Crowning glory for American countertenor Reginald Mobley in Coronation concert, followed by York Festival of Ideas event

American countertenor Reginald Mobley: Coronation concert with Monteverdi Choir tomorrow and Festival of Ideas appearance in York next month

AMERICAN countertenor Reginald Mobley will sing with the Monteverdi Choir at King Charles III’s Coronation Ceremony tomorrow (6/5/2023) in London, ahead of his June 13 performance in York.

In his last interview on Wednesday before resting his voice for his 9am Royal engagement, opening the pre-ceremony concert at Westminster Abbey, the Florida-born baroque, classical and modern singer spoke on the phone to CharlesHutchPress.

“I’m just one of the gang, being part of the celebration, singing with the Monteverdi Choir,” he said before crossing the Atlantic from California. “No, I can’t say what we’re singing! I’m on my best behaviour!

“It’s going to be an incredible event, an incredible occasion. I’ve been fortunate, through Sir John Eliot Gardiner [the choir’s founder], to have met King Charles before, and I’ve welcomed his involvement in music, organic farming and highlighting the climate crisis. I’m happy to be involved this weekend.

“But for the past ten-eleven years I’ve lived in Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution!”

Reginald, or Reggie as he likes to be called, will be heading north to York on June 13 to perform with French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon at the National Centre for Early Music as part of the 2023 York Festival of Ideas.

The focus will be on this month’s debut solo album, Because, a selection of American spiritual songs performed by Mobley with Trotignon, set for release on Alpha Classics on May 26.

“Spirituals are true hymns to resilience, whose beauty and strength of both lyrics and music symbolise hope and faith in humanity,” said Reginald. “This project’s aim is to do justice to this musical heritage and to honour its past performers.”

Reginald Mobley and Baptiste Trotignon: Spirituals album collaboration and tour

Previously, Reginald had recorded and performed with the Monteverdi Choir & Orchestra for ten years, along with the Orchestra of St Luke’s, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, Early Music Vancouver, Portland Baroque Orchestra and Early Music Seattle.

He has performed too with Baroque ensemble Apollo’s Fire and is a regular guest with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Washington Bach Consort and Seraphic Fire. Latterly he recorded American Originals, a collection of spirituals, with Agave Baroque, earning a Grammy nomination in 2022.

For his new recording venture, Didier Martin, head of Alpha Classics, suggested Reginald should partner with a solo pianist “as he knew I liked wild ideas”. “During the pandemic we talked about various ideas and even tried things out together online and got this idea to do something new,” Reginald said.

Reginald collected scores of slave songs and Negro spirituals from the American colonies, born from the pain and tribulations of African people deprived of fundamental rights. Inspired by Old Testament stories of the Israelites’ flight from Egypt, the songs express sorrow, grief, but joy and desire for freedom too.

A hymn to resilience and a symbol of hope and faith in humanity, the spirituals have influenced popular music, from ragtime, barbershop, jazz and gospel to blues, rock, techno and electronic music.

To grant the genre its true place in music history and to honour its original interpreters, Mobley and Trotignon have collaborated on a newly curated programme of songs written by black composers such as HT Burleigh, Florence Price and J Rosamond Johnson, alongside their own improvisational arrangements on original texts.

“I said to Baptiste, ‘don’t try them out the way they are but reinterpret them with your jazz piano and treat them as jazz standards, as all this music comes from slave songs’. Baptiste, being a French pianist, had no connection to these songs the way I did, but we realised it would work really well and Didier loved it,” said Reginald.

“So, in October 2021 I showed up in Paris, and between performances on an opera tour, we recorded the album there and the project has really taken on a life of its own. It’s an interesting exploration of music that often doesn’t get this exposure at home or abroad.”

The cover artwork for Reginald Mobley’s album Because, out on May 26 on Alpha Classics

As well as releasing such a ground-shaking album, Reginald is heavily involved in social and political activism in Boston, particularly in responding to the “massive inequality regarding race, gender, and sexuality within the classical music industry”.

