REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Siân Dicker/Krystal Tunnicliffe, Ryedale Festival

Soprano soloist Sian Dicker

Ryedale Festival: Siân Dicker/Krystal Tunnicliffe, Looking West, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, and Church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, July 30

THE penultimate day of Ryedale Festival was mainly concerned with voices.

The mid-morning song recital in Hovingham by the soprano Siân Dicker and the pianist Krystal Tunnicliffe was A Tale Of Two Cities, while the evening in Pickering featured the world premiere of a “concert-theatre” work, Looking West, with music by Julian Philips to a libretto by Rebecca Hurst.

The recital flitted back and forth between London and Paris, cities that clearly excited both performers as they explained early on. Dicker sang in both English and French, clearly enunciating and distinguishing her tone between the two, and Tunnicliffe stayed with her every step of the way. We relished their relish.

Poulenc’s enthusiasm verged on the frenetic, but had its moments of thoughtfulness, and he was touching too about the lovers carrying on while the preachers in Hyde Park were on their soap boxes.

We dipped into Butterworth’s song cycle, Love Blows As The Wind Blows, as we imagined the lover travelling up to Kew from Richmond, and enjoyed Madeleine Dring’s evocation, via Betjeman, of business girls enjoying a hot soak in Camden Town, one of five settings she made of the poet in the year before her death (1977).

We had Debussy evoking beautiful Parisiennes, balanced by Weill’s lament over the hidden depths of the Seine. Walton’s pomp and circumstance at the Lord Mayor’s table was countered by Errolyn Wallen’s pensive London’s Burning.

Mezzo soprano soloist Rebecca Afonwy-Jones. Picture: Robert Workman

Finzi’s jovial setting of Hardy’s Rollicum-Rorum, plus an encore of Richard Rodney Bennett’s Let’s Go And Live In The Country (where the grass is not necessarily greener), rounded off a happy divertissement that was enhanced by four poems, well projected, including James Fenton’s In Paris With You. Dicker has a versatile charisma that should take her a very long way.

The 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams was celebrated with the commission of Looking West by the Nova Music Trust and the Presteigne Festival. The latter will show the Welsh premiere but the world premiere was Ryedale’s honour.

The story exists on three historical levels, primarily the life of Saint Bega, an Irish princess who escaped marriage by crossing to St Bees and eventually settling in Northumbria as an anchorite, probably in the mid-9th century. Interest in her was revived by Melvyn Bragg’s novel Credo (1996), based on her life.

A second strand deals with the work of the Cumbrian artist Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981), who apparently left some memorable paintings of St Bees Head. The story is given contemporary relevance by a young pilgrim who makes his way across country starting from there, sharing his travails with the audience. “The spiritual enrichment we can find in the natural world” – a theme dear to the heart of Vaughan Williams – lies at the heart of Philips’ work.

In Nova Music Opera Ensemble’s production, directed by Sally Ripley, the actor Alexander Knox stole the show as the traveller, charting his day-to-day progress in various rambling outfits in an engaging, Jack-the-lad manner.

St Bega was cleanly, smoothly and spiritually sung by mezzo Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, clad in a purple habit tied with a rope, while soprano Rebecca Bottone, in a white smock, played the artist, not quite so clearly which was understandable given the high tessitura of many of her lines. Maddie Purefoy had a less clearly defined role speaking from the pulpit.

The orchestra of eight players played their hearts out under George Vass. Cello and double bass had important roles in some darker textures, but the upper strings came into their own near the end in something like folk style when our traveller danced in jubilation at having completed his journey.

At regular intervals we heard a tape of crashing waves streaked with the cries of seabirds. But the most affecting, intimate moment was a mezzo solo over cello and harp, especially when the instruments turned to pizzicato. The dramatic content was not as powerful as it might have been: most of the drama was left to the orchestra. But the influence of Vaughan Williams was undeniable.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Stephen Kovacevich at Ryedale Festival

Stephen Kovacevich: “Hearing him in solo recital was a rare opportunity”

Ryedale Festival: Stephen Kovacevich, Duncombe Park, July 28

THIS was the second of two remarkable, and remarkably different, piano recitals during Ryedale’s second week.

Stephen Kovacevich will celebrate his 82nd birthday in October. He has been a fixture on the musical scene for 60 years and has lived in Hampstead for many years, so he is practically one of us.

Hearing him in solo recital was a rare opportunity, since these days you are more likely to hear him in chamber music or duetting with his long-time friend Martha Argerich (now there’s a thought for a future festival).

His programme opened with Berg’s single-movement sonata, continued with Beethoven’s penultimate sonata, Op 110 in A flat (not the advertised Op 109) and ended with Schubert’s final sonata, D.960 in B flat.

