Ensemble Molière are first New Generation Baroque Ensemble with NCEM, Royal College of Music and BBC Radio 3 support

Ensemble Molière: First New Generation Baroque Ensemble

ENSEMBLE Molière will be the first New Generation Baroque Ensemble from October, backed by the National Centre for Early Music, York, BBC Radio 3 and the Royal College of Music.

The new scheme will showcase and nurture exceptional British-based ensembles in the early years of their professional careers in the baroque sphere, supporting them to new heights of professionalism and artistry over two years, using the range of expertise, performance and recording opportunities available through each partner organisation.

A new group will join the programme in 2023 to begin a new two-year programme, helping to encourage UK Baroque ensembles of the future, supporting artists at a crucial stage in their careers. 

Comprising five musicians playing on historic instruments, Ensemble Molière combine flute, violin, bassoon, viola da gamba/cello and harpsichord in creative programmes from the 17th and 18th century repertoire, performed at many of the leading Baroque and Early Music festivals.

Chosen through a non-competitive process to become the first New Generation Baroque Ensemble, ensemble musicians Flavia Harte, Alice Earll, Catriona McDermid, Kate Conway and Satoko Doi-Luck can build on their early success through residencies at the NCEM and Royal College of Music (RCM) and a regular presence on BBC Radio 3, enabling them to further develop their professional skills, reputation, profile and artistry.

BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show will feature Ensemble Molière on Sunday, September 19 at 2pm in the first of a series of regular updates, performances and features about the group.

Ensemble Molière say: “We are thrilled and honoured to be appointed the first ever BBC New Generation Baroque Ensemble and to become part of the New Generation family. We are looking forward to collaborating with the wonderful team from three organisations – BBC, RCM and NCEM – as well as to the opportunities and experiences we will enjoy on the scheme, including live performances and broadcasts.

“It will be a fantastic springboard for Ensemble Molière and will help us reach the next step as a group. We are very grateful to the New Generation Baroque Ensemble team for their support.”

“Ensemble Molière have an amazing future ahead of them,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are thrilled to be part of this UK-based venture that takes place over the next two years and we look forward to welcoming Ensemble Molière, who will be performing in our festivals in Beverley and York.  

“It’s wonderful to be working with the Royal College of Music and BBC Radio 3 once again and this is a fabulous opportunity for Ensemble Molière, who have an amazing future ahead of them.”

BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey says: “For some time, we have been keen to see if we can offer help and support to UK-based period-instrument ensembles in the early stages of their careers to allow them to develop and thrive with the same kind of spirit of innovation and adventure we see in the best ensembles across the world.  

“With this new scheme – as with our hugely successful New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers programmes – we want to support the best new talent and by working in partnership with the chosen Baroque ensembles and with the NCEM and RCM, we hope to build an even richer world of  ambitious, innovative  and thrillingly excellent music-making for the future.

“We are delighted to welcome Ensemble Molière and look forward to working with them over the coming years to bring their extraordinary music to wider audiences.”

Professor Ashley Solomon, head of historical performance at the Royal College of Music, says: “I am absolutely delighted that together with our colleagues at the NCEM and BBC Radio 3 we have appointed Ensemble Moliere as the first ensemble in the New Generation Baroque Ensemble scheme that we are now launching.

“Nurturing and inspiring the new generation of historical performers is part of our ethos at the Royal College of Music and I look forward to working with and mentoring the players in this exceptional ensemble. We hope that this unique opportunity will help support and enable them to thrive.”

Ensemble Molière’s musicians are:  Flavia Hirte, flute; Alice Earll, violin; Catriona McDermid, bassoon; Kate Conway, viola da gamba/cello, and Satoko Doi-Luck, harpsichord.



REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Florilegium, York Early Music Festival

Florilegium: An evening of Bach trio sonatas

York Early Music Festival: Florilegium, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 14

FLORILEGIUM is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. So it was a privilege, not to say entirely appropriate, to have the group in this year’s festival, here cut down to four players for an evening of Bach trio sonatas.

The standard format for the trio sonata is two soloists with continuo (harpsichord and a bass instrument) providing the third “voice”, hence a group of four. So it is hardly surprising that Bach’s Trio Sonatas for organ have been constantly rearranged since Mozart’s time onwards: the ear more easily disentangles the lines when they are played on separate instruments (although I cast no aspersions on the ability of organists to play clearly).

Florilegium’s own arrangement in E minor of the trio sonata, BWV 526, with flute and violin in the leading roles, makes a tasty concoction (even if the original is in C minor). Ashley Solomon’s Baroque flute, made of wood naturally, has a smoother tone than the more incisive modern instrument, which means it provides a satisfying blend with the violin of Bojan Čičić, although both voices remain distinct. They wove around each other engagingly here, above more run-of-the-mill continuo.

