AFTER a quiet start to 2023 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, the spring concert season begins to bloom in full in early March.
Before then, the NCEM’s community singing group meets for a Cuppa And A Chorus session on February 20 at 2pm, with further sessions to follow on March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19 and July 24.
“After the Covid lockdowns, we’re opening up for more members to join this popular chance to connect through singing,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.
I Can Play, the NCEM’s programme for sharing music-making opportunities with D/deaf children across York, continues this season at Milthorpe School, on February 25 and March 18, with support from the York children’s charity Lollipop.
“We started this programme several years ago, went online during Covid, and then moved to the York Music Centre, based at Millthorpe School, in September,” says Delma. “It’s lovely for the children to feel part of the broader activity there.”
The NCEM’s Family Friendly umbrella reopens for Leeds company Opera North’s Little Listeners performance of Mini Vixen on February 26 at 11.30am and 1.30pm.
Based on the music and story of Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen and led by a cast of professional opera singers and musicians, this musical adventure takes place in a mystical woodland where a Vixen meets a Fox. As their friendship grows, they discover how working together is vital to protect their home and the habitat around them.
Singing and movement is encouraged at this interactive, relaxed, fun concert, where Opera North invites you to “experience the magic of opera, storytelling and music, whatever your age”.
“For Opera North’s singers, Mini Vixen gives them an opportunity to work in very different circumstances and develop their professional skills,” says Delma.
What follows is an NCEM spring diary of “thought-provoking concerts, guaranteed to entertain, to intrigue and to make you smile,” says Delma.
First up will be multi-instrumentalists, composers and folk scholars The Rheingans Sisters on March 3. Nominated for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Peak District siblings Rowan and Anna play instruments made largely by their luthier father, Helmut Rheingans.
Further folk concerts will be performed by Leveret, the all-English trio of Sam Sweeney, fiddle, Andy Cutting, button accordion, and Rob Harbron, concertina, on March 15 and Firelight Trio, featuring Moishe’s Bagel accordion and piano player Phil Alexander, on March 29.
Leveret rely on mutual trust and musical interaction to create new settings of their repertoire in the moment, while Firelight Trio’s Alexander, Gavin Marwick (fiddle) and Ruth Morris (nyckelharpa) play European folk, from Swedish polkas to Scottish reels, French waltzes to klezmer, topped off with original tunes.
Make a note of two more folk gigs already booked for the autumn: Scottish fiddle quartet RANT (Bethany Reid, Anna Massie, Lauren MacColl and Gillian Frame) on September 21, and The Furrow Collective’s night of story-songs and seasonal carols, rearranged for December 5 (after last December’s visit had to be postponed).
Jazz bookings are led off by the piano-driven Andrew McCormack Trio’s Terra Firma concert with bassist Joe Downard and American drummer Rod Youngs on April 28.
The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project delivers jazz, heavy metal, Flamenco, Tango and Turkish-influenced music from Pete Oxley, Nicolas Meier, bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti on May 18.
The University of York Jazz Orchestra combines standards and new compositions, under the direction of the Roller Trio’s James Mainwaring on June 16. Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge and special guest Kit Holmes promise blues, folk, jazz and African grooves on June 18 at 6.30pm as part of the York Festival of Ideas.
On the international front, Armenian duduk player Arsen Petrosyan leads his quartet in Hokin Janapar: My Soul’s Journey, his March 10 return to the NCEM to play traditional, early, classical and sacred music from his homeland after a Making Tracks concert there four years ago.
Django Reinhardt’s grand-nephew, the gypsy swing, North African and Indian-inspired guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, from Germany, pairs up with folk, jazz and bossa nova guitarist Yulija Lonskaya on May 9 in his NCEM debut.
The Instituto Cervantes, National Centre for the Promotion of Music and NCEM link up for Beyond The Spanish Golden Age, Music Of The Spanish Enlightenment, two 7pm concerts backed by Inaem, the Spanish Ministry of Sport and Culture, with funding from the European Union’s Nextgeneration.eu fund.
Spanish early music ensemble La Galania perform 17th century works of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death with soprano Raquel Andueza on May 13; violinist Daniel Pinteno’s Concerto 1700 focus on 18th century string trios by Castle, Boccherini and Brunetti on May 14 in their York debut.
Grammy Award-winning Rajasthan slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays the NCEM for the first time, accompanied by table player Pandit Subhen Chatterjee, in Devine Moments on May 22. York Festival of Ideas welcomes American countertenor Reginald Mobley and French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon for a night of songs written by black composers such as HT Burleigh, Florence Price and J Rosamond Johnson, together with a reflection on the origins of Negro spirituals and slave songs, on June 13.
From 6.30pm to 7pm, Dr Matthew Williams, who runs the University of York’s black music programme, gives an illustrated talk on how Negro spirituals, a hymn to resilience and a symbol of hope and faith in humanity, influenced ragtime, barbershop, jazz, gospel, blues, rock techno and electronic music. After the concert, he hosts a Q&A session with Mobley and Trotignon.
The snappily attired Budapest Café Orchestra switch between gypsy and folk-flavoured music in their unconventional set of Balkan and Russian pieces, Romantic masterpieces and Gaelic folk anthems on June 22.
Further highlights include Frame Ensemble musicians Irine Rosnes, violin, Liz Hanks, violin, Trevor Bartlett, percussion, and Jonny Best, piano, accompanying the April 18 screening of the BFI digital restoration of Frank Hurley’s 1919 film, South (U): Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic.
Hurley photographed Shackleton’s 1914-1916 expedition to Antarctica aboard Endurance, during which the ship was crushed by ice, leaving the crew stranded. Unseen since it sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915, the wreck of Endurance was found at last in March 2022.
The University of York Baroque+ Day on May 7 features Consone Quartet with basset clarinet player Emily Worthington, performing works by Haydn, Stadler and Mozart at 12 noon.
Consone Quartet members and University of York students will be holding a free masterclass (booking required) at 2.30pm. The day ends with Lucy Russell and Rachel Gray directing the University Baroque Ensemble in Ah! Vienna – Vienna Before Mozart, featuring Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali and Fox pieces.
Improvising violinist Nina Kumin presents A Baroque Fantasy on May 14 at 10.30am, a free concert where she focuses on fantasy, from and freedom by letting the solo violin fantasias of Nicola Matteis take centre stage.
Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023 Final will be held on May 12 at 7pm, when the selection of new pieces written for The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble will be played.
In the second Family Friendly concert of 2023 for children aged five upwards, parents and carers, the London-based Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment performs a newly crafted version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by Hazel Gould, on April 1 at 10.30am.
In this fun-packed show, Kirsty is a bird and Tim is a bird catcher who needs to catch a new bird every day to take to the Queen. Kirsty wants to remain free, whereupon Tim is caught in a dilemma when the Queen sets them a series of challenges. Will music save the day?
During the York Festival of Ideas, the NCEM plays host to Claudio Kon Do Brasil, an introduction to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, run by Brazilian-born musician, percussionist and workshop leader Claudio Kron, who moved to Britain 30 years ago and now lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
“Guaranteed to keep you on your toes”, two sessions will be held on June 17: 10.30am to 12 noon for teenagers and adults; 2pm to 3.30pm for children aged seven upwards and their families.
All concerts at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, start at 7.30pm, unless stated otherwise. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.