Kate Rusby underneath the Christmas tree at York Barbican and headlining Underneath The Stars this weekend at Cinderhill Farm

Holly head: Kate Rusby At Christmas at York Barbican. Picture: David Lindsay

KATE Rusby At Christmas, the Barnsley folk nightingale’s alternative carol concert season with her folk band and The Brass Boys, is in York Barbican’s 2022 diary for December 18.

As ever, Kate will be rounding off her year with a Christmas tour full of warmth, sparkle, South Yorkshire carols, festive winter songs and the now obligatory fancy-dress finale.

Kate’s Christmas concerts draw on the 200-year-old tradition of carols being sung on Sunday lunchtimes in the crowded pubs of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire from late-November to New Year’s Day.

As a child, while her parents sang, Kate would sit in the corner, absorbing these songs as they were belted out, each one a variation on a familiar carol but frowned on by the church in Victorian times for being too happy.

Kate’s Christmas concerts are full of festive good cheer, humour and storytelling, each auditorium becoming the equivalent of her local pub or front room. Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk and ticketmaster.co.uk.

This week, Kate will be headlining the Saturday bill at Underneath The Stars, the folk, indie, Americana, ska, soul and world music festival she founded, at Cinderhill Farm, Cawthorne, near Barnsley.

Suzanne Vega: Sunday’s headline act at Underneath The Stars

The event runs from Friday to Sunday, featuring headliner Imelda May; This Is The Kit; Ripon singer-songwriter Billie Marten; Davina & The Vagabonds; Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys; The Trials Of Cato; N’famady Kouyaté and Stone Jets on the opening day.

Suzanne Vega: Sunday’s headline act at Underneath The Stars

Saturday’s acts will be Kate Rusby; The Big Moon; An Audience With Adrian Edmondson; Penguin Café; The Brighouse & Rastrick Band; The Haggis Horns; The Bar-Steward Sons Of Val Doonican; Will Varley; Kinnaris Quintet; Trousdale and Flatcap Carnival.

Sunday’s headline act, Suzanne Vega, will be preceded by An Audience With Jason Manford; The Young’uns; Lanterns On The Lake; Dustbowl Revival; Tankus The Henge; Hannah Williams & The Affirmations, Damien O’Kane & Ron Block; Intergalactic Brasstronauts; Azure Ryder and Iona Lane. For tickets, head to: underneaththestarsfest.co.uk/tickets/.

This year, 48-year-old Kate marked her 30th anniversary of performing concerts by releasing the album 30: Happy Returns in May on her own family-run Pure Records label.

It was in 1992 that she stood, “close to alimentary havoc”, at Holmfirth Festival clutching a red Guild guitar borrowed from family friend and playwright Willy Russell to play her first “proper gig” at 18.

Five minutes after she had finished that set and sworn “never again”, Alan Bearman booked her for Sidmouth Festival. Thank goodness for Alan!

She has since released 19 albums, netted a Mercury Music Prize nomination in 1999, received awards and two honorary doctorates and headlined at the Royal Albert Hall, Cambridge Folk Festival and internationally too. 

Kate’s music has been used in Ricky Gervais’s Afterlife (series three, Netflix); Ruth Jones’s Stella (Sky 1); the 2002 film Heartlands, starring Michael Sheen (Miramax) and throughout series one and two of Jennifer Saunders’ Jam And Jerusalem (BBC).

Kate Rusby: 30th anniversary of first proper gig at Holmfirth

“Music has taken me all over the world in those 30 years, where I’ve met the most incredible musicians and singers,” says Kate. “30: Happy Returns is a culmination of those years, the music, the singers, the laughs, the songs, the memories.

“Here I am joined by some of my all-time musical heroes, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Richard Hawley, KT Tunstall, Darlingside, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Sarah Jarosz, Damien O’Kane, Sam Kelly, not to mention the amazing lads in my band.

“I am in awe of their talent and generosity in sharing it and can safely say there are so many ‘dream come true’ moments on this album. By my very nature I’ve never been ambitious, so I am astounded, taking this retrospective look over the years, and feel so blessed to sing with these incredible artists. I am one very happy, happy girl!!” 

The 15 songs on 30: Happy Returns span the eight studio albums from Sleepless in 1999 to Philosophers, Poets & Kings in 2019, newly re-crafted by Kate and producer, band leader and husband Damien O’Kane in the aforementioned multitude of guest collaborations, led off by the South Yorkshire/South Africa union with Ladysmith Black Mambazo for We Will Sing.

Richard Hawley rehearsed No Names in the dark in a power cut; Darlingside turn Cruel into a call-and-response song with Kate; K T Tunstall and Kate bring a sisterly strut to Let Me Be.

The sun and the moon go for a coffee together in Kate and Damien’s Hunter Moon, then Beth Nielsen Chapman takes on Damien’s original vocal about embarking on life’s journey hand-in-hand with the right person in Walk The Road.

The CD edition offers a bonus track in Secret Keeper, the commission Kate recorded with the Royal Northern Sinfonia for the Great Exhibition of the North, held in Newcastle and Gateshead in Summer 2018.

REVIEW: Kate Rusby At Christmas, Harrogate Royal Hall, December 12

COVID crocked Barnsley skylark Kate Rusby’s 2020 carol concerts, replaced by the digital makeshift of a Happy Holly Day livestream from CAST, Doncaster.

Roll on a year, and relentless Scrooge Covid scuppered the first six shows of Kate Rusby At Christmas 2021, Kate herself having caught the lurgy.

Recovered, but still fighting off the last residue of a cough between songs, she was delighted to open the revised tour dates on Yorkshire soil at Harrogate Royal Hall, that icing cake of a beautiful concert hall, on Sunday night.

Christmas decorations interwoven with fairy lights framed the stage apron; Ruby, the decorated nodding reindeer, was in situ to Kate’s right, and everything else familiar to these shows in their 14th year was in place too: Kate’s sparkling party dress; her regular folk band and traditional partners in South Yorkshire Christmas sound, the Brass Boys, their instruments shining oh so brightly, Brass Boy Chris on crutches after a fall.  

Anything missing? Ah yes, the handmade garland normally wrapped around Kate’s microphone stand, ever since being thrown on stage by an enthusiastic woman in Sheffield one Christmas , but suddenly gone AWOL when Kate went looking for the Christmas stage decorations.

New for this year were the lighting projections, mirroring the snowy star design on the “unique” tour T-shirt: “unique”, said Kate, because the dates included the “ghost” shows never to be played (although the Sage show in Gateshead has been moved to from December 9 to 17). Depending on a song’s mood, the backdrop switched from warming red to moody blue to frosty white.

