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/

More Things To Do in York and beyond in the months ahead and while staying home, List No. 28, courtesy of The Press, York

Bethany, from York artist Sue Clayton’s exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day, on show outside All Saints Church, Pocklington

THE diary is beginning to turn from blank to much more promising, even if online and home entertainment is still the order of the day, but Charles Hutchinson is feeling positive and so are event organisers.

Outdoor exhibition for World Down Syndrome Day: Sue Clayton, 21, All Saints Church, Pocklington, March 19 to April 19

YORK portrait artist Sue Clayton will celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) on March 21 with a month-long open-air exhibition on the railings of All Saints Church in Pocklington.

Self Portrait, by York artist Sue Clayton

Her collection of 21 portraits is inspired by children and adults with Down Syndrome, especially Sue’s energetic son James. She has chosen the theme of 21 both to mark the date of WDSD and to symbolise the extra 21st chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.

This is the second outdoor display to be staged by Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) in lockdown at this location after fellow York artist Karen Winship’s NHS Heroes exhibition from late November to early January.

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor will perform at the NCEM’s Awaken online concert series

Springtime celebration of music online: Awaken, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 27 and 28

THE NCEM’s Awaken weekend will feature York countertenor Iestyn Davies and Fretwork, the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, I Fagiolini and the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, Ensemble Augelletti and The Consone Quartet.

The online festivities will celebrate the sublime sounds of spring in a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”. Among the architectural gems will be Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the NCEM. Full details can be found at ncem.co.uk/awaken.

The Minster men: The Howl & The Hum promote their livestreamed concert at York Minster in the ultimate publicity shot for any York band

“Unique” livestreamed concert: The Howl & The Hum, York Minster, May 25

YORK alternative rock band The Howl & The Hum will perform a “unique set to compliment the unique venue” of the Nave of York Minster in a one-off 8.15pm concert livestreamed via ticket.co.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam Griffiths, bassist Brad Blackwell, guitarist Conor Hirons and drummer Jack Williams will combine selections from last May’s prescient album Human Contact with fan favourites and new material recorded in lockdown.

The Howl & The Hum will be the first rock act to play York Minster since York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on March 29 2019. Tickets are on sale via thehowlandthehum.com/.

Wynne win situation: Castle Howard Proms will go ahead this summer with tenor soloist Wynne Evans

Confirmed for the summertime: Castle Howard Concerts Weekend, August 20 to 22

CASTLE Howard has announced this summer’s concerts weekend will go ahead, in light of the Government’s roadmap rollout.

First up, in the open air at the North Yorkshire country house, will be house music brand Café Mambo Ibiza on August 20, presenting Roger Sanchez, Judge Jules, Julie McKnight (live PA), Ridney and Robin S (live PA), with more big names still to be announced for the Ibiza Classics at the Castle celebration.

Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, from the Go Compare adverts, will be joined by soprano Victoria Joyce and the London Gala Orchestra for the al fresco Castle Howard Proms on August 21.

Four vocalists from We Will Rock You, a five-piece rock band and The Elysium Orchestra will combine for Queen Symphonic on August 22. Box office: castlehoward.co.uk.

Piece in our time at last: Shed Seven move all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall yet again, now in the diary for August 28

Sheds on the move: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, August 28

YORK heroes Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, is being rescheduled for a third time, now booked in for August 28.

Joining the Sheds that West Yorkshire day will be Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and Leeds United-supporting York group Skylights, plus the Brighton Beach DJs.

August 28? Doesn’t that clash with Leeds Festival, co-headlined that day by Stormzy and Catfish And The Bottlemen? Indeed so, but “let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” quips lead singer Rick Witter.

Shoe-in: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, playing the SJT this spring

The Greatest News In The History Of The World…The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…tour to open in Scarborough from May 18 to 22

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Covid-safe reopening show will be the first tour dates of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, the hit one-woman play that Ian Kershaw wrote for his wife, Coronation Street alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh.

