More Things To Do in York and beyond when you’re not only here for the beer. Hutch’s List No. 43, from The Press

Velma Celli: Vocal drag entertainment with chutzpah and cheek at Yorktoberfest, York Racecourse

BAVARIAN revelry and riotous Russian politics, Frankenstein in wartime and jazz era Joni, comedy and charity nights entice Charles Hutchinson to do battle with Storm Babet.

Festival of the week: Jamboree Entertainment presents Yorktoberfest, Clocktower Enclosure, York Racecourse, Knavesmire Road, York, today, 1pm to 5pm; Friday, 7pm to 11pm; next Saturday, 1pm to 5pm and 7pm to 11pm

YORKTOBEFEST returns for a third autumn season of beer, bratwurst, bumper cars and all things Bavarian in a giant marquee. Look out for the Bavarian Strollers, with their thigh-slapping oompah tunes and disco classics, and York’s international drag diva Velma Celli with her stellar singing and saucy humour.  

Dancing is encouraged, as is the wearing of Lederhosen, Dirndls or any other fancy dress, with nightly competitions and prizes for the best dressed. Box office: ticketsource.co.uk/yorktoberfest.

Steve Cassidy: Playing hits spanning six decades at St Peter’s School tonight

Fundraiser of the week: York Rotary presents A Song For Everyone, Memorial Hall, St Peter’s School, Clifton, York, tonight; doors 7pm, concert 7.30pm to 10.15pm

YORK singer and guitarist Steve Cassidy and his band are joined by guest vocalist Heather Findlay to perform a “huge range of popular hits covering six decades”. Expect rock, ballads and country music. Proceeds from this fundraising concert will go to St Leonard’s Hospice and York Rotary Charity Fund. Box office: yorkrotary.co.uk/a-song-for-everyone or on the door.

Heather Findlay: Guest vocalist at A Song For Everyone. Picture: Adam Kennedy

Spooks at Spark: Halloween Makers’ Market, Spark:York, Piccadilly, York, today, 12 noon to 4pm

THE Halloween edition of Spark:York’s Makers’ Market features “spooktacularly” handcrafted work by independent makers. Taking part will be Wistoragic Designs, Enthralled Yet, Gem Belle, A Forest of Shadows, Kim’s Clay Jewellery and the Mimi Shop by Amelia. Entry is free.

Hejira: Celebrating the jazz days of Joni Mitchell at the NCEM

Jazz gig of the week: Hejira: Celebrating Joni Mitchell, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, tomorrow, 6.30pm 

JAZZ seven-piece Hejira honour the works of Canadian-American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and painter Joni Mitchell, mostly from the late 1970s, in particular Mingus from her “jazz period” and the live album Shadows And Light, recorded in 1979 with a Jazz All Stars line-up featuring saxophonist Michael Brecker and guitarist Pat Metheny.

Hejira is fronted by Hattie Whitehead, who – in her own way – has assimilated the poise, power and beauty of Joni’s vocals and plays guitar with Joni’s stylistic mannerisms. Joining her will be Pete Oxley, guitar; Ollie Weston, saxophones; Chris Eldred, piano and keyboards; Dave Jones, electric basses; Rick Finlay, drums, and Marc Cecil, percussion. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Go Your Own Way: The Rumours are true, they are playing Fleetwood Mac songs at the Grand Opera House tomorrow

Tribute show of the week: Go Your Own Way – The Fleetwood Mac Legacy, Grand Opera House, tomorrow, 7.30pm

GO Your Own Way celebrates the Fleetwood Mac era of Rumours and that 1977 line-up of Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood in this new tribute show. Dreams, Don’t Stop Rhiannon, Gold Dust Woman, Everywhere, Little Lies and Big Love all feature. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Jonny Best: Piano accompaniment to Monday’s screenings of The Great Train Robbery and The General. Picture: Chris Payne

Film screening of the week: Northern Silents Film Festival presents The Great Train Robbery (1903) and The General (1926), National Centre for Early Music, York, Monday, 7.30pm

NORTHERN Silents artistic director and pianist Jonny Best brings musical commentary to a pair of silent cinema’s most famous railway chase films.

The 12-minute escapade The Great Train Robbery still packs a punch after 120 years, while Buster Keaton’s greatest achievement, the 80-minute The General, is both a brlliantly staged American Civil War epic and a comedy-thriller packed with visual humour, daring stunts and dramatic tension.

Keaton plays railroad engineer Johnny Gray, whose beloved locomotive, The General, is stolen by Yankees, stirring him to strive to get it back against the odds. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Eleanor McLoughlin as Victoria Frankenstein and Cameron Robertson as The Creature in Tilted Wig’s Frankenstein, on tour at York Theatre Royal

One for the Halloween season: Tilted Wig in Frankenstein, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday; 7.30pm October 24 and 26 to 28; 2pm, October 25 and 26; 2.30pm, October 28

TILTED Wig’s Frankenstein is an electrifying reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Gothic 19th century horror story, now set in 1943. While Europe tears itself apart, two women hide from their past at what feels like the very end of the world. One of them has a terrifying story to tell. 

Adapted and directed by Sean Aydon, this new thriller explores the very fabric of what makes us human and the ultimate cost of chasing “perfection” with a cast featuring Eleanor McLoughlin as Doctor Victoria Frankenstein, Basienka Blake as Captain/Richter and Cameron Robertson as The Creature. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Burning Duck Comedy Club welcomes Tom Lawrinson, Erin Tett and Mandy McCarthy to Spark:York

Comedy bill of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Tom Lawrinson & Friends, Spark:York, Piccadilly, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

AFTER Tom Lawrinson and Eryn Tett starred in Burning Duck’s inaugural Spark Comedy Fringe, promoter Al Greaves has invited them back to spark more laughs.

Absurdist alternative comedian Tett opens the show; Lawrinson, who made his Edinburgh Fringe debut with Hubba Hubba, is the headline act. In between come two shorter spots (wait and see who those “friends” will be), with guest host MC Mandy McCarthy holding everything together. Box office: burningduckcomedy.com.

Comedian Helen Bauer: Girl’s talk at The Crescent and Hyde Park Book Club

A word or two on women: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Helen Bauer: Grand Supreme Darling Princess, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Headingley, Leeds, Friday, 8pm

HELEN Bauer, Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee, Late Night Mash star and Trusty Dogs podcaster, heads to York and Leeds with a show about the women in her life, from her mother to her best friend and that one girl who was mean in 2008. Oh, and Disney princesses, obviously. Box office: York, wegottickets.com/event/581816; Leeds, wegottickets.com/event/581817.

One dalmatian, 100 more are on their way to the Grand Opera House in a new musical in November 2024. Picture: Oliver Rosser, Feast Creative

Spotted in the distance: 101 Dalmatians The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 5 to 9 2024, not 2023

A NEW musical tour of Dodie Smith’s canine caper 101 Dalmatians will arrive in York next autumn.  Written by Douglas Hodge (music and lyrics) and Johnny McKnight (book), from a stage adaptation by Zinnie Harris, the show is reimagined from the 2022 production at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London. The cast and creative team are yet to be announced.

When fashionista Cruella de Vil plots to swipe all the Dalmatian puppies in town to create her fabulous new fur coat, trouble lies ahead for Pongo and Perdi and their litter of tail-wagging young pups. Smith’s story will be brought to stage life with puppetry, choreography, humorous songs and, yes, puppies. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

In Focus: Political drama of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Government Inspector

Director Alan Park, back row, right, and his Settlement Players cast for Government Inspector at Theatre@41, Monkgate. Picture: John Saunders

IN his first time in the director’s seat for 15 years, Theatre@41 chair and actor Alan Park directs the Settlement Players in David Harrower’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Russian satirical exposé of hypocrisy and corruption in high places, prompted by a simple case of mistaken identity.

