REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Fleur Barron & Christopher Glynn, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York

Mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron: Picture: Victoria Cadisch

CHRISTOPHER Glynn, known to most in this area as artistic director of the Ryedale Festival, has an uncanny knack of talent-spotting musicians with great futures ahead of them and bringing them not only to Ryedale, but also to University of York’s music department.

His latest find, already an established star on both sides of the Atlantic, is the mezzo-soprano Fleur Barron. Her programme was a combination of German – mainly Brahms – lieder alongside Spanish canciónes, with a handful of Chinese folksongs for good measure.

Homecoming was the theme of the evening, with Brahms’ three settings of poems by Klaus Growth on Heimweh (Homesickness) at the start, a poet who hailed from the same area as the composer’s family. She tapped into the nostalgia theme best in the second song, about wanting to find the sweet road back to childhood.

Folksong was more important to Brahms than any other lieder composer and seven of his folk arrangements here proved the point. The justly famous Vergebliches Ständchen (Vain Serenade) found Barron in coquettish vein, which suited the lighter side of her flexible tone. So too did Feinstliebchen…(Sweetheart, You Mustn’t Go Barefoot), where she handled the punch-lines adroitly.

Equally impressive here was Glynn’s agile treatment of the accompaniments, some of which are unusually intricate. Berg’s Four Songs, Op 2, written in his mid-twenties (1909-10), range neatly from the ultimate lullaby of Schlafen, Schlafen (Sleep, Sleep) to Warm die Lüfte’ (Warm The Breezes) – his first piece of atonal writing, and the only one of the four songs not about sleep. Both performers enjoyed breaking out into its fiery climax after their earlier restraint. Its ending was also deeply felt.

Not that her German was less than competent, but there was the feeling that Barron was much more comfortable, both with the language and the style, in her two Spanish cycles; they suited her outgoing personality.

The Five Negro Songs of the Catalan composer Xavier Montsalvatge were inspired by Marian Anderson’s singing of spirituals in Barcelona during the 1930s, but are also strongly overlaid by Cuban influences and the effects of colonialism. Although better known in their orchestral versions, it was good to hear them with piano alone.

The catchy lilt of Habanera Rhythm was deeply Spanish, although the implied violence of Chévere (The Dandy) needed darker tone. In the famous Canción de Cuna (Lullaby), Barron found a touching sadness in the little black boy’s innocent sleep.  Her witty singing and Glynn’s dancing piano made the final Canto negro a high-spirited treat.

Hard to summarise the Chinese songs, whose Western-style accompaniments made them sound almost Scottish. Suffice to say, a flower drum song drew laughter and applause and later several Chinese students in the hall nodded approval.

Both performers clearly revelled in the veritable mosaic of Spanishness that makes up Falla’s Siete Populares Canciónes. Barron let her hair down here, showing real flair as she dived into chest tone more than once. Glynn’s rapid staccato in the Murcian seguidilla and the changing tempos of Jota, an Aragonese dance-song, were especially memorable.

We had needed a touch more of this panache earlier in the evening from Barron, but her genuine mezzo remains a powerful instrument. I hope we shall hear her here again soon.

Review by Martin Dreyer, November 8

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Mishka Rushdie Momen at Ryedale Festival, St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Pickering, July 24

Mishka Rushdie Momen: “Is there no end to this young lady’s versatility?

ON her first visit to Ryedale two years ago, Mishka Rushdie Momen delivered a knockout piano recital.

No-one present will have dared miss this return – part of her contribution as an artist in residence at this year’s festival – which included an early Beethoven sonata and a late Schubert one, not to mention some important Mendelssohn with a little Byrd and Prokofiev thrown in. Pretty good value for an afternoon recital without an interval.

The way her career is soaring, we can safely dispense with her surnames and simply call her Mishka. Everyone will know exactly who is meant. She announced herself – especially her wit and intelligence – with Beethoven’s Op 10 No 2 in F major, the “sunny” key of his Pastoral symphony.

After a bold opening, strongly accented, she brought humour into her left-hand figures in the scherzo’s trio, before a crisp, staccato finale with virtually no use of the pedal in its pseudo-fugue.

Thirty years after the Beethoven, Schubert wrote his miraculous last three sonatas, two months before his death in 1828. The first of these, D.958 in C minor, is the least played of the three, so it was especially satisfying to hear it here.

There were no pastel shades in Mishka’s opening, as she established the whole work’s sombre atmosphere. But she was alive to the rapidly shifting moods of the development section and once her again her left hand figured prominently, this time as a trombone.

She brought an intimate, pianissimo opening to the slow movement, so heightening the contrast with the agitated mystery of remote minor keys further down the line. The minuet flowed gently and its Ländler-style trio was particularly mellow, both a nice contrast with the drama elsewhere.

The key-changes, especially major versus minor, in the finale were magical and after the various caesuras – complete breaks in the action – she resumed with the utmost delicacy. It was utterly spellbinding, as if she were sharing secrets.  Mishka has a profound knack for Schubert, as we heard last time.

