Jones Music Company principals Claire Pulpher, Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson will don their finest to entertain with a glittering cabaret set of their favourites at 7.30pm, to be followed by 2.30pm and 7.30pm performances tomorrow.

“Rat Pack, swing style, top musicals, film favourites, you name it, they will sing it,” says producer Lesley Jones. “Just sit back, reflect upon the year, clear your minds and be thoroughly entertained in the manner befitting the Bev Jones Music Company.

“All the cast will be principal performers in our June production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, directed by Claire, who will play Mary, alongside Chris as Judas, Terry as Caiaphas and Larry as Pilate.”

Under the present JoRo regulations for Step 3 reopening, the Bev Jones Music Company (BJMC) were permitted a company of only four. “That proved to be a headache,” admits Lesley. “How can you entice an audience to a BJMC show with so few cast members? But by offering diversification in content, I think we’ve pulled it off by aiming at all age groups.”

Claire Pulpher: Performing songs from Hamilton and Wicked, Alto’s Lament and a Whitney dancefloor filler

Introducing the Strictly Cabaret programme, Lesley says: “In a forward-thinking move, Claire sings songs from Hamilton and Wicked and the hilarious Alto’s Lament, then changes style with a superb dance-based Whitney Houston number, I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

“Chris sings the powerful Pity The Child from Chess, the ever popular I Believe, plus a great swing performance of Mack The Knife and Cry Me A River; Terry performs Stars from Les Miserables, How Wonderful You Are and Tomorrow Never Comes, and Larry has chosen Luck Be A Lady, his favourite rock number from Chess, The Arbiter, plus the swing number The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Anything else, Lesley? “They’ll also all sing duets, trios and big group numbers, such as There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame and songs from Cabaret, Joseph and Abba,” she says.

“You can expect lots of humour and fun, plus power and pathos, but it was important to offer a chink of light after these dark days and hopefully remind people of a positive future.”

For tickets, go to: josephrowntree.co.uk. Jesus Christ Superstar will be staged at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, on June 12, 3pm, and June 13, 2pm and 5pm; same box office.

Badapple to return to live shows with eco-adventure Tales From The Great Wood

When Richard met Hetty: York actor Richard Kay with Hetty the hare in Badapple Theatre Company’s new eco-adventure, Tales From The Great Wood

BADAPPLE Theatre Company will return to live performances this summer with Tales From The Great Wood.

“This is a new short play for children and grandparents – and everyone else – to enjoy together that can be performed indoor or outdoor,” says writer-director Kate Bramley, founder of the Green Hammerton theatre-on-your-doorstep proponents, as she introduces her interactive storytelling eco-adventure.

“Listen! Can you hear the whispering in the trees? The Great Wood is full of stories. It’s a hot summer’s day, perfect for basking in the sun, but instead of resting, Hetty the hare is investigating because someone is missing.

“As she unravels a tall tale that stretches from end to end of The Great Wood, Hetty realises that every creature – no matter how small – can have a huge part to play in the world of the forest.”

Starring York actor Richard Kay, Danny Mellor and a host of puppets made by designer Catherine Dawn, this show for ages five to 95 will be performed at the Covid-secure Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on July 2 and 3.

“We’ll also be playing Skipsea Village Hall on the Sunday, and we’re looking to do some outdoor performances too, such as at stately homes, with Annabelle Polito working on that for us at the moment,” says Kate.

“I’m trying to create a show that is ‘omni-everything’: suitable for outdoor spaces and for indoors, so it’s not only a play for all seasons, but a play for all eventualities.”

Badapple Theatre Company turned an empty grain store into a theatre/film studio to record the hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops

To add to the feeling of resurgence, Badapple Theatre Company is celebrating being awarded two grants to support its youth theatre classes, as well as the resumption of professional live shows this summer. 

Over lockdown, the North Yorkshire touring theatre company moved its youth theatre classes online, created a free Theatre On Your Desktop podcast series of online plays and even converted an empty grain store into a theatre/film studio to record two of its plays, Eddie And The Gold Tops and The Snow Dancer.