“Slowly I’m starting to push that in Britain, where there’s a lot going on, which is really inspiring and I’m a bit jealous of that, to be honest,” he said.

“We spend so much time trying to find the magic bullet to kill this spectre of racism, but we have to find a better way to do that. Facing the problem of racism in America, we have a country that has tried to move on with half measures, but the problem has still not been solved, and there has been such anger on both sides.”

As a queer black man, Reginald has found himself “living in both worlds and seeing rejection from both worlds as gay culture has absorbed black music and black speech and yet there was this weird reluctance to get involved in the debate about racism,” he said.

“There are so many people who will refuse to acknowledge the racism problem but will listen to Marvin Gaye’s music, or watch the Black Panther movies, or eat fried chicken. But I honestly believe music has a role to play in solving the issue, though I don’t think of musicians as being essential in the world in the way that doctors and nurses are.

“But we have a role to play through the arts in general. We are the guardian of empathy and compassion. If we can get people to stop and listen, to open their hearts through music, then maybe change can happen.”

Reflecting on bringing the songs of Burleigh, Price and Johnson into the spotlight, Reginald said: “It’s sad that we don’t give more attention to the roots of these songs, but what’s important now is to have the conversation about why these things should never happen again, so that we solve the ignorance surrounding racism.”

As a singer of Early music, Reginald said “we need to realise that there is so much that connects us”, citing the German music that emerged from the horror of the Thirty Years’ War, when only a year after the war started in 1618, the first slave ships started landing and “our path began”.  

“Growing up as a very poor boy in the Deep South, this is in no way the path I would have expected to be walking in my life,” says countertenor Reginald Mobley

“Handel was writing his music, processing grief and reacting to tragedy, at the same time as we were singing in the fields,” he noted. “How sad for us to have our issues for so long and that it’s taking so long for change to come.”

Raised by his grandparents in Gainesville, Florida, in the American Deep South, Reginald first sang in church: the routine “origin story”, he said. “My background is in gospel music. My grandparents wouldn’t allow classical music in the house as there was this belief that ‘it’s not for non-whites’, and yet we’ve always had music in our lives.

“But growing up as a very poor boy in the Deep South, this is in no way the path I would have expected to be walking in my life, and no matter what, I’m still going to be this African-American guy representing those who bled and died so that I can make music freely.”

Reginald concluded: “I am not myself if I don’t have hope that things are changing. I always believe in moving forward and that if we keep on the path, things may change.

“I may not see the consequences but the idea that someone will do so later is what fills me with hope. That’s what we should always be thinking about: that it’s not about us now but that those who come after us will live better life than we do. That’s when the barriers of sexual orientation, race and gender can be eroded.”

York Festival of Ideas presents Reginald Mobley & Baptiste Trotignon, National Centre for Early Music, June 13, 7.30pm. Dr Matthew Williams, from the University of York music department, will give an illustrated talk from 6.30pm to 7pm and lead a short Q&A with the musicians after the concert. Box office: 01904 658338 or

REGINALD Mobley and Baptiste Trotignon will appear at the BBC Proms at Sage Gateshead on July 23, performing American spiritual songs such as Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen, My Lord What A Morning, Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child, Steal Away, Great Campmeetin, By And By, Save Me Lord, and There Is A Balm In Gilead. The 2pm programme will include three Florence Price works: Because, Resignation and Sunset. Box office:

Did you know?

REGINALD Mobley’s first professional work was in musical theatre, and while working in Japan as a singer/actor for Tokyo Disney, he performed cabaret shows of gospel, jazz and torch songs in jazz clubs around Tokyo.

Did you know too?

IN Europe, Reginald has performed with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchester Wiener Akademie, Balthasar Neumann Chor & Ensemble, Bach Society in Stuttgart and Holland Baroque Orchestra.

National Centre for Early Music in full bloom for spring season of concerts and more

Arsen Petrosyan: Armenian duduk specialist, playing music from his homeland on March 10

AFTER a quiet start to 2023 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, the spring concert season begins to bloom in full in early March.