Directed by Raz Shaw, it heads out on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road, as Hesmondhalgh narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, navigating the audience through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love. 

Hesmondhalgh says: “It’s a beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.”

The Shires: Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle move York Barbican gig from 2021 to 2022

York-Shires: The Shires, York Barbican, put back by 12 months

BRITAIN’S biggest-selling country act, The Shires, are rescheduling their May 23 show at York Barbican for May 6 2022.

York is the only Yorkshire venue of their rearranged 25-date tour, when Crissie Rhodes and Ben Earle are billed to be joined by Texan country singer and songwriter Eric Paslay. 

“The songs mean so much to us personally, but there really is nothing like looking out at our fans in the crowd and seeing how much of an impact they can have in someone else’s life,” say The Shires. “It’s truly a very special thing”.

And what about?

STILL stuck at home, check out Mindhunter on Netflix, Unforgotten on ITV and Sophia Loren’s Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds. Seek out Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’s new lockdown album, Carnage.

Cave in: Nick Cave & Warren Ellis create Carnage, available digitally now and on CD and vinyl from May 28

Spring to Awaken for weekend of online celebration at NCEM on March 27 and 28

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor will perform with viol specialists Fretwork at the Awaken weekend

THE National Centre for Early Music, in York, is to play host to an online celebration of music for springtime on March 27 and 28.

The weekend programme of Awaken will feature celebrated British musicians, working across a range of historic venues to mark “the unique association between the City of York and the exquisite beauty of the music of the past”.

The two days of festivities will begin with a musical whistle-stop tour led by the all-male vocal group The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park at 1pm on March 27. Beyond These Shores: A York Tapestry will explore the musical “jewels in the crown” of Renaissance Europe, as revealed in the stained glass and manuscripts of the City of York.

The journey will show off some of the city’s most beautiful buildings, such as Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate; St Olave’s Church, Marygate, and the mediaeval splendour of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Fossgate.

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six with director Owain Park, middle, back row

The weekend’s grand finale, on March 28, will feature I Fagiolini in Super-Excellent, directed by Robert Hollingworth in a 7pm concert filmed in York. They will be joined by the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble to present a multi-choir extravaganza of music from the Italian Renaissance, taking a musical journey across Spain to the New World and back again.  

Also appearing in Awaken will be York international countertenor Iestyn Davies, performing with the instrumental viol specialists Fretwork on March 27, as they bring light to the 17th century world of JC Bach and his contemporaries, interlaced with the 20th century genius of Ralph Vaughan Williams, in a 7pm programme entitled The Sky Above The Roof.

Directed by Olwen Foulkes, rising stars Ensemble Augelletti will make their York debut at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, presenting A Spring In Lockdown on March 27 at 3pm, and BBC New Generation artists The Consone Quartet will perform Schubert’s Quintet in C major with cellist Alexander Rolton on March 28 at 3pm.

Looking forward to the reawakening weekend, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “As we gradually move into spring, we are delighted to bring you Awaken, which through music brings us the promise of hope, joy and warmth for the coming months.

“Through music, Awaken brings us the promise of hope, joy and warmth for the coming months,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“Since the very first lockdown, we have continued to bring you some of the finest music streamed from our beautiful base of St Margaret’s Church. For Awaken, we’ve branched out further and are very excited to be able to show off some of the city’s architectural gems, which provide us with a fitting backdrop for the glorious music.

“We’re also pleased to welcome back some of our most popular performers and to introduce a few new faces. We hope you’ll join us for these sublime sounds of spring.”

Tickets cost £10 for individual online concerts or £40 for a weekend pass on 01904 658338, at ncem.co.uk or by emailing boxoffice@ncem.co.uk. Full programme details can be found at: ncem.co.uk/awaken. The concerts will be available on demand until April 30.

Before Awaken, The Gesualdo Six will mark Early Music Day by performing a 3pm concert on March 21, toasting the genius of Josquin des Prez, French composer of the Renaissance age. The live-stream from the NCEM will form part of the annual celebrations organised in association with the European Early Music Network, REMA.