Now, the Local Fund Harrogate District, administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation, has provided £2,908 to cover Badapple’s core costs and ensure its community projects can continue through to August, such as its regular youth theatre sessions in the village.

“Meanwhile, Arts Council England has awarded £15,000 in financial support to commission new plays for the youth theatre and youth summer school and to ensure a return to professional live performance,” says Kate, Badapple’s artistic director.

“We’re delighted to be celebrating both of these grant awards. The two go hand in hand to keep us afloat with our community work right now and keep us moving forward with brand new shows for audiences this summer.”

Looking back on a 21st anniversary year spent under the Covid cloud, Kate says: “Arts Council England stepped in and bailed us out spectacularly, but we couldn’t monetise the online programme, beyond getting plenty of hits for the Christmas show, but certainly we couldn’t live off that.”

Badapple resumed live performances last September with Suffer Fools Gladly, actor Danny Mellor’s hour-long comedy about the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth, presented in Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks.

Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor in Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly when Badapple Theatre Company resumed live shows with outdoor performances last September

“We really hit lucky with Danny’s show, and we were really lucky with the September weather, except for the last show, when we needed a sturdy, stoic audience!” says Kate. “The shows were utterly Covid-safe too.”

Reflecting on how theatre companies responded to the Coronavirus crisis, Kate comments: “So many companies adapted to the social need, whether to run food banks or provide outdoor events, and that’s a good thing to come out of the arts world in pandemic times.

“There’s been less navel-gazing with a lot of good companies looking beyond their own agenda to think, ‘what do people need from us now?’.”

Looking ahead, Kate reveals: “December 2021 will see the rescheduling of our original eco-fable The Snow Dancer, the Christmas show that we were so lucky to present in a handful of performances at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in December 2020 between lockdowns.

“Our Christmas remit is always to play to children and grandparents, so that’s our agenda again, to bring those two generations back to seeing things together,” says Kate.

“May/June 2022 will finally – everything crossed! – see the long awaited and much- postponed premiere of my brand-new comedy Elephant Rock. This twice-postponed show is already funded by Arts Council England, so we’re excited to be programming venues for this event from now onwards.”

What happens in Elephant Rock? “From the great age of the steamers and through the heyday of the British seaside resorts, the old Palace dance hall stood proudly on the pier, attended by the greatest of all attractions, the Mechanical Elephant,” says Kate.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer, performed in a Covid-secure, socially distanced Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York last December

“But the relentless tides have chipped away at the coast and the mighty Elephant Rock that gave the headland its name seemingly walked off overnight. Join us for a night of comic capers from a family who are trying to keep the Palace doors on, and open, as they delve into a complicated family history of music hall owners spanning 100 years and 5,000 miles to the elephant-filled grasslands of Sri Lanka.”

At the heart of Badapple’s Arts Council funding bid was an emphasis on children, leading to a focus on commissioning new plays for the youth theatre and supporting the youth summer school.

“In the pandemic, children have not only lost a year’s work at school, but also a year of playing and social-skill building, when they’ve not been able to relax their bodies and lark about, instead being in a ‘straitjacket’ at home,” says Kate.

“They’ve been amazing in keeping to social distancing and in putting up with how they’ve had to be dressed.”

Kate continues: “That’s why it’s important for us to be exploratory in how we tell children’s stories and how we let them have fun now, so with that in mind, we’ve asked Richard Kay to write us a pantomime for our youth theatre.

“He’s written a couple of shows for us, Cinderella and a mash-up of Snow White and Babes In The Wood, so that there could be a big cast with plenty for them all to do.

“He understands how to write a pantomime that’s very funny but also entirely appropriate for Key 2 children, so we’re really excited about it.”

Richard Kay: Badapple Theatre Company actor and pantomime writer

Kay’s 2021 pantomime will feature young actors who have attended  Badapple youth theatre sessions on Zoom in lockdown. “We’re hoping of course that it will be the first chance for parents and wider audiences to see them on stage again,” says Kate.