Mendelssohn’s Variations Sérieuses in D minor, one of the fruits of his love-affair with Bach’s music, revealed her contrapuntal dexterity, not least in the virtuoso later variations which move away from Baroque influence. There were moments that suggested a slightly steadier tempo would have lent clarity. But the solemn tone of the work led naturally – with no applause between – into a moving account of Byrd’s pavane on Flow My Tears, Dowland’s famous tune.

Earlier we had heard Byrd’s The Bells, one of his over 150 keyboard works, which deserve wider currency. Its nine variations over a two-note, tolling bass easily conjured the sound-world of the bell tower. She left us in no doubt that this is one work that sounds much better on the piano than the harpsichord. There had even been fleeting glimpses of five of Prokofiev’s Vision Fugitives.

Is there no end to this young lady’s versatility? Mishka is already a star, and on this showing destined to remain so for a long time. May she return to us soon and often.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Dudok Quartet at Ryedale Festival, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, July 19

Dudok Quartet, from Amsterdam to Hovingham. Picture: Yuri Andries

IN the first of four concerts, which were to include all three of Tchaikovsky’s string quartets, the Dudok Quartet of Amsterdam gave the first of them alongside other Russian works by Glinka and Shostakovich.

Tchaikovsky wrote all his quartets in his thirties. He had produced a successful Allegro for string quartet as a graduation exercise, based on a Ukrainian folk tune, so he knew his onions by the time he embarked on No 1 in D, Op 11. It was the making of him outside Russia, largely because of its fetching Andante. But the Dudoks proved it has much more to offer.

They opened dead-pan, non-vibrato, reflecting the second half of the composer’s Moderato e semplice instruction. The movement remained restrained, traces of warmth only really detectable in the first violin.

The slow movement’s famous melody was equally intimate, almost bleak, the ensemble resisting the temptation to make too much of it. One admired that: the music was allowed to speak for itself. When Tolstoy heard it, he was moved to tears; we could understand why.

The sprightly scherzo bordered on the skittish, its strong accents spilling over into its trio. But it was in the finale that the Dudoks showed their true mettle. Their ensemble remained remarkably taut right through to the vivacious coda. We might have heard more from the viola and later the cello in their presentation of the second theme, but teamwork remained the name of the game. We could not complain.

We encountered Tchaikovsky briefly again after the interval, in two months of The Seasons arranged from the piano original: March (The lark’s song) and July (The reaper’s song), tastefully done.

They were but a prelude to Shostakovich’s Quartet No 5 in B flat minor, which was premiered in late 1953 only after the post-Stalin “thaw” had set in (although written the previous year): the composer had considered its searing personal diary too incendiary before then.

The Dudoks treated it as a Russian novel, piling incident upon incident over a marvellous motor- rhythm generated by the cellist. Its climax – the three upper voices in unison – was approached with gradually increasing tension, after some brief rays of sunshine from the leader.

The jaunty little dance that followed changed imperceptibly into something much more vicious, ending in recitatives from all the players, an angry cello last. The group’s focus was intense throughout. This was Shostakovich with his heart on his sleeve – and all the more telling for that.

The evening had opened with an arrangement of Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila, frothy enough but hardly a substitute for the orchestral version. But keep an eye out for the quartet’s forthcoming recording of Tchaikovsky’s quartets. On this evidence it could be something special.

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

More Things To Do in York and beyond when Connecting with culture. Here Hutch’s List No. 29 for 2023, from The Press

Shed Seven, 2023: Vocalist Rick Witter, left, guitarist Paul Banks, second from right, and bassist Tom Gladwin,right, are joined by drummer Rob ‘Maxi’ Maxfield and keyboardist Tim Willis at Millennium Square,Leeds, tonight. Picture: Barnaby Fairley

GOING for gold, whether with the Sheds or down at the maze, Charles Hutchinson heads outdoors but is drawn back indoors too.

Outdoor gig of the weekend: Shed Seven, Sounds In The City 2023, Millennium Square, Leeds, today, from 6pm

FRESH from announcing next January’s release of their sixth studio album, A Matter Of Time, York’s Shed Seven head to Leeds city centre for a sold-out, 6,00-capacity Millennium Square show.

Performing alongside regular vocalist Rick Witter, guitarist Paul Banks and bassist Tom Gladwin will be Tim Willis on keyboards and Rob ‘Maxi’ Maxfield on drums. Support slots go to fellow Britpop veterans Cast and rising York band Skylights.

Be amazed: York Maze reopens for a new season today

Opening of the weekend: York Maze, Elvington Lane, Elvington, near York, today until September 4

THE Cobsleigh Run race and Crowmania ride are among the new attractions when York Maze opens for its 21st season today with a new show marquee too – and the giant image of Tutankhamun cut by farmer Tom Pearcy into a 15-acre field of maize.