Park’s ensemble cast of eccentrics will undertake a fun, chaotic journey through 1980s’ Soviet Russia. “Communism is collapsing, it’s every man, woman and dog for themselves. What could possibly go wrong?” he asks, as the bureaucrats of a small Russian town are sent into a panic by news of the government inspector’s imminent arrival.

Harrower’s version premiered at the Warwick Arts Centre in May 2011 and transferred to the Young Vic, London, later that year. Now it provides “the perfect platform for Settlement Players’ hugely talented ensemble”, led by Mike Hickman as the town’s Major.

Andrew Roberts plays Khlestakov, accompanied by Paul French as his long-suffering servant, Osip. YSCP regulars combine with newcomers in Park’s company of Alison Taylor as the Major’s wife; Pearl Mollison, the Major’s daughter; Katie Leckey, Dobchinsky; Sonia Di Lorenzo, Bobchinksy; Maggie Smales, the Judge; Matt Pattison, Postmaster; Mark Simmonds, Head of Hospitals; Paul Osborne, School Superintendent; Adam Sowter, Police Superintendent; Florence Poskitt, Mishka, and Alexandra Mather, Dr Gibner.

Jim Paterson will lead a live band, made up of cast members, such as Pattison and Sowter, to help transport next week’s audiences to a 1980s’ provincial Soviet town full of eccentric personalities. Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Chamber Music Festival 2023

Tim Lowe: Festival director and cellist

Tim Lowe and Katya Apekisheva, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, September 15

YORK Chamber Music Festival’s tenth anniversary season bounced into life with this lunchtime recital centred round Brahms’s First Cello Sonata. The remainder of the programme involved some Beethoven variations, a couple of Tchaikovsky bonbons and two Schumann movements originally intended for horn. But it was a pleasing taster nonetheless.

The first of Brahms’s two sonatas for cello and piano, in E minor, is a surprisingly mature work, given that it mostly dates from his late twenties and is his first chamber piece for two instruments.

Compared to most of his contemporaries he was a late developer. The first movement, in which the major key makes futile attempts to take over from the minor, relies heavily on the cello’s lower range. Here the balance between the players was, rarely in this recital, not quite right and a little more heft in the cello might have solved the problem. But there was no faulting Tim Lowe’s upper register, which sang with heartfelt joy.

There was a jaunty opening to the minuet and an engaging return to its resumption after the halting trio. Bach’s influence on the finale was plain to hear and the ebb and flow between the duo after the central unison was riveting, before a decidedly edgy coda.

Beethoven’s variations on Handel’s aria See, The Conquering Hero Comes – nowadays often sung as an Easter hymn – shows a remarkable affinity for the cello’s spectrum of colours, which Lowe amply demonstrated. As so often as an accompanist, Katya Apekisheva was quick to adapt her tone to the work’s chameleon moods.

Two Tchaikovsky pieces originally intended for piano solo revealed the composer’s talent for a long-breathed melody, particularly one in a minor key. He loved his C sharp minor Nocturne, Op 19 No 4 so much that he orchestrated it. Lowe was richly touching in the little cadenza at its heart. Even more soulful was the Valse Sentimentale (Op 51 No 6 in F minor) with its passionate undercurrents.

Schumann wrote his Adagio and Allegro, Op 70 for horn and piano but allowed a cellist friend to transcribe it. In this guise it sounds remarkably different. Lowe delivered a beautifully calm line in the Adagio, and the duo captured the Allegro’s rapture superbly, with its second theme ideally balanced by the piano, before full-blown excitement at its close.

Festival Strings, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, September 15

STRING quartets by Haydn and Mendelssohn preceded Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen in its original form in this evening recital, which was the first at which all of the festival’s seven resident string players were present. Looked at another way, this was late Haydn, early Mendelssohn and late Strauss, a potent combination.

Jonathan Stone led the ensemble for Haydn’s Emperor quartet, Op 76 No 3 in C, backed by John Mills as second violin, Simone van der Giessen as viola and Jonathan Aasgaard as cello. There is always an element of hazard – part of the fun, if you like – when four independent souls, mainly used to solo work, link talents, particularly in a work by Haydn that requires the utmost precision.

That hazard is increased when they opt to play with very little vibrato, as here. That decision was odd given that this is a work of the late 1790s, with several toes, if not a whole foot, in the Romantic era. That may be the reason why this combo never quite settled.

Intonation was slightly awry in the nervous first movement and even the Emperor adagio (variations on Haydn’s hymn for the Kaiser, now the German national anthem) lacked real character, virtually vibrato-less.

The minuet was much more relaxed, even chirpy, with nice shading in its trio, but the finale was a touch too fast for its semiquavers to enjoy real clarity. The overall effect was intimate where we needed to hear more of Haydn’s heart on his sleeve.

Mills took over from Stone to lead Mendelssohn’s Second Quartet, Op 13 in A minor, with Hélène Clément as the new viola. Although only 30 years separate this piece from the Haydn, the players’ difference in approach was tangible.

Right from the start, there was a new commitment. After a rich opening Adagio, inner voices shone through commendably in the turbulent Allegro. After the slow movement’s central fugato, Mills’s little recitative to return to the opening was exquisite.

The central scherzo in the Intermezzo was light and delicate, returning to the movement’s opening with a delicate rallentando, before almost no break into the restless finale. Among so much incident here, the viola’s recall of the fugato theme was a pivotal moment, briefly changing the mood, before another outbreak of violence, stilled in its turn by the violin’s pacifying cadenza, supremely executed.

Thereafter, the recall of the very opening Adagio brought comfort and calm. It had been a passionate narrative, probably inspired by the teenage Mendelssohn’s unrequited infatuation at the time.

For nearly half a century, Strauss’s Metamorphosen was known only as a piece for 23 solo strings. Then the original version, for string septet with double bass foundation, came to light in 1990. It is writing of great intensity, which grew from a lament on the bombing of Munich in 1943.

The ensemble, led again by John Mills, brought great clarity to the score’s complex tapestry. From the dark opening on lower strings, its eventual emergence into major key territory brought a gradual quickening of rhythmic life, with all the players becoming as fervent as the ‘engine-room’ of violas.

When this had subsided back into grief, the cry of pain from the top three voices was answered by a vivid tutti, after which resignation slowly took over, with Strauss’s dotted figure assuming the characteristics of a recurring sob. It had seemed to subsume remorse, regret and elegy – for all mankind.

Katya Apekisheva: All-Schubert recital

Katya Apekisheva, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, September 16

KATYA Apekisheva is one of a very rare breed of pianists, one who is equally accomplished as a soloist and as a supportive player (otherwise known as an accompanist). She changed her originally published lunchtime programme into an all-Schubert recital, combining works written in the last year of his life, 1828.

Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke (Three Piano Pieces), D.946, of May 1828 together equal the breadth of a full-scale sonata, although their keys are not related. They are better considered as impromptus, which implies sudden inspiration, even if they are all essentially in three parts.

Apekisheva took time to adjust her tone down to the size of the venue and began quite stridently, blurring the first statement in No 1 in E flat minor with over-pedalling, an oversight that she handsomely corrected on its repeat. Still, the central melody was too loud to be much of a contrast with the opening.