The Consone Quartet: Performing Schubert’s Quintet in C major with cellist Alexander Rolton on March 28

The musicians taking part in Awaken will be:

The Gesualdo Six: Owain Park, director; Andrew Leslie Cooper, Guy James, countertenors; Josh Cooter, Joseph Wicks, tenors; Michael Craddock and Sam Mitchell, basses.

Ensemble Augelletti: Olwen Foulkes, recorders, director; Ellen Bundy, Alice Earll, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; Carina Drury, cello; Harry Buckoke, bass/gamba; Toby Carr, theorbo; Benedict Williams, harpsichord/organ

Fretwork: Richard Boothby, Emily Ashton, Joanna Levine, Asako Morikawa, Sam Stadlen, viols, with Iestyn Davies, countertenor.

Consone Quartet: Agata Daraškaite, Magdalena Loth-Hill, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; George Ross, cello, with Alexander Rolton, cello.

I Fagiolini: Robert Hollingworth,director; Martha McLorinan, Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Long, Greg Skidmore, singers; William Lyons, Nicholas Perry, dulcians, shawms; Catherine Pierron, James Johnstone, organs; Eligio Quinteiro, Lynda Sayce, theorboes, guitars.

English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble:  Gawain Glenton, Conor Hastings, cornetts; Emily White, Miguel Tantos-Sevillano, Tom Lees, Hilary Belsey, Andrew Harwood-White, Adrian France, sackbuts.

NCEM, Eboracum Baroque and East Riding Music Hub team up for Story Orchestra Four Seasons primary schools project

Eboracum Baroque: Leading online story-telling and music project for primary schools

STORY Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day, an online project for primary schools, will be launched by the National Centre for Early Music, York, next month.

Funded by East Riding Music Hub and presented by York ensemble Eboracum Baroque, led by director, conductor, trumpet player and teacher Chris Parsons, the project 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, includes a live-streamed performance broadcast from the NCEM’s home, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on Tuesday, March 23 at 2pm.

The Story Orchestra: Four Seasons In One Day 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.

Through story-telling, Story Orchestra provides a light-hearted introduction to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. As the music unfolds, the story follows the adventures of a little girl and her dog as they travel through the four seasons and discover the beautiful sounds of Vivaldi’s 1723 composition.

This online project finds the NCEM continuing to be at the forefront of engaging digitally with schools and communities. During the past year, the NCEM has offered an extensive package of teaching resources to contribute to learning, health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be bringing you this exciting project for primary schools that will now be available online from March 23. We had planned to take it to schools across the East Riding in the run-up to the 2021 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, but circumstances have compelled us to rethink.

“We’re looking forward to working with Eboracum Baroque, a young professional group of musicians who are experts in sharing their enthusiasm for music,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“We’re very grateful to the East Riding Music Hub for their support in enabling us to share this magical project online with schools across the region. The music of Vivaldi tells a wonderful story of the seasons, from the shivering chills of winter through to the haze of the summer heat.

“We’re also looking forward to working with Eboracum Baroque, a young professional group of musicians who are experts in sharing their enthusiasm for music, encouraging children to discover their creativity.”

Emma Calvert, head of the East Riding Music Hub, adds: “The NCEM has responded to the need for children to have access to high-quality creative activities, whether at home or school, to support their wellbeing during the pandemic, and the East Riding Music Hub is thrilled to be partnering with the NCEM and Eboracum Baroque to bring you Four Seasons.

“With the added resources available to schools, it allows you to build an exciting programme of art and craft activities alongside the online performance, accessible to those learning in school or accessing remote learning from home.”

The NCEM will be launching additional resources for primary schools this spring:

* Songs On Safari with the Gesualdo Six and Eboracum Baroque;

*Palisander Project, a selection of videos from young recorder quartet Palisander, partners in the Young Composers Award 2021;

*Musical News, providing lesson plans, resources and other inspiration for teachers and pupils aged seven to 11.

