THE 2022 Ryedale Festival is under way, embracing 300 performers in 52 concerts from this week to July 31.
Under Christopher Glynn’s artistic directorship, the festival will find a special place for Handel and Vaughan Williams’s music; six world premieres will be performed and the 50th anniversary of Swedish supergroup Abba will be celebrated.
A strong line-up of artists in residence will be in Ryedale for the festival. Baritone Roderick Williams will lead two of the four concerts marking the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s birth, accompanied by pianist Glynn and fellow artists in residence the Maxwell Quartet.
At their heart of the festival will be Mystical Songs on July 20, when Williams and the Maxwell Quartet end their residencies by joining Glynn at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, for an hour-long 8pm programme that brings together two spiritual high points of early 20th century British music.
Edward Elgar’s mysterious and deeply personal Piano Quintet in A minor will be performed alongside Vaughan Williams’s visionary Five Mystical Songs, complemented by Roderick Williams’s new arrangements of Vaughan Williams’s folk-song settings of Captain Grant, She’s Like The Swallow, Proud Nancy, O Who Is That Raps At My Window? and Harry The Tailor.
“I’ve wanted to bring both Roddy and the Maxwells to the festival for a long time, not for one concert but for residencies, and having got them both signed up, I thought it would be nice for them to do a collaboration,” says Christopher.
“Then I thought about what the music should be, and I was drawn to this amazing moment in Elgar’s career: his incredible late-chamber works, his Indian summer.
“To go with that, you have Vaughan Williams going into the British Library, burying himself in Elgar’s score and coming up with his Mystical Songs. Putting these spiritual high points together will be so uplifting.”
Christopher talks of the Maxwell Quartet’s “fresh” impact on Vaughan Williams’s works. “That’s great because the Maxwells have a special relationship with folk music that they’ve brought to arranging these folk pieces,” he says.
“We’ll have a couple of days together and it’ll be an interesting time because both Roddy and the Maxwells are wonderful storytellers.”
Welcoming this summer’s residencies, Christopher says: “They’re really important because they allow for the audiences to develop something deeper with the musicians, finding they have a connection with the artists that grows when they see them several times.
“It’ll be exciting to see what comes out of the partnership, and it’s all about creating things that are entirely unique: a one-off chance to hear these artists performing together. It’s a moment in time and no-one knows if the chemistry will work but…”
…This is where Glynn, the pianist as much as artistic director, comes into play as “the matchmaker” when he sees the potential for an affinity between musicians on the concert platform. Roll on July 20 to find out what fireworks flare up when the Maxwells meet Roddy!
In a further festival residency, the National Youth Choir will be performing a 1pm programme on the theme of the environment, the coast and the north-eastern fishing industry at the Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, on July 22, taking in works by Vaughan Williams, Bob Chilcott’s Weather Report, the Yorkshire premiere of Errollyn Wallen’s 40-part When The Wet Wind Sings and the uplifting finale of Joanna and Alexander Forbes L’Estrange’s Green Love.
“This will be a completely contrasting residency with a very different energy, leading to the performance in Scarborough,” says Christopher. “We’re also setting the National Youth Chamber Choir up to perform with Philharmonia Baroque in a programme of Handel works at Hovingham Hall [July 25, 2pm], and it’ll be interesting to see if sparks fly there, especially because director Richard Egarr started his career in the National Youth Choir.”
San Francisco period instrument orchestra Philharmonia Baroque (and their British director Egarr) will be making their Ryedale Festival debut. “This is the first time they’ve toured the UK and they’re a fantastic group,” says Christopher. “We managed to get some backing to bring them over after their management came over to scout out the festival – and they loved it!”
Members of the National Youth Orchestra also will join guest electric violinist Roberts Balanas and conductor/choral leader Ben Parry at the Milton Rooms, Malton, from 3pm to 5pm on July 23 for Come And Sing Abba!. You can take part too, rehearsing and then performing Abba’s greatest hits, featuring Balanas’s world premiere of his Abba medley.
Abba at Ryedale Festival, Christopher…how come? “I spotted there was a significant Abba anniversary this year, and though I was appointed to run a classical festival, the question is: what constitutes classical music,” he says.
“If music is 50 years old, is that not classical music?! We’ve come up with a concert that nods to Abba and classical music all in one.”
For full festival details, go to: ryedalefestival.com. Box office: 01751 475777; ryedalefestival.com; in person from Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering, second floor, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am to 2.30pm.
Mystical Songs will be among the concerts to be recorded for broadcast on RyeStream in collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Society.