Before then, the NCEM’s community singing group meets for a Cuppa And A Chorus session on February 20 at 2pm, with further sessions to follow on March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19 and July 24.

“After the Covid lockdowns, we’re opening up for more members to join this popular chance to connect through singing,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin.

I Can Play, the NCEM’s programme for sharing music-making opportunities with D/deaf children across York, continues this season at Milthorpe School, on February 25 and March 18, with support from the York children’s charity Lollipop.

“We started this programme several years ago, went online during Covid, and then moved to the York Music Centre, based at Millthorpe School, in September,” says Delma. “It’s lovely for the children to feel part of the broader activity there.”

Guitars at the double: Lulo Reinhardt & Yuliya Lonskaya

The NCEM’s Family Friendly umbrella reopens for Leeds company Opera North’s Little Listeners performance of Mini Vixen on February 26 at 11.30am and 1.30pm.

Based on the music and story of Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen and led by a cast of professional opera singers and musicians, this musical adventure takes place in a mystical woodland where a Vixen meets a Fox. As their friendship grows, they discover how working together is vital to protect their home and the habitat around them.

Singing and movement is encouraged at this interactive, relaxed, fun concert, where Opera North invites you to “experience the magic of opera, storytelling and music, whatever your age”. 

“For Opera North’s singers, Mini Vixen gives them an opportunity to work in very different circumstances and develop their professional skills,” says Delma.

What follows is an NCEM spring diary of “thought-provoking concerts, guaranteed to entertain, to intrigue and to make you smile,” says Delma.

Andrew McCormack Trio: Terra Firma concert on April 28

First up will be multi-instrumentalists, composers and folk scholars The Rheingans Sisters on March 3. Nominated for Best Duo/Group at the 2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Peak District siblings Rowan and Anna play instruments made largely by their luthier father, Helmut Rheingans.

Further folk concerts will be performed by Leveret, the all-English trio of Sam Sweeney, fiddle, Andy Cutting, button accordion, and Rob Harbron, concertina, on March 15 and Firelight Trio, featuring Moishe’s Bagel accordion and piano player Phil Alexander, on March 29.

Leveret rely on mutual trust and musical interaction to create new settings of their repertoire in the moment, while Firelight Trio’s Alexander, Gavin Marwick (fiddle) and Ruth Morris (nyckelharpa) play European folk, from Swedish polkas to Scottish reels, French waltzes to klezmer, topped off with original tunes.

Make a note of two more folk gigs already booked for the autumn: Scottish fiddle quartet RANT (Bethany Reid, Anna Massie, Lauren MacColl and Gillian Frame) on September 21, and The Furrow Collective’s night of story-songs and seasonal carols, rearranged for December 5 (after last December’s visit had to be postponed).

Jazz bookings are led off by the piano-driven Andrew McCormack Trio’s Terra Firma concert with bassist Joe Downard and American drummer Rod Youngs on April 28. 

Vishwa Mohan Bhatt: Devine Moments on slide guitar

The Oxley-Meier Guitar Project delivers jazz, heavy metal, Flamenco, Tango and Turkish-influenced music from Pete Oxley, Nicolas Meier, bassist Raph Mizraki and drummer Paul Cavaciuti on May 18.

The University of York Jazz Orchestra combines standards and new compositions, under the direction of the Roller Trio’s James Mainwaring on June 16. Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge and special guest Kit Holmes promise blues, folk, jazz and African grooves on June 18 at 6.30pm as part of the York Festival of Ideas.

On the international front, Armenian duduk player Arsen Petrosyan leads his quartet in Hokin Janapar: My Soul’s Journey, his March 10 return to the NCEM to play traditional, early, classical and sacred music from his homeland after a Making Tracks concert there four years ago.

Django Reinhardt’s grand-nephew, the gypsy swing, North African and Indian-inspired guitarist Lulo Reinhardt, from Germany, pairs up with folk, jazz and bossa nova guitarist Yulija Lonskaya on May 9 in his NCEM debut.