Where better to start than at the very beginning: the chipper opening to the first of five Rusby Christmas albums, Here We Come A-Wassailing, from 2008’s Sweet Bells: the perfect herald to Christmas celebrations, no matter the shroud of uncertainty now descending.

Kate would go on, as always, to explain the roots of these concerts, first prompted by the 200-year tradition of lusty Sunday lunchtime singing in South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pubs of carols banned in Victorian churches for being too jolly, 30 versions of While Shepherds Watched among them!

Through 14 years – or is it 15, as Kate and husband-musician Damien O’Kane debated? – her Christmas repertoire has expanded and broadened. Now it takes in her own winter compositions; carols and wassailing songs from Cornwall, where her cousin lives; festive favourites from the American songbook (Winter Wonderland) and curios (David Myles’s Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo and John Fox’s Hippo For Christmas), while Josh Clark’s percussion has added another dimension.

The diversity is well represented over the two sets, peppered with a costume change to full-length hippo for a Brass Boy; three variations on While Shepherds Watched; joyful carols aplenty; a set of “manly” reels and Christmas tunes with dazzling interplay between brass and folk players, led by O’Kane, and a smattering of Kate’s own “girly” songs.

Duncan Lyall has introduced the Moog – surely the sound of the moon if it made a sound – to Kate’s winter landscapes, wherein the traditional Paradise and Kate’s The Holly King resounded with mystery and magic as the hall seemed to ice over.

Let The Bells Ring, written by Kate after seeing in the New Year and the rise of dawn on a Cornish beach, had our thoughts turning to wishes for a better year ahead, her midnight voice so clear and solitary, mournful yet hopeful too.

Rusby At Christmas has built up its own traditions, topped off by the fancy-dress encore, initially inspired by Nativity plays. In 2019, the theme was the Christmas feast, Kate dressing as a Christmas pudding, the Brass Boys as Brussels sprouts. This time, for Sweet Bells and Yorkshire Merry Christmas, it was films watched every Christmas.

York Barbican awaits on Monday, so let’s keep those films and costumes hush-hush for now. Suffice to say, your reviewer is still smiling at the sight of Kate.

Kate Rusby At Christmas, York Barbican, December 20, 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Calling all ‘Holly Heads’! Hark, hark, here comes Barnsley skylark Kate Rusby’s Christmas concert at York Barbican

So, this is Christmas for Kate Rusby, South Yorkshire pub carol enthusiast and self-proclaimed Holly Head

KATE Rusby At Christmas is by now as much a winter tradition as mulled wine, mince pies and LadBaby at number one.

In its 14th year, or maybe 15th as Kate and husband musician Damien O’Kane debated at Harrogate Royal Hall on the opening night last Sunday, this celebration of carols banished from Victorian church services for being too jolly returns to York Barbican on Monday night.

Those carols – among them 30 versions of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night – have been sung lustily for 200 years at Sunday lunchtimes from late-November to New Year’s Day in the pubs of South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, and have made their way on to five Rusby Christmas folk albums, complemented by Kate’s own winter songs, Cornish carols, Christmas curios and festive favourites.

The tour’s first week was scuppered by Kate’s bout of Covid, but she recovered in time to pick up the sleigh-ride reins at Harrogate last weekend in the company of her regular band and the “Brass Boys”.

Mindful of saving Kate’s voice, Charles Hutchinson sent his questions by email.

How will the set list differ from your last live Christmas shows in 2019, Kate? Have you come across more old pub carols demanding inclusion?! 

“It’ll be quite similar actually, as my current Christmas album is Holly Head, which I released in 2019. So, the set is based around that album and we’ve rejigged the rest of the set list as there are now five Christmas albums, so quite a lot of older songs to go at!

“There’s always more pub carols reminding you to be included next time and another album is planned!”

Have you written any new winter songs since your Holly Head album? 

“I’ve been messing about with new songs, but nothing complete as yet. We’ve been concentrating on my new album to celebrate 30 years touring, so that’s taken most of our time over the last few months.”

Starry, starry night: Kate Rusby in a sparkly party dress at one of her Christmas concerts. Mike Ainscoe

What’s the set design for the 2021 Christmas show?

“We have a lot of twinkle and sparkle; we have the return of our giant crocheted snowflakes, which I adore. We haven’t used them in a few years, so I’m delighted to have them back on tour again.

“Oh, and our Ruby Reindeer will be joining us on stage of course! She deserves her own horse box as she’s toured with us for so long now.” 

Would you agree that Christmas concerts are needed more than ever after the silent darkness of last winter and beyond?

“Yes, completely! Any concerts, all the concerts!! We are social creatures; humans have been singing together since time began. It’s proven to release happy hormones in the brain when we sing, and even more so when we sing with others. It’s so lovely to hear people singing away with us.”

Monday at York Barbican closes the live tour. Will there be anything extra that night to mark the finale?

“Ooooh, who knows?! Things like that are a bit on the hoof with me. Depending on occurrences on tour…I’ll keep you posted!”

Where and when will your Jolly Holly Wrap livestream show be held?

“It will be live on the night from a secret location in South Yorkshire on Tuesday! It will be myself and the lads in the band. We wanted to do something for the people who are quite rightly still nervous about coming out to actual gigs, people who struggle to get out to gigs in normal times and people overseas who physically can’t join us.

“It’s such a strange time to tour and I want to include as many people as we can so no-one feels left out. We’ll be performing the songs live with fun and banter from 7pm. You can find the ticket info on my website, katerusby.com.

“We finish the gigs in York on December 20th, so I decided to add another show and we can have a wrap party whilst playing all the songs we love.” 

Kate Rusby, deep in the midwinter greenery for her Holly Head album artwork in 2019

You mention that you have been working on your new album. How is it progressing and when might it be released? 

“Yes, the aforementioned 30th anniversay album, called 30: Happy Returns. It’ll be released in April, just ahead of our 30 tour. Can’t wait! So excited about it all.

“We did an album at 10 years [called 10, naturally], 20 years [20], and 30 has come along all of a sudden! Each of those albums, we looked back at songs I’ve previously recorded and reimagined and re-recorded them, some with special guests.

“We’re doing the same with 30 and I have to say I’m bursting with excitement about the guests on 30; I can’t wait to reveal all.” 

You have adapted so well to lockdown times with concert livestreams and home recordings from “the front room”. Do you envisage this becoming a regular format as part of an artist’s repertoire?