Created from one million living, growing maize plants, Britain’s largest maze has more than 20 rides, attractions and shows for a fun-filled family day out. Where else would you find a Corntroller of Entertainment, corny pun intended? Step forward Josh Benson, York magician, pantomime star and, yes, corntroller. Tickets: 01904 608000 or

Gary Stewart: Celebrating the songs of Paul Simon at Helmsley Arts Centre

Show title of the week: Gary Stewart, The Only Living Boy In (New) York – An Evening of Paul Simon Songs, Helmsley Arts Centre, tonight, 7.30pm

GARY Stewart, singer, songwriter, guitarist, Hope & Social drummer and programmer for At The Mill’s folk bills, turns the spotlight on the songs of New Yorker Paul Simon, his chief folk/pop influence.

Born in Perthshire, Stewart cut his Yorkshire teeth on the Leeds music scene for 15 years before moving to York (and now Easingwold, to be precise). He is sometimes to be found fronting his Graceland show, another vessel for Paul Simon songs. Tonight, his focus is on The Boxer, Mrs Robinson, Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard, Kodachrome et al.  Box office: 01439 771700 or

The Young’uns: Playing Ryedale Festival on July 20 at 7pm at the Milton Rooms, Malton. Picture: Pamela Raith

Festival of the week outside York: Ryedale Festival, running until July 30

DIRECTED once more by Christopher Glynn, Ryedale Festival returns with 55 concerts, celebrating everything from Tchaikovsky to troubadours in beautiful North Yorkshire locations. Artists in residence include Anna Lapwood, Nicky Spence, Korean violinist Bomsori Kim and pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen.

Taking part too will be Boris Giltburg, the Dudok Quartet, Jess Gillam, Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective, guitarist Plínio Fernandes,trumpeter Aaron Akugbo, pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu, the National Youth Choir of Scotland, jazz singer Clare Teal and north eastern folk musicians The Young’uns, among others. For the full programme and tickets, go to:

Mark Thomas: Performing one-man play England And Son at Selby Town Hall on Sunday. Picture: Tony Pletts

Work in Progress of the week: Mark Thomas in England And Son, Selby Town Hall, Sunday, 7.30pm

POLITICAL comedian Mark Thomas stars in this one-man play, set when The Great Devouring comes home: the first he has performed not written by the polemicist himself but by award-winning playwright Ed Edwards.

Directed by Cressida Brown, England And Son has emerged from characters Thomas knew in his childhood and from Edwards’s lived experience in jail. Promising deep, dark laughs and deep, dark love, Thomas undertakes a kaleidoscopic odyssey where disaster capitalism, Thatcherite politics and stolen wealth merge into the simple tale of a working-class boy who just wants his dad to smile at him. Box office: 01757 708449 or

Bee Scott: Presenting her queer sci-fi interactive travelogue If You Find This at Connect Festival on Thursday

Festival of the week in York: Four Wheel Drive presents Connect Festival, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to Sunday

FOUR Wheel Drive’s Connect Festival opens with Women’s Voices on Wednesday, staging two new shows, Giorgia Test’s Behind My Scars and Rhia Burston’s Woebegone. Thursday’s Non-Linear Narratives features Bee Scott’s queer sci-fi interactive travelogue If You Find This and Natasha Stanic Mann’s immersive insight into hidden consequences of war, The Return.

Friday’s Comedy and Burlesque bill presents Joe Maddalena in Gianluca Scatto and Maddalena’s dark comedy about male mental health, Self Help, Aidan Loft’s night-train drama On The Rail and A Night With York’s Stars burlesque show, fronted by Freida Nipples. More details next weekend. Box office:

Four Forty Theatre’s cast for the Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet comedy doube bill: Amy Roberts, Luke Thornton, Dom Gee-Burch and Amy Merivale

Unhinged comedy of the week: Four Forty Theatre in Macbeth and Romeo & Juliet, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

MACBETH in 40 minutes? Romeo & Juliet in 40 minutes? Both shows performed by only four actors on one raucous night? Yes, welcome back Four Forty Theatre, returning to the JoRo with a brace of Shakespeare’s tragedies transformed into an outrageous, flat-out comedy double bill.

In the line-up will be actress and primary school teacher Alice Merivale; Liverpool actress, musician, director, vocal coach and piano teacher Amy Roberts; company debutant actor-musician Luke Thornton and company director and pantomime dame Dom Gee-Burch. Box office: 01904 501935 or

The poster for Legend – The Music Of Bob Marley

Tribute show of the week: Legend – The Music of Bob Marley, York Barbican, Thursday, 7.30pm

LEGEND celebrates the reggae music of Jamaican icon Bob Marley in a two-hour Rasta spectacular. “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing is gonna be alright” when the cast re-creates No Woman No Cry,  Could You Be Loved, Is This Love, One Love, Three Little Birds, Jammin’, Buffalo Soldier, Get Up Stand Up and I Shot The Sheriff. Box office:

Jorgie Willingham’s Referee and Jim Carnall’s boxer Paul Stokes in rehearsal for The Sweet Science Of Bruising at York Theatre Royal. Picture: James Harvey

Knock-out show of the week: York College BA (Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen Graduating Students in The Sweet Science Of Bruising, York Theatre Royal, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm

JOY Wilkinson’s The Sweet Science Of Bruising is an epic tale of passion, politics and pugilism in the world of 19th-century women’s boxing, staged by York College students.