But this was a mere aperitif. A lilting Largo led succulently into the Trio Sonata in G, BWV
1038 (written for these specific instruments), before a galloping Vivace. The Gute Nacht theme from Bach’s motet Jesu, Meine Freude emerged with total clarity in the Adagio, pizzicato on Reiko Ichise’s viola da gamba, which then enjoyed an active role in the final Presto.

The gamba enjoyed a more complete spotlight in the last of three sonatas Bach wrote for it,
BWV 1029, in G minor. Ichise brought immense enthusiasm to her task and Steven Devine’s harpsichord followed suit. But there was no lack of shading amongst the energy. The central Adagio was taken exceptionally slowly, which allowed its ornamentation to breathe, and the finale was firmly signposted despite its pace.

The extraordinary trio sonata from The Musical Offering, with all four movements derived from a single theme, made an exciting conclusion. The players switched neatly in and out of the texture during the first Allegro and went hell for leather in the final fugue.

The Andante was never more reminiscent of the nocturnal bass arioso in the St John Passion, beautifully scented. As if that were not enough, we then had a rumbustious Leclair encore for contrast.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Available online on demand until August 13 at ncem.co.uk/yemf

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on The Gesualdo Six, York Early Music Festival

The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park, back row, centre

York Early Music Festival, The Gesualdo Six, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 15

THIS year’s abbreviated festival, which seems to have ended almost before it began, went out in style with The Gesualdo Six, another group whose visits to York are thankfully plentiful.

With a countertenor on the top line, supported by two tenors, a baritone and two basses, it is well geared for a programme of English motets, especially since its director, Owain Park, underpins them all with a firm, deep bass that would be the envy of any choir.

This was almost a roll call of the great names in Tudor music (without Orlando Gibbons), which also reached back to the early 15th century composer John Forest. He was at one time a prebendary of York before becoming Dean of Wells. His three-part motet Qualis Est Dilectus Est revealed his fondness for voices moving in thirds (once thought a quirky Anglicism).

Two tear-jerkers stood out at either end of the programme. Byrd’s Ave Verum Corpus, immediately following Tallis’s Te Lucis, was touchingly intimate, which added to the reverence it naturally engenders.

Even more telling was Tomkins’s When David Heard, with five voices conducted by Park, which wrung every last ounce of pain from David’s lament for his son Absalom, killed in battle. “Would God I had died for thee” was almost unbearably poignant.

Not all was so solemn. Weelkes’s setting of Psalm 47, All People, Clap Your Hands, was cheerful enough, but not quite as imaginative as the Gibbons version of this psalm. But the group really let rip in a full-throated account of Byrd’s Vigilate, merging neatly at its conclusion. The same composer’s Laudate, Pueri was equally joyful, a full-blooded account from all six singers.

In between came two hymns, by White and Tallis, with the latter’s setting of In Manus Tuas balancing an earlier one by John Sheppard that was extremely quiet, yet creamily controlled. Several times the precentor’s role was sung off-stage, which offered an extra dimension. And then there was the Tomkins. What a piece.

The Gesualdos are coming up on the inside of a longer-lived group from a well-known Cambridge college – and may soon overtake.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Available online on demand until August 13 at ncem.co.uk/yemf.

More Things To Do in York and beyond and online as Step 3 tiptoes into the light. List No. 33, courtesy of The Press, York

Minster Men: The Howl & The Hum to play livestreamed concert at York Minster on Tuesday

THE Indian Variant may be dampening down hopes for June 21, but Charles Hutchinson’s diary is still filled with hope, concerts, festivals, exhibitions and a Minster livestreaming.

Livestreaming of the week ahead: The Howl & The Hum, Live At York Minster, Tuesday, 8pm   to 9.30pm

YORK rock band The Howl & The Hum are performing a one-off streamed concert in the Nave of York Minster on Tuesday, with tickets available via Brudenell.ticketco.events/.

The 8.15pm setlist will be built around last year’s debut album, Human Contact, whose prescient title chimed with pandemic times as such contact became more restricted, even barred. New material may well feature too. “I reckon it will,” says frontman Sam Griffiths.

Rachel Croft: York singer-songwriter to perform on Songs Under Skies acoustic double bill with Wounded Bear at the NCEM. Picture: Amy D’Agorne

A fistful of outdoor gigs: Songs Under Skies, National Centre for Early Music, York, in June  

SONGS Under Skies will return to the NCEM’s churchyard gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, next month.