“I’m guessing yes. I really loved the connection with our audience through lockdown; it seemed to bring us closer rather than apart.

“We did a series of little performances from our sitting room; I called them the ‘Singy Songy Sessions’, performing a different song each time. It was lovely hearing the stories from the people who saw them and what the songs meant to them. We plan to do more of them – and to keep streaming a Christmas gig of course.”  

And finally, Kate, are any of this year’s Christmas singles to your liking? Elton John and Ed Sheeran? Maybe Gary Barlow & Sheridan Smith? Or Abba? 


Kate Rusby At Christmas, York Barbican, December 20, 7.30pm. Please note, tickets bought for Kate’s postponed December 20 2020 concert remain valid. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the grand old dame is ready to frock’n’roll. List No 59, courtesy of The Pess, York

The boys and gal are back in town: AJ Powell, left, Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and Martin Barrass return to the pantomime stage in Dick Turpin Rides Again at their new home of the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison

DAME Berwick rides again, Adrian Mole surfaces, carol concerts abound and contrasting comedy cracks on, all demanding a place in Charles Hutchinson’s diary

Comeback of the week: Berwick Kaler and co in Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, December 11 to January 9

DAME Berwick Kaler last took to the pantomime stage in his 40th anniversary show, The Grand Old Dame Of York, on February 2 2019, having announced his retirement. Subsequently, he decided it was the “worst decision he had ever made”, a feeling only compounded by writing and co-directing Sleeping Beauty.

In the tradition of Clive Sullivan and Denis Law, he then switched to the other side in the same city, leaving York Theatre Royal to sign up with the Grand Opera House, along with panto teammates Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell.

Delayed by a year, Dame Berwick now resumes panto business at 75, writing, directing and starring in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Hannah King’s Dick Whittington is ready to stride out from York to London in Rowntree Players’ pantomime, Dick Whittington, from today

Community pantomime of the week: Rowntree Players in Dick Whittington, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today until December 11

ROWNTREE Players should have presented Dick Whittington last year, but director Howard Ella and co-writer Andy Welch have now dusted off their script written by satellite in lockdown, freshening it up for 2021.

Martyn Hunter returns to the Players’ panto ranks as King Rat, as does Bernie Calpin as Kit The Cat, joining Hannah King’s Dick Whittington, Graham Smith’s Dame Dora, Gemma McDonald’s Duncan, Marie-Louise Surgenor’s Ratatouille, Geoff Walker’s Alderman Fitzwarren and Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Native Harrow’s Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel will be airing songs from their fourth album, Closeness, at the Fulford Arms

American gig of the week in York: Native Harrow, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm 

PENNSYLVANIAN folk/rock duo Native Harrow are on the final leg of their tour travels showcasing their beautiful fourth album, Closeness.

Now re-located to Brighton, guitarist-singer Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms have a new single too, Do It Again, one of six songs recorded when they elected to return to the studio where they had made Closeness to continue living in that world, if only for a few more days. Box office: seetickets.com/event/native-harrow/the-fulford-arms/1471604.

The secret is out: Jack Hambleton will be one of two Adrian Moles in Pick Me Up Theatre’s musical premiere. Picture: Matthew Kitchen Photography

Musical premiere of the week in York: Pick Me Up Theatre in The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, The Musical, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to December 18

PICK Me Up Theatre are returning to the Theatre@41 Monkgate stage for the first time since Covid’s first lockdown curtailed Tom’s Midnight Garden in March 2020.

In a change from the initially announced SpongeBob The Musical, director Robert Readman has jumped at the chance to present the British amateur premiere of Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s musical version of Sue Townsend’s 1982 story of teenage diarist Adrian Mole. Ignore the official poster, there will be a 2pm Sunday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.  

Ryan’s laughter: Canada’s dry-humoured comic, Katherine Ryan, discusses life as a Missus at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Katherine Ryan, Missus, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm

CANADIAN comedian, writer, presenter and actress Katherine Ryan, 38, previously denounced partnerships but has since married her first love, accidentally.

A lot has changed for everyone, and now the London-based creator and star of Netflix series The Duchess and host of All That Glitters will be offering new perspectives on life, love and what it means to be Missus. Box office: yorkbarbicancentre.co.uk.

Ewa Salecka: Directing Prima Vocal Ensemble at Selby Abbey

Reunion of the week: Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band, Christmas Classics for Voices and Brass, Selby Abbey, December 11, 7.30pm

YORK choir Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band are uniting for a Christmas concert at Selby Abbey for the first time since 2018.

The choir will sing classical pieces by Morten Lauridsen, Gabriel Faure and John Rutter, while the band’s festive music will include Shepherd’s Song and Eric Bell’s Kingdom Triumphant.

Choir and band will join together for a finale of Gordon Langford’s joyous Christmas Fantasy. Tickets: on 07921 568826, from Selby Abbey or at primachoralartists.com.

York singer Steve Cassidy: Performing at the York Community Carol Concert at York Barbican

Welcome back: York Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, December 12, 2pm

YORK’S Community Carol Concert returns after last year’s Covid-enforced cancellation, with all the participants who missed out in 2020 taking up the invitation to take part in 2021.

In the Sunday afternoon line-up will be the Shepherd Group Concert Brass Band, Dringhouses Primary School Choir, Clifton Green Primary School Choir, Stamford Bridge Community Choir and York singer Steve Cassidy, hosted by the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson. Plenty of tickets are still available but online only at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Holly head: Kate Rusby, who coined that term for a Christmas tradition enthusiast, will be in festive mood in both Harrogate and York. Picture: David Lindsay

Carol concert with a difference: Kate Rusby At Christmas, Harrogate Royal Hall, December 12, and York Barbican, December 20, 7.30pm

BARNSLEY folk singer Kate Rusby, her regular band and “the brass boys” have created a Christmas tradition of their own, celebrating South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pub carols, punctuated by her own winter songs.

For more than 200 years, from late-November to New Year’s Day, these carols have been sung on Sunday lunchtimes in pubs, having been frowned on in Victorian times for being too happy. Not for the first time, the Victorians were wrong. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or at harrogatetheatre.co.uk; York, yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Nothing to smile about? Jimmy Carr takes a Terribly Funny turn for a third time in York

Looking ahead to a “terrible” 2022: Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, York Barbican, April 15, doors, 7pm

CYNICAL comedian Jimmy Carr will complete a hattrick of York performances of his Terribly Funny tour show next spring.

After playing sold-out gigs at York Barbican on November 4 and the Grand Opera House five nights later, he will return to the Barbican on April 15 with the promise of “all-new material for 2022”.