In London, 1869, four very different Victorian women are drawn into the dark underground of female boxing by the eccentric Professor Sharp. Controlled by men and constrained by corsets, each finds an unexpected freedom in the boxing ring as they fight inequality as well as each other. Box office: 01904 623568 or

The King’s Singers and Fretwork celebrate Byrd and Weelkes in Ryedale Festival opener with Ryedale Primary Choir

The King’s Singers

THE King’s Singers and Fretwork open the 2023 Ryedale Festival tonight at St Peter’s Church in Norton, near Malton.

They will be marking the 400th  anniversaries of Thomas Weelkes and William Byrd in a concert affectionately titled Tom & Will. Focusing on the humanity behind these two behemoths of Elizabethan music, the 7pm programme comprises well-known pieces alongside works performed  less often.

New works by Sir James MacMillan and Roderick Williams find their place among the tributes to Byrd and Weelkes, and the unique fashion of The King’s Singers’ performances will bring drama, beauty and storytelling to Ryedale for the festival’s grand opening.

The King’s Singers have maintained their six-strong formation of two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass throughout their 55 years. In the 2023 line-up tonight will be countertenors Patrick Dunachie and Edward Button, tenor Julian Gregory, baritones Christopher Bruerton and Nick Ashby and bass Jonathan Howard.

The Fretwork consort of viols is heading into its 37th year of exploring the core repertory of English consort music alongside pioneering contemporary music for viols, with more than 40 commissioned new works in their repertoire of old and new.

Fretwork consists of Richard Boothby, Emilia Benjamin, Jonathan Rees, Joanna Levine, Sam Stadlen and Emily Ashton.


Taking part too will be the Ryedale Primary Choir,  a new initiative for children aged seven to 11, run by Caius Lee and launched this year in collaboration with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation. Children attend free music sessions in school holidays, where they meet and sing with professional musicians, especially Ryedale Festival Young Artists.

The choir will be making its festival debut by appearing on stage with The King’s Singers in a special encore at this opening concert, having  worked with them in a masterclass.

Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “We open this year’s Ryedale Festival with a fantastic concert celebrating the life and work of two of England’s greatest composers of early music.

“Bringing together the best in a cappella singing and in viol consorts with The King’s Singers and Fretwork, there aren’t many better ways to bring up the curtain on the festival and mark the anniversaries of William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes.

“We are also very excited to have the Ryedale Primary Choir join the ensembles on stage for a very special encore. The festival is all about sharing great music with more people every year – and having this choir join us for free music sessions over the summer holidays and up on stage to open the festival is a great part of that. I look forward to seeing St Peter’s Church in Norton fill up for what will be a magnificent opening night.”

Box office for tickets:

Ten Things To See at Ryedale Festival

The Consone Quartet: Playing at Castle Howard on July 26

Triple Concert, Castle Howard, July 26, 7pm.

IN the festival centrepiece, separate concerts are held in the stately home’s Long Gallery, Chapel and Great Hall, featuring the Consone Quartet, Historical Fiction and Guildhall Gold Medal winner Oliver Wass.

Venus And Adonis, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside, July 21, 11am; All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, July 22, 4pm; St. Michael’s Church, Malton, July 23, 4pm.

THE first great English opera, composed by John Blow, comes to life in a Ryedale Festival Opera pop-up production in three historic churches. Experience everything from tragedy to comedy, cynicism to flirtations in a tale of love and lust.

Myrtles, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside, July 16, 7pm; Kate Wakeling, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside, July 16, 9.30pm.

ROBERT Schumann’s love for his talented pianist wife Clara Wieck finds new form almost 200 years later in the world premiere of Myrtles, translated into English from the original Myrthen by Jeremy Sams with added poems from Kate Wakeling. Wakeling performs her own poetry collection, Her Stride Says Comet, in a separate concert afterwards.

Anna Lapwood: Organ, Ampleforth Abbey, July 15, 7pm to 8pm; Come And Sing, St Peter’s Church, Norton, July 16, 3pm to 5.30pm; Double Concert, Sledmere House and Church, July 17, 7pm; The Echo Of Angels, St Mary’s Church, Lastingham, July 18, 3pm; Discover The Organ, St Mary’s Church, Lastingham, July 19, 3pm to 5pm (free tickets).

ANNA Lapwood is among several young artists-in-residence that form the backbone of the 2023 programme. Noted forher impromptu organ performance with Bonobo at the Royal Albert Hall, she will perform, conduct, lead masterclasses and talk attendees through her instrument throughout the festival.

Tenor Nicky Spence

Nicky Spence: The Food Of Love, Duncombe Park, July 18, 8pm; Vocal Masterclass, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 20, 3pm to 5pm (free tickets); A Most Marvellous Party, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 21, 7pm.

TENOR Nicky Spence, the BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year 2022, brings his singing and acting skills to Ryedale to mark the 400th anniversary of composer William Byrd’s death and 50th anniversary of Noël Coward’s passing, with a masterclass for budding singers squeezed in.