Five outdoor acoustic double bills from 6.30pm to 8.30pm will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

As with last September’s debut series, the socially distanced, Covid-safe season two will be presented in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance. Box office: at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Hope Is The New Hero, by Jake T, from Rawcliffe and Clifton Without, for the Hope display at the According To McGee gallery in York

Children’s art show of the week in York: Hope projections, According To McGee, York, tonight, tomorrow, then Wednesday to Friday for the next two weeks, 6pm to 9pm nightly

HOPE springs nocturnal in a collaboration between primary school artists from York and around the world at York gallery According To McGee.

Under the title of Hope, the artwork will be on display in light projections in the window of the Tower Street gallery in a creative response to the pandemic.

Digital artists Nick Walters is overseeing evenings featuring projections of 350 artworks selected from 3,000 images from cities in 33 countries.

York artist Sue Clayton, second from right, with NHS York Vaccination Centre site manager Will McEvoy, Nimbuscare director of quality and patient experience Michelle Phillips and Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer at the unveiling – but not unmasking! – of the 21 exhibition at Askham Bar

Jab in the arm for art: Sue Clayton’s 21 exhibition, NHS York Vaccination Centre, Askham Bar, York, until June 13

WHAT a captive audience for Sue Clayton’s portrait exhibition of children and young adults with Down Syndrome, presented in association with Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC).

As many as 3,000 people a day are attending the Askham Bar vaccination centre to receive a jab in the “Tent Of Hope”, where biodegradable prints of Sue’s paintings are in place.

The theme of 21 symbolises the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have, Sue’s energetic son James among them. 

Manic Street Preachers: New tour, new album…oh, and a new single called…Orwellian

Gig announcement of the week in York: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, October 4

WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers’ 14-date autumn itinerary will showcase the September 3 release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament, on Columbia/Sony.

In a departure from 2018’s Resistance Is Futile, the new record is the first Manics’ studio set to be conceived initially on piano rather than guitar.

James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire and Sean Moore last played York Barbican in May 2019. Their support will be The Anchoress, the Welsh-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and author Catherine Anne Davies. Tickets sales go live tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Mad about the Boy: Boy George and Culture Club perennial members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig are off to the Yorkshire seaside

Gig announcement of the week outside York: Culture Club, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, August 14

EIGHTIES’ icon Boy George and Culture Club are off to the Yorkshire seaside in a new addition to the packed Scarborough Open Air Theatre programme.

Bexleyheath-born frontman and fashion innovator George O’Dowd, who turns 60 on June 14, will perform alongside original band members Roy Hay and Mikey Craig in a “stunning live band”. Tickets go on sale for the 8,000-capacity show via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com tomorrow (21/5/2021) at 9am.

Rachel Podger: The Violinist Speaks concert at York Early Music Festival 2021. Picture: Theresa Pewal

Festival launch of the week: York Early Music Festival 2021, July 12 to 16

PRESENTED by the National Centre of Early Music, the classical York Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters, most vitally between audience and artists after lockdown loosening.

Among the guest artists will be violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook; the Monteverdi String Band; harpsichordist Steven Devine; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments; La Vaghezza and Ensemble Clement Janequin.

Taking part too will be vocal ensemble Stile Antico and Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk. Upcoming too will be YEMF 21 Online, from July 15 to 18, featuring festival concerts and commissioned highlights.

Bull in a field: York alt.rock band booked for Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus festival

No Deer Shed 11 festival, but here comes Deer Shed: Base Camp Plus, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, Thirsk, July 30 to August 1

AFTER last summer’s Base Camp, Deer Shed Festival co-directors Oliver Jones and Kate Webster have created Base Camp Plus with a female-headlined main stage, live music, DJ sets, comedy and shows. As with last year’s event, each camping pitch will contain its own Portaloo and washing facilities.

Jane Weaver, Dream Wife and Porridge Radio are the headliners; York bands Bull and New York Brass Band will be playing too; John Shuttleworth, Mark Watson and Angelos Epithemiou lead the comedy.

The organisers will adhere to the Step 3 restrictions in place since Monday, limiting the capacity, with social distancing and face coverings in covered areas. For tickets, go to: deershedfestival.com/basecampplus.

And what about?

Brief encounter: York drag diva Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag at York Theatre Royal

Velma Celli in Love Is Love: A Brief History Of Drag, York Theatre Royal, May 29, 8pm

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli’s fabulous contribution to York Theatre Royal’s reopening Love Season will be one of Velma’s regular cabaret shows, re-titled Love Is Love: A Brief Of History Of Drag specially to meet the love brief.

Joining Velma – the creation of York musical actor Ian Stroughair – will be two guest acts, Jordan Fox, Ian’s co-star in Jack And The Beanstalk, and Jessica Steel, together with backing singers Kimberley Ensor and Grace Lancaster, musical director Ben Papworth, drummer Clark Howard and guitarist Al Morrison.

Ian last appeared on the Theatre Royal in Kes at the age of 14, all of 24 years ago.

