Beverley & East Riding Early Musical Festival: Who is taking part in concerts, workshops and talks from May 24 to 26?

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

THE 2024 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival opens on Friday with a 7.30pm concert by rising stars El Gran Teatro del Mundo, sponsored by the Embassy of Spain.

Based in Spain, this young instrumental group captivated audiences on their British tour last year and will be visiting Beverley for the first time to perform Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church.

Undertaking a magical musical journey through the night, these specialists in French music from the time of the Sun King bring to life the operas of the Grand Siècle with instrumental interpretations of scenes where darkness will be the best ally of love and sleep, death’s best friend.

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), the charitable York organisation behind the festival, welcomes the new sponsorship. Director Delma Tomlin said: “This is the first time we have received sponsorship from the Embassy of Spain, in London, and we are absolutely delighted to be working together to promote Spanish music through the ages.

“The Embassy’s generous financial support – supporting the travel costs from Spain – makes all the difference and we are thrilled to be able to welcome such fabulous musicians to perform here in the East Riding of Yorkshire.”

José María Robles Fraga, Minister Counsellor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs at the Embassy of Spain, said: “This newly stablished partnership provides a unique opportunity for Spanish musicians performing in the UK.

“We are very proud to support this initiative and we are confident that audiences at the Beverley Early Music Festival will enjoy the immense talent of this Spanish ensemble”.

Running from May 24 to 26, this year’s festival takes the theme of Threads of Gold, weaving together stories of Beverley’s remarkable history through music and song, combined with a distinctly Spanish twist.

El Grano Teatro del Mundo: Performing Life Is A Dream (La Vida Es Sueño) at St Mary’s Church on Friday

“This year we are threading together music, history and song – designed to entertain, to engage and to intrigue,” says Delma.  “There’s a wealth of music and drama in store and as always, there are plenty of opportunities to make music as well as enjoy it – so we hope to weave you a tapestry of delights for 2024.”

Further concerts with a Spanish theme include Nigel Short directing the award-winning choir Tenebrae in their acclaimed interpretation of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass for six voices – a masterpiece of the Spanish Golden Age – at Beverley Minster on Saturday at 7.30pm.

In the festival finale on Sunday at 7.30pm at East Riding Theatre, Beverley, The Telling present their heart rend(er)ing music theatre show Into The Melting Pot.

Written by Clare Norburn and directed by Nicholas Renton, it tells the stories of the women of medieval Spain torn apart by religious intolerance, performed by actor Suzanne Ahmet as Blanca, Patience Tomlinson as Queen Isabella (offstage voice), singers Clare Norburn and Avital Raz, Emily Baines, recorders and doucaine, Giles Lewin, oud, and Jean Kelly, harp & percussion.

Music and theatre collide in this fully staged show that heads back to 1492 Spain for a story of migration, community and conflict. At twilight on her final night in Seville, a Jewish woman lights the lamps. She is being forced to leave Spain and set sail for an uncertain future.

Her tale echoes down the ages to the personal stories of people of all faiths and backgrounds affected by politics and war today, as she tunes into a community of stories told by Jewish, Christian and Muslim women, soundtracked by plaintive Sephardic songs and lively Spanish medieval music.

The newly appointed BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble Augelletti make their sold-out Beverley festival debut with A Curious Mind at St Nicholas Church, Beverley, on Saturday at 10am.

Focusing their musical lens on an ever curious and well-connected York clergyman and musician, Edward Finch, Ensemble Augelletti tell his singular story and perform some of his compositions and arrangements alongside music by his friends Purcell, Handel and Geminiani.

On Saturday, harpsichordist Steven Devine returns to Beverley with virtuoso violinist Bojan Čičić in a 4pm programme of Handel Sonatas at Toll Gavel United Church, melding GF Handel’s violin sonatas with those of the Italian-born violinist and composer Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli.

Tenebrae: Performing Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass at Beverley Minster on Saturday. Picture: Sim Canetty-Clarke

In A World Of Inspiration at Toll Gavel United Church on Sunday, the London Handel Players present a 3pm programme of Baroque works from Baroque composers from Poland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Canary Islands, India and the British Isles.