Carr will be discussing terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. “But they’re just jokes,” he says. “Political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk

Kate Rusby to stream Hand Me Down lockdown covers concert tonight at 7.30pm

Kate Rusby: Hand Me Down concert will be streamed from Cast, Doncaster, tonight

FOR the first time, tonight Barnsley folk singer Kate Rusby will perform her lockdown covers’ album, Hand Me Down, in full on stage in a worldwide stream at 7.30pm BST.

Released on her Pure Records label on August 14 last summer after recording sessions with husband musician Damien O’Kane, the collection of her favourite songs brought Kate, 47, her highest-charting album to date.

Bar the odd part recorded remotely by a band member, Hand Me Down was made by Kate and Damien when dividing days between home studio and home schooling their daughters.

Tonight will be the first chance to hear the likes of Manic Monday, Friday I’m In Love, Shake It Off and Three Little Birds performed live by Kate and her regular band in a two-hour concert including an interval.

Kate Rusby with daughters Daisy and Phoebe making the Singy Songy Sessions home video recording of Manic Monday during Lockdown 1

Hand Me Down debuted at number 12 in the Official Album Charts – number three in the CD album chart and number four in the independent release chart – and a vinyl version followed on January 15.

Tickets are available at live.katerusby.com, from where Kate’s globally streamed concert will be available on demand until May 22, a date that would have been the last day of her cancelled spring tour.

As with her streamed Christmas concert, Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12 last year, the location for tonight’s recording will be Cast in Doncaster.

To watch a trailer, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=7v7Ag1y­_OcM

The covers’ cover: Kate Rusby’s album artwork for Hand Me Down

Hand Me Down’s track listing:

  1. Manic Monday (written by Prince; a hit for The Bangles in 1986)
  2. Everglow (Coldplay)
  3. Days (The Kinks, covered by Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello)
  4. If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
  5. Maybe Tomorrow (from The Littlest Hobo, a Canadian TV series, performed by Terry Bush)
  6. The Show (theme song for TV series Connie, written by Willy Russell, performed by Rebecca Storm)
  7. Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
  8. True Colours (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly; a hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1986 )
  9. Carolina On My Mind (James Taylor)
  10. Love Of The Common People (written by written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkinsa hit for Paul Young in 1983)
  11. Friday I’m In Love (The Cure) 
  12. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) 

Kate Rusby releases vinyl version of lockdown covers album Hand Me Down

The vinyl front ‘ere: Kate Rusby shows off the cover and orange discs for Hand Me Down

BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby is to release her 2020 lockdown covers album, Hand Me Down, on vinyl tomorrow (22/1/2021) on her Pure Records label.

“Ooooooh it looks so beautiful,” says Kate on Instagram. “Gatefold, 180g double translucent orange discs. Very pretty! Sooo excited.”

Available in a limited edition at https://purerecords.net/collections/kate-rusby-vinyls, Hand Me Down had its roots in Kate’s rendition of Oasis’s Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show.

That wistful ballad later featured on her 2019 studio album, Philosophers, Poets And Kings, and became a concert favourite, whereupon a return visit to Whiley’s studio elicited a mournful reading of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love, now one of the stand-outs on Hand Me Down.

Kate and her guitar and banjo-playing producer-husband, Damien O’Kane, set about completing an album of covers in Lockdown 1, recorded in their Penistone home studio. “As a folk singer, it’s what I do: reinterpret existing songs,” says Rusby. “The only difference is that usually the songs are much older.”

Some were chosen from childhood or teenage memories (The Kinks’ Days, but from Kirsty MacColl’s sublime version; Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours), two much-covered songs you might have predicted, rather more than Maybe Tomorrow (The Littlest Hobo theme song) or The Show, from family friend Willy Russell’s musical Connie.

The artwork for Kate Rusby’s live Christmas album, Happy Holly Day

Covering a song is as much about what you uncover as you cover, prime examples here being Coldplay’s Everglow, Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and in particular “role model to her children” Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, newly revelling in O’Kane’s swing-time banjo.

Nothing evokes lockdown more than the opening Manic Monday, Prince’s song for Kate’s teen favourites The Bangles, slowed and turned to acoustic melancholia for not-so-manic days of longing at home, away from the city buzz. Add South Yorkshire vowels, and who can resist.

The album closes with a ray of perennial summer sunshine, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, as Hand Me Down becomes balm for fretful, fearful pandemic days. “I’ve always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness,” says Kate. “I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s always been part of my genetic make-up.”

A second winter release from Pure Records is Happy Holly Day, a live CD recording of Kate’s online Christmas concert of South Yorkshire pub carols and winter songs, streamed from Cast, Doncaster, on December 12.

That night, Kate’s folk band assembled for the first time since the March lockdown, joined by her “Brass Boys”, spread across a socially distanced stage shared with the Ruby, the fairy-lit reindeer.

As always with Kate Rusby At Christmas concerts, the two sets were followed by an encore in fancy dress, Kate in a halo and angel wings, recovered from her attic from the 2017 album cover photo-shoot for Angels And Men, as she sang Sweet Bells and Yorkshire Merry Christmas alongside Damien in Virgin Mary mode.

Kate Rusby invites you to stay home for online Christmas concert Happy Holly Day

Kate Rusby At Christmas…now Kate Rusby At Christmas At Home for Saturday’s streamed concert, Happy Holly Day. Picture: David LIndsay

KATE Rusby At Christmas, her annual folk-spun South Yorkshire carol-singing service with fairy lights, Ruby the Reindeer, guest Brass Boys and a fancy-dress finale, will not be celebrated at York Barbican on December 20, ruled out by the Covid Grinch.

This rotten year, however, the Barnsley voice of Christmas past, present and yet to come is still determined to bring the joy of her usual Christmas tour to the comfort of tree-lit homes with the special delivery of a full-length concert, streamed worldwide on Saturday (12/12/2020) at 7.30pm GMT.

“Everyone will have a front row seat for Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day,” promises Kate, who has been counting down to her festive stream with a Who’s Behind The Window Today? teaser on a daily virtual Advent Calendar video with musician-husband Damien O’Kane since December 1. In a roasted chesnutshell, tickets are available now at katerusby.com.  

In August, Kate achieved her highest-charting album to date with Hand Me Down, her Lockdown 1-recorded recorded collection of cover versions, from Manic Monday and Friday I’m In Love to Shake It Off and Three Little Birds, all newly embossed with the Rusby folk alchemy.