“The children have worked so hard for a year, but apart from the odd vignette online, parents haven’t been able to see them perform or see the big strides they’ve made.

“We’re kind of in awe of how good spirited they’ve been in taking part in exactly the same way even though it’s just each of them in their own room, connecting online.

“For some of them, it’s been the making of them, with their confidence picking up when there’s no peer pressure about how they look or how they feel, and all of them keeping it high energy in an hour’s involvement.”

Kate adds: “For some, it’s given a greater depth to their performances because they’ve had no distractions, so that’s been the bonus, with them really thriving in the online environment, though we all agree that ‘live is best’.”

Even though the Government has decreed youth theatre sessions can be resumed indoors, Badapple’s young performers have wanted to do outdoor sessions. “It’s that thing of enjoying nature in a different way, improvising with the world around us, making playlets based on the garden settings around us,” Kate says.

“In the pandemic, children have not only lost a year’s work at school, but also a year of playing and social-skill building,” says Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

Outdoor performance takes her back to Cornish youth. “When I grew up, the company I would see was Kneehigh, before they became the national name they are now, doing open-air shows.

“Then, when I was with Cornwall Youth Theatre Company, there was always that thing of grand pageantry, so that outdoor theme has always been important to me, and I’m really happy to be building up youth theatre work that has an outdoor element to it,” says Kate.

“If this past year has given me anything to think about, if I’m to keep going for another 20 years, I would like to mix indoor and outdoor strands, as we’ve always been ecologically minded.

“For us, it’s always about storytelling and creating a storytelling experience that’s magical when people come together, and it’s just about finding different ways of doing that.”

Kate notes how Badapple’s philosophy chimes with Arts Council England’s thinking. “I don’t think we’ve done anything differently to gain funding. It’s the fact that the Arts Council’s Let Create strategy, handed out before lockdown, is much more in alignment with how we think about arts provision and productions, where they seek three strands: community involvement, excellence in artists and international pedigree,” she says.

“We’ve always felt our work is as valuable as everyone else’s, and we seem to be on a crest of a wave, having created a strategy that chimes with everyone. The Arts Council have done us so proud, intervening in a way where there are possibilities on so many different levels for us.

Children and tutors enjoying a Badapple Youth Theatre summer school session in pre-Covid times

“Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have freed up funding too, ending up with us breaking even in the latest financial year, and I’ve never been so proud about that. We’re still trading, we’re still alive and kicking, with good projects to look forward to.”

Another plus point of the past year has been forging a partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York’s community-run theatre in Haxby Road, first for The Snow Dancer last December and now for Tales From The Great Wood in July.

“That’s something that would never happened without the pandemic, doing the socially distanced performances of The Snow Dancer after their board member Moira Tait hosted three shows of Suffer Fools Gladly in her garden,” says Kate.

“Now, we’re excited to premiere Tales From The Great Woods at the Rowntree Theatre, as it fits our ethos of taking shows to people that wouldn’t otherwise see it.

“They want us to do The Snow Dancer there again in this winter’s tour and we want to support them as much as possible, as we were bowled over by how they kitted out the theatre to be Covid-safe for last winter’s shows.”

Badapple Theatre Company presents Tales From The Great Wood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 2, 7.30pm, and July 3, 11am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935.

Copyright of The Press, York

Joseph Rowntree Theatre launches reopening season and Buy A Tile roof fund

Strictly Cabaret performers Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford, Larry Gibson and Claire Pulpher

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, will be reopening its doors on May 21 with Covid-secure measures and a socially distanced seating plan.

That night at 7.30pm and the next day at 2.30pm and 7.30pm, the Bev Jones Music Company will present Strictly Cabaret in this safe, regulated setting.

Claire Pulpher, Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson will don their finest to entertain with a glittering cabaret evening of their favourites.  

“Rat Pack, swing style, top musicals, film favourites, you name it, they will sing it,” says producer Lesley Jones. “Just sit back, reflect upon the year, clear your minds and be thoroughly entertained in the manner befitting the Bev Jones Music Company.”