Look who will be playing at York Early Music Festival in July…

Stile Antico: Long-awaited concert at York Early Music Festival 2021. Picture: Marco Borggreve

YORK Early Music Festival 2021 will have the theme of Encounters for its five-day run from July 12 to 16.

Presented by the National Centre of Early Music (NCEM), the annual festival of classical concerts will include a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Franco-Flemish genius Josquin des Prez. 

“This year’s festival theme is one of encounters, most vitally between audience and artists, which seems particularly pertinent at a time when the festival can welcome audiences back to an array of York’s wonderful historic venues,” says director Delma Tomlin.

“We’re particularly delighted to announce that we’ll be working in partnership with the Flanders-based Alamire Foundation to present one of the highlights of the festival, a long-awaited concert by vocal ensemble Stile Antico.”

Renowned for their vibrant and expressive performances of music from the Renaissance, Stile Antico will perform in the resplendent surroundings of York Minster on July 13.

Rachel Podger: The Violinist Speaks…and plays at St Lawrence Parish Church, York, on July 13. Picture: Theresa Pewal

Among the guest artists for the 2021 event will be: violinist Rachel Podger; lutenist Jacob Heringman; bass Matthew Brook, working with Peter Seymour; the Monteverdi String Band, led by Oliver Webber; a York favourite, harpsichordist Steven Devine, with Robin Bigwood; The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments with their “weird and wonderful” Trumpet Marine Project; EEEmerging artists La Vaghezza, specialising in music from the  17th and 18th centuries, and the ever entertaining Ensemble Clement Janequin.

“The NCEM is also delighted to welcome Spanish Baroque ensemble L’Apothéose back to York as part of the Young Artists Showcase,” says Delma. “L’Apothéose last appeared in the city in 2019 when they won the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition and The Friends of York Early Music Festival prize. This year they will be recording a CD with Linn Records, which was part of their prize.”

Established in 1977, York Early Music Festival celebrates York’s myriad medieval churches, guildhalls and historic houses through “historically informed music-making of the highest international standard”. The festival is considered the jewel in the crown of the NCEM’s annual programme, drawing visitors from across the world.

“At last, we are able to welcome audiences back to York in person and we can’t wait!” says Delma. “ This year’s theme of Encounters celebrates the joy of music-making and being back together again to appreciate these glorious sounds together. 

“We can’t wait to throw our doors wide open again,” says York Early Music Festival and NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“For over a year, our home of St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, has been missing the energy and excitement that live audiences bring to us and we can’t wait to throw our doors wide open again. We hope you will join us for this five-day celebration of music and friendship in our beautiful city, bringing you world-class music from stunning surroundings.”

The festival concerts will take place in a Covid-secure, comfortable environment.  “All tickets are unreserved and audience members will be seated on arrival within social bubbles,” says Delma. “Each concert will last about an hour without an interval. Covid advice will be updated according to government guidelines.”

York Early Music Festival also will be available online from July 15 to 18. YEMF ’21 Online will include concerts recorded during the festival alongside commissioned highlights, with guests including The Gesualdo Six and The Rose Consort Of Viols.  Full details and tickets will be released on Wednesday, June 16. 

Tickets for the live festival are on sale at ncem.co.uk

Monteverdi String Quartet: Opening concert of the 2021 festival on July 12

YORK EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAL 2021 LISTINGS

Monday, July 12, 1pm, NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, York: Illustrated talk: Oliver Webber, “Un non so che di frizzante: the madrigal as a cauldron of creativity”.

Monday, July 12, 6.30pm and 8.45pm, NCEM: Monteverdi String Band, with soprano Hannah Ely, The Madrigal Re-imagined.

Tuesday, July 13, 1pm, St Lawrence Parish Church, York: Steven Devine & Robin Bigwood, The Bach Circle.

Tuesday, July 13, 7.30pm, York Minster: Stile Antico, Sine Nomine: Josquin des Prez.

The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments: Playing NCEM on July 14

Tuesday, July 13, 9.15pm, St Lawrence Parish Church: Rachel Podger violin, The Violinist Speaks.

Wednesday, July 14, 1pm, NCEM: The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments, The Trumpet Marine Project.

Wednesday, July 14, 7.30pm, NCEM: La Vaghezza, Sculpting The Fabric.

Wednesday, July 14, 9.30pm, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York: Jacob Heringman, lute, Inviolata: Josquin des Prez.  

Jacob Heringham: Playing Merchant Adventurers Hall on July 14. Picture: Guy Carpenter

Thursday, July 15, 11am, NCEM: Illustrated talk: John Bryan, Josquin des Prez: the first of the “great composers”?

Thursday, July 15, 1pm, Matthew Brook & Peter Seymour, Amore Traditore – Cantatas for bass and harpsichord.