Debuting in the Official Album Charts at number 12 – number three in the CD album chart and number four in the Independent release chart – Hand Me Down will have a second life on vinyl from January 15 2021. Pre-orders can be made at:  https://purerecords.net/collections/kate-rusby-vinyls

The suitably festive poster for Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day

Come Saturday night, this incurable Christmas reveller, Kate the Holly Head, will cherry pick from her five Yuletide albums, Sweet Bells, While Mortals Sleep, The Frost Is All Over, Angels And Men and last year’s Holly Head, with their double act of Victorian tut-tutted South Yorkshire carols and Rusby winter originals. 

For more than 200 years, from late-November to New Year’s Day, South Yorkshire and North Debyshire communities would congregate on Sunday lunchtimes, in their local public house, to belt out their own versions of familiar carols, an act of appropriation frowned upon by the church in Victorian times for being “too happy”.

Such happiness, nevertheless, will be encouraged to the brim this weekend on Kate’s night of virtual wassailing. For a video trailer of Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myM2ieabVlU

Looking ahead, Kate’s cancelled 2020 York carol concert must now do Covid-enforced cold turkey for a year, re-scheduled for Sunday, December 19 2021. Tickets already bought will transfer to the new date.

If you listen to only one folk album in Lockdown 2 days ahead, make it…

“As a folk singer, it’s what I do: reinterpret existing songs,” says Kate Rusby, after recording an album of covers

Kate Rusby, Hand Me Down (Pure Records) ****

SUDDENLY, 2020 has brought a spurt of cover-version albums.

Throwing Muses’ Tanya Donnelly in tandem with fellow New Englanders The Parkington Sisters, for one. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings’ All The Good Times, for another. Molly Tuttle’s quarantine collection, …But I’d Rather Be With You, for a third.

On November 13, Marika Harkman will release Covers, her collection of “songs she is obsessed with”, while Lambchop will uncover Trip. Meanwhile, mask-dismissing Noel Gallagher wants to make an album of Burt Bacharach and The Smiths covers…definitely, maybe, wait and see, after a career of paying tribute to The Beatles and Slade in Oasis and beyond.

Most successful in the UK charts has been Kate Rusby’s home-made delight, Hand Me Down, peaking at number 12, the highest placing of her 25-year career at the forefront of folk.

Folk musicians have always handed songs down the generations, blowing the dust off the songbooks of yore to revive past works, but you would not call those restorations ‘covers’, whether in the work of Sam Lee or indeed Rusby.

In 2011, North Easterners The Unthanks reinterpreted the left-field songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons on Diversions Vol 1, but folk loyalist Rusby has gone to the heart of pop, rock, even reggae, for her Lockdown DIY recordings.

This is not as radical a step as you might first think, and nor is it a novelty. Barnsley nightingale Kate covered The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society for the theme tune to Jennifer Saunders’ Jam & Jerusalem sitcom and duetted with Ronan Keating on the 2006 top ten hit All Over Again.

After performing Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show, Kate’s wistful ballad take on Oasis featured on last year’s Philosophers, Poets And Kings and became a concert favourite. A return visit to Whiley’s studio elicited a mournful reading of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love, now one of the stand-outs on Hand Me Down.

“As a folk singer, it’s what I do: reinterpret existing songs,” explains Rusby. “The only difference is that usually the songs are much older.”

Not only very old songs are handed down through the generations, however, so too are favourite songs of any age, of any generation, she says. “Songs are precious for many different reasons.”

The album artwork for Kate Rusby’s Hand Me Down

Those reasons are outlined in Rusby’s detailed sleeve notes to her intimate home studio recordings with guitar and banjo-playing producer-husband Damien O’Kane and daughters Daisy Delia and Phoebe Summer on sporadic backing vocals in between home-schooling sessions.

Some are chosen from childhood or teenage memories (The Kinks’ Days, but from Kirsty MacColl’s sublime version; Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours), two much-covered songs you might have predicted, rather more than Maybe Tomorrow (The Littlest Hobo theme song) or The Show, from family friend Willy Russell’s musical Connie.

Covering a song is as much about what you uncover as you cover, prime examples here being Coldplay’s Everglow, Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and in particular “role model to her children” Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, newly revelling in O’Kane’s swing-time banjo.

Nothing evokes Lockdown more than the opening Manic Monday, Prince’s song for Kate’s teen favourites The Bangles, slowed and turned to acoustic melancholia for not-so-manic days of longing at home, away from the city buzz. Add South Yorkshire vowels, and who can resist.

Covers albums have an erratic history, more often a dangerous minefield rather than an orchard full of fruit ripe for picking. Kate joins the latter list, ending with a ray of perennial summer sunshine, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, as Hand Me Down becomes balm for fretful, fearful pandemic times.

“I’ve always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s always been part of my genetic make-up.”

Kate, it is a blessing, “singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true,” as Marley put it.

Win signed copies of Kate Rusby’s Hand Me Down

COURTESY of Kate Rusby and Pure Records, CharlesHutchPress has five Hand Me Down CDs, signed by Kate, to be won.

Question: Who wrote Manic Monday, the opening track on Hand Me Down?

Send your answer with your name and address to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com by November 18.

No old folk as Kate Rusby covers up in lockdown for home-made Hand Me Down

“As a folk singer, it’s what I do, re-interpret existing songs, but usually the songs are much, much older,” says Kate Rusby of her new album Hand Me Down

AFTER covering Oasis’s Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show five years ago, the thought of doing more contemporary covers did not go away for Barnsley folk singer Kate Rusby.

On her second visit to Jo’s studio, Kate picked The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love for the cover treatment.

The lonesome, pining Don’t Go Away found its way on to Kate’s 2019 album, Philosophers, Poets and Kings, and now Friday I’m In Love is one of three digital singles – along with the wistful, wishful stand-out Manic Monday and a banjo-powered Shake It Off – at the heart of Hand Me Down, her album of a dozen covers out this week. 

“As a folk singer, it’s what I do, re-interpret existing songs, but usually the songs are much, much older,” says Kate, 46. “After playing Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s show, it dawned on me that not just the very old songs are handed down through the generations, but also favourite songs of any age, of any generation. Songs are precious for many different reasons.”

Started before but completed during lockdown isolation, the recordings with musician and producer husband Damien O’Kane have, in Kate’s words, a home-made feel. “That is how a ‘lockdown’ album should sound, I suppose,” she says. “We could only use what we had to hand – it just so happens I have a very talented multi-instrumentalist husband, yey!

“So, bar the odd part from a band member recorded remotely, it’s all myself and Damien, but that was actually our plan all along.”