Black Sheep Theatre Productions: Fundraiser for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Strictly Cabaret will lead off a line-up of nine shows at the JoRo between May 21 and August 28.

In a fundraiser for the Jo Ro on June 13, music director Jon Atkin will be joined by singers Emma Dickinson, Alexa Chaplin, Richard Bayton and Rob Davies at 7.30pm for An Evening Of Musical Comedy Highlights: a cabaret selection of solos, duets and quartets from musical comedies aplenty with a few popular songs added to the mix. 

Poignant after the death of composer Jim Steinman on April 19, Meat Loud – The Duo will perform those very familiar rock operatic songs from Bat Out Of Hell and other Meat Loaf albums, penned by the New Yorker, plus equally grandiose classics he wrote for Bonnie Tyler, Celine Dion and Cher, on June 19 at 7.30pm.

Meat Loud – The Duo was founded in 2018 by Meat Loud, alias Andy Plimmer, and British session singer and vocal coach Sally Rivers, who has worked with Cher, Annie Lennox and Mick Hucknall. “So buckle up and get ready for a ride into hell,” say the duo.

Meat Loud – The Duo: Andy Plimmer and Sally Rivers

The York String Quartet will play a fundraiser for the Rowntree theatre on June 20, performing a broad repertoire of classical, pop, jazz, television and film music at 7.30pm.

Between them, quartet members Vince Parsonage, violin and viola, Nicola Rainger, violin, Sara Gilford, cello, and Maggy Lamb, viola, have played across Europe with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera.

Some Might Say will re-create the look, swagger and trademark wall of sound in a supersonic tribute show to Oasis on June 26 at 7.30pm.

Selections from all seven albums will feature in a set full of Manchester anthems, from hit singles to fans’ concert favourites and Noel Gallagher’s acoustic numbers. Expect Supersonic, Rock’n’Roll Star, Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Cigarettes And Alcohol and many more.

Some Might Say: Swaggering Oasis tribute show

Black Sheep Theatre Productions will present For The Love Of Musicals in aid of the JoRo in matinee and evening performances on July 10.

Join musical director Matthew Clare, his merry band and a host of singers for a concert of delights as they prove “There’s No Business Like Show Business” with songs from Annie Get Your Gun, classics galore and more recent shows such as Dear Evan Hansen.

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company Does Gilbert And Sullivan will feature HMS Pinafore on July 29 at 7.30pm and July 31 at 2.30pm and The Mikado on July 30 and 31 at 7.30pm.

The JoRo’s in-house performing team will produce semi-staged performances of G&S’s biggest hits, brimming with popular tunes and brilliant characters. “Come along and enjoy the topsy-turvy musical madness, with all profits going straight back to the theatre,” reads their invitation.

The Carpenters Experience: Tribute concert led by Maggie Nestor

Billed as “the UK’s leading Carpenters’ show”, The Carpenters Experience brings together vocalist Maggie Nestor and eight musicians to capture yesterday once more in the form of Karen and Richard Carpenter’s Close To You, We’ve Only Just Begun, Top Of The World, Rainy Days And Mondays, Solitaire, Goodbye To Love, Please Mr Postman, For All We Know and Only Yesterday on August 28 at 7.30pm.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of the theatre trustees, says: “We’re thrilled to be staging live shows once again and welcoming audiences back through our theatre doors. We’ve missed the buzz of putting on a show and can’t wait for opening night.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure our theatre is Covid-safe. The new procedures and processes we’ve put in place have all been tried and tested. Our priority is to make sure your theatre experience is a safe one.”

For more information on the shows, booking tickets and the new safety procedures, go to the website, josephowntreetheatre.co.uk, email publicity@jrtheatre.co.uk or ring 01904 501935.

Buy A Tile: Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s new fundraising campaign

THE JoRo has launched its latest fundraising campaign, Buy A Tile, as part of its wider Raise The Roof appeal set in motion last year.

Shrimpton says: “We’ve been staging shows and entertaining local communities in York for more than 85 years. The roof repairs are essential for safeguarding the future of our theatre, so we can continue entertaining communities in York for years and years to come.”