The piano sonata was far from being Berg’s earliest work – he finished it in 1909 at the age of 24 – but he called Op 1. In it he kindles the dying embers of romanticism, showing himself wrestling with the (for him) magnetic tug of atonality.

Kovacevich presented the theme and its offshoots with a clarity it hardly deserved, so that it was possible to pick out some logic in Berg’s machinations. Whether the rubato he employed was supposed to be part of the original deal is open to question but it certainly helped this listener. The work would not have been many people’s choice of opener, on either side of the platform, but it worked here.

Nevertheless, moving back to the purer tonality of Beethoven came as something of a relief. Kovacevich’s last-minute change of sonata – excused by a recent bout of Covid – was something of a mystery, because his opening movement was wayward. Marked ‘con amabilità’ (lovingly), it was certainly caressed, but it also rambled and some of the runs were too fast for their own clarity.

Kovacevich came back into better focus with the scherzo, which was percussive to the point of anger in its C major sections. The trio was hardly less forceful and he coped admirably with its abrupt leaps.

The finale is a tricky mixture – and sounded it. Its slow opening and elegiac first arioso led smoothly into the first fugue, which was impressively delivered, with special clarity in the left hand. The second arioso was less comfortable and led into an aggressive second fugue, untidily banged out in places, even though it ended convincingly enough. This was not so much faltering technique as the idiosyncrasies that come with age, undeniably reminiscent of Horowitz in his later years.

We looked for recompense in Schubert after the interval. It came, gradually at first, reaching full flowering in a finale that was by far his best movement of the evening. The sonata, for all its use of the major key, is clouded with the darkness of Schubert’s knowledge that he had not long to live (he died two months later, at the age of 31).

Its otherwise soothing melodies also conveyed doubt here, in the dark, low trill near the start, for example. There was a well-worked acceleration when the main theme was repeated, but the first movement ended in a beautiful calm.

The dotted rhythms of the Andante were almost Baroque, but its answering theme was too hasty, lacking nobility, even if the later key-changes were negotiated persuasively. The Scherzo was a little rough at the edges, but it was a warm-up for a finale whose drama dazzled. This was the Kovacevich we had been waiting for and it did not disappoint in any way.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Ryedale Festival’s Triple Concert, Castle Howard

The Gesualdo Six: Performed in the Chapel at Castle Howard. Picture: Ash Mills

Ryedale Festival: Triple Concert, Ashley Riches; The Gesualdo Six; Joseph Shiner and the Barbican Quartet, Castle Howard, July 27

TICKETS were once again like gold dust for the triple concert in three locations at Castle Howard. Ashley Riches sang in the Long Gallery, accompanied by Joseph Middleton, the Gesualdo Six appeared in the Chapel, and clarinettist Joseph Shiner and the Barbican Quartet played in the Great Hall. This was the satisfying order in which I heard them.

Riches, who hails from this part of the world but has gone onto widespread conquests, boasts a dark basso quality to his baritone and put it to excellent use in his wide-ranging exploration of the animal world, A Musical Zoo.

His German group began pleasingly with Schubert’s Die Forelle (The Trout) and Brahms’ injunction to the nightingale to pipe down, but his legato only took full shape in Strauss’ lament for the thrush that dies in its cage.

Where his German in Wolf’s Der Rattenfänger (The Ratcatcher) was a touch wayward, his French group was on a much higher plane. Fauré’s waltz-dialogue between butterfly and flower was utterly charming, as were the solitary, rhapsodic cricket of Ravel and De Sévérac’s serene owls.

So, to England, with another nightingale soothing away the sorrows of King David, in Howells’ setting of Walter de la Mare. Its solemnity was instantly dispelled by Vernon Duke’s treatment of Ogden Nash’s musical zoo, where Riches was a veritable chameleon in his colourings of the epigrams, with an American accent into the bargain.

The Gesualdo Six under Owain Park, who also delivers a deep bass, gave a programme of slow music suitable for the Anglican office of compline, the last service of the day. It proved confusing because they omitted three-quarters of the Hildegard plainsong printed in the programme and merged the two following pieces so that their boundaries were unclear.

That aside, they were as impressive as ever, neatly blended and precisely tuned. Tallis’s evening hymn Te Lucis led nicely into Byrd’s Miserere Mihi, Domine, which was followed in turn by Look Down, O Lord, by Jonathan Seers – British, but little-known here because of being based in Germany for many years – whose setting of the Elizabethan William Leighton was a model of anguished harmony.