Full details will be available soon. Tickets for the March 23 live-stream 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/

The Gesualdo Six vocal consort to take up March residency in York for Early Music Day

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six…and director Owain Park (third from left, back row)

THE Gesualdo Six will lead the National Centre for Early Music’s celebrations for Early Music Day 2021 on March 21 by embarking on an online whistle-stop musical tour of York.

The Cambridge vocal consort’s concert will be a streamed at 3pm as part of a day when musical organisations throughout Europe will come together for a joyful programme of events to mark JS Bach’s birthday. 

During its residency – an alternative G6 summit – The Gesualdo Six will spend almost a week in York performing in a variety of locations on a musical trek around the city that will be filmed and shared in March.

The film is designed to celebrate the beauty of this historic city and its musical influences, showcasing many of York’s venues that have been unable to open their doors since last March. 

Directed by Owain Park, The Gesualdo Six brings together some of Britain’s finest young consort singers: countertenors Guy James and Andrew Leslie Cooper; tenors Josh Cooter and Joseph Wicks; baritone Michael Craddock and bass Sam Mitchell.

Formed in March 2014 for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, the ensemble gave more than 150 performances at major festivals in the UK and abroad in its first five years.

The Gesualdo Six has been awarded the Choir of the Year prize at the Classical Music Digital Awards and its album Fading was awarded Vocal Recording of the Year by Limelight.

National Centre for Early Music director Delma Tomlin: Planning the programme for Early Music Day

Looking forward to the March residency, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to welcome our good friends The Gesualdo Six, who will be spending time in York, taking advantage of some of the atmospheric acoustics within the city walls and performing a concert, a very special treat for Early Music Day.

“The concert will be shared with our friends and colleagues in Europe and beyond, as we join together for this wonderful annual celebration.”

Against the backdrop of the Brexit severance from Europe, Delma says: “I’d also like to say a special thank-you to REMA, the Early Music Network in Europe, for their hard work helping to make sure the celebrations continue.”

She adds: “Other delights in store in March include performances by many artists who have supported us over this difficult year, recording behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church [the NCEM’s home in Walmgate, York]. You might not be able to be with us in person, but we hope you can still join us for a feast of fabulous music.” 

Director Owain Park welcomes the chance for The Gesualdo Six to undertake a residency in York. “After a challenging year, it has been a delight to put our minds to this incredibly exciting project,” he says.

“We have long admired the work of the NCEM in York and so it has been an immense privilege to curate a musical journey that weaves through the city’s historic venues. Chiming with the NCEM’s spring celebrations, we aim to highlight the extraordinary power of collaboration and unity in a world where the seeds of division are increasingly sown.”

Delma concludes: “Venues for the filming in York will be confirmed very soon. Please check our website, ncem.co.uk, and social media platforms for regular updates and more details of this year’s programme of Early Music Day celebrations. 

“The NCEM has put in place many changes to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the artists, audience and staff. All performances and filming will take place following current Government Covid-19 guidelines.” 

York Early Music Christmas Festival opens today…and it’s live at the NCEM

Welcome to the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival: Palisander reach for their recorders for today’s opening brace of concerts. Picture: Marc McGarraghy

CHRISTMAS arrives today at the National Centre for Early Music with the reopening of its doors for the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival.

Recorder quartet Palisander will launch the festivities at the Covid-secure St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, with two socially distanced concerts at 4.30pm and 7pm.

The festival of live concerts will run until December 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival of streamed concerts from December 11 to 13. Full details, including tickets and concert times, can be found at ncem.co.uk.

Look out for Martin Dreyer’s reviews of Palisander’s Mischief & Merriment programme today and Illyria Consort’s How Brightly Shines The Morning Star on December 7 in CharlesHutchPress.

York Early Music Christmas Festival at the double as online weekend is added to NCEM socially distanced live concerts

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the National Centre for Early Music, the other online.

Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures in place in the mediaeval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, from December 4 to 12, complemented by a new online weekend festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of home.