The JoRo needs to raise £45,000 urgently to replace its leaking roofs: still made up of the original tiles laid in place when the Haxby Road theatre was built in 1935. Without repairs to the broken tiles, the Grade II-listed theatre risks damage to the building’s Art Deco fabric.

The Bev Jones Music Company’s poster for Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, York

LOOKING ahead, musical actress, radio presenter, choreographer, director, writer, teacher and model Claire Pulpher will direct the Bev Jones Music Company in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar at Rowntree Park, York, on July 12 at 3pm and July 13 at 2pm and 5pm.

Claire also will play Mary Magdalene in the York company’s first full-scale musical production post-pandemic lockdown, in a safe outdoor setting in the park’s secluded amphitheatre, where audience members can sit in bubbles of up to six people, allocated on the day. Bring picnic chairs, rugs and possibly umbrellas too.

Joining her in the principal roles will be fellow Strictly Cabaret performers Chris Hagyard, Terry Ford and Larry Gibson.

Claire Pulpher: Directing Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’s life, leading to his crucifixion. Pulpher will use the natural setting to maximum effect to bring a unique vision to the 1973 rock opera, complemented by musical director James Rodgers’ band.

“James’s brilliant rock band will have you clapping and joining in with this rousing show, featuring the company’s very best performers, plus new names for you to enjoy in a production set to lift your spirits after such a difficult year,” says producer Lesley Jones . 

“Suitable for all ages, with parental guidance, there’ll be singing and dancing to please everyone, in a suitably distanced manner.”

Jessa and Mick Liversidge team up with Helmsley Arts Centre for Fields & Lanes song and poetry livestream tomorrow

Field work: Actor Mick Liversidge and singer Jessa Liversidge take the country air

EASINGWOLD singer Jessa Liversidge and husband actor Mick Liversidge will present the Fields & Lanes Livestream show from Helmsley Arts Centre tomorrow night (13/3/2021).

“Mick and I have been working on a collaborative project with the arts centre all about engaging communities creatively,” says community singing leader and music tutor Jessa. “Now, we’ve recruited some more field singers and outdoor performers to join us virtually for our performance at 7.30pm.”

Since the first Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020, Jessa and Mick have taken to performing outside to lift spirits and cheer those stuck inside. While Jessa sings in fields, Mick recites poetry down country lanes, and together they have devised Fields & Lanes, a celebration of poetry and song as well a celebration of the great outdoors.

Mick and Jessa perform with no accompaniment, their sincere and heartfelt delivery letting the poems and songs speak for themselves.

Last Saturday, Jessa notched her 50th “field sing”: a Saturday morning routine for the past 50 weeks wherein she “gets up and performs a song outdoors”.

“Over 50 songs now as some weeks I have done two,” she says, and you can watch that performance as she lists all the songs at https://www.facebook.com/JessaLiversidgeSinger/videos/207646327454590/ or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/a8bzyhocd-U.

“I might delay the field sing a bit if it’s snowing or raining, or I’ll shelter under a tree, but I find doing these songs really beneficial for me; doing it every week, having that fixed in my diary, knowing I need to do it on a Saturday morning,” Jessa says.

Mick, a professional actor on stage and screen for six years, and Jessa also performed a socially distanced Fields & Lanes Under The Willow Tree at Easingwold Community Library on a September Sunday afternoon and for Joseph Rowntree Theatre volunteers when testing the York theatre’s Covid-safety regime last October.

Mick LIversidge recording one of his Fields & Lanes poems in lockdown

Buoyed by the response to their outdoor pursuits, Jessa and Mick teamed up with Helmsley Arts Centre (HAC) to offer the Ryedale and wider community the chance to join the Fields & Lanes family in remote workshops.

“You will have the chance to develop singing or recitation skills and work towards your own pre-recorded performance, which will be featured in the livestream Fields & Lanes show on March 13,” read the invitation to recruits on the HAC website.