Nicolas Gombert’s relentlessly remorseful Media Vita started in the deepest, darkest tones. Park’s own Hail, Gladdening Light fell short of the famous setting by Charles Wood, but The Wind’s Warning, a setting of Ivor Gurney by Alison Willis, complete with whooshing gusts, was powerful. Some tortuous harmony in night settings by Reger and Rheinberger was safely negotiated. Beautiful though this programme was, it needed a little more variety for full effect.

So, to Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in the Great Hall. Joseph Shiner’s clarinet was both lithe and intimate. The way, for example, that he melted back into the first movement recapitulation was exquisite and there was also a special serenity when the slow movement theme reappeared.

The minuet’s second trio had a special swagger, contrasting with the quartet’s account of the first one, where the clarinet is silent. Shiner played games with the early variations in the finale, so that when the break came – with the Adagio interlude – it was all the more effective, and the closing bars breathed wonderfully.

The strings were very much in cahoots with him and maintained a fine balance throughout. A lovely conclusion to a rewarding evening.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Ryedale Festival celebrates joy of Mystical Songs in Williams and Maxwells pairing

Baritone Roderick Williams: 2022 Ryedale Festival artist in residence

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.

Christopher Glynn: Ryedale Festival director, pianist and “matchmaker”

“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.”

The Maxwell Quartet: Ryedale Festival artists in residence, teaming up with Roderick Williams for Mystical Songs

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.”

Roberts Balanas: Premiering Abba medley on electric violin at Come And Sing Abba!

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: Box office: 01751 475777;; 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.

Who’s performing at Ryedale Festival and when in a July event full of Handel, Vaughan Williams and even an ABBA sing-song?

Baritone Roderick Wilson: Artist in residence at 2022 Ryedale Festival

THE 2022 Ryedale Festival will embrace 300 performers in 52 concerts from July 15 to 31, kicking of the event’s fifth decade of inspiring performances in beautiful North Yorkshire locations.

Under Christopher Glynn’s artistic directorship, the festival will find a special place for Handel’s music, including a pop-up production of his magical opera Acis And Galatea that will visit three churches.

The music and legacy of Ralph Vaughan Williams will be in focus too, as will the genre-blending elan of Errollyn Wallen and the 50th anniversary of Swedish supergroup Abba.

The Kanneh-Mason family will open the festival on July 15 with a concert by the seven brothers and sisters from Nottingham, aged between 11 and 24. On July 16, Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason will be in conversation with Edward Seckerson in House of Music: Raising The Kanneh-Masonsa joyful celebration of this extraordinary musical story.

Six world premieres will take centre stage. Julian Philips will mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vaughan Williams with Looking West, a new work inspired by the ancient stories and landscapes of northern England. 

Composer Julian Philips: World premiere of Looking West

Roxanna Panufnik’s Babylonia will go on an imaginative journey to the Middle East, while Errollyn Wallen and Tarik O’Regan will explore the myth of creation in their co-composed work Ancestor, to be premiered by Philharmonia Baroque. 

Joseph Howard’s community song cycle Seven Mercies celebrated the heritage and talent of Pickering on May 21; Robert Balanas will be debuting an ABBA medley for solo violin, and Callum Au will be bringing a new work co-commissioned with Spitalfields Festival.

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 Vaughan Williams’s anniversary with Christopher Glynn and fellow artists in residence the Maxwell Quartet, as well as leading a singing masterclass with talented young artists. The Gesualdo Six will perform two vibrant programmes in Ampleforth Abbey and Castle Howard.

The festival’s two ensembles in residence, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque (in their first UK tour for more than a decade), will present one of Handel’s Dixit Dominus, a tour-de-force of vocal and instrumental virtuosity that bubbles with the energy and exuberance of youth.

Ryedale Festival Young Artists will be in the spotlight too. Violinist Roberts Balanas will perform a late-night candlelit concert, while Scottish accordionist Ryan Corbett will set out on a “troubadour trail” across Ryedale, bringing music – from the grandeur of Bach to the romance of Tchaikovsky – to beautiful and little-known churches across the region.

The Maxwell Quartet: Artists in residence

Soprano Siân Dicker and pianist Krystal Tunnicliffe will create a relaxed, informal and interactive concert for people living with dementia, their friends, family and carers – and anyone else who would like to attend. Bassoonist Ashby Mayes will collaborate with Krystal Tunnicliffe in an enterprising programme at a coffee concert.

Further highlights will include the London Mozart Players with pianist conductor Martin James Bartlett; The National Youth Choir of Great Britain performing a programme on the theme of environment; Pete Long and Friends playing 100 Years Of Jazz In 99 Minutes and fast-rising soloists such as violinist Johan Dalene, cellist Bruno Phillipe, trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary, harpsichordist Richard Egarr and pianists Rebeca Omordia and Alim Beisembayev. Renaudin Vary will give a brass masterclass too.