The Instituto Cervantes, National Centre for the Promotion of Music and NCEM link up for Beyond The Spanish Golden Age, Music Of The Spanish Enlightenment, two 7pm concerts backed by Inaem, the Spanish Ministry of Sport and Culture, with funding from the European Union’s fund.

Concerto 1700: 18th century Spanish string trios on May 14

Spanish early music ensemble La Galania perform 17th century works of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death with soprano Raquel Andueza on May 13; violinist Daniel Pinteno’s Concerto 1700 focus on 18th century string trios by Castle, Boccherini and Brunetti on May 14 in their York debut.

Grammy Award-winning Rajasthan slide guitarist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt plays the NCEM for the first time, accompanied by table player Pandit Subhen Chatterjee, in Devine Moments on May 22. York Festival of Ideas welcomes American countertenor Reginald Mobley and French jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon for a night of songs written by black composers such as HT Burleigh, Florence Price and J Rosamond Johnson, together with a reflection on the origins of Negro spirituals and slave songs, on June 13.

From 6.30pm to 7pm, Dr Matthew Williams, who runs the University of York’s black music programme, gives an illustrated talk on how Negro spirituals, a hymn to resilience and a symbol of hope and faith in humanity, influenced ragtime, barbershop, jazz, gospel, blues, rock techno and electronic music. After the concert, he hosts a Q&A session with Mobley and Trotignon.

The snappily attired Budapest Café Orchestra switch between gypsy and folk-flavoured music  in their unconventional set of Balkan and Russian pieces, Romantic masterpieces and Gaelic folk anthems on June 22.

Further highlights include Frame Ensemble musicians Irine Rosnes, violin, Liz Hanks, violin, Trevor Bartlett, percussion, and Jonny Best, piano, accompanying the April 18 screening of the BFI digital restoration of Frank Hurley’s 1919 film, South (U): Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Glorious Epic of the Antarctic.

American countertenor Reginald Mobley: Singing songs by black composers at York Festival of Ideas

Hurley photographed Shackleton’s 1914-1916 expedition to Antarctica aboard Endurance, during which the ship was crushed by ice, leaving the crew stranded. Unseen since it sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915, the wreck of Endurance was found at last in March 2022.

The University of York Baroque+ Day on May 7 features Consone Quartet with basset clarinet player Emily Worthington, performing works by Haydn, Stadler and Mozart at 12 noon.

Consone Quartet members and University of York students will be holding a free masterclass (booking required) at 2.30pm. The day ends with Lucy Russell and Rachel Gray directing the University Baroque Ensemble in Ah! Vienna – Vienna Before Mozart, featuring Biber, Schmelzer, Bertali and Fox pieces.

Improvising violinist Nina Kumin presents A Baroque Fantasy on May 14 at 10.30am, a free concert where she focuses on fantasy, from and freedom by letting the solo violin fantasias of Nicola Matteis take centre stage.

Presented in association with BBC Radio 3, the NCEM Young Composers Award 2023 Final will be held on May 12 at 7pm, when the selection of new pieces written for The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble will be played.

Raquel Andueza & La Galania: 17th century Spanish music of passion, jealousy, love, sweetness, reproach and death on May 13

In the second Family Friendly concert of 2023 for children aged five upwards, parents and carers, the London-based Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment performs a newly crafted version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute by Hazel Gould, on April 1 at 10.30am.

In this fun-packed show, Kirsty is a bird and Tim is a bird catcher who needs to catch a new bird every day to take to the Queen. Kirsty wants to remain free, whereupon Tim is caught in a dilemma when the Queen sets them a series of challenges. Will music save the day?

During the York Festival of Ideas, the NCEM plays host to Claudio Kon Do Brasil, an introduction to the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, run by Brazilian-born musician, percussionist and workshop leader Claudio Kron, who moved to Britain 30 years ago and now lives in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

“Guaranteed to keep you on your toes”, two sessions will be held on June 17: 10.30am to 12 noon for teenagers and adults; 2pm to 3.30pm for children aged seven upwards and their families.

All concerts at the NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, start at 7.30pm, unless stated otherwise. Box office: 01904 658338 or