Places were strictly limited, enabling Jessa and Mick to work with both small groups and individuals on February 27 and March 6. Participants also received support, feedback and guidance from Jessa or Mick in between sessions and they are entitled to a gratis ticket for tomorrow’s livestream.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa. “We’ve enjoyed everything that comes with performing in the open air: the bird song, the fields, the winds, and we wanted to help others take part and feel the benefits.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Helmsley Arts Centre, who have provided the funding for a project to demonstrate how music and poetry can connect the community through creativity, and we’re delighted with the wide range of performers who have joined us, from seasoned professional performers to hobby singers and poets.

“In the workshops and individual sessions over the two weekends, we’ve worked on field singing and outdoor recitation techniques and created some collaborative performances. As a result, members of these groups will be appearing with us in the livestream via pre-recorded video.”

Tomorrow’s livestream viewers can expect a wide-ranging show featuring poetry from William Wordsworth to Spike Milligan, Lord Byron to D H Lawrence, and songs from folk standards to pop favourites and gospel classics, The Beatles to Bill Withers, Cilla Black to Carole King.

Poetry collaborators in tomorrow’s livestream are Bill Laverick, Helen Wilson and Maurice Crichton, from York Shakespeare Project and York Settlement Community Players, and Ted Naisbitt, from Sowerby, near Thirsk, performing one of his own poems, My Lakes, inspired by Wordsworth.

Helen Wilson, performing at last summer’s Sitdown Sonnets, presented by York Shakespeare Project at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York. Tomorrow she is taking part in the Fields & Lanes livestream

Mick worked with Bill, Helen, Maurice and Ted, each taking a verse from Wordsworth’s Daffodils and Sir John Betjeman’s Business Girls, reciting both on Zoom and in the open air.

New field singers taking part are Sinead Livingston, Mary Bourne, Madeleine Cordes, Gary Cordes, Cat Ellis, Caitlin Ellis, Sarah Boyle and Bill Laverick.

“They’re spread across the country from Essex to the North East,” says Jessa. “One of the positives of these times has been being able to work with people from all over the place!

“Sinead, Mary and Madeleine are all singing leaders, who I’ve been liaising with over the past year, all liking the idea of singing outside, and it’s been really great to have such high-quality people to work with.

“Mary runs choirs in Kingston and writes songs, and she’s been a friend for a couple of years. We’ve recorded a duet called My Call, where I recorded my part outside and as she’s ‘Choir Leader In A Kayak’, she’s done her part from a kayak.”

Introducing more of tomorrow’s remote singers, Jessa says: “Cat and Caitlin are a mother and daughter from Easingwold; Cat is in one of my choirs and I teach Caitlin. Sarah Boyle is a ‘hobby singer’ from York who’s joined one of my choirs, and Madeleine and Gary Cordes run a talent agency in Essex.

“In the first workshop, we did Stand By Me and The Water Is Wide, with me editing the virtual performances together and then last Saturday we worked on individual song choices.”

For tomorrow’s livestream, “bubble couple” Mick and Jessa will be performing live and alone in Helmsley Arts Centre, where the pre-recorded songs and poems will be projected on a screen.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa

The 7.30pm show marks a return to Helmsley Arts Centre for Jessa, after performing three of her one-woman shows there: ’Til The Boys Come Home, Some Enchanted Sondheim and Songbirds.

She has been a freelance singer and singing leader for the past 12 years, completing high-level training on performance, singing teaching and musical direction with Vocal Process and qualifying as a Vocal Health First Aider.

“From youth choirs and dementia-friendly groups to community choirs and private lessons, my sessions all have an encouraging atmosphere and a positive, inclusive ethos,” she says.

“I’m continuing to run my singing groups online – Singing For All and Community Singers Online, as well as the live YMHSing sessions for the York Music Hub – and I’m always looking for more singers of all abilities to join in.

“One new singer recently said, ‘you fill the screen with fun and enjoyment’ and I’d love to reach a few more of these people.” 