No 2 in E flat major enjoyed a more tender start, although it quickly boiled into something like anger when Apekisheva produced a trombone in the left hand where a gentler bassoon would have done the trick. Then we began to sense a Viennese flavour emerging at the move to the minor key, before a beautifully smooth transition back to the calm of the opening. This was more like it.

No 3 in C major was a real crackerjack, crisp and crunchy. The central trio was trimly smooth, right down to its stormy ending, and the syncopation in the returning scherzo injected exactly the wit we had been waiting for. She was back in the groove.

September 1828, a mere two months before Schubert’s death, saw him produce no less than three full-scale piano sonatas, which together may be said to crystallise his musical philosophy. The last of these, D.960 in B flat major, has a serenity largely missing from its two predecessors, which are more volatile. Apekisheva underlined this with some of her finest playing, growing more luminous with each movement.

Her opening was very spacious, a touch slower than is traditional, but right in keeping with the composer’s marking ‘Molto moderato’. The second theme was quicker, but its melodic flow was several times impeded by a little too much rubato. There was real nobility in the slow movement’s second melody, where the trombone returned, quite justifiably this time, to her left hand. But its overall mood was deeply ruminative, even doleful.

The scherzo was flickering and fairy-light, just what the doctor ordered, with fierce accents in its trio. Apekisheva’s contrasting moods throughout the finale were testimony to her deft touch, which enabled her to convey her ideas in the subtlest ways, tiny inflexions that reflected her intelligence.

By the end she had the sunlight bursting through the detached notes in the left hand, with the movement’s magical octave opening reduced to a pianissimo before the final burst of enthusiasm. This was Apekisheva at her radiant best.

Festival Strings and Piano, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, September 16

THREE works written by English composers in the first two decades of the 20th century made an extremely satisfying combination on the festival’s second evening. Vaughan Williams’s rarely heard Piano Quintet was the centrepiece, framed by Bridge’s Three Idylls and Elgar’s Piano Quintet after the interval.

Bridge’s Three Idylls of 1906 come right out of the Edwardian playbook, those balmy years before Europe turned to war. They speak of a more Arcadian time infused with innocence. Bridge opens and closes the first, which is in C sharp minor, with a viola solo, the instrument reflecting his own professional career as a player.

Simone van der Giessen brought to it the dark colouring it demands. But with Jonathan Stone as leader the ensemble dissolved neatly into its quicker, major key section, before muting back into something calmer.

The Allegretto, No 2 in E minor, was notable for its springy rhythms, before breaking off into greater restraint. No 3 in C major, an Allegro con moto, has a catchy tune, with more than a sniff of Morris dancing; its snippets were jovially exchanged between the voices. The unexpected chorale that follows did not deter a snappy ending.

Vaughan Williams did not encourage, nor expect, his Piano Quintet in C minor (1903-5) to be played, regarding it as backward-looking. But his widow Ursula succumbed to pressure and allowed its performance only as recently as 1990. It reveals much about the composer’s early influences, as well as his likely direction of travel; we can now see it as a pivotal work, in other words.

The work is unusual in using a double bass and dispensing with a second violin. This give its bass line a firmer foundation and, with pizzicato, a more percussive impact. Its broad Brahmsian sweep at the start shows Vaughan Williams’s Romantic inclinations, before folk-song notions had grabbed his imagination. Even here, however, the second theme, with strings alone, begins to sound English and the use of the coda to give each player, including the double bass, a brief solo is a distinctive touch.

The chorale-like start to the Andante, heard in the piano and commented upon by the strings, was handled eloquently here before becoming more animated. On its return, the piano accompaniment sounded as if cribbed from his song Silent Noon, which was written the same year as this work was begun: a hazy, calming effect.

Strings and piano faced off against each other in the final Fantasia, but after Katya Apekisheva’s piano had furiously escaped the fray, they all came together in a staccato reconciliation, led by John Mills’s violin.

A wistful reminiscence, with pianistic bells tolling across the landscape, was followed by a grand build-up broken only by the piano’s return to the chorale and a quiet close that the ensemble controlled beautifully. It was hard to imagine a more revealing account of this superb work.

Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor of 1918, by contrast, was written in the wake of a searing war. Its hesitant introduction breaks into anger in its second theme, from which the ensemble, with Jonathan Stone back in the leader’s chair, did not recoil. The little three-note rhythm, a drumbeat of war, permeated the whole first movement, and the ensemble made the most of it, even in the deeply rueful ending.

The immense climax at the centre of the slow movement subsided as quickly as it arrived, and the extended coda resumed the telling harmonic stasis with which the movement had opened. The ensemble was unflaggingly insistent throughout Elgar’s heavily accented finale, building to a coda that was thrillingly optimistic.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, from a remote island murder trail to science lessons. Hutch’s List No. 39, from The Press

Mark Simmonds, left, Martyn Hunter and Ian Giles rehearsing Pick Me Up Theatre’s And Then There Were None at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

AND then there were ten as Charles Hutchinson picks his cultural highlights, from Christie mystery to prints aplenty,  Wax words to science explosions, extinction fears to singers’ farewells.  

Thriller of the week: Pick Me Up Theatre in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, running until September 30, 7.30pm (except tomorrow and Monday); 2.30pm, today, tomorrow and next Saturday

TEN strangers are summoned to a remote island. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they are unwilling to reveal and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder.

As the weather turns and the group is cut off from the mainland, the bloodbath begins and one by one they are brutally murdered in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme in Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, directed for York company Pick Me Up Theatre by Andrew Isherwood, who will play retired Inspector William Blore too. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Michelle Hughes’s Kilburn White Horse, on show at York Printmakers Autumn Fair

Print deadline: York Printmakers Autumn Fair, York Cemetery Chapel and Harriet Room, today and tomorrow, 10am to 5pm

IN its sixth year, the York Printmakers Autumn Fair features work by 26 members exhibiting and selling hand-printed original prints, including Russell Hughes, Rachel Holborow, Michelle Hughes, Harriette Rymer and Jo Rodwell.

On display will be a variety of printmaking techniques, such as linocut, collagraphs, woodcut, screen printing, stencilling and etching. Artists will be on hand to discuss their working methods and to show the blocks, plates and tools they use.

Pulling a face: Comedian Phil Wang returns to York on his Wang In There, Baby! tour

Seriously silly: Phil Wang, Wang In There, Baby!, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

AFTER his Netflix special, David Letterman appearance, role in Life & Beth with Amy Schumer and debut book Sidesplitter, Phil Wang discusses race, family, nipples and everything else going on in his Philly little life in his latest stand-up show, Wang In There, Baby! Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Cinder Well: Songs of mystery at The Band Room, Low Mill. Picture: Georgia Zeavin

Gig of the week outside York: Cinder Well, The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale, North York Moors, tonight, 7.30pm

CINDER Well, multi-instrumentalist Amelia Baker’s experimental American roots project, showcases her mysterious April 2023 album, Cadence.

The title refers to the cycles of our turbulent lives, to the uncertain tides that push us forward and back, as Cadence drifts between two far-flung seas: the hazy California coast where Baker grew up and the wind-torn swells of County Clare, western Ireland, that she has come to love. Box office: thebandroom.co.uk.

Ministry of Science Live: Lighting the flame for experiments in Science Saved The World at Grand Opera House, York

Explosive children’s show of the week: Ministry of Science Live in Science Saved The World, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 12.30pm and 4pm

MINISTRY of Science take an anarchic approach to science communication, looking at the scientists, engineers and inventors who have shaped the modern world, while proving that each and every one of us has the ability to change our world for the better.