The artwork for Kate Rusby’s album of cover versions, Hand Me Down

Hand Me Down emerges this summer as balm for these pandemic times. “Just forget the world for a moment and let the music in,” says Kate. “Music is such a powerful potion, it can’t heal the world but it can heal the heart, even for a fleeting moment.”

Here Charles Hutchinson has everything covered in a series of questions for Kate on recording Hand Me Down; the art of the covers album, making Singy Songy Sessions home videos; life in lockdown and home-schooling her daughters.

Was this album already in the pipeline or did lockdown and the Covid-19 scenario prompt you into recording it now, Kate?

“We had already started the album in February. In fact, I’ve been working on it since January, as it was very much our plan anyway. It was the plan since about two years ago!

“It’s a very bizarre world is the music world; plans and plots have to be sorted so far in advance, which does mean that sometimes I have no idea what year it is!!

“I’ve wanted to do this album for about five years, ever since we first went to do the BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley Show.

“On Jo’s show, everyone plays a live song of their own and then also a cover of another artist. We had a list of about 300 options but we chose Don’t Go Away by Oasis.”

Not just another Manic Monday: Kate Rusby recording her Singy Songy Sessions home video for Manic Monday with daughters Daisy Delia and Phoebe Summer

How come that particular song, as featured on your studio album Philosophers, Poets And Kings last year, was the one that made you think, “Right…let’s do a whole album of covers”?

“I’ve covered a lot of other artists’ songs over the years, but I think with Don’t Go Away it was the first time we’d done such a well-known song.

“We were on tour at the time and we had enjoyed playing it on Jo’s show so much that we wondered how it would fair if dropped in the set list amongst all the other more folkie songs.

“It worked perfectly and, what’s more, when we introduced the song there was a lovely buzz of nostalgia and recognition of the song before we played it. It was then I thought, ‘ooooh it’d be so lovely to do a whole album of songs like this’, so the plan was formed in my mind then.”

Covers albums have an erratic history: the highs of John Lennon’s Rock’n’Roll, Johnny Cash with Rick Rubin more than once, and Tori Amos’s female re-interpretation of songs written and sung by men, Strange Little Girls, but the lows of Duran Duran’s Thank You, Kevin Rowland’s My Beauty and Simple Minds’ Neon Lights!

Is it a dangerous minefield to tread through or can it be an orchard full of fruit ripe for picking?

“She said she’d watched the video and loved it, it had made her day and made her cry! ” says Kate Rusby, recalling the reaction of The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs to Manic Monday

“Well, I think it’s a bit of both in equal measure! So many fabulous songs to choose from but then a lot of pressure to not upset too many people along the way. There are the fans of the original songs who may well hate someone attempting to re-interpret a song, but then also, and more importantly I think, there is a chance the original artist may hear it! Eeek!!

“This actually happened with Susanna Hoffs (original actual lead Bangle!) when we released Manic Monday as a single back in May. We made a homemade video to go along with it and it filtered its way along the tendrils of Twitter and she sent me a lovely message.

“Oh my word, I nearly fell of my chair when I saw it. An actual Bangle! She said she’d watched the video and loved it, it had made her day and made her cry! I wish I could go back in time and tell my 12-year-old self an actual Bangle would write to me one day. So, yey, that was a happy outcome. But I do feel the pressure of hoping people like our interpretations.”

Do you have a favourite covers’ album. If so, which one and why?

“I do, I can’t quite recall the name but it’s an album of covers in a Bossa Nova style! It’s so perfect for a party, there’s covers of Coldplay and all sorts of stuff on there, I know it doesn’t sound like it’ll work on paper, but trust me, it’s lovely!!”

Editor’s thought: Bossa Nova covers? Could Kate be referring to cult French covers combo Nouvelle Vague?

“Folk singers instinctively get deep into the lyrics and that becomes the key thing when we start working on a song,” says Kate

You have a long history of re-interpreting the folk songbooks of old, often with new tunes, or new words, but how does a folk singer doing pop and rock songs differ from rock artists? Do you bring something different to it; maybe the interpretation of the lyrics, so crucial to folk songs?

“Absolutely, I think folk singers instinctively get deep into the lyrics and that becomes the key thing when we start working on a song. Folk music is all about telling the story, communicating the emotion.

“That’s actually been one of the great things about working on these songs; I realised how many words I’d got wrong listening in my youth! It was fab to get right inside the song and rework them from the inside out.” 

How did you go about choosing the songs?  Did you discuss it with husband Damien and maybe even those two young Manic Monday backing singers from the Rusby household, daughters Daisy Delia, ten, and Phoebe Summer, eight? 

“I kind of whittled the original 300 down to about 40, then kept circling them for a couple of weeks. Then ultimately I had to choose which 12 would complement each as a collection on a CD.

“I also had to choose which songs would suit the way I sing, and also which songs we felt we had good ideas for to make them completely different to the original. So, there were a few different factors, but mostly it was down to me to choose.”

Kate Rusby, Damien O’Kane and daughters Phoebe Summer and Daisy Delia in a still from the Manic Monday home video

Some of your song choices have been re-interpreted more than once before, The Kinks’ Days and True Colours, for example, but Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and Coldplay’s Everglow, not so.

Others have had a “definitive” re-boot (The Bangles’ take on Prince’s Manic Monday; Paul Young’s Love Of The Common People; arguably Ryan Adams’ shake-down of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off).

Galaxie 500’s Dean & Britta glided through Friday I’m In Love on an obscure Cure covers’ set, Just Like Heaven. Overall, it looks like you just went with your own instincts on what would make a good cover…Discuss…

“Yes, I mostly just went with my instincts and also chose the songs that I have a connection with, either from my childhood or more recently, like the Coldplay cover and Taylor Swift cover. So, it’s an album of covers that are all relevant to me.

“The songs that have been covered a few times before only went on there if we had ideas to make them totally different with what’s gone before, ‘cos they’re still fabulous songs, no matter how many times they have been covered.

“In the not-so-distant past that was the way the music industry would work: a bobby dazzler song would appear out of the writing factories, then someone like Ella Fitzgerald would sing it, then other artists of the same calibre would all sing it too, because it was a great song. It’s only more recently it’s become a bit less fashionable.”

“I have always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness,” says Kate. Picture: Lieve Boussauw

Which cover version you did surprised you the most…and do you have a favourite?

“Oh no, I can’t choose!! That’s like having a favourite child! I think the one that surprised me the most was Manic Monday, we had that one finished early on and we were sat listening to it and I said to Damien, ‘We should release it digitally now cos I think it’ll cheer people up!’.