As testament to her teaching skills, Jessa has been nominated for two 2021 Music and Drama Education awards on March 24 for her inspiring work with singers of all ages in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Quite an honour and a big surprise!” she says. “I’ve no expectations of winning but will glam up and tune into the ceremony on the 24th anyway!”

Jessa is shortlisted for the #goldstars Award, for any teacher who has shown particular flair, creativity or compassion during this past year, and the Francesca Honley Inspiration Award, which honours an individual who has had a hugely inspirational impact on students of any age in their music-making. 

Outdoor pursuits: Mick Liversidge and Jessa Liversidge head out for a song and a poem in the Yorkshire air

“The person who nominated me mentioned the wide range of ways I have adapted and created different ways of inspiring people of all ages through singing, including the live sings and Zoom choirs for York Music Hub, song and music videos, live singing for all and field sings,” says Jessa, as she looks forward to listening to the 6pm online ceremony at https://www.musicdramaedawards.com/.

Looking ahead, Jessa says: “I’m definitely going to continue with the choirs online. I even have participants from Milton Keynes, Rochdale, Bedfordshire, and I’ve been able to engage in various ways, along with continuing my ‘real’ groups.

“I feel loyal to them all, so when lockdown eases under the Government ‘roadmap’, I’ll do hybrid ‘Room and Zoom’ sessions. I did one in October, which I enjoyed, though it is quite exhausting trying to do two things at once!”

Reflecting on 12 months under the pandemic cloud, Jessa says: “I’m really happy with the way I’ve managed to grow and create this past year despite everything, or actually out of necessity due to everything.

“I’ve developed a lot of skills, like a lot of people like me have. I’ve really enjoyed it, picking up technical skills, such as learning how to synch up people singing separately for streaming. It’s quite time consuming but I think it’s worth it, recording people standing alone in a field but then seeing themselves in a group online.”

Jessa is proof positive that singing is good for the soul, for physical health, for mental wellbeing. “Singing just lifts you and takes you somewhere else,” she says in her break from her online “three hat day” for this interview.

“Singing keeps me going. Today [8/3/2021] I’m running a Singing For All session; teaching a couple of pupils and doing a York Music Hub session at four o’clock, so I’ll be buoyant all day!”

Tickets for tomorrow’s 7.30pm livestream cost £8 per household. To book, go to: https://www.helmsleyarts.co.uk/whats-on/fields-and-lanes-livestream-from-hac.

All the Fields & Lanes poems and songs performed by Mick and Jessa outdoors can be found at the Fields & Lanes Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.

Wanted: a director of volunteering for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre board

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre: Seeking a director of volunteering

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre is seeking a director of volunteering to join its board. 

The new volunteer board member will be jointly in charge of helping to manage and support the York theatre’s volunteer staff.  

Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo’s chair of trustees, says: “This role is vitally important to the smooth running of our fabulous community venue. Although unpaid, the post offers enormous rewards to the right candidate, including belonging to a very supportive board and enjoying the magic of theatre first-hand.

“You will be involved in one of the country’s top community-led theatres, working with remarkable people from a wide range of backgrounds to deliver great entertainment to the people of York.”

Barbara Boyce, the JoRo’s director of volunteering already in post, says: “The appointed trustee will be responsible for organising the scheduling of volunteers, both front of house and backstage.

“The workload will be shared between both of us. We are looking to recruit an exceptional person who will be crucial in ensuring the effective staffing of each production staged at the theatre.”

The coordination of the volunteers is done mainly electronically, using an online database and communication tools, hence having strong computer skills is a must. 

Established processes are in place already, but there will be opportunities aplenty for the new director of volunteering to make their own mark on how the role is carried out. The successful candidate must have first-class communication skills and enthusiasm for managing volunteers. 

The time commitment will vary, depending on the JoRo’s scheduled activities, but it is anticipated the role will usually take up approximately four to six hours per week.

In addition, the new trustee will attend 12 board meetings each year, each lasting approximately two hours, usually on the first Monday of each month. At present, meetings are held over video conferencing, so prospective applicants need to be willing to familiarise themselves with this way of communicating. 