Expect 20ft liquid nitrogen clouds, exploding oxygen and hydrogen balloons, fire tornados, hydrogen bottle rockets, ignited methane and even a self-built Hovercraft. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Confronting ecological disaster: Stephanie Hutchinson in A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction at York Theatre Royal. Picture: James Drury

Play of the week: A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIRECTED for York Theatre Royal by Mingyu Lin, Miranda Rose Hall’s play heads out on a life-changing journey to confront the urgent ecological disaster unfolding around us. Part ritual, part battle cry, this “fiercely feminist off-grid” one-woman show offers a moving evaluation of what it means to be human in an era of man-made extinction.

Leeds actress Stephanie Hutchinson will be joined at each performance by eight cyclists, who will ride specially adapted bicycles to power the electricity required for lighting and sound. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Ruby Wax: A search to find meaning on a series of life-changing journeys

Waxing lyrical: Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought, York Alive festival, Grand Opera House, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

IN 2022, American-British actress, comedian, writer, television personality and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, 70, began a search to find meaning, booking a series of potentially life-changing journeys. Even greater change marked her inner journey, as charted in her book I’m Not As Well As I Thought and now in her “rawest, darkest, funniest show yet”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

The Manfreds: Last tour together for singers Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo on 60th anniversary itinerary

Nostalgia of the week…for the last time: Maximum Rhythm’n’Blues with The Manfreds, Grand Opera House, York, Friday

JOIN legendary pioneers of Sixties’ British rhythm & blues The Manfreds as they celebrate 60 years in the business. Vocalists Paul Jones, 81, and Mike D’Abo, 79, are touring together for the final time, alongside long-standing members Tom McGuinness, Rob Townsend, Marcus Cliffe and Simon Currie, to rejoice in Do Wah Diddy Diddy, If You Gotta Go, Go Now, Pretty Flamingo, My Name Is Jack and Mighty Quinn. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company: Three performances in one day at the NCEM

Dance at the treble: Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company, Art Of Believing Special Edition, National Centre for Early Music, York, October 1, 3.30pm, 6pm and 8.30pm

LAST at the NCEM in November 2022, the Daniel Martinez Flamenco Company returns to York for three performances in one day of Art Of Believing, a 90-minute show suffused with emotion, passion and grit.

Works from Martinez’s Herald Angel Award-winning production Art Of Believing will be complemented by previously unseen pieces performed by musicians, singers and dancer Gabriela Pouso. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

Kenny Thomas: Rediscovered songs and big hits on the Him Tour 2024 at Grand Opera House, York

Looking ahead: Kenny Thomas, Him 2024 Tour, Grand Opera House, York, May 19 2024

ISLINGTON soul singer-songwriter Kenny Thomas will front his all-star band in York on his nine-leg British tour next spring, showcasing songs from his “lost” third album, the never-commercially-released Him, alongside his greatest hits.

“Over three decades on from when I first started out, this tour demonstrates that soul music is here to stay,” says Thomas, 55, whose Best Of compilation will be out on November 3. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

In Focus: Stephanie Hutchinson on starring in a one-woman show for the first time in A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction

Stephanie Hutchinson: Starring in one-woman, whole-world drama A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction at York Theatre Royal

STEPHANIE Hutchinson had never imagined she would do a one-woman show.

Come Wednesday, however, the Leeds actress will be giving her solo turn for five performances in “a bold experiment in eco theatre-making” and a “fiercely feminist off-grid production” at York Theatre Royal.

The title, A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction, is an indication that this Headlong, London Barbican and York Theatre Royal co-production will be unlike anything you have seen before.

Hands up anyone who has witnessed a stage production powered by bicycles. Only The HandleBards on their open-air Shakespeare travels come to mind.

Strictly speaking, Stephanie will not be on her own. Eight cyclists per performance will be pedalling away to power lights and microphones, while the York Theatre Royal Choir will be participating too.

After a Barbican run, Miranda Rose Hall’s play is on a zero-travel tour using an eco-friendly blueprint. The rest of the production, from local actor to cyclists, is provided by the theatre hosting the show, culminating in York next week.

“I don’t want the audience to feel they’re just being talked at,” says Stephanie. Picture: James Drury

Stephanie sees it as a co-operative production, not only a one-woman show. “I’ve not seen A Play For The Living but heard a lot about it,” she says.

Her character, a dramaturg called Naomi, pressed into impromptu service as an actress, is fearful of death but is determined to confront fears about an impending ecological disaster.

“What caught my eye was just how sustainable the production is,” she says. “Naomi is described as a woman in her 20s who is scared of dying. She’s already had to go on stage and act in front of people. She’s confronted that fear. Now she’s facing her fear of dying and wants to have a conversation about it.

“I like how interactive it is. It’s not just me, not just a verbal splurge. She wants to know what others are thinking. I don’t want the audience to feel they’re just being talked at.”

Despite the subject, A Play For The Living is not all gloom and doom, emphasies Stephanie. There are funny moments. Gloomy and funny is her hope for the experience.

Stephanie Hutchinson in Badapple Theatre’s production of Elephant Rock, part of the TakeOver festival at York Theatre Royal in May last year

“I don’t think it’s just a message play,” she says. “Naomi’s having a conversation, making the audience aware of what she’s found during her research. It’s also like an ode to the Earth as well because the Earth has given us so much but in return we’re not treating it back very well. It’s almost like she’s blessing the Earth and thanking it. But we do need to be careful – if we keep going the way we’re going, future generations might not have it.”

Stephanie was last seen on York Theatre Royal’s main stage in Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre’s Elephant Rock during the TakeOver season in May 2022. Her other credits include Shake The City, based around the clothworkers’ strike in Leeds in 1970, staged at both Leeds Playhouse and Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

All this is something of a surprise for Stephanie who did not nurse acting ambitions from a young age. “I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I was a teenager. Then when I was 15, 16, I was going to theatre classes where you’d do singing, dancing, acting and I was like, ‘I quite actually like this – can I do it at uni or go to a drama school?’.

“So, at 18, I went to Salford University and graduated with a BA (Hons) Performing Arts. I’ve managed to carry it on, although I’m not quite sure how I’ve done that. My ambition is just to keep on going because I can’t really see myself doing anything else. Even in my day job, I do role play and that’s acting on the side. Acting is getting paid for doing what I love.

“I thought I would never do a one-person show. I am feeling very happy where I am at the moment. Very happy.”

Prima Vocal Ensemble finds intimate setting for Songs From The Heart concert at National Centre for Early Music

Prima Vocal Ensemble artistic director, producer and conductor Ewa Salecka

PRIMA Vocal Ensemble will perform an intimate evening of choral diversity, Songs From The Heart, at the National Centre for Early Music, York, on September 30.

Artistic director and producer Ewa Salecka will lead the York choir in a 7.30pm programme of contemporary classical and popular choral music with Greg Birch at the piano.

“Leaving no stone unturned in terms of performance venues, we have brought musical excellence to theatres, churches, cathedrals and arts venues in this country, across Europe and the United States of America as we celebrate our 14th successful year,” says Ewa.

“In recent years, we have expanded our immediate locale to include venues in Tadcaster and Selby, so we are overjoyed to stage our second major event of the year ‘at home’ in York. Accustomed as we are to gracing the big stages, there is a special significance to this aptly titled event. Songs From The Heart will be exactly that.