Dudok Quartet and Philip Ross Bullock: Pre-concert talk – From The Depths Of My Soul I, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, July 19, 6pm; Dudok Quartet, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, July 19, 7pm.

Pre-concert talk – From The Depths Of My Soul II, Birdsall House, July 20, 10am; Dudok Quartet, Birdsall House, July 20, 11am.

Pre-concert talk – From The Depths Of My Soul III, All Saints’ Church, Slingsby, July 22, 10am; Dudok Quartet, All Saints’ Church, Slingsby, 11am.

Late Night Candlelit Concert – What Remains, St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale, July 22, 9.30pm.

IN addition to a beautiful candlelit concert, the Dutch quartet take festival attendees on a journey through Tchaikovsky’s compositions for the ensemble, with time to take in quartets from Glinka, Shostakovich, and Mozart, and songs from Boulanger performed with soprano Siân Dicker. Professor of Russian Literature and Music Philip Ross Bullock delivers talks on the Tchaikovsky pieces before each performance.

Bomsori Kim and Mishka Rushdie Momen, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, July 22, 7pm.

Mishka Rushdie Momen: Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, July 24, 4pm.

Orchestra of Opera North and Bomsori Kim, Church of St Martin- on-the-Hill, Scarborough, July 24, 8pm.

Mishka Rushdie Momen and Friends, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 25, 8pm.

THE final two artists-in-residence join forces for a vivacious night of Beethoven violin sonatas. Classical Breakthrough Artist in The Times Arts Awards 2021 Mishka Rushdie Momen also performs both a varied solo programme ranging from Byrd to Prokofiev and as part of a piano trio for a Romantic period-fest.

Korean violinist Bomsori Kim plays with the Orchestra of Opera North, performing Brahms’s stirring Violin Concerto between orchestral masterpieces from Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

Saxophonist Jess Gillam

Jess Gillam Ensemble, St Peter’s Church, Norton, July 27, 8pm.

CUMBRIAN saxophonist Jess Gillam will pique interest and begin journeys of musical discovery with her ensemble.

The Clare Teal Seven, Milton Rooms, Malton, July 23, 7.30pm

YORKSHIRE jazz vocal legend, four-time winner of BBC Jazz Singer of the Year and performer of popular songs Clare Teal leads seven-piece troupe through a night of storytelling and euphoric music

Concerteenies and baby-friendly concerts: A Musical Story I, Milton Rooms, Malton, July 23, 11am; Baby-friendly Concert I, Milton Rooms, Malton, July 23, 1pm (free for babies).

Concerteenies – A Musical Story II, Scarborough Library, July 24, 11am; Baby-friendly Concert II: Scarborough Library, July 24, 1pm (free for babies).

Concerteenies – A Musical Story III, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 25, 11am; Baby-friendly Concert III, NCEM, York, July 25, 1pm (free for babies).

POLLY Ives and Louise Thomson narrate and play a reimagining of Arre Chung’s Mixed for children aged three to seven in Concerteenies, as well as performing concerts from all genres for pre-crawling babies where parents can learn baby massage techniques and enjoy their own dose of relaxation.

Ryedale Festival runs from today to July 30. For full festival details and tickets, go to:

RYEDALE Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn’s eye for spotting and supporting early-career artists runs through his 2023 programming.

 Among the artists in residence is organist Anna Lapwood, who gives two recitals, conducts her choir and invites all to join her in open-access Come and Sing and Discover the Organ events.

Also in residence is BBC Music Magazine’s 2022 Personality of the Year, Scottish tenor Nicky Spence, Korean violinist Bomsori Kim and pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, won The Times Classical Breakthrough Artist Award.

The King’s Singers and assorted actors lead celebrations of the 400th anniversaries of William Byrd and the First Folio of Shakespeare, while Boris Giltburg is among performers marking Rachmaninov’s 150th birthday. The Dudok Quartet presents a complete cycle of Tchaikovsky’s string quartets, as well as bringing audiences their arrangements of jazz and folk legends.

Groundbreaking musicians such as Cumbrian saxophonist Jess Gillam and the joyful Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective mingle with young artists, among them guitarist Plínio Fernandes, showcasing his debut album Saudade, trumpeter Aaron Akugbo, innovative pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu and the vibrant voices of the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

Yorkshire jazz singer Clare Teal performs with an all-star band; The Young’uns, from the north east, present a folk night; A Light Music Afternoon celebrates Max Jaffa, remembered fondly in North Yorkshire for his many seasons performing in Scarborough, and a concert at Birdsall House revels in the music of Noel Coward, with Mary Bevan among the singers.

Further highlights will be the Orchestra of Opera North with Jonathan Bloxham; Royal Northern Sinfonia with violinist Maria Włoszczowska; a Triple Concert at Castle Howard; a pop-up production of John Blow’s magical mini-opera Venus and Adonis that tours to ancient and atmospheric churches across the region, and four world premieres, including an innovative new take on Schumann’s song cycle Myrthen, sung in English and interwoven with poems by Kate Wakeling.  