Dame Janet Baker will be in conversation with Edward Seckerson and a visit from poet, author and broadcaster Lemn Sissay will be among the literary events. Family concerts will include a musical version of the modern children’s classic Izzy Gizmo.

For the final gala concert, trumpeter Lucienne Renaudin Vary will join the Royal Northern Sinfonia for a sunny-spirited concerto at the heart of an eclectic programme that will take in  lyricism of two English romantics, a Bach-inspired work by Errollyn Wallen and one of Haydn’s most rousing and witty symphonies.

A new partnership with the Richard Shephard Foundation is working in primary schools to transform the festival’s engagement with children across Yorkshire. Already this has supported Seven Mercies, a new Community Song Cycle by Joseph Howard and Emma Harding at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering, on May 21. Inspired by the church’s famous murals, this celebration of local heritage and talent took the theme of countering difficult times through small acts of kindness.

Dame Janet Baker: In conversation at Duncombe Park

Seven Mercies is one of two major elements of the festival taking place outside the main festival in July. Post festival, on October 29, the Hallé Orchestra and Chorus, Natalya Romaniw, Alice Coote, Thomas Atkins, James Platt and conductor Sir Mark Elder will perform Verdi’s mighty and dramatic Requiem in York Minster.

First-time ticket-buyers can attend selected events for £10, under-18s for £5. All are invited to watch the free-to-view additional content that will be shared on the digital platform RyeStream.

Artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “From legendary artists such as Dame Janet Baker to stars of the new generation like the Kanneh-Masons, we’ve brought together a line-up of international quality to perform in stunning locations across the beautiful area of Ryedale, from historic old churches to magnificent stately homes.

“As always, the festival is a celebration of music and place, and how they can enhance each other. I’m especially pleased that we are working with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation to bring musical opportunities to primary school children across Yorkshire, and that hundreds of tickets will be available from as little as £5 for under-18s and first-time attenders. We look forward to welcoming music-lovers from far and wide to Ryedale this summer.”

For full details, go to: Box office: 01751 475777;; in person from Memorial Hall, Potter Hill, Pickering, second floor, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 9.30am to 2.30pm.

Opening concert: The Kanneh-Mason family of musicians

2022 Ryedale Festival programme

July 15, 7pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

Opening Concert

Kanneh-Mason Family

July 16, 3pm, St Michael’s Church, Malton

House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons

Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason

July 16, 8pm, St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton

Johan Dalene, violin

Charles Owen, piano

July 17, 3pm, Helmsley Arts Centre

Family Concert

July 17, 7pm, Duncombe Park

Pre-concert talk: Katy Hamilton

London Mozart Players: July 23 concert

July 17, 8pm, Duncombe Park

The Wanderer

Roderick Williams, baritone

Christopher Glynn, piano

July 18, 11am, Helmsley Arts Centre

Shakespeare’s Infinite Variety

Lucy Beckett, speaker

July 18, 3pm to 5pm, Helmsley Arts Centre

Roderick Williams, masterclass

July 18, 7pm, Sledmere House and Church

Double Concert

July 19, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Slingsby

The Maxwell Quartet

Christopher Glynn: Ryedale Festival artistic director

July 19, 2pm, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley

Pre-concert talk

Katy Hamilton

July 19, 3pm, All Saints’ Church, Helmsley

Acis And Galatea I

July 19, 9.30pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Late-Night Folk

July 20, 11am, Birdsall House

Margaret Fingerhut, piano

July 20, 3pm, St Mary’s Church, Lastingham

Acis And Galatea II

July 20, 7pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Pre-concert talk

Katy Hamilton

Trumpet player Lucienne Renaudin Vary. Picture: Simon Fowler

July 20, 8pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Mystical Songs

Roderick Williams & The Maxwell Quartet

July 21, 11am, St Nicholas Church, Husthwaite

Troubadour Trail I

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 21, 3pm, St Michael’s Church, Malton

Acis And Galatea III

July 21, 8pm, Birdsall House

Bruno Phillipe, cello

Tanguy de Williencourt, piano

July 22, 1pm, Church of St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough

National Youth Choir

Poet Lemn Sissay:

July 22, 3pm, St Hilda’s Church, Sherburn

Troubadour Trail II

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 22, 8pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

100 Years Of Jazz In 99 Minutes

Pete Long and Friends

July 23, 11am, Holy Cross Church, East Gilling

Troubadour Trail III

Ryan Corbett, accordion

July 23, 3pm to 5pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Come and Sing ABBA!