After the success of the streamed York Early Music Festival, held remotely from July 9 to 11,  the NCEM will present York Christmas At Home from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

York Early Music Christmas Festival’s live concerts will be staged with socially distanced cabaret-style seating and the option to pre-order drinks, including a warming mulled wine. Tickets cost £20.

Matthew Wadsworth: York Christmas At Home streamed concert with Kate Bennett Wadsworth

The line-up comprises:

Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, December 4, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort, The Great Mystery, December 5, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, December 7, 4.30m and 7pm;

Joglaresa, Bring Us Good Ale, December 8, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort: Concerts at both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home

The York Waits, The Waits’ Wassail, Music for Advent & Christmas, December 9, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano, Frederick Long, baritone, and Peter Seymour, harpsichord, Bacchus Is A Pow’r Divine, December 12, 4.30pm and 7pm.

In addition, the 7pm concerts by Joglaresa on December 8 and The York Waits the next night will be live-streamed, with tickets available at £10.

The York Christmas At Home programme will feature many of the NCEM’s favourite artists, who have “worked tirelessly to deliver a joyful selection of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits”.

The concerts will include works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Dowland and many others, with harpsichords, recorders, lutes, trumpets, oboes, theorbos and glorious voices, plus verse by John Donne, George Herbert and others.

Bethany Seymour, left, Frederick Long and Helen Charlston: On song at the NCEM and online

A York Christmas At Home festival pass costs £50, covering all nine concerts, while individual concerts cost £10.

Artists taking part are:

The Marian Consort in a programme of vocal music from Renaissance Italy;

The Chiaroscuro Quartet, performing Mozart’s late Prussian Quartets;

Palisander with their Mischief And Merriment programme;

Illyria Consort, performing seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe;

Singers Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston and Frederick Long exploring the theatrical genius of Purcell and John Blow with harpsichordist Peter Seymour;

Theorboist Matthew Wadsworth and cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth, sharing an extravaganza of Venetian music;

Illyria Consort: Seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe

Spiritato!, presenting The Leipzig Legacy with music by Bach and Fasch;

Steven Devine, continuing his 2020 project to share Bach’s Preludes & Fugues: Book 3;

Stile Antico, completing the weekend with a return to the Renaissance for their very own Nine Lessons and Carols.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says:  “The York Early Music Christmas Festival was created in 1997 to introduce audiences to the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the Medieval to the Baroque, intertwined with the sagas, stories and tales of the north.

“This year, I’m delighted to be able to carry on the tradition, welcoming audiences to our beautiful home, St Margaret’s Church. I’m also thrilled to spice things up, introducing our online festival York Christmas At Home, an array of amazing music, which can be enjoyed well beyond Christmas and into Twelfth Night.”

Full programme details for both Yuletide festivals can be found at ncem.co.uk. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk/york-christmas-at-home/

Greatest hits of digital York Early Music Festival picked for video by director Delma

The home service: York Early Music Festival’s opening online concert, featuring Elizabeth Kenny and Iestyn Davies, mid-stream last Thursday

YORK Early Music Festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin is compiling a video of “personal favourites” from last week’s online event.

“We had a blast,” she says, reflecting on the success of the three-day virtual festival of four pre-recorded and two live concerts, streamed from the National Centre for Early Music from July 9 to 11.

“It was fabulous to be able to host musicians at the NCEM from across England – and to welcome online audiences from as far afield as Australia, Japan and the United States.”

Concert recordings were in the hands of digital producer Ben Pugh, filming the socially distant musicians at an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, the NCEM’s home in Walmgate.

Artists and audiences alike have given positive feedback to a digital event arranged once the Covid-19 lockdown enforced the cancellation of the Method & Madness-themed live festival from July 3 to 11.

“It was such a success that we’re now pulling together a compilation video of my personal favourites from 2020 Online. Details very soon!” promises Delma.

“We had a blast,” said administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin after the inaugural digital York Early Music Festival, held last week

The revised remote festival of concerts and talks was headlined on July 9 by York countertenor Iestyn Davies – lockdown hair in need of a cut, by his own later admission – and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny.