Young audiences can enjoy Arree Chung’s Mixed, as presented by Polly Ives and harpist Rosanna Rolton in Concerteenies, while babies and their grown-ups are invited to a magical musical experience across classical, folk, world and popular music.

The festival takes place in more than 30 venues, ranging from Castle Howard to a remote moorland chapel, taking in York and Scarborough too. The event was runner-up in the Best UK Concert Series category at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards 2023 with the citation: “Yorkshire’s Ryedale Festival always wraps its arms around its community. Local people don’t just watch the star visitors; they come in droves to get equally involved.”

A new initiative this year is the Ryedale Primary Choir for children aged seven to 11, run by Caius Lee,  launched in collaboration with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation.

Children are having fun attending free music sessions in school holidays, where they meet and sing with professional musicians, especially Ryedale Festival Young Artists. The choir will make its festival debut by appearing on stage with The King’s Singers at the opening concert, having worked with them in a masterclass.

Christopher Glynn says: “This year’s programme brings together great performer-communicators like Anna Lapwood and Nicky Spence, with exciting talents such as superstar violinist Bomsori Kim and pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen.

“Trailblazers like Jess Gillam and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective mingle with world-famous artists like the King’s Singers and stars of the new generation. We celebrate the anniversaries of composers William Byrd and Sergei Rachmaninov but also break new ground with five world premieres, including a co-created Community Song Cycle.

“The festival is all about quality, innovation and enjoyability, sharing great music with more people every year. I look forward to welcoming audiences to be part of this year’s adventure.”

Artist in residence Bomsori Kim says: “I am absolutely thrilled to be chosen. This is an incredible opportunity for me to connect with audiences in the UK and share my love and passion for music. I am particularly excited to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto and Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, as these are true masterpieces that have always inspired me.

“I cannot wait to communicate with the festival audiences through the universal language of music, and I hope to create a truly meaningful and unforgettable experience for everyone who joins me on this wonderful journey of discovery.” 

Fellow artist in residence Anna Lapwood says: “My first performance after lockdown was filming a performance for Ryedale Festival after the in-person festival had to be cancelled. It feels really special to be returning to the festival now and to have the chance to perform to a real audience, both on some of the amazing organs in the area and conducting the Pembroke College Chapel Choir.”

Mishka Rushie Momen says: “I’m delighted to be returning to the Ryedale Festival this summer for a residency at the end of July. The three concerts encompass wonderful works by Byrd, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn and Smetana, in solo, duo, and trio programmes. I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with the fantastic festival audience and sharing this great music together.”

Nicky Spence says: “It’s a privilege to bring such a varied offering to the Ryedale Festival this year. What could be better than making music with longtime collaborators in the beautiful surroundings of North Yorkshire?

“Having so enjoyed the audience’s response when I featured in the festival in Wagner’s Parsifal a few years ago, I look forward to buttering many a crumpet with new friends and music lovers alike.”

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Ryedale Festival Community Song Cycle

Tenor Nicky Spence

Ryedale Festival Community Song Cycle, Church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, April 29

TO travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, wrote the Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. He later amplified that thought in his evocative Songs Of Travel, nine poems from which were memorably set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

That was the foundation of Ryedale’s new community song cycle entitled Give To Me The Life I Love, the opening words of Vaughan Williams’s original cycle. It was commissioned by Ryedale Festival from composer Bernard Hughes and librettist Hazel Gould, with assistance from the Richard Shephard Music Foundation. This was its world premiere.

Both composer and librettist freely admit that its primary inspiration lay in the participants themselves, who were widely canvassed in advance and largely responsible for the additional texts in the work.

The children’s chorus, which performed entirely from memory, was Ryedale Primary Choir, trained by Caius Lee, who also conducted the combined forces with considerable aplomb, not to say enthusiasm.

Shining Brass, youngsters who are training with the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band group, sounded fully trained to these ears. Adult assistance came from Ryedale Festival Community Choir, whose director is Em Whitfield-Brooks. The only other professionals on hand were tenor Nicky Spence, appropriately a Scot, and pianist Krystal Tunnicliffe.

Inevitably Spence was at the very heart of the work’s success. Standing in the pulpit he manoeuvred his way deftly through the original songs with a strong feel for the words and stirring resonance. But whenever called upon to join the choirs he also scaled down his tone sensitively.

Tunnicliffe’s piano contributed colourful but well-blended accompaniment, as did the brass band, which was particularly smooth during an interlude that was nicely shaded.

The children’s choir contributed considerable gusto, its remarkable diction early on, in All I Need Is Just Enough, setting the tone for the whole exercise. The adult choir was less extrovert but coped well with some gentle polyphony. It would have benefited from a handful more male voices.

Hughes’s score was essentially a clever pastiche of Vaughan Williams and none the worse for that. It reached a peak in the inspirational finale where, having left Vaughan Williams behind, we encountered the full ensemble, with the soloist and adult choir looking backwards nostalgically – “I have lived and loved” – and the children looking ahead, urged by their elders to “Follow your path”. Amateurs and professionals coalesced happily.