July 23, 8pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

London Mozart Players

July 24, 3pm, James Holt Concert Hall, Kirkbymoorside

Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band

July 24, 6.30pm, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside

Alim Beisembayev, piano

July 24, 9.30pm, All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside

Late-Night Candlelit Concert

Roberts Balanas, violin

July 25, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Rebeca Omordia,piano

July 25, 2pm, Hovingham Hall

National Youth Chamber Choir

Philharmonia Baroque

July 25, 7.30pm, Duncombe Park

Dame Janet Baker

In conversation with Edward Seckerson

The Gesualdo Six. Picture: Ash Mills

July 26, 11am, St Lawrence’s ’s Church, York

Music For A While

Rowan Pierce & Philharmonia Baroque

July 26, 8pm, Ampleforth Abbey

The Gesualdo Six

July 27, 11am, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold

Lucienne Renaudin Vary, trumpet

Félicien Brut, accordion

July 27, 7pm, Castle Howard

Triple Concert

July 28, 11am, St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby

Ashby Mayes, bassoon

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

July 28, 3pm, The Milton Rooms, Malton

Dementia-friendly Concert

Siân Dicker, soprano

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

Harpsichordist Richard Egarr: A Byrde In The Hande candlelit concert

July 28, 7pm, Duncombe Park

Stephen Kovacevich, piano

July 28, 9.30pm, St Gregory’s Minster, Kirkdale

Late-Night Candlelit Concert

Richard Egarr, harpsichord

July 29, 11am, St Peter’s Church, Norton

Inner City Brass

July 29, 3pm to 5pm, James Holt Concert Hall, Kirkbymoorside

Brass masterclass

Lucienne Renaudin Vary

July 29, 7pm, St Peter’s Church, Norton

A Garden Of Good And Evil

Philharmonia Baroque

July 30, 11am, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Siân Dicker, soprano

Krystal Tunnicliffe, piano

July 30, 3pm, The Galtres Centre, Easingwold

Lemn Sissay

My Name Is Why

July 30, 6pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Pre-concert talk

July 30, 7.30pm, Church of St Peter and St Paul, Pickering

Looking West

July 31, 3pm, The Worsley Arms, Hovingham

Jazz in the Garden

July 31, 5pm, All Saints’ Church, Hovingham

Festival Service

July 31, 6.30pm, Hovingham Hall

Final Gala Concert

Royal Northern Sinfonia

Lucienne Renaudin Vary, trumpet

Post-festival concert: October 29, 7.30pm, York Minster

Hallé Orchestra and Chorus

Verdi: Requiem

Natalya Romaniw, soprano

Alice Coote, mezzo-soprano

Thomas Atkins, tenor

James Platt, bass

Sir Mark Elder, conductor

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Ryedale Festival premiere of Seven Mercies, Church of St Peter & St Paul, Pickering, May 21

Kathryn Rudge: “Inspired soloist”

RYEDALE Festival floated a powerful reminder of its status in the community with this world premiere of a new song-cycle written by a Pickering-born composer and largely performed by inhabitants of Ryedale.

Joseph Howard’s Seven Mercies was inspired by mediaeval murals in Pickering Church, which have only recently been brought back to life and decoded from beneath the whitewash of centuries.

They refer to specific acts of kindness – properly titled Seven Acts of Corporal Mercy – mentioned by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount and illustrated here by stories from the Bible.

Howard’s music is built around Emma Harding’s poetic libretto, which at its core delivers a song-cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano. Its sections use different female characters whose hardships have been alleviated by someone else’s generosity, often put into a modern context: a refugee, for example, or a hospital patient prevented by Covid regulations from receiving visitors.

That is the backbone of the work and no doubt it could stand alone. But it is immensely coloured and given depth by several choral and brass interludes, as well as introduction, prologue and finale.

Joseph Howard: Pickering-born composer of Seven Mercies

Much of the text here has been devised by choir members themselves. Ryedale Festival Community Choir, under Em Whitfield Brooks, and Ryedale Primary Schools Choir (taken from Pickering Community Junior School and Gillamoor C of E and St Joseph’s RC Primary Schools), conducted by Holly Greenwood-Rogers, were joined by a brass quintet of junior members from Kirkbymoorside Town Band and bell ringer Pam Robb.

Kathryn Rudge was the inspired soloist. Her clean, clear, beautifully projected mezzo was exactly suited to evoking the plight of the desperate and the downtrodden, and Christopher Glynn’s fluently controlled piano gave her superb underpinning. When she took to the pulpit for the finale, she soared angelically above and through the combined forces below, as if offering divine support.

Both choirs had evidently been keenly trained. They represented the voices of the community coming to the aid of the needy. Where the adults were sympathetic and affectionate, the children were infectiously enthusiastic, an apt balance. The young brass were impressive too, in an early fanfare, a lament and a smooth duet for cornets.