“It was early May and as a nation we were all so fretful and fearful. I have always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s always been part of my genetic make-up.

“Anyway, we released it, and the response was unbelievable!! So many kind, warm, gorgeous messages, and it was even picked up by BBC Radio 2 and ended up climbing up the playlist, up to the A-List no less. The response it got us completely by surprise. There were tears!”

What drew you to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds to be the album’s closing song?

“Aw, a little bit of sunshine from Bob Marley is never wasted. It was a given we had that song on the album because on Mothers’ Day this year, which fell days before lockdown, me and my girls made cardboard beaks and wings and fab husband Damien brought his guitar.

“We knocked on my mum’s door, left her a bunch of flowers from our garden, stepped back and we all sung this to my parents. Since that day, and all the way through lockdown, every morning in our house has started with Bob singing that song, Bob has filled our house with sunshine every morning. And you know what, I fully believe him, it might take a while but ‘every little thing IS gonna be alright’.”   

The Cure’s Friday In Love, as covered by Kate Rusby on Hand Me Down

Many a slow cover for a John Lewis Christmas advert has risen to the chart summit. Why does slowing down a familiar song have such an impact, time after time?  

“Yes, it’s a funny one isn’t it? The songs are generally also stripped back – perhaps it’s that that resonates with people? The fact you can take in the lyrics easier makes it more emotive.”

 How did the Coronavirus lockdown have an impact on recording Hand Me Down?

“As I mentioned earlier, I’d been working on the album since January, and me and Damien started working on the songs together in February, then started recording at the end of February.

“Then, of course, lockdown happened mid-March. Luckily for us we have our own studio with no-one else there, so we could carry on mostly as normal, Damien plays most instruments and also engineers and produces, so we just got on with it.

“I think lockdown did alter slightly the way we approached the recordings, as usually we would have the rest of the lads from my band in, one by one, and work on the parts with them to build each track, but none of that was possible this time due to Covid.

“So, almost everything on there has been played/generated by Damien. Then we sent tracks up to our bass player, Duncan Lyall, who played Moog (a retro synth-type keyboard) for us in his own studio, then sent them back.

Manic motion: Kate Rusby on the move in the Manic Monday home video

“Our usual engineer, Josh Clarke, has his own studio, so when we were finished, we sent them all down to him, he mixed them, and then we sent them on to band member Nick Cooke, who has his own mastering studio, so he mastered the album. I’ve been very lucky to have all that to hand, really.”

How did the Singy Songy Sessions in lockdown come about? These impromptu videos of you and Damien performing at home have been a big hit online and a comfort too…

“Again, it goes back to that in-built desire to cheer people up! So, I decided to set up a corner of our sitting room and send a song out each week. ‘Singy Songy Sessions’ came out of my mouth before I knew it on the first one we did; the name just stuck!

“So, we have done 20 of those so far over 19 weeks. We’re having a little break from them as we’re taking our girls camping, but hopefully we’ll be back at them, especially if there are no gigs for a while to come.”

Your Underneath The Stars Festival turned into virtual event this summer? How did it go?

“Aw, it was so lovely. The feedback from the two festival directors, Pete Sharman and my big sister, Emma Holling, was fabulous. Lots of people engaged with the day of activities.

“Myself and best friend Sally Smith did a live pub quiz from down at the festival site; myself and Damien did a song for the end. It was rounded off with the BBC Radio 2 Virtual Folk Festival, so it was a gorgeous day of people coming together to celebrate festivals.”

“It’s been very precious to spend so much time as a family; we have loved it,” says Kate of life in lockdown

What are the good things you have learnt in lockdown? How has the home-schooling gone for Daisy and Phoebe?

“We’ve learnt how to make videos! Oh, what fun we’ve had! Damien is amazing now at editing them all up; he’s really enjoying it. 

“The home-schooling was OK actually. I’m not a natural maths teacher, let’s say, but fortunately my big sister is a qualified maths teacher and maths genius, so there were a few times she helped out on the old FaceTime chat thingy.

“We just bought a few National Curriculum books and got on with it. It was slightly tricky on the days we were at the studio, home-schooling with the left foot whilst pushing packed lunches to them with the other, whilst the head was concentrating on the recording, but we all adapted and found our flow with it.

“Everyone has had to adjust, haven’t they? It’s also been very precious to spend so much time as a family; we have loved it. The girls even sang on two tracks as well; it’s been a very special family time.”

What did you miss most in lockdown?

“Hugs from my family. Aw, and Mallorca! We’ve been lucky enough to have had a family holiday there every year since our oldest, Daisy, was born. It’s not even just the actual being there, it’s also having the build-up, the excitement and that lovely warm light at the end of a very busy and, recently, emotional tunnel! That bit I’ve missed. I’ve deffo missed the hugs more though!”

Christmas sparkle: Kate Rusby at Christmas…booked for York Barbican on December 20. Picture: Mike Ainscoe

It is too early to predict, but if the Kate Rusby At Christmas concerts can go ahead, how will you feel to be performing once more?

“Well, due to the Singy Songy Sessions, we have felt like we’ve kept on performing despite no gigs. It’s been lovely to keep that connection with our audiences. It will be totally brilliant to play with our band again though. We’re planning a couple of live streamed concerts, so that’s going to be just fab to see everyone again.” 

Kate Rusby’s new album Hand Me Down is out this week on Pure Records on CD and digital formats; a vinyl version will follow in November.

Kate Rusby At Christmas is booked into York Barbican for December 20, 7.30pm. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Track listing for Hand Me Down

  1. Manic Monday (written by Prince; a hit for The Bangles in 1986)
  2. Everglow (Coldplay)
  3. Days (The Kinks, covered by Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello)
  4. If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
  5. Maybe Tomorrow (from The Littlest Hobo, a Canadian TV series, performed by Terry Bush)
  6. The Show (theme song for TV series Connie, written by Willy Russell, performed by Rebecca Storm)
  7. Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
  8. True Colours (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly; a hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1986 )
  9. Carolina On My Mind (James Taylor)
  10. Love Of The Common People (written by written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins; a hit for Paul Young in 1983)
  11. Friday I’m In Love (The Cure) 
  12. Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) 

More Things To Do out and about, indoors, in and around York, and back home, courtesy of The Press, York. List No. 12

Good to be back: Musician Phil Grainger and writer Alexander Flanagan-Wright in Alex’s back garden at Stillington Mill for their At The Mill week of shows. Now they will pop down to the Pop-Up On The Patio festival.
Picture: Charlotte Graham

MUSEUMS, galleries and cinemas are welcoming you in, but in the summertime, when the weather is surprisingly fine, now is the chance to capitalise on the great outdoors, from pop-up patio shows to musical theatre in an amphitheatre.