The festival’s opening illustrated lecture by Dr John Jenkins at St Mary’s Church on Friday at 4pm has sold out. Under the title of “…and oil dripped from the golden tomb”, the University of York co-director of the Centre for Pilgrimage Studies and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society recalls a Medieval Pilgrimage to St John of Beverley.

From his death in 721, to the destruction of his golden shrine in Beverley Minster in 1541, John of Beverley was the most important saint in the East Riding, prompting pilgrims to flock to his golden and bejewelled shrine from near and far.

By the close of the Middle Ages, thanks to the miracles he worked for the kings of England, St John had become a saint of national importance on a par with St George. Dr Jenkins’s lecture reveals why pilgrims came, or in some cases were forced to come, to Beverley, and the unique and wonderous spectacle the Minster canons provided for medieval visitors.

In the festival’s second lecture, at Toll Gavel United Church Hall, on Sunday at 4.30pm, Professor Melanie Giles, from the University of Manchester, reveals more of the ancient history of the East Riding in Ancient Threads and Enchanted Garments: Stories of preserved textiles from Iron Age and Roman Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Ancient textiles, made of both vegetal and wool fibres, are rarely preserved in archaeological contexts because of their organic and fragile nature. In this talk, Prof Giles shares the story of some rare examples, ranging from the edge of Iron Age cloaks, bags and containers from Arras burials in East Yorkshire to threads and garments found with bog bodies dating to the early Roman period in North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

Instrumentalists are invited to The Birth Of The Orchestra, a day-long workshop led by members of El Gran Teatro del Mundo at Hexagan Music Centre, Beverley, on Saturday at 9.30m.

This workshop on Baroque orchestral performance practice, based on the writings of George Muffat with additional music by Corelli and Lully, will be directed by Julio Caballero in the company of fellow El Gran Teatro del Mundo musicians Miriam Jorde, oboe, Bruno Hurtadoviol, cello, and Andrés Murillo, violin.

Ensemble Augelletti: Making Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival on Saturday morning

The workshop is open to players of Baroque oboe, traverso, bassoon, recorder and string players with Baroque instruments or modern instruments with gut strings and Baroque bows. Music will be provided and is available to download on the NCEM website,, for private practice before the event. Participants should be confident sight-readers.

Singers have two workshop options: festival debutants SongPath’s uplifting blend of walking, talking and music-making, setting off from Hengate Memorial Gardens on Saturday at 1.30pm to 3pm, followed by Tenebrae’s choral workshop, Music of the Spanish Golden Age, at Hexagan Music Centre on Sunday at 9.30am.

Contralto Jess Dandy, mezzo-soprano Joanne Harries and recorder player Olwen Foulkes lead a 90-minute singing walk around Beverley in Songpath, inviting participants to “immerse yourself in an outdoor experience that transcends conventional concerts, exploring mental well-being through the transformative power of music and nature”. Wear suitable clothing and footwear and bring a brolly, they advise.

Choral singers are invited to join Tenebrae’s experienced workshop leader Joseph Edwardsto work on some of the repertoire from Saturday’s n their programme. Music for the day includes Alfonso Lobo’s Versa est in Luctum and Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Taedet Anima and Astiterunt Reges Terrae.

The workshop is open to all voices with some sight-singing experience. The afternoon concludes with a short informal performance of music studied during the day, open to all, free of charge.

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival runs from May 24 to 26. Box office: 01904 658338, or in person from Beverley Tourist Information Centre, Customer Service Centre, Cross Street, Beverley. Full programme:

Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival: the back story

ESTABLISHED in 1988 to celebrate Beverley’s historic association with musicians from medieval times.

Blessed by a wealth of ecclesiastical buildings and musical carvings in stone and wood in both Beverley Minster and St Mary’s Church, making it the “perfect place for a festival of early music”.

Supported by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and administered by National Centre for Early Music, York.

Annual festival combines concerts, illustrated lectures and associated workshops.