Northern Aldborough Festival marks 30th anniversary with music, comedy and a talk. Here’s the full programme, June 13 to 22

Sir Tony Robinson: Guest speaker at Northern Aldborough Festival. Picture: Paul Marc Mitchell

THE 30th anniversary Northern Aldborough Festival, in Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, opens tonight.

Sir Tony Robinson, Leeds Piano Competition winner Alim Beisembayev and one of the world’s great violin virtuosos, Viktoria Mullova, will be among the headline acts

Half an hour’s journey from York or Harrogate, opera singers, pianists and jazz ensembles will mingle among the village’s Roman history.

Festival director Robert Ogden says: “Each year we invite a headline speaker. It’s fitting Sir Tony Robinson is this year’s guest, given the setting of our festival and its rich historic and archaeological significance. It promises to be a very special evening.”

Run as a charity, the annual festival’s mission is to bring high-end live music to its rural location, making the “sleepy village” that was once a prosperous Roman capital an unlikely epicentre for classical music.

Mikeleiz-Zucchi Duo: Playing The Chapel, Rudding Park, Harrogate, on June 20

This year, its music programme has a focus on championing young classical talent. The opening night sees 25-year-old Tom Fetherstonehaugh conducting the young musicians of the Fantasia Orchestra, performing Tchaikovsky and Chopin alongside pianist Alim Beisembayev, who at 23 won the last Leeds International Piano Competition.

Further highlights include Armonico Consort with a semi-staged production of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and the rising star of classical guitar, Jack Hancher.

The festival also welcomes an award-winning comedian with an opera degree, Amy Webber, as heard on BBC Radio 4, and the British jazz pianist Julian Joseph, who performs with his trio.

Pan-flute player Adriana Babin, already a bona-fide star at 22 in her home country of Moldova, will head for Aldborough, as will the Mikeleiz-Zucchi Duo, featuring Canadia saxophonist David Zucchi and Spanish accordionist Iñigo Mikeleiz-Berrade.

The festival’s nationwide hunt for the best vocal talent returns in the annual New Voices Singing Competition, with cash prizes of £7,000 and a live semi-final and grand final.

Adriana Babin: Pan flute concert at St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough, on June 15

The competition was launched in 2023 by festival director Robert Ogden, supported by longstanding sponsors, in response to the funding cuts faced by the classical music sector, to provide a platform for emerging vocal talent.

Robert, who began his career as a countertenor, adds: “We’ll have some world-class musicians once more in Aldborough. It doesn’t matter if you are an aficionado of classical music, or you’re a complete novice, we hope audiences will come and experience these very special performances. 

“The rewards of a live concert are so huge, there’s nothing like it; it’s an emotional, visceral experience that you can’t replicate on a screen. It’s a chance to hear remarkable sounds in an intimate and gorgeous countryside setting.”

Aldborough’s late-night venue The Shed also returns for concert-goers who want to continue festivities in a relaxed environment with a variety of live entertainment and refreshments.

The ever-popular Last Night Outdoor Concert will see Queen tribute band Majesty perform to circa 1,000 festival-goers in the grounds of Aldborough Manor. Those attending are invited to bring a picnic and dance the night away, ending with an orchestrated firework display.

Pianist Alim Beisembayev: Performing with Fantasia Orchestra at St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough, on June 13. Picture: Nabin Maharjan

Northern Aldborough Festival 2024 programme

June 13, 6.30pm

Alim Beisembayev (piano) with Fantasia Orchestra, conducted by Tom Fetherstonehaugh, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

Winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition at 23, Kazakstan-born Alim Beisembayev performs the opening concert with the young musicians of Fantasia Orchestra, conducted by Tom Fetherstonehaugh, 25. Programme includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings and Chopin’s 1st Piano Concerto.

June 13, 9pm

After the Show in The Shed

Light musical entertainment and something to eat and drink.

Guitarist Jack Hancher: Morning concert at Brockfield Hall, Warthil, on June 14. Picture: Manny Sowicz

June 14, 11am

Jack Hancher, guitar, Brockfield Hall, Warthill, York

ELEGANT, expressive, fiery and passionate, Jack Hancher is a rising star of the classical guitar, whose debut album will be released this year on the Deux-Elles label.

Last year he became one of only three guitarists to win the Gold Medal of the Royal Overseas League Competition.

June 14, 8pm

Amy Webber, The Old Hall, North Deighton     

Wry comedian Amy Webber performs her job-hunting one-woman show, No Previous Experience, equipped with a mini electric piano and an opera degree that has never been useful. Winner of Audience Choice Award at Musical Comedy Awards.