“Based in the medieval, Grade I listed, converted church of St Margaret’s, in Walmgate, the NCEM is an international exemplar of the very best creative and artistic output. This is the ideal opportunity to experience the choir ‘up close and personal’ with a carefully designed programme.”

Ewa’s music selection itself keeps her choral output “beyond definition”, she says, having championed contemporary composers while discovering arrangements that breathe new life into popular, jazz and soul classics.

“As such, Prima remains a choir that cannot be classified. A cappella pieces can sit comfortably alongside sweeping choral and orchestral performances; accompaniment may stretch from piano to full gospel band, and full-size string orchestras have been a common feature of our concerts over the years,” says Ewa.

“I like to keep my ears finely tuned to the modern choral world. There is so much creativity aimed at choirs today, and I like to be just ahead of the next popular wave, regardless of genre. It delights me when I hear contemporary compositions Prima have performed for years suddenly gaining regular attention on the mainstream media. It’s reassuring to have your instincts proved correct!”

Prima Vocal Ensemble’s poster for Songs From The Heart at the NCEM

For Songs From The Heart, Ewa has chosen heartfelt music to showcase this richness. Contemporary composers Randall Thompson, René Clausen and Stephen Paulus are paired with celebrated female composers such as Elizabeth Alexander.

“Captivating and often unexpected pieces from recent decades are perfectly balanced by a second half performance that takes familiar artists to the next level with moving and energetic arrangements of songs from George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Freddie Mercury to current musical songs from the stage and big screen,” says Ewa.

Ahead of their 2024 New York City reunion, no Prima event would be complete without the uplifting music of Christopher Tin, the double Grammy-winning composer of Baba Yetu and Sogno di Volare.

“With two amazing concerts still to come this year, the number one emotion I feel for Prima is overwhelmingly clear,” says Ewa. “Pride! I’m so proud of how this choir keeps giving, its dedication to the music and desire forthe very best performance. This is what drives us all and what appeals to new members.

“We always welcome new voices, and with so much in the pipeline for the next 12 months, it’s the ideal time to join. Yes, we perform high-standard arrangements, but there are no auditions to join, so if you like a rewarding challenge, love meaningful music, want to sing in harmony, improve your voice, your mental and physical health and make new friends, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you, and new enquiries from tenors and basses will always be prioritised.”

Tickets can be booked directly from www.primavocalensemble.com/event-details/songs-from-the-heart-prima-vocal-ensemble. “With limited seating in the NCEM, early booking is recommended,” says Ewa.

More Things To Do in York & beyond, from musical mischief to hen night shenanigans. Here’s Hutch’s List No.32, from The Press

Bull: Headlining The Boatyard Festival at Bishopthorpe Marina today

SHAKESPEARE in gardens, music and magic by the riverside, an LGBTQ musical premiere and a riotous hen party on stage are among Charles Hutchinson’s eye-catchers for upcoming entertainment.

Festival of the week: The Boatyard Festival, The Boatyard, Bishopthorpe Marina, Ferry Lane, Bishopthorpe, York, today, 10am until late

THIS family-friendly music festival will be headlined by ebullient York band Bull. Look out too for Bonneville, Tymisha, London DJ Zee Hammer, Yorky Pud Street Band, The Plumber Drummer, City Snakes, Rum Doodle and Hutch.

Further attractions will be stilt walkers, a hula-hoop workshop, a giant bubble show, magic, face painting, fayre games, stalls, food and drink, with free admission for accompanied children. Box office: head to the-boatyard.co.uk/events/ for the QR code to book.

Four Wheel Drive director Alfie Howle and cast member Alison Gammon park up at the National Centre of Early Music for a garden of delights in A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Crazy chaos of the week: Four Wheel Drive presents A Midsummer Day’s Dream, National Centre for Early Music, York, today at 11am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm

FOUR Wheel Drive, producers of “off-road theatrical experiences” in York, invite children aged seven to 11 and their families to a musical, magical and mystical diurnal reimagining of William Shakespeare’s romcom in the NCEM gardens (or indoors if wet).

Four Athenians run away to the forest, only for the sylvan sprite Puck to make both the boys fall in love with the same girl while also helping his master play a trick on the fairy queen. Will all this crazy chaos have a happy ending? Anna Gallon and Alfie Howle’s interactive 45-minute adaptation will allow children to engage in the mischief-making Midsummer action, performed by Gallon, Katja Schiebeck and Esther Irving. Grab a boom-wacker and book tickets on 01904 658338 or necem.co.uk.

Three in one: Esk Valley Theatre writer, director and actor Mark Stratton

Debut of the week: Esk Valley Theatre in Deals And Deceptions, Robinson Institute, Glaisdale, Whitby, until August 26

IN artistic director Mark Stratton’s first play for Esk Valley Theatre, Danny and Jen leave London and head to an isolated cottage in the North York Moors. City clashes with country, dark forces are at work and humorous situations arise.

“We may think we know the person we are married to, but do we?” asks Stratton, who is joined in the cast by Clare Darcy and Dominic Rye. “What someone chooses to show the world is not always who they are. If they trade in deals and deceptions, then a day of reckoning will surely come.” Box office: 01947 897587 or eskvalleytheatre.co.uk.

Is this the hen party from hell? Will best friends fall out in Bridesmaids Of Britain? Find out tomorrow night

Hen party comedy heads to hen party haven: Bridesmaids Of Britain, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7pm

BILLED as “the girls’ night out to remember”, welcome to Diana Doherty’s Bridesmaids Of Britain. Becky is the overly loyal maid-of-honour whose life unravels as she leads best friend Sarah on a wild ride down the road to matrimony.

Things go awry, however, as competition between Becky and Tiffany – Sarah new BFF (best friend forever, obvs) – over who is the bride’s bestie threatens to upend the wedding planning that has been in the making since primary school. Be prepared for dance-offs, sing-offs and eventually shout-offs at the “hen do of the year”, held in a caravan. Will this wedding story have a happy ending, or will these best friends rip each other apart? Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Dan Crawfurd-Porter’s Whizzer and Chris Mooney’s Marvin in rehearsal for Black Sheep Theatre Productions’ Falsettos, opening at the JoRo on Wednesday

York premiere of the week: Black Sheep Theatre Productions in Falsettos, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

YORK company Black Sheep Theatre Productions has been granted an exclusive British licence by Concord Theatricals and composer/lyricist William Finn to stage Finn and James Lapine’s “very gay, very Jewish” musical Falsettos, thanks to the persistence of director Matthew Clare.

In its late-Seventies, early-Eighties American story, set against the backdrop of the rise of Aids, Marvin has left his wife Trina and son Jason to be with his male lover Whizzer, whereupon he struggles to keep his Jewish family together in the way he has idealised. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Pennine Suite: Topping Friday’s bill of York bands at The Crescent

York music bill of the week: Northern Radar presents Pennine Suite, Sun King, Everything After Midnight and The Rosemaries, The Crescent, York, Friday, 7.30pm to 11pm

PENNINE Suite play their biggest headline gig to date in an all-York line-up on a rare 2023 appearance in their home city. The five-piece draws inspiration from the alternative rock movements of the 1980s and 1990s, interlaced with shoegaze and pop melodies, typified by the singles Far and Scottish Snow. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Garden secrets: Which character will York Shakespeare Project veteran Frank Brogan play in Sonnets At The Bar? It’s all hush-hush until August 11

Bard convention: York Shakespeare Project in Sonnets At The Bar, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Friday to August 19 (except August 14), 6pm and 7.30pm plus 4.30pm Saturday performances

YORK Shakespeare Project returns to the secret garden at Bar Convent for another season of Shakespeare sonnets, this time directed by Tony Froud. Reprising the familiar format, the show features a series of larger-than-life modern characters, each with a secret to reveal through a sonnet.