This music will introduce the original cycle, one of the finest of all in our language, to audiences that would not normally encounter it in its usual habitat, a song recital. That alone is invaluable. It will also happily transplant to other arenas. We may just add a coda, from the golfer Walter Hagen, to Stevenson’s exhortation about travel: “Be sure to smell the flowers along the way”.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Nicky Spence is an artist in residence at this summer’s Ryedale Festival (July 14 to 30), appearing in events 12, 19 & 24. For the full programme, head to:

Four recitals promoted by Ryedale Festival were recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast from May 9 to 12 at 1 p.m.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Margaret Fingerhut/Acis & Galatea/Mystical Songs at Ryedale Festival, July 20

Margaret Fingerhut: “Found no difficulty with being a chameleon to cover the various styles”

THERE is nothing like a festival binge: three performances in a single day. You can’t do it at any other time.

So why not? A morning recital in a country house, a Handel serenata in an ancient shrine in the afternoon, and an evening with Elgar and Vaughan Williams in a mediaeval church. Wonderfully varied fare.

Margaret Fingerhut has always been an explorer of unusual piano repertoire and I have long admired her excellent taste, mostly through her recordings. In Birdsall House she mounted a travelogue, which traversed Europe before crossing to the Far East and the Americas. She found no difficulty with being a chameleon to cover the various styles.

There was an oddly Moorish flavour to two of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, before she brought out the big melody in Liszt’s Les cloches de Genève like a chorale amid the chimes. Albéniz’s Castilla was Spanish to its core, twinkling with flamenco virtuosity, before a more sombre excursion to the Three-Peaks gorge in the Crimea, courtesy of Kharkiv-born Sergei Bortkiewicz. A long silence followed its moving conclusion. Six of Bartók’s highly rhythmic Romanian folk-dances restored a happier atmosphere.

Roxanna Panufnik was present for the world premiere of her Babylonia, which took us to Iraq. After Fingerhut had commissioned it, they together determined to commemorate their Jewish roots by delving into the music that had flourished in the Iraqi Jewish community since the Babylonian captivity (586 BC), before it was persecuted into exile after 1948.

Their choice fell on a song by the Moroccan poet Dunash ben Labrat (10th Century AD), whose five verses alternate longing for better times with anger at enemies. Panufnik leans heavily on the Phrygian scale – E to E on the white notes of the piano – which is commonly found in contemporary jazz, some pop music (e.g. Metallica) and even in North Indian classical raga.

Essentially, she has compiled a theme and variations. The song-theme was first plucked inside the piano – which sounds gimmicky but conjured a distant, personal world – before being fully enunciated on the keyboard.

The Maxwell Quartet: Artists in residence at Ryedale Festival

At first, the theme was elaborated with ornamentation, but drifted towards the minor as its basic yearning was painted in ever-darker colours, reaching an angry climax in a growling bass that stopped abruptly. High, ‘washing’ chords restored hope, even an element of sunshine. This was briefly clouded by menacing cross-rhythms, before a grandiose, almost Lisztian climax, which in turn dwindled into a serene silence.

In its barely ten minutes, Babylonia conveys an immense range of emotion. Fingerhut caught the work’s bittersweetness superbly. It was a memorable premiere.

Thereafter we darted to the Australian outback, courtesy of Sculthorpe’s Djilile, ragtime America, Hong Kong in the rush hour as imagined by Abram Chasins, ending in Argentina with a couple of Piazzolla’s trademark tangos. It might have been a breathless tour but for Fingerhut’s stylistic versatility.

The afternoon, in the Saxon church of St Mary, Lastingham, saw the second (of three) performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea. In the absence of any other description, we may safely call this a Ryedale Festival Opera production, which was directed by Monica Nicolaides and conducted by Eamonn Dougan. The small forces involved might suggest a shoestring budget but the show’s ingenuity proved otherwise.

The only slight deficiency was that the orchestra contained only one cello, where Handel specified two. Otherwise the two excellent oboists, Angelika Stangl and Kate Bingham, doubled on recorders as happened at its public premiere in 1732.

Without any props, other than the church’s fixed furnishings, the chorus provided their own. So, for example, when the birds twittered, they dangled avian cut-outs on strings like puppets. Nor were there any costumes: all were dressed as for a rehearsal. But the show compensated in liveliness what it lacked in lavishness.

Nicolaides made a virtue of the sacred setting by overlaying a veneer of religion, especially in having the body of Acis, draped in aquatic blue, taken up to ‘heaven’ (the pulpit), where he was crowned with a golden chaplet. Thus Arcadia took on an eternal hue, doubtless enhanced by the new fountain into which Acis was transformed.

The production also made the chorus – a separate group of five singers bar one overlap with the principals, the Corydon of Emilia Bertolini (whose original aria was happily restored) – seem a more essential part of the action than usual, involved with the travails of the lovers at every point. They produced a moving, motet-style blend at Acis’s demise.