Thursday, July 15, NCEM, 6.30pm and 8.45pm: Ensemble Clement Janequin,  Mille Regretz: Josquin des Prez.

Friday July 16, 1pm, NCEM: L’Apothéose, The Family Stamitz.

L’Apothéose: Closing concert of York Early Music Festival 2021

NCEM gardens to stage second set of Songs Under Skies acoustic double bills with The Crescent and Fulford Arms

Joshua Burnell: Sharing a Song Under Skies double bill with Katie Spencer on June 14. Picture: Elly Lucas

SONGS Under Skies will return to the glorious gardens of the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, in June.

Five outdoor acoustic double bills will comprise Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft on June 1; Kell Chambers and Nadedja, June 2; Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell, June 14; Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

Wounded Bear and Rachel Croft: First Songs Under Skies double bill on June 1

As with last September’s debut series, season two of the open-air, Covid-safe Songs Under Skies will be presented by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), working in association with The Crescent community venue, The Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance.

Gates will open at 6.30pm for the acoustic double bills from 7pm to 8.30pm with a 30-minute interval between sets. Each concert costs £8 and tickets must be bought in advance, either in “pods” for family groups or as individuals at tickets.ncem.co.uk.  

Kell Chambers and Nadedja: Double bill in the NCEM churchyard gardens on June 2

Social distancing will be strictly observed and masks must be worn inside the NCEM but will not be required in the gardens.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re very excited to be bringing you the second Songs Under Skies: a feast of acoustic music taking place in our beautiful gardens, the perfect spot for a June evening in the sunshine.

Katie Spencer: Yorkshire singer-songwriter to play NCEM gardens on June 14, as well as a second Yorkshire open-air gig at Primrose Wood Acoustics, Pocklington, supporting Martin Simpson on July 1 at 7pm

“We’re also glad to be working once again with our partners The Fulford Arms, The Crescent and York Music Venues Network to begin the long-awaited revival of live music in our city. Last year Songs Under Skies was a complete sell-out and we’re looking forward to welcoming back audiences for these summer nights of music by these talented musicians.”

Harkirit Boparai, from The Crescent and the York Music Venues Network and North East regional coordinator for the Music Venues Alliance, says: “We’re delighted to be collaborating with the NCEM for another short run of outdoor concerts to take place in their beautiful gardens, with a stellar line-up of musicians from York and beyond heralding the return of live gigs to York.

Zak Ford and Alice Simmons: Playing acoustic sets at Songs Under Skies on June 15

“One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that cultural organisations in the city have been able to collaborate in ways that they didn’t before, and after the success of our last series in the autumn, it’s been great to work with the NCEM team once again.”

Among the first arts organisations to stream online concerts, the NCEM has been keeping music alive since the beginning of lockdown, attracting a worldwide audience of more than 70,000. 

Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves: Songs Under Skies’ closing concert coupling on June 16

Over the past year, the NCEM staged socially distant events when possible and streamed concerts and festivals from St Margaret’s Church.

In June, this will continue with the streaming of the very first Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival Online with concerts, walks and talks from the Yorkshire market town where the first festival was staged 35 years ago. This summer’s York Early Music Festival will run from July 12 to 16; a full line-up announcement is expected today (17/5/2021).

Kitty VR: Playing her first gig for seven months at the NCEM churchyard at last September’s first Songs Under Skies concert series. Picture: Neil Chapman/Unholy Racket

Last year’s inaugural Songs Under Skies presented Amy May Ellis and Luke Saxton on September 2; Dan Webster and Bella Gaffney, September 3; Kitty VR and Boss Caine, September 9; Wolf Solent and Rosalind, September 10; Polly Bolton and Henry Parker, September 16, and Elkyn and Fawn, September 17.

Full details of this summer’s Songs Under Skies can be found at: ncem.co.uk/songs-under-skies/.

Delyth Field and Jacob Fitzgerald win NCEM Young Composers Awards prizes in York

Young Composers Award winner Delyth Field with Palisander at the National Centre for Early Music, York

DELYTH Field and Jacob Fitzgerald have won the 14th National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award prizes.

Presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3, the finals were streamed last night (13/5/2021) from the NCEM in York. 

Delyth Field won the age 19 to 25 category with “Kagura Suite for Recorders”, inspired by Kagura, the oldest form of dance in Japan.

Jacob Fitzgerald won the age 18 and under category with “murmuration”, composed in response to the natural dance performed by starlings across the skyscape.

Young composers living in the United Kingdom were invited to create a new work for recorder quartet based on dance-forms from across all eras and cultures. Although they were writing for instruments from the Baroque era, they were not limited to dance forms of that period. 