Inside writer Helen Wilson’s framework of the comings and goings of hotel staff and guests, the characters will be played by Diana Wyatt, Judith Ireland, Sarah Dixon, Frank Brogan, Maurice Crichton, Nigel Evans, Harold Mozley, Froud and Wilson. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Ceridwen Smith in Next Door But One’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter . Picture: James Drury

Talking elephants of the week: Next Door But One in The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, York Theatre Royal patio, August 12, 11am and 2pm

YORK theatre-makers Next Door But One’s adventurous storyteller travels to Lila’s Firework Festival in this intimate, inclusive, accessible and fun stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel, replete with talking elephants, silly kings and magical creatures.

As Lila voyages across lakes and over mountains, she faces her biggest fears and learns everything she needs to know to become the person she has always wanted to be. Makaton signs and symbols, puppetry and audience participation play their part in Ceridwen Smith’s performance. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Grace Petrie: Switching from folk musician to stand-up comedy act on tour in York, Leeds and Sheffield

Change of tack: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Grace Petrie: Butch Ado About Nothing, The Crescent, York, September 17, 7.30pm

FOLK singer, lesbian and checked-shirt-collector Grace Petrie has been incorrectly called “Sir” every day of her adult life. Now, after finally running out of subject matter for her “whiny songs”, she is putting down the guitar to work out why in her debut stand-up show, Butch Ado About Nothing, on her return to The Crescent.

Finding herself mired in an age of incessantly and increasingly fraught gender politics, the Norwich-based Leicester native explores what butch identity means in a world moving beyond labels, pondering where both that identity and she belong in the new frontline of queer liberation. Petrie also plays Old Woollen, Leeds, on August 31 (8pm) and The Leadmill, Sheffield, on September 10 (7.30pm). Box office: gracepetrie.com; York, thecrescentyork.com; Leeds, oldwoollen.co.uk; Sheffield, leadmill.co.uk.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Rachel Podger and Daniele Caminiti at York Early Music Festival

Rachel Podger: “Her violin and Baroque music are made for each other”. Picture: Theresa Pewal

York Early Music Festival: Rachel Podger and Daniele Caminiti, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 13

RACHEL Podger’s violin and Baroque music are made for each other. The two halves of her outgoing personality, both personal and musical, are closely intertwined and enhance one another most intimately in her approach to the Baroque. In this wide-ranging tour of the period, her accomplice was the deft Sicilian theorbist Daniele Caminiti.

Although she naturally included several of the great names – Bach, Vivaldi, Biber – her surprises lay with lesser lights and with an unusual transcription. She opened with a rhapsodic sonata (Seconda) from the early Baroque by Giovanni Battista Fontana, whose simple melodies she embellished with delightful decorations, especially at cadences.

She immediately followed that with the last of 12 instrumental sonatas – believed to be the first by a woman ever to be published – by Isabella Leonarda, an Ursuline nun who composed prolifically right into her eighties.

It opened with a soulful Adagio, and continued as if telling a story, including a lyrical Aria and a brisk Veloce in jig time with a throwaway ending; its use of harmony was astounding. Podger gave its twists and turns typically stylish enthusiasm.

Bach’s Third Cello Suite, BWV1009 in C, is not what you expect in a violin recital, but it transcribes well for the higher instrument. Its Prélude was at once a tour de force, threatening to overshadow what followed.

Yet the jagged Allemande was equally engaging and Podger kept Bach’s different voices clearly apparent. The multiple-stopping of the stately Sarabande was followed by Bourrées, in which she played with the time, but tastefully, before delivering considerable fireworks in the volatile Gigue.

Biber’s Fourth Mystery Sonata, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which calls for scordatura (re-tuning of the strings), emerged as a brilliant set of variations, coolly navigated. Predictably, Podger offered some dazzling virtuosity along the way, notably in the outer movements of a Vivaldi sonata and in the concluding race for the tape of a Schmelzer sonata.

Caminiti shadowed her, if often understatedly, throughout but provided a good rhythmic foundation wherever possible. He also contributed several solos, especially a Piccininni toccata that made bold use of his bass strings and an intricate and delicate Toccata Arpeggiata by Kapsberger. He and Podger make a useful duo but not yet a great one.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Dunedin Consort in Out Of Her Mouth, York Early Music Festival

Carolyn Sampson: “Finding fighting form as both the heroine and her nemesis”. Picture: Marco Borggeve

York Early Music Festival: Dunedin Consort in Out Of Her Mouth, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 12

RARELY has York Early Music Festival dipped its toes into operatic waters, but it conjured some real drama from this unexpected plunge. In a co-production by Dunedin Consort, Hera and Mahogany Opera, directed by Mathilde Lopez, three biblical cantatas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre were brought together to make what amounted to a one-act opera involving three excellent sopranos, singing an English paraphrase by Toria Banks.

Jacquet was born into a family of musicians and instrument makers in Paris in 1665 and became its most illustrious member, renowned as a composer and harpsichordist. She married the organist Marin de la Guerre in 1684 and ten years later became the first woman in France to write an opera, Céphale et Procris.

Her 12 sacred cantatas of 1708, to texts by the poet and playwright Antoine Houdar de la Motte (1672-1731), deal with characters from the Bible, although she uses only a soprano and continuo plus a violin ad lib.

This means, for example, that in Susanne, the soprano must handle both the title role and that of the two elderly gentlemen ogling her swim, in addition to being narrator. It was a tall order but Anna Dennis rose to the challenge, sporting jeans and T-shirt inscribed “Keep your laws off my body”.

Wrongly accused by the disappointed gents, Susanne is acquitted in court. Hardly what you might expect from Baroque opera, but Jacquet’s concept was undoubtedly vivid. Not for the first time, Lucia Capellaro delivered a searing cello line to accompany Dennis’s well-wrought tension.

Alys Roberts, in full white wedding finery, sparkly top and shiny boots, represented Rachel in the second cantata, which was originally entitled Rachel and Jacob. She was called upon to play her fiancé Jacob as well as her father Laban, who effectively demolished their wedding plans by substituting his elder daughter Leah for Rachel at the altar.

Although her declamation was not always clear, there was no doubting Roberts’s commitment, forthright in her own bitter disappointment, indignantly menacing as Jacob and smugly philosophical as Laban delivering the moral that we cannot always have what we want.

Toria Banks confessed that her version moved the focus away from Jacob towards Rachel’s own feelings, in keeping with the thrust of the evening.

The third cantata Judith was much the most ferocious, with Carolyn Sampson in a silk shift finding fighting form as both the heroine and her nemesis Holofernes, fortunately playing the latter before drunkenness took hold of him. In the interlude while he fell asleep, harpsichord and theorbo were silent, allowing violin and cello gently to the fore. Otherwise, all was rhythmic fire.

The “beheading” was achieved with two large watermelons that were beaten to a pulp, their pieces collected and held up triumphantly in a bag before being kicked like a football. It was gruesome enough. But Sampson kept her head, veering between trepidation and the excitement of revenge with a determined focus.

The specially constructed stage, built higher and wider over the permanent one with the four players at the back, made for easy sightlines. The non-singing sopranos in each cantata acted as accomplices to the protagonist, giving an over-arching unity to the three scenes.