Howard’s music, which was always attuned to the text, divided into two styles: a thoughtful, modal English for the soloist that was reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and a much more universal, generally major-key and strongly rhythmic approach for the ensembles. This made sense with such a wide range of talents on hand: all were shown to best effect.

We may thank the Richard Shephard Music Foundation for its association with an occasion that both highlighted an important piece of local history and underlines what a force for good the Ryedale Festival continues to be. The festival itself will run from July 15 to 31 with full details at

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on University of York Song Day, 19/2/2022

Christopher Glynn: Put together the University of York Song Day. Picture: Gerard Collett

University of York Song Day, National Centre for Early Music & Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York, February 19

IT fell to Christopher Glynn to put together this year’s University Song Day. He was an excellent choice.

He is of course well known in Yorkshire for his fine stewardship of the Ryedale Festival. But it was also good to have a full-time accompanist of his calibre presiding. His intelligent, always distinctive contributions from the keyboard were the linchpin of the day.

It was in three parts. At lunchtime, A Shakespeare Songbook attracted the talents of soprano Rowan Pierce and tenor Ed Lyon. In the afternoon, outstanding mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge offered advice to five university students in a masterclass.

In the evening, now transplanted to the Lyons, Pierce and Rudge were joined by up-and-coming soprano Siân Dicker in a programme of Richard Strauss lieder stretching over nearly 80 years of his life.

Shakespeare has almost certainly inspired more musical settings than any other poet. Most are taken from the plays, although the sonnets account for a fair number. Here we dipped into five plays and two sonnets, with Shakespeare In Love to start and finish. There were several unexpected delights.

Soprano Rowan Pierce: “Sinister and sprightly in Tippett’s Songs For Ariel”

Arne’s setting of When Daisies Pied (from Love’s Labours Lost) with echoing cuckoo, daintily given by Pierce, was beautifully enhanced by Glynn’s ornamentation. His pacing of the prelude to Haydn’s She Never Told Her Love (Twelfth Night) was tellingly spacious.

Sylvia’s Charms (Two Gentlemen Of Verona), as imagined by Schubert, were boldly extolled by Lyon, before he turned to Julius Harrison’s much less-known setting of Oberon’s I Know A Bank (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), which was complemented by the fairies’ invocation from the same play, You Spotted Snakes, given by Pierce. Both singers proved Harrison an adept watercolourist.

Michael Head is another underestimated song composer, as heard in Pierce’s account of How Sweet The Moonlight Sleeps (Merchant Of Venice), where pianissimo drew in the listener and the piano twinkled with golden sheen.

Lyon brought terrific gusto to Quilter’s setting of Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind (As You Like It), which happened to coincide with snow falling outside, visible through a window of St Margaret’s. We felt the poetry’s chill.

This was signal for a calmer interlude, the duet from Handel’s L’Allegro, As Steals The Morn, which adapts words from The Tempest; it was affectionately delivered. Pierce was both sinister and sprightly in Tippett’s Songs For Ariel, uncovering much of their magic. Similarly, Lyon plumbed the Clown’s infinite sadness in Come Away, Death (Twelfth Night), which was tightly controlled by voice and piano alike.

Tenor Ed Lyon: “Plumbed the Clown’s infinite sadness in Come Away, Death”. Picture: Gerard Collett

Roxanna Panufnik has set three Shakespeare sonnets. Mine Eye treats the words of Sonnet XXIV with utmost care, as did Pierce here. The world premiere of Kim Porter’s duet-setting of Sonnet CXVI made a worthy and equally pleasing companion to it, gentle at its heart, with trickling piano, before building to a triumphal finish.

Both singers relished the challenge of Vaughan Williams’s Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun (Cymbeline), taking a lead from Glynn’s ever-astute handling of the keyboard. The event was a welcome – and powerful – reminder of the rich treasury that is English song.

Devoted as it was entirely to the songs of Richard Strauss, the evening was almost too much of a good thing. Strauss was virtually besotted with the soprano voice in all its guises – he even married a diva – so the presence here of two sopranos and a mezzo was ideal. They exhibited a contrast in styles which added to the excitement.

Here, more than ever, Christopher Glynn was called upon to exercise his skills to the utmost. He never faltered. Indeed, the powerful, scented aromas that these songs generated owed a huge amount to the colours in his palette.

At every step of the way he simplified the singers’ task. Rowan Pierce opened the evening with the six-year-old Strauss’s cute Weihnachtslied (Christmas Carol), before a peppy, vivid Begegnung (Meeting) and a not quite dreamy enough account of Rote Rosen (Red Roses).

Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge: “Capturing the nervous essence of young love”

Later there was a lovely transition in Schlechtes Wetter (Filthy Weather), where voice and piano together melted into the waltz, leaving behind the bad mood of wind and rain and conjuring the dance in their place.

Kathryn Rudge began with three songs from Op 10, composed in 1894 and his first to be published. She entered straight into the mood of Zueignung (Dedication), giving its powerful melody a strong line. She never let our attention wander after that either.

Glynn brought bold colourings to Nichts (Nothing), which she amplified, before a wonderfully contemplative Die Nacht (Night), calm, hovering, treasuring the moment. It was a gem.

She later returned with Schlagende Herzen (Beating hearts), capturing the nervous essence of young love with its repeated ‘kling-klangs’. There was no doubt about the depth of her feeling in Sehnsucht (Yearning), and her approach to the final word, Paradise, at the end of Das Rosenband (Rose Garland) was exquisite, once again making time stand still.

These were the work of a singer in her prime, one who knows exactly how to hold an audience in thrall. Spellbinding stuff, the voice beautifully focused throughout its range, right to the very top.

Sian Dicker: “At her best when she did not have to restrain her inner Brunnhilde”. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega 

Sián Dicker’s opening set came from Op 27, composed in 1894. She was at her best when she did not have to restrain her inner Brunnhilde. Ruhe Meine Seele (Rest My Soul) exploded into distress before neatly calming down.

Anticipated ecstasy bubbled through Heimliche Aufforderung (Secret Invitation), before her most controlled singing of the evening in Morgen! (Tomorrow), in which she took inspiration from Glynn’s gently modulated prelude (echoed in his postlude).

She was also given the honour of performing the Four Last Songs, which Strauss wrote in 1948, a year before his death. In Frühling (Spring) she developed terrific resonance at its heart but also revealed a recurring tendency to widen her vibrato when she pushed the tone too hard.

The urgency at the start of the last stanza on Beim Schlafengehen (Going To Sleep) was well judged but it needed to be followed by greater inwardness, the kind she found at the end of the final song. All the while, Glynn was achieving little miracles at the keyboard, larks trilling in the twilight, for example, before another eloquent postlude.

The three singers signed off with the trio from the end of Der Rosenkavalier, Hab’ mir’s Gelobt (I Made A Vow), when the Marschallin bows out, leaving Octavian and Sophie to each other. It was beautifully, even touchingly, done and crystalised the heady perfumes that all four musicians had concocted throughout the evening.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Solem Quartet & Friends, Ryedale Festival Finale

Solem Quartet: “A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks”

Ryedale Festival Finale: Solem Quartet & Friends, Hovingham Hall, Hovingham, July 31

AFTER including four Schubert events over its opening weekend, Ryedale Festival closed with three substantial Schubert offerings over its final two days. His ever-popular Octet was the last event on this programme, following two pieces by the American composer Florence Price.

Alhough she died nearly 70 years ago, Price has only really come to prominence in the past decade, after the chance discovery of a cache of her scores. Summer Moon, composed in 1938, was among them. Its pastel shades are well adapted to string quartet and generated an elegiac aura.

Her variations on “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes” proved equally appealing, evolving naturally and showing more than mere craftsmanship in their modulations. These tasters suggested that she deserves to be better known by British audiences.

So to the Schubert. The Solem’s first violin, Amy Tress, led the proceedings most effectively. The extra instruments – clarinet, bassoon, horn and double bass – added more than the expected resonance and took some adjustment: double bass and horn, although expertly handled, sounded boomy and over-exuberant respectively in the Allegro.

Things settled down, however, in the slow movement, which was allowed to breathe, with cool ensemble over the long dominant pedal and pregnant pauses before the coda.

Brio in the scherzo was nicely complemented by a smooth trio. In the succeeding variations, Stephanie Tress’s cello sang engagingly in the main melody and the whole ensemble ruminated gently thereafter. The minuet really danced and its trio had the lightness of a Viennese pastry.

In the finale, the return of the opening material might have been a touch more menacing, but the acceleration to the end was genuinely exciting. A fitting close to two deeply satisfying weeks: Christopher Glynn and his cohorts deserve the utmost praise for assembling them and in next to no time.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Mishka Rushdie Momen, Ryedale Festival, 30/7/21

Mishka Rushdie Momen: “Thirty years old next year, but showing the wisdom and musicality of one twice her age”

Ryedale Festival: Young Artist Day, Mishka Rushdie Momen, All Saints, Hovingham, July 30

SUPERLATIVES are always dangerous, but this morning event was one of the most satisfying piano recitals I have ever had the privilege of attending.