The eight finalists’ compositions were performed by recorder quartet Palisander after a day-long workshop at the NCEM led by composer Christopher Fox, professor of music at Brunel University, working alongside Palisander and the shortlisted composers.

Mollie Carlyle, Delyth Field and Lux Knightley took part in the 19 to 25 category; Jacob Fitzgerald,  Matty Oxtoby, Adam Spry, Shuchen Xie and Shoshana Yugin-Power in the younger final. 

The 2021 panel of judges were BBC Radio 3 producer Les Pratt, NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin and Palisander.

Young Composers Award winner Jacob Fitzgerald with recorder quartet Palisander after last night’s final

“Kagura Suite for Recorders” and “murmuration” will be premiered by Palisander at St John’s Smith Square, London, as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music, where the September 20 performance will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Delma said: “The NCEM Young Composers Award continues to attract composers of the highest calibre from all over the UK and the standard of compositions this year was extremely high.  I’d like to congratulate all our composers for their impressive work, and we hope that they enjoyed this unique and rewarding experience. 

“Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we had to stage last year’s awards online, so we were especially thrilled to be able to welcome young composers to our home of St Margaret’s Church in Walmgate. As always, I would like to say a massive thank-you to my fellow judges and the fabulous Palisander, who will perform the pieces at St John’s Smith Square on September 20.

“Last but not least, I would like thank our partners, BBC Radio 3, for their continued and invaluable support, which enables us to continue presenting these important awards.”

Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, said: “We are proud to support the NCEM’s Young Composers Awards once again as part of Radio 3’s mission to find and support young talent and to promote new music, in this case work inspired by early music.

“The project reflects the excellence of young talent and the quality of work that young composers are producing. We warmly congratulate the winners and look forward to sharing performances of their works later this year on the Early Music Show.”

The streamed performance is available to watch at youngcomposersaward.co.uk/2021 and the Facebook page, @yorkearlymusic.

REVIEW: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music online, York, March 27 and 28

Recorder virtuoso Olwen Foulkes at the recording of Ensemble Augelletti’s concert for Awaken. Picture: Ben Pugh

REVIEW: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music online, York, from various venues, March 27 and 28. Streaming until April 30 at www.ncem.co.uk/awaken

AWAKEN had all the right vibes. Five events over the weekend signalled the beginning of the end of our enforced hibernation. They also heralded the start of spring. As if in tune, the weather co-operated and turned warm and sunny.

All the concerts had been filmed in venues around York the previous week, but they had the feel of live events. We began with a peripatetic tour by the Gesualdo Six – a slight misnomer, since they are really seven with their director Owain Park, who also sings from time to time, though there are never more than six singers in action at once.

The group revelled in the free-wheeling motet style of four Englishmen by the name of John from the first half of the 15th century.  The rhythmic verve of John Pyamour was nicely contrasted with a smoother take on John Forest and tenderness from John Plummer; all these were trios. But John Dunstaple’s quartet Veni, Sancte Spiritus outdid them all, a step ahead of his compatriots.

In Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, three Frenchmen from later that century sounded more calculating, more predictable, though Josquin des Prez’s attention to words in Nymphes des Bois – the only secular piece in the programme – was exquisite. It was good to hear, this time in the Hall’s chapel, John Thorne’s Stella Caeli, with neat passing harmonies and major-chord cadences that doubtless were heard in York Minster during his time as Master of the Choristers (1542-73).

Extracts from Lamentations by another three Frenchmen prepared us for Holy Week, with Brumel’s warmly autumnal Good Friday lection, without countertenors, topping the bill and bringing comfort amongst the sorrow. Byrd’s incomparable Infelix Ego, reflecting our current sufferings and sung under the Minster’s Great East Window, made a transcendent finale, its coda deeply affecting. The Gesualdos could not have got Awaken off to a better start.

Ensemble Augelletti: Octet of players homed in on music connected with John Baptist Grano

At the National Centre, recorder virtuoso Olwen Foulkes led the splendid Ensemble Augelletti, an octet of players who homed in on music connected with John Baptist Grano. He was principal trumpeter in the orchestra at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket where he premiered several Handel operas. He was also an operator who had a finger in several pies, but thrived even when in prison for debt.

Given the company he was keeping here, Grano’s own Sonata in F for recorder and continuo was relatively run-of-the-mill, though its Spirituoso was indeed spirited and the succeeding Largo eloquently plaintive. Foulkes was on top of her game throughout, as also in a concerto by John Baston, where her soprano recorder danced wittily in its final Presto.

In Handel’s Trio Sonata Op 2 No 4, Foulkes worked effectively in tandem with Ellen Bundy’s violin and all five players relished its closing, very English, jig. A final word for the supremely attentive cellist Carina Drury, a player I’d be happy to have on my team any time.