Without access to the original French, it is hard to know how close Toria Banks’s paraphrase – she calls it a “version” – steers to Jacquet’s intentions, but the production emerged as feminist polemic. What it certainly achieved, regardless, was to underline the imaginative power of Jacquet’s scores, both rhythmic and harmonic, giving them an extra impetus they thoroughly deserved.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Mishka Rushdie Momen and Friends at Ryedale Festival

Mishka Rushdie Momen: “Clearly one of the most thoughtful, gifted and sensitive British pianists”

Ryedale Festival: Mishka Rushdie Momen and Friends, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 25

IT’S an odd thing about the NCEM acoustic at St Margaret’s Church: the spoken voice is difficult to hear clearly, unless of course you use a microphone, as in the preconcert introduction.

This was true of both spoken contributions from violinist Tim Crawford and Ms Momen, and yet I could hear the pizzicato playing by cellist Tim Posner resonating beautifully throughout the performance. Mind you, he is a very fine player.

Anyhow, to the concert itself. Mishka Rushdie Momen and Friends suggested an intimate gathering of people who are on close terms with each other, and this is exactly what we got. The performers were at ease with each other.

They happily shared the dialogue, listening carefully to each instrumental utterance before replying. They even (musically) flirted with each other; the second canonic study by Schumann was a veritable love duet between violin and cello.

So, let’s start with the Schumann Six Etudes in Canonic Form Op. 56. Evidently, he wrote these pieces in 1845 as an attempt to overcome his “writer’s block”. They were originally written for organ or pedal piano, but it was Schumann’s friend, Theodor Kirchner, who later arranged these for piano trio. The canonic form is one of discipline, of formal conversation; we don’t usually tend to hear it sing, but it does here.

Following the tender second study touched on earlier, any whiff of the academic template is dispelled by the lovely Schumanesque melodic sound world. The music is joyous and so was the playing.

The fourth was conveyed as the charming romantic song it is, with lovely shaping of the musical phrases and rippling decoration. The performers clearly had fun with the very rhythmic, dance-like fifth and in the sixth they delivered a heartfelt, yearning finale. Moving too.

This brings us to the opening work, Smetana’s Trio in G minor, Op. 15. The Trio was written in response to the death of the composer’s four-year-old daughter, Bedriska, of scarlet fever in 1855. The players really captured the quite violent contrasts of the opening allegro moderato. Tender cello and violin solos crescendoed into full-throttle drive. These melted into both delicate and impassioned outpourings of nostalgic memory and grief.

There were echoes of Brahms in the work, but the overall impression conveyed was distinctly Czech; particularly in the thrilling second movement with its musical windows of reflection and the nervous energy of the brilliantly performed allegro finale.

Ms Momen’s performance of the wonderfully descriptive Smetana work, Memories Of Bohemia in the form of Polkas, was a real treat. Lovely touch, phrasing, expressive rubato and executed with real panache.

Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor Op.49 is a terrific work, and the trio delivered a terrific performance. Tim Posner’s opening cello theme was delivered with purpose and nobility. Ms Momen’s agitated accompaniment, at first chordal, then transformed into flights of bristling arpeggios as the theme is repeated.

The contrapuntal reworkings of the second, song-like melody were beautifully judged, as was the opening cello’s melody, now joined by a haunting descending line in the violin. The assai animato signing-off seemed to set the instruments on fire.

There was a quite intimate call and response about the Songs Without Words second movement. For example, in the opening musical piano invitation to the violin and cello to join the dance. The piano writing in the exuberant Scherzo is a virtuosic tour de force. And yet, captured in this performance, there is also magic in the air.

I loved the way the passages were thrown to each of the performers in turn, as in some musical game. The way the music effortlessly dissolved into the ether was delightful.

Apart from Tim Posner’s rather unexpected sweeping Mendelssohnian cello melody, this finale was very much hang-on-to-your-hats time. The driver is very much the piano, the writing is seriously demanding, and Ms Momen’s technique and musicality delivered. The final climax integrates the virtuosic and the song, with a crowd-pleasing signing off.

Mishka Rushdie Momen is clearly one of the most thoughtful, gifted and sensitive British pianists and consequently well equipped to embrace both solo and chamber music performance. Mishka Rushdie Momen and Friends – here the excellent Tim Crawford (violin) and Tim Posner (cello) – gave us a concert of equality of engagement, insight and enrichment.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Helen Charlston & Toby Carr and Marian & Rose Consorts at York Early Music Festival

Helen Charlston: “A voice like no other”

York Early Music Festival: Helen Charlston & Toby Carr, Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, July 10; The Marian Consort & Rose Consort of Viols, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 11

THERE is something special about a late-night recital, especially when the lights are low. The low-ceilinged Undercroft, with the audience in darkness and the performers dimly back-lit, was just the ticket for a spot of drama.

With the trusty theorbo of Toby Carr for support, Helen Charlston brought her considerable voice to bear on battle-hardened heroines.

Hers is no ordinary mezzo, as in soprano without the high notes. She has a considerable range, both high and low, but her tone is smoothly focused throughout, without sign of gear changing. Add to that a flair for diction which adds conviction to her theatricality, and you have a voice like no other. This was an exciting evening.

She opened and closed with Purcell. His most successful song in Bonduca (Boadicea as imagined by John Fletcher), O Lead Me To Some Peaceful Gloom, neatly captured the heroine’s inner conflict, and An Evening Hymn spoke of bold spiritual confidence.

She also evinced a special feel for the music of17th-century Italian Barbara Strozzi, a singer herself. The bitter-sweet pain of L’Heraclito Amoroso and the marvellously Italianate decorations in La Travagliata (The Tormented Woman) were meat and drink to Charlston’s skill.

She took her programme title, Battle Cry, from an eponymous work by Owain Park setting poetry by Georgia Way, which she premiered in 2021. It pictures intimate reactions to four ‘abandoned’ women: a lament for Boadicea, the solitude of Philomela, a prayer to Sappho and love-regret for Marietta.

Here she showed an uncommon affinity for the words, in vocal lines that were grateful even when occasionally flowery. Carr’s underpinnings were invaluable; as so often elsewhere, his rhythmic awareness added colour to the ebb and flow of passion. Its harmonies were modern but its aura evoked a much earlier era.

The highlight of the programme was the nobility in Charlston’s approach to Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna, which allowed us to discern a steely centre to the heroine’s emotional roller-coaster. Her dramatic style suggested that she must soon have a future on the operatic stage.

Carr was with her every step of the way. Indeed, it would have been good to hear more from him alone than the three brief solos we were allowed. Either way, they made a powerful duo.

The Marian Consort, represented by six voices at the NCEM on July 11

THE following lunchtime saw the combination of two consorts, the Rose Consort of Viols, which harks back to this festival’s origins, and the Marian Consort (of six voices). Byrd At Elizabeth’s Court celebrated the great man’s high-wire act as a Roman Catholic under a Protestant ruler.

It also allowed anthems normally heard with organ accompaniment to be experienced with the intimate richness of viols.

At its heart lay Byrd’s carol anthem Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby, which features the Virgin Mary’s gentle retort to the Massacre of the Innocents.

Responding to a new commission from the consorts to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Byrd’s death, Juta Pranulytė sensitively chose the same text to reflect the number of children born into war, cruelty and oppression in our own day.

Pranulytė’s smooth vocal lines moved in mainly close harmony over viols required at times to produce trills and portamentos. The soprano opened at the top of her range and needed to negotiate several high semi-tonal shifts.