In the interests of balance, Charles Hutchinson’s recommendations also take in a new exhibition indoors and a night in that drags on and on…in spectacular vocal and visual fashion.

Balloons, magic, jokes: Josh Benson in his Just Josh show for Pop-Up On The Patio at York Theatre Royal

Outdoors entertainment number one: Pop-Up On The Patio, at York Theatre Royal, August 14 to 29

TAKING part in a Covid-secure summer season of outdoor performances, on a terrace stage designed by Yorkshire theatre designer Hannah Sibai, will be “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers”.

Step forward York Dance Space’s Dance//Shorts; Mud Pie Arts; Story Craft Theatre for Crafty Tales; Paul Birch’s Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre in Orpheus and Eurydice and puppeteer Freddie Hayes in Fred’s Microbrewery.

Look out, too, for Cosmic Collective Theatre in the cult show Heaven’s Gate; York performance poet Henry Raby in Apps & Austerity; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”; magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson in Just Josh and pop, soul and blues singer Jess Gardham.

One hat, one coat, one monologue: Chris Hannon in rehearsal for Park Bench Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s First Love at Rowntree Park, York. Picture: Northedge Photography

Theatre in a summer’s garden: Engine House Theatre’s Park Bench Theatre, Friends Garden, Rowntree Park, York, until September 5

ROLL up, roll up, for Samuel Beckett’s rarely performed monologue, First Love, artistic director Matt Aston’s new play, Every Time A Bell Rings, and a family show inspired by a classic song, Teddy Bears’ Picnic.

Each production is presented in Covid-secure, carefully laid out and spacious gardens, allowing audience members to keep socially distanced from each other. Chris Hannon performs the Beckett piece; Lisa Howard, the play premiere; Aston’s co-creator, Cassie Vallance, the new children’s show.

Headphones or earphones will be required to hear the dialogue, sound effects and music in performances. All audience members will be given a receiver on entry; takeaway headphones cost £1 when booking a ticket online. Bring blankets or chairs.

Richard Upton as Stacee Jaxx in York Stage Musicals’ Rock Of Ages: Now he will be rocking up at Rowntree Park. Picture: Robin May

Musical celebration of the month: York Stage at Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, York, August 23 to 25

YORK Stage are bringing musical theatre back to life this summer with their first ever outdoor show, taking over the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre for three nights.

Songs from Grease, Hairspray, Cats, Cabaret, The Greatest Showman, West Side Story and many more will be sung by Emily Ramsden, Ashley Standland, May Tether, Joanna Theaker and Richard Upton under the musical direction of Jessica Douglas.

“We wanted to keep it light, with singers of great quality and a band of great quality performing songs we all know so well, presented as a concert rather than as a staged performance, so it’s very much about the music,” says producer and director Nik Briggs.

Out on the moors: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival artistic director, founder and cellist Jamie Walton.
Picture: Paul Ingram

Outdoor festival of the month: North York Moors Chamber Music Festival, Welburn Abbey, Ryedale, until August 22

AN evolution as a much as a Revolution, the 2020 North York Moors Chamber Music Festival has swapped the indoors for the outdoors, now taking place in an open marquee sited in the grounds of Welburn Abbey, Welburn Manor Farms (YO62 7HH), between Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside, in Ryedale.

For its theme of Revolution! in the festival’s 12th year of celebrating chamber works, the focus is on and around the music of Beethoven – the “revolutionary” – and beyond to mark the 250th anniversary of the German composer’s birth in Bonn.

Full details can be found at northyorkmoorsfestival.com. Season tickets have sold out, but do check if tickets remain available for individual concerts on 07722 038990.

Under the spell of the fell: North Eastern artist Jill Campbell, inspired by her walks on Cockfield Fell

York exhibition of the week: Jill Campbell, Featured Artist, Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, until September 19

BLUE Tree Gallery, York, is marking the opening of North Eastern artist Jill Campbell’s exhibition of intuitive and soulful landscape paintings by introducing temporary new opening hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11am to 4pm.

“Most of my work is based on an ancient mining landscape called Cockfield Fell, where I walk nearly every day,” says Jill. “I use elements of what I see and combine these with my imagination to create my paintings.

“I’m fascinated by the fell’s strange, other worldly, abstract shapes defined by the morning shadows and framed by big dramatic skies. Its pools, pathways, mounds, dips and curves are my motifs.”

Showtime, darlings: Velma Celli in a late-summer night’s stream

Drag show of the week: Velma Celli in A Night  At The Musicals, tomorrow, 8pm

YORK drag diva supreme Velma Celli has embraced the world of the live stream through lockdown and beyond.

Velma’s satellite nights from her Bishopthorpe kitchen started in quarantine, back home in York after her Australian travels, and now she has vowed to keep these glamorous, if remote, gatherings going.

“I’m thrilled to be doing another live streamed show on August 14,” says Velma, the exotic cabaret creation of Ian Stroughair. “As venues are now closing up again in London, I will be doing more of these again! Bring on the fun! Watch out for news of special guests.”

For tickets for the live stream from Case de Velma Celli, go to: ticketweb.uk/event/velma-cellis-a-live-stream-tickets/. Tickets come off sale at 5pm tomorrow (14/08/2020); the stream link arrives via email just after 5pm for the 8pm start.

Marilyn (2009/2011, by Joana Vasconcelos: Iconic oversized silver stilettos made from stainless-steel saucepans, on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Trip out of the week: Joana Vasconcelos, Beyond, Underground Gallery and open air, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, on show until January 3 2021

PORTUGUESE artist Joana Vasconcelos creates vibrant, often monumental sculpture, using fabric, needlework and crochet alongside everyday objects, from saucepans to wheel hubs.

She frequently uses items associated with domestic work and craft to comment from a feminist perspective on national and collective identity, cultural tradition and women’s roles in society.

Crack pot: Your host standing betwixt a crockery tree sculpture at the Himalayan Gardens at Grewelthorpe. Picture: Celestine Dubruel

And what about…

LIGHTS out, sit back and enjoy the big-screen experience anew at City Screen, York, and Cineworld, York, now with masks compulsory.

Discovering Barnsley folk siren Kate Rusby’s new album of unexpected cover versions, from Manic Monday to Friday I’m In Love to Shake It Off, out tomorrow.

Walking among the flowers and sculptures at the Himalayan Gardens, Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, a gem of design all round.