Staying in St Margaret’s Church (alias the National Centre), the viol consort Fretwork was joined by York countertenor Iestyn Davies in a programme of 16th century North German music, spearheaded by two arrangements of Vaughan Williams songs. Silent Noon was an odd opener and not heat-hazy enough, but The Sky Above The Roof was much more telling, though Davies’s diction was woolly. (His Latin later was marginally better, but his German admirably clear.)

Davies’s other contributions all concerned music connected with Holy Week and proved that lockdown has in no way hurt his evocative powers, his countertenor gliding smoothly over even the most taxing challenges. In a Lamento by Johann Christoph Bach, often described as JSB’s most talented forebear, he was pleadingly penitential, amid textual floods of tears. Franz Tunder’s Salve Mi Jesu was appropriately prayerful, finding genuine serenity in its peaceful ending.

Most potent of all was Christian Geist’s reaction to Holy Saturday, with semi-recitative for the biblical narrative, culminating in an aria of considerable power, which benefited from Davies’s operatic experience.

Iestyn Davies: “Countertenor glided smoothly over even the most taxing challenges”

Fretwork alone was rhythmically lively in Schein’s Seventh Suite from Banchetto Musicale (1617), notably in the vigorous syncopation of its galliard. The rapidly changing variations in Scheidt’s Canzon Super O Nachbar Roland were brilliantly negotiated, tremolandos and all, though it was a pity we were not given a chance to hear the song by itself.

It took a while to adjust to the sound of period instruments in Schubert’s mighty String Quintet in C, played by the Consone Quartet with Alexander Rolton as second cellist, also at the National Centre.

Let us dispose of the reservations first. Balance was never quite right, though I channelled the sound through my best speakers: we needed more from the outer voices, first violin and second cello. This was almost certainly a problem of microphone setting. There was also a disparity of approach between the cellists, one using more vibrato than the other.

The work got off to a cautious start, as if every effect was being over-calculated. Spontaneity began to surface with the repeat of the exposition. The second movement hovered to the point of stasis, with definition undermined by the second cello’s over-restrained pizzicato (probably microphones again).

Thereafter things changed very much for the better. The players began to enjoy themselves in a robust Scherzo. There was a slight loss of focus in the Trio, but caution was finally thrown to the winds when the Scherzo returned with even more verve. A strong, confident finale did much to compensate for the earlier diffidence and the acceleration towards the tape was neatly managed. I also enjoyed the encore, a sensitive setting of the song Frühlingsglaube (Faith In Spring), with cello to the fore.

Awaken’s finale shifted to St Lawrence Church, where Robert Hollingworth directed his vocal ensemble I Fagiolini (with some stiffening from former members of The 24) and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble. The evening was entitled Super-Excellent, a word taken from the travel writer Thomas Coryat, preaching the wonders of Venetian music in 1608. Naturally, the programme was largely Italian or Italianate.

The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park, back, centre: “Revelled in the free-wheeling motet style of four Englishmen by the name of John”

Hollingworth himself expounded on each piece in advance. He was most informative, but his enthusiasm sometimes led him to raise expectations unreasonably. Polychoral effects that were undoubtedly stunning in St Mark’s, Venice, were not quite so impressive in the less rewarding acoustic of St Lawrence.

Music by Giovanni Gabrieli appropriately framed the programme. With voices and instruments used interchangeably, Buccinate featured thrilling fanfares. No less stirring were the recurring Alleluyas in the multi-choir In Ecclesiis at the close, in a clever reconstruction by Hugh Keyte.

There were mass extracts from the Catalan composer Joan Cererols with three choirs overlapping, almost conversationally. Juan de Araujo, Spanish-born but working in South America, gave us an exciting Dixit Dominus, with jazzy rhythms heightened by strumming theorbo and guitar.

Solo tenor and bass respectively (no individual performers’ names were available) offered tastefully decorated motets by Grandi and Schütz, the latter an angry and sorrowful lament by David for Absalom, attended by four mournful sackbuts.

A florid cornett lit up a madrigal-style arrangement of a Palestrina ‘Ave Verum Corpus’. But for me the greatest surprise was Edmund Hooper’s verse anthem ‘O God Of Gods’, in a frankly superb reconstruction by William Hunt (who issued a recording of the work only last June). It proved that an Englishman could do it too.

Streaming of concerts is notoriously difficult, a path littered with potholes. Awaken was not perfect: there were occasional breaks in the sound and the odd unintended freeze-frame. Sometimes the camera lingered too long on an individual when what you wanted was to see the whole ensemble interacting. But it still served a vital role, reminding us how valuable live concerts are and renewing hope that they will soon return.

Above all, these events showed faith in musicians, many of them young, that despite everything we treasure their talents and will welcome them back with open arms (or the socially distanced alternative) just as soon as we are allowed. You have the rest of April to catch up with all these brave souls. I heartily recommend them.

Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Foundation receives £25,000 from Culture Recovery Fund to benefit NCEM and Beverley music festival

“This support ensures that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer,” says Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM

THE York Early Music Foundation, the charitable body that administers the National Centre for Early Music, will receive £25,000 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The foundation is one of more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from the second round of awards.

The grant will aid the foundation to recover from loss of income over the past year, and the CRF2 monies also will help to ensure that the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival can take place again in May 2021.

This will enable the foundation to welcome both a small, socially distanced, audience and a new online public to the Beverley event, as well as supporting East Yorkshire school-aged children to enjoy their music-making.

The Beverley festival, postponed in 2020, is supported by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and is acknowledged as one of the region’s cultural highlights.

Delma Tomlin, director of the York Early Music Foundation and the NCEM, said today: “We would like to say a huge thank you to Arts Council England for awarding us this much-needed grant. This support provides an important lifeline to help the organisation recover from lost revenue, ensuring that we can continue promoting our year-round programme of events and to re-open our doors into the summer.”

The York Early Music Foundation is among thousands of cultural organisations across the country to benefit from awards of more than £300 million from the Culture Recovery Fund announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today.

More than £800 million in grants and loans has been awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The second round of awards made today will help organisations to look ahead to the spring and summer and plan for reopening and recovery. After months of closures and cancellations to contain the virus and save lives, this funding will be a much-needed helping hand for organisations “transitioning back to normal” in the months ahead. 

Mr Dowden said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced.

“Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors, helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work. 

“We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded today comes from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, together with Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Eboracum Baroque combine with brewery for rowdy Purcell And A Pint virtual gig

Eboracum Baroque: Not only here for the beer on Saturday

YORK ensemble Eboracum Baroque are teaming up with Calverley’s Brewery for a rowdy YouTube and Facebook concert on Saturday (20/3/2021) at 7pm.

“It’s called Purcell And A Pint and is a virtual 17th century pub gig with catches, folk tunes and broadside ballads with a bit of beer tasting in the interval too,” says director and trumpet player Chris Parsons.

“It should be good fun and we hope audiences will be able to sing along at home for some of the programme.”

Eboracum Baroque’s collaboration with the Cambridge brewers will transport Saturday’s audience back to the alehouses of 17th century England for a night of rowdy drinking songs, popular fiddle tunes and folk songs that would have been performed in taverns across the British Isles.

“Have your drinks at the ready and join us for a good sing-song,” says Chris. “We’re delighted to be joined by Calverley’s Brewery, who will present a beer-tasting interval, readying us for the pubs re-opening later this year.” 

Among the highlights of the The Purcell And A Pint programme will be I Gave Her Cakes And Ale, Your Hay It Is Mow’d from King Arthur and The Jovial Broom Man and other classic folk tunes of the 17th Century.

“Henry Purcell (1659-1695) was notorious for liking a trip to the pub,” says Chris. “One story about Purcell’s death goes that he was late home from a rather heavy night and his wife locked him out and he succumbed to the cold.

“His bawdy catches and well-known broadside ballads would have been popular tunes to sing when having a pint. The raucous surroundings overflowed with music, alcohol, sex, gossip, fights, fumes, shouting, singing, laughing, dancing…our performance won’t have all of those!”

Eboracum Baroque’s poster for Saturday’s virtual concert

Taking part in Saturday’s concert alongside Chris will be baritone John Holland Avery; tenors Nils Greenhow and Gareth Edmunds; violinist Kirsty Main; recorder player Miriam Monaghan; cellist Miri Nohl and harpsichordist Seb Gillot, with audio and video editing by David Sims.

Looking ahead, Eboracum Baroque are to host Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, an online project for primary schools launched by the National Centre for Early Music, York, with funding from East Riding Music Hub.

“We’re really excited to be collaborating with the NCEM,” says Chris of a project that is suitable both for pupils who are in school or those learning from home.

This specially created work, based on the book The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, revolves around a live-streamed performance broadcast from the NCEM’s home, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on Tuesday, March 23 at 2pm.

The performance will be available to download from ncem.co.uk and can be accessed to watch again until Friday, May 28, and it will be accompanied by a raft of resources and activities, such as arts, crafts, drawing and painting.

Purcell And A Pint will be premiered on youtube.com/eboracumbaroque and facebook.com/eboracumbaroque on March 20 from 7pm to 8.30pm. For online tickets, go to: http://eboracumbaroque.co.uk/event/purcell-and-a-pint/  

Tickets for the March 23 livestream cost £15 for a standard ticket for the whole school, £10 for East Riding schools, and can be booked at: http://www.ncem.co.uk/story-orchestra-project/