The atmosphere thus conjured was elegiac, combining comfort with tears, in a style reminiscent of Byrd’s own musical misgivings about the plight of Roman Catholics under Elizabeth. Apart from its prologue, which was diffuse, this was a canny piece of writing that fell easily on the ear.

Several verse anthems surrounded this centrepiece. The higher-voiced soloists mainly needed to enunciate more clearly, but choral blend was exquisite. Byrd’s rare setting of Italian, the Ariosto poem La Verginella, was delicately treated by the soprano Caroline Halls.

Other highlights included the madrigal-style Come To Me Grief, For Ever, sung unaccompanied, and a gorgeous Amen to close the New Year carol O God That Guides The Cheerful Sun. The Tallis motet O Sacrum Convivium, sung from the back of the hall, was an apt reminder of Byrd’s important mentor and (later) close colleague.

The Roses offered several pieces on their own, including a five-part Tallis fantasia reconstructed by John Milsom and Byrd’s voluntary for Lady Nevell, infused with snappy figurations. His variation-packed Browning was typical of the ensemble’s smooth dexterity.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Festival will be all smoke and mirrors and full of Byrd song from July 7

York countertenor Iestyn Davies: Performing Eternal Source Of Light concert with Ensemble Jupiter on July 8. Picture: Chris Sorensen

YORK Early Music Festival 2023 takes the theme of Smoke & Mirrors with many of next month’s concerts reflecting the religious uncertainty of life in Tudor times.

Running from July 7 to 14 in York’s churches and historic buildings, the nine-day extravaganza of concerts, talks and workshops features The Sixteen, Ensemble Jupiter & Iestyn Davies, Rachel Podger and the City Musick among its headline performers.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “This year’s outstanding line-up of artists also includes Carolyn Sampson, RPS Vocal Award winner Anna Dennis, Alys Mererid Roberts and Helen Charlston, leading the charge for women across the ages.

“We are also presenting some of the most accomplished emerging ensembles from across Europe, including the 2019 and 2022 winners of the York International Young Artists Competition, who we are delighted to be welcoming back to York.”

The 2023 festival commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of one of England’s most celebrated composers, William Byrd, a man who lived a life beset by “smoke and mirrors” – hence the festival theme – as a practising Roman Catholic composer working for a constantly threatened Protestant Queen.

Mezzo soprano Helen Charlston: July 10 concert with theorbist Toby Carr at the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega

“The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort will share music of state and church for voices and viols, in Byrd At Elizabethan Court, at the National Centre for Early Music, directed by Rory McCleery on July 11,” says Delma.

“You can learn about his keyboard music with harpsichord supremo Francesco Corti in Musica Transalpina, also featuring toccatas and variations by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Peter Philips, at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on July 10, and take a ‘Byrd pilgrimage’ around the churches of York with York Minster organist Benjamin Morris at All Saints’ Church, North Street, on July 12, and St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, and St Denys’s Church, Walmgate, on July 13.

“You can also enjoy the heavenly sounds of Byrd’s liturgical masterpieces in The Sixteen’s A Watchful Gaze concert with the York Minster Choir, directed by Harry Christophers at York Minster on July 9, when Byrd’s legacy will be taken firmly into the modern day with two new works by Dobrinka Tabakova, Arise, Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity.”

Tickets are still available for several prominent festival concerts, not least The Sixteen, the festival’s opening concert by The City Musick on July 7 and York countertenor Iestyn Davies with festival debutants Ensemble Jupiter on July 8, both at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Directed by William Lyons, The City Musick’s Renaissance big band – 20 musicians in all – will be focusing on the legacy of David Munrow in an homage to his iconic 1970s’ recordings but with a modern twist.

Apotropaïk: Performing at All Saints’ Church on July 12

Lyons’s band brings together – deep breath – consorts of recorders, strings, shawms, crumhorns, racketts, dulcians, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, cornetts, sackbuts, keyboard, lutes and percussion to delight in the joy and richness of Renaissance instrumental sounds and dance styles, from sombre almains and pavans to effervescent bransles, galliards and ciaconnas.

Directed by lutenist Thomas Dunford, Ensemble Jupiter join with Iestyn Davies to perform Eternal Source Of Light, a selection of Handel’s most beautiful arias from the 1740s and ’50s, as heard on their award-winning Eternal Heaven album collaboration. Expect a seamless sequence of the secular and the sacred, the tranquil and the tempestuous, the sumptuous and the sophisticated.

On July 12, sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis and Alys Mererid Roberts join the Dunedin Consort to perform Out Of Her Mouth, three miniature cantatas written by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.

Performed in three historic venues, the NCEM at St Margaret’s Church, the Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers Hall, Fossgate, and the hall’s Undercroft, these works by a woman, about women and for women reveal the stories of three Biblical women narrating their own complex, heart-searching experiences.

This concert has sold out, as have the The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort’s celebration of Elizabeth I and her courtiers, festival artistic advisor Helen Charlston’s July 10 concert with theorbist Toby Carr at the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall, and violinist Rachel Podger’s return to the NCEM with theorbist Daniele Caminiti on July 13.

Violinist Rachel Podger: Returning to the National Centre for Early Music on July 13

Mezzo soprano Charlston and Carr explore the intimate sound-world of solo voice and theorbo in Battle Cry: She Speaks, those battle cries resounding down the centuries in song; Podger and Caminiti perform Hidden In Plain Sight, celebrating the virtuosity of the violin and its place on the concert platform.

The NCEM Platform Artists’ showcase for emerging European ensembles opens with 2019 EEEmerging+ Prize winners The Butter Quartet’s Well Met By Moonlight on July 9, moved to the NCEM after selling out Bedern Hall, followed by Apotropaïk, who scooped three prizes in last year’s York International Young Artists Competition, performing songs from a 13th century re-telling of the story of Tristan and Isolde, on July 12 at All Saints’ Church

2019 winners L’ Apothéose, from Spain, launch their new album, recorded at the NCEM last year, with a July 13 programme of Carl Stamitz chamber works from the 1780s, back at the NCEM.  2022 prize winners The Protean Quartet perform Tempus Omnia Vincit there on Juy 14 ahead of recording their debut album with Linn Records.

The festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 will be awarded to baroque trumpet player Crispian Steele-Perkins at the NCEM on July 9 immediately after the live edition of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, broadcast from there.

For the full festival programme and tickets, visit: ncem.co.uk.

I Zefirelli: July 6 concert at the National Centre for Early Music

I Zefirelli to play July 6 concert in NCEM gardens as part of week-long residency

AWARD-WINNING young instrumental ensemble I Zefirelli will arrive in York from Germany on July 4 for a week-long residency.

They will perform Mr Handel In The Pub! on July 6 in the National Centre for Early Music gardens, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, where they will present a very particular blend of folk and early music as seen through the lens of life in London in the 1700s.

The ensemble will be undertaking the residency as part of the EEEmerging + programme, a large-scale European cooperation project that promotes the emergence of new talent in early music.

In the I Zefirelli line-up are Luise Catenhusen, recorder; María Carrasco, baroque violin; Jakob Kuchenbuch violoncello, viola da gamba; Tobias Tietze, lute, theorbo, baroque guitar, vihuela; Jeroen Finke, percussion, baritone, and Tilmann Albrecht, harpsichord, percussion.

Tickets for the 6.30pm to 7.30pm concert cost £10 at www.ncem.co.uk/events/i-zefirell. Refreshments will be available.