June 15, 11am

Adriana Babin, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough             

At the age of 22, Moldovan musician Adriana Babin already has won major prizes and performed all over the world. The warm, rich, and haunting pan flute is rarely heard in classical music, but she has collaborated with European orchestras, starred on German television and received an award from Moldova’s Minister of Culture.

Comedian Amy Webber: No Previous Experience gig at The Old Hall, North Deighton, on June 14

June 15, 7pm

Julian Joseph Trio, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

Bandleader, pianist, composer, educator and broadcaster Julian Joseph OBE has championed jazz home and abroad for 35 years. He presents originals and classics with his hard-swinging trio.

June 15, 9pm

After the Show in The Shed

Light musical entertainment and something to eat and drink.

June 16, 3pm

Young Artist Showcase, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough            

Chance to catch upcoming stars as four of Yorkshire’s most talented young musicians perform.

June 17, 12 noon

The New Voices Singing Competition: Semi-final 1, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

After launching national New Voices competition in 2023, the hunt for the year’s best classical vocal talent returns. The first group of semi-finalists battles for a place in the Grand Final. Judging panel includes conductor Edward Gardner OBE and English bass Sir John Tomlinson CBE.

Jazz pianist Julian Joseph: Playing with his trio on June 15 at St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

June 17, 3.30pm

The New Voices Singing Competition: Semi-final 2, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

Second group of semi-finalists.

June 18, 11am

Lea Shaw, mezzo soprano, with Kristina Yorgova, piano

Before the Grand Final of 2024’s New Voices Singing Competition, last year’s victors, Lea Shaw and Kristina Yorgova, return to perform their winners’ recital. 

Shaw is a Scottish Opera Emerging Artist and Scottish Opera’s Associate Artist; Bulgarian pianist Kristina Yorgova is a master’s student at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

June 18, 7pm

Grand Final of the New Voices Singing Competition, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough            

Hundreds of young singers graduate each year with aspirations to become professionals. This competition is a nationwide hunt with four finalists chasing cash prizes of £7,000 in a springboard for UK classical vocal talent.

June 18, 10pm

After the Show in the Shed

Musical entertainment and something to eat and drink.

Violinist Viktoria Mullova: Playing with pianist Alasdair Beatson at St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough, on June 19. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

June 19, 7.30pm

Viktoria Mullova, violin, with Alasdair Beatson, piano, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

Moscow Conservatoire graduate Viktoria Mullova’s extraordinary violin talent captured the world in the 1980s before her much-publicised defection to the West. She will perform Beethoven and Schubert works with Scotsman Alasdair Beatson, her piano accompanist in a three-year collaboration of concerts and recordings.

June 20, 11am

Mikeleiz-Zucchi Duo, The Chapel, Rudding Park, Harrogate 

Forging a partnership in the spirit of curiosity and open-mindedness, Canadia saxophonist David Zucchi and Spanish accordionist Iñigo Mikeleiz-Berrade sound like an unusual pairing, but this dynamic duo won the Royal Overseas League Annual Music Competition’s Mixed Ensemble Prize. Rooted in jazz and folk, both instruments occupy the fringes of classical music in a dance-themed programme of Praetorius, Ravel and Piazzolla works.

June 20, 7.30pm 

An Evening with Sir Tony Robinson, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough

ACTOR, author, broadcaster, comedian, presenter and political activist Sir Tony Robinson promises a behind-the-scenes insight into his life and career, from playing Baldrick in the BBC comedy Blackadder (1983-1989) to hosting Channel 4’s Time Team, presenting history and archaeology series and writing books on the subject and being active on many charity and political campaigns.

Festival director Robert Ogden by the Aldborough maypole

June 20, 9.30pm

After the Show in the Shed

Light musical entertainment and something to eat and drink.

June 21, 7.30pm

Armonico Consort presents Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen, directed by Christopher Monks, St Andrew’s Church, Aldborough. Grounds of Aldborough Manor open for picnics at 5pm.

The Fairy Queen is a musical adaption of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, given an inventive, magical  performance on a beautiful midsummer evening.

June 22, gates open at 5.30pm

Majesty – A Tribute to Queen, grounds of Aldborough Manor

Majesty close the festival with their latest Queen show, The Break Free Tour. Bring a picnic; let the orchestrated fireworks begin.  

Robert Ogden: the back story

Artistic director of Northern Aldborough Festival.

Runs his family’s flagship jewellery store in James Street, Harrogate, founded by James Robert (JR) Ogden in 1893.

Before taking on Ogden of Harrogate, operatic countertenor Robert sang all over the world. As a boy, he was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral, before training at King’s College, Cambridge, the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and  Netherlands Opera Studio.

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