All trustees act as duty managers within the theatre several times a month. On a typical show evening, the duty manager arrives by 6pm for a 7.30pm performance, usually leaving the Haxby Road building by 10.30 pm.  

Anyone interested and keen to find out more should email volunteering director Barbara Boyce at barbara.boyce@jrtheatre.co.uk to arrange a visit for an informal discussion with two or three trustees, once such meetings are permitted under Covid strictures.

After the informal discussion, an interview with trustees will be held for shortlisted candidates.

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/

York singer Steve Cassidy, band and guests to raise funds for Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Steve Cassidy: Fundraiser for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

THE Steve Cassidy Band play the reopened Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow (13/12/2020) to raise funds for their favourite venue.

Long-standing York singer Steve, his band and guests will be performing songs from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, along with classic numbers from the world of popular and country music.

Tickets for the Covid-secure, socially distanced 7.30pm concert cost £9 to £12 at: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/all-shows/steve-cassidy-band-in-concert/1374  

Joseph Rowntree Theatre launches virtual bucket shake fundraiser with rewards

The Theatres Trust poster for the virtual bucket shake initiative

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is taking part in the Theatres Trust national initiative to raise funds via a virtual bucket shake this festive season.

Donations will help to replace income lost in the grip of the pandemic. The Haxby Road theatre is asking supporters to help the JoRo to make sure it can welcome visiting performers and audiences to shows in 2021 by donating to a virtual bucket and then claiming a reward on the Crowdfunder page.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees, says: “We’re facing an enormous loss of income from ticket sales, merchandise and ice creams, as well as missing out on the opportunity for a traditional bucket collection. This is why we’d like to invite you to take part in a virtual bucket collection this panto season.”

A retro-style illustration of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, aptly an Art Deco building, by York artist Elliot Harrison (alias York 360), available as a greeting card and print as a reward in the virtual bucket shake

The virtual bucket shake has been launched in advance of the JoRo reopening this weekend for Oddsocks Productions’ A Christmas Carol on Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm and the Steve Cassidy Band on Sunday at 7.30pm. For tickets, go to: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

Supporters can access the Crowdfunder page at crowdfunder.co.uk/virtual-bucket-shake-for-joseph-rowntree-theatre. Rewards on offer include teddy bears, theatre tote bags and greetings cards and prints of the JoRo.

You also can be a theatre elf or a theatre angel for a small donation, with donors being acknowledged on the theatre’s website.

Bah, Humbug to Covid. Nothing can stop Oddsocks bringing A Christmas Carol to Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Saturday

Ah, humbug…An unexpectedly sweet moment for Andy Barrow’s Scrooge in Oddsocks Productions’ A Christmas Carol

NO year can go by without jocund joshers Oddsocks Productions playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, not even a Covid-compromised year.

Sure enough, the madcap Derby company return on Saturday for 60 minutes of socially distanced, slapstick-heavy festive fun with their very fast-moving adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Make that 120 minutes because there will be two performances, the first at 3pm, the second at 7.30pm.

“Experience the ghostly tale of greed and comeuppance from the safety of your own table for up to six,” comes the Oddsocks invitation.

“Has Scrooge had his last humbug? Will he join the festive carollers and get some figgy pudding? Will Tiny Tim warm his stone-cold heart?” they ask.

Find out when Oddsocks serve up a Victorian feast of a family show in their own inimitable style using comedy, music and song.”

Oddsocks’ cracking crack at A Christmas Carol combines ghostly puppets from puppeteer Josh Elwell (CBeebies, Disney and The Jim Henson Company) with Oddsocks actor/director Andy Barrow as Scrooge and Joseph Maudsley (Ratty in Oddsocks’ The Wind In The Willows) as Bob Cratchit, also introducing Harrie Dobby to the Oddsocks family as Mrs Cratchit. 

Suitable for all from age seven upwards, A Christmas Carol will be performed without an interval but Humbug galore at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre. Tickets are on sale at: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/all-shows/a-christmas-carol/1327# or on 01904 501935.