Roderick Williams: “Reserved his full powers for the Mystical Songs”

Henry Ross was an appealing Acis, with clean diction and varied tone-colour; ‘Love In Her Eyes Sits Playing’ had a shapely lilt. His attractive Galatea was Caroline Blair, who delivered ideally straight tone and crisp runs. Matthew McKinney made an over-eager Jack-the-lad of Damon, whose later attempt to act as pacifier was out of character.

Dressed in a stick-on bow-tie, which matched his pomposity, Edward Jowle’s Polyphemus benefited from his admirably fluid bass-baritone. It jarred that he was encouraged to be so physically aggressive towards Galatea. Dougan kept his six-piece ensemble finely attuned to his singers. Nestling in a valley next to the moors, this location evoked Arcadia even before a note had been sounded.

So, to the evening in the church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, where the Maxwell Quartet – one of the artists in residence – was joined by baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Christopher Glynn. A first half of Elgar’s Piano Quintet in A minor was complemented by Vaughan Williams after the interval, five folk song arrangements followed by the Five Mystical Songs, which gave the evening its title.

The two main themes in the piano quintet were nicely contrasted and neatly complementary, one ghostly, like wisps of smoke among trees, the other warming to a ferocious climax accelerating into the recapitulation, in which Glynn was sensitive enough not to outweigh his colleagues. The fade-out rests were effective. Serenity was the watchword in the Adagio, with the two lower strings predominant.

A broad sweep characterised the finale, the main tune brushing aside ghostly memories from the first movement and ushering in the sunshine key of A major, as optimism took over from doubt. All five players played their hearts out here.

Roderick Williams has considerable prowess as a composer and brought his skills to bear on lively arrangements for string quartet of Vaughan Williams’s piano accompaniments to five folk songs. As singer he gave a jolly swagger to Captain Grant, with elegiac contrast in She’s Like The Swallow, a Newfoundland song, as was Proud Nancy.

But he reserved his full powers for the Mystical Songs. The exhilaration of Easter kept bubbling through, and George Herbert’s private excitement in I Got Me Flowers was contrasted by its triumphant closing line, ‘There is but one, and that one ever.’

Williams has a tender affection for words that showed most clearly in Love Bade Me Welcome. He was marvellously resonant in the closing Antiphon, boldly affirmative, as were the strings. His remarkable charisma brings an extra aura to everything he sings. An unforgettable end to a glorious day.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Review: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Royal Northern Sinfonia at Ryedale Festival

Lucienne Renaudin Vary: “Brought the house down”

Ryedale Festival: Royal Northern Sinfonia, Hovingham Hall, July 31

WE were powerfully reminded, with this now traditional festival finale at Hovingham, how fortunate we are to have this country’s only full-time chamber orchestra within such easy reach.

A slightly scaled-down orchestra, directed from the violin by co-leader Kyra Humphreys, played a concerto and a symphony by Haydn, one at the end of each half, leavened by three more recent pieces by English composers. It made a heady mix.

Malcolm Arnold’s troubled life is sometimes reflected in his music, but thankfully not too often. His Second Sinfonietta, Op 65 – he wrote three, in addition to nine numbered symphonies – has a dark threnody at its centre, but both the winding Andante at the start and the boisterous finale were positive, nicely coloured by pairs of flutes and horns.

Finzi’s Romance for strings, Op 11 was beautifully controlled, with a post-Elgarian sweep that was intoxicating.

Errollyn Wallen’s Photography is a 2007 piece in three movements that uses techniques from three centuries earlier. There was a catchy momentum in the idiomatically fugal opening and a strong bass line à la Baroque, quoting Bach indeed, in the more acerbic central movement.

An intriguingly slow pulse in the finale, over a drone bass, picked up pace thanks to the solo double bass – strongly delivered here – before a stirringly rhythmic finish.

But Haydn dominated the evening. It is doubtful that anyone in the audience had ever encountered a concerto soloist playing barefoot. Until now. Lucienne Renaudin Vary skipped onto the platform like a sprite and conducted the concerto herself.

But her demeanour belied the seriousness she gave to the score. Her tone, for example, in the opening Allegro was bright and brittle, similar to a high Bach trumpet, with tight trills and immaculate chromatics. In the slow movement, it was as if she had changed instrument: her tone was now velvety and mellow, allied to long-breathed lines and ultra-smooth control.

The finale used a combination of the two colours. At considerable speed it buzzed with energy, which the orchestra was only too happy to complement. She threw in a bluesy encore for good measure. It all but brought the house down.

Symphony No 93 in D was the first of Haydn’s 12 ‘London’ symphonies, all of them premiered there in the first half of the 1790s. With Humphreys back at the helm, there was a polished clarity in the opening fanfares. But it was the slow movement, introduced gently by a solo quartet, which brought Haydn’s humour to the fore, with a rude bassoon solo poking fun at prim flutes and violins.

After a far from polite minuet, the closing rondo was frankly scintillating. The festival could hardly have ended more brilliantly.

Review by Martin Dreyer