Streamed live last Thursday, they presented A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain, among others.

In a surprise encore, they mined the modern-day melancholia of a Mancunian man, Morrissey, digging deep into the pit of The Smiths’ There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

Performances recorded over ten days ensued, by lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, harpsichordist Steven Devine and lyra viol player Richard Boothby last Friday and BBC New Generation artists Consone Quartet last Saturday afternoon.

Vocal ensemble Stile Antico closed the festival with a live streamed concert, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, that evening.

“We’d purchased more video and sound equipment, so it was more like a TV studio environment for the recordings,” says Delma. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which helped with social distancing.”

The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

Review: York Early Music Festival Online, Stile Antico; Consone Quartet, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 11

Stile Antico: First concert since lockdown. Picture: Marco Borggreve

CAN it be as long as 15 years ago that Stile Antico burst onto the scene by copping the audience prize at this festival’s international competition? Indeed it can.

This crack group of 12 singers, without a conductor, seems to have been part of the festival’s fabric ever since. Certainly it was the perfect choice to bring this year’s online festival to a stunning close.

Breaking The Habit was the punning title of a programme exploring Renaissance music by and for women, many of the former being nuns. Since most belonged to closed orders, there was some affinity between them and our own recent isolation.

The choir stood in a wide circle, facing inwards and exactly distanced, apparently performing for the first time together since lockdown, after a series of Zoom-style rehearsals. Remarkably, the singers went straight into full stride; it was as if they were simply in the middle of the season. Impeccable tuning and a blend that never faltered marked music that showed remarkable breadth of character, both sacred and secular.

Raffaella Aleotti, daughter of the court architect in Ferrara, revealed notable rhythmic flair in two motets she published in 1593, while in her mid-twenties. Two eight-voice motets showing equally nimble counterpoint were the work of Sulpitia Cesis, a nun in Modena, who published them in 1619.

Maddalena Casulana, though not a nun, was the first woman to have madrigals printed; working out of Vicenza, she produced three books – 66 madrigals in all – between 1568 and 1583. Her word-painting and daring harmony combine infectiously: Stile Antico had their measure, in fact a mere two madrigals left us wanting more.

Consone Quartet recording their concert at the empty National Centre for Early Music for the online York Early Music Festival

Finally, another nun from Ferrara, Leonora d’Este, tested the group’s high sopranos in three motets for five female voices. Needless to say, discipline was maintained, to thrilling effect.

The remainder of the programme explored music written for female rulers. Margaret of Austria, who governed the duchy of Burgundy in the early 16th century, commissioned an exceptionally dark, mysterious motet from Pierre de la Rue to commemorate her brother’s death, while herself writing a three-voice piece in both French and Latin.

Music for Queen Mary included John Sheppard’s mighty Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria, with several wordless plainsong interludes, delivered with exceptional smoothness. Byrd’s motet for Elizabeth I, O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, boasted an exquisitely controlled Amen, kept prayerful. Two madrigals from The Triumphs of Oriana illuminated the spicier side of the Elizabethan court.

Finally, Dialogo and Quodlibet, written last year by Joanna Marsh, contrasted scholarly theorising by the six men with the flightier disruption intended by the six ladies, until finally they agreed to unite and entertain. The style harked back to the Renaissance and fitted wittily into this context.

A lunchtime concert by the Consone Quartet included two of Beethoven’s Op 18 quartets, Nos 1 and 3. I cannot comment on the first since it was disfigured by transmission problems, except to say that it was tackled cautiously and with introspection. The group appeared to abandon this approach in No 3, which was altogether more relaxed, reaching a peak in a finale full of energy and joie de vivre.

The online festival has not been without technical difficulties, but we may be extremely grateful for the huge effort put into it both by the performers and by the Early Music Centre staff. It has lightened everyone’s mood to be able to see music “live” again at long last.

Review by Martin Dreyer