Partly it was the range of repertory covered in not much more than one hour: Bach, Mozart, Schumann, Ligeti and Schubert. But most of all it was the sheer brilliance of this young pianist, 30 years old next year, but showing the wisdom and musicality of one twice her age.

Mishka – she too, like others at this festival, will surely forever be recognisable by her first name alone – hinged her programme on fantasias by Mozart and Schubert, the one in C minor, the other in C major.

But she began with Bach’s C major Prelude and Fugue from Book I of The Well-tempered Clavier, a piece beloved of almost every would-be pianist. The prelude was impeccably smooth, whereas the fugue was notable for its unexpected drama.

In Mozart’s Fantasia, it was if there were an ogre prowling in the bass. Its first appearance was aggressive, but its anger gradually softened until it was tamed into a mere growl. Metaphors aside, Mishka drew marked but subtle contrasts between the work’s intense and melodic poles.

Schumann’s Impromptus On A Romance Of Clara Wieck takes a theme she had sent him and develops it into nine variations (in the revised version of 1850, ten years after they were married). Mishka did much more than merely highlight the two facets of Schumann’s character, poetic and impulsive, and she delivered an exceptionally tender postlude. It all made a pleasing interlude.

The fleeting magic of Ligeti’s Tenth Étude, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, was used as introduction to an unforgettable account of Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy. John Warrack’s typically urbane programme-note referred to this as “a seminal masterpiece”. It is indeed an Everest of the repertoire, not lightly undertaken. That the whole piece, over an unbroken 20 minutes, is built around a dactylic rhythm makes it all the more remarkable, on a par with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and equally symphonic.

Mishka’s vision encompassed the whole work. She opened boldly, holding nothing back. So the second theme sounded all the more tender by contrast, a haven of peace before it was interrupted. She even made something of Schubert’s bridge – little more than a doodle, in truth – leading into the Adagio, which at first had the solemnity of a funeral march. As the bass became much more active, she still sustained a beautifully controlled line in the right hand.

The sheer theatre of the Scherzo was enhanced by the rapid downward ripples of her left hand, which were frankly breath-taking. The final fugue was sternly enunciated but still unfolded with incredible clarity.

By now hearts were in mouths at her Olympian virtuosity. With eyes closed, I would have sworn I was listening to Alfred Brendel with a feminine touch. And she still had enough left in the tank for an eloquent encore, which I took to be Schubert’s Hungarian melody in B minor. This young lady is thrillingly talented. Ryedale must have her back – soon.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Tenebrae, Ryedale Festival, 29/7/2021

Tenebrae: “Remains one of the best in the business”. Picture: Sim Canetty Clarke

Ryedale Festival: Tenebrae, Renaissance Glories, Ampleforth Abbey, July 29

TENEBRAE is observing its 20th anniversary this year and no doubt relishing the opportunity for a real celebration at last.

Nigel Short’s crack choir, here numbering 11 singers, chose music of mourning from the heart of the Renaissance: from Spain, Tomás Luis de Victoria and his slightly younger contemporary Alonso Lobo, with Gregorio Allegri’s incomparable Miserere representing Italy of a generation later.

Lobo’s six-voice Versa Est In Luctum (‘My harp is tuned to mourning’) is one of the most moving motets of the period. Its prayerful progression from full-on minor, almost wallowing in self-pity, to something approaching the major key and positivity, speaks of hope finding a way out of adversity. Certainly Tenebrae managed this transition with smooth conviction.

Allegri’s Miserere is a setting of Psalm 51. For it to build up the necessary tension before its sacrificial dénouement, it demands to be sung in its entirety. Sadly, on this occasion, it was limited to a mere three of the famous high Cs, plus the epilogue.

No doubt it was thought that the complete work would make the concert too long, given that there was to be no interval. It seemed to finish just as it was getting going, although it was clean enough. But an alternative work would have been preferable. 

By far the evening’s most substantial piece was Victoria’s Requiem Mass. It was a surprise, although perfectly acceptable, that all the plainsong incipits were sung by female voices. Nigel Short paid immense attention to detail throughout.

In the Introit, where the sopranos spend a good deal of time on the dominant (the fifth note of the scale), he developed a notable urgency in the inner voices. He was also at pains to differentiate the varied entries in the Kyrie. In the Offertory, perhaps the most purely Spanish-sounding of all the sections, he dissolved tension with several melting cadences.

During the Sanctus and Benedictus the voices sounded as if three times their actual number, although tuning remained impeccable and ensemble shapely. In the final section, Lux Aeterna, Short picked out the phrase ‘quia pius es’ (translated here as ‘because thou art merciful’) for special treatment, while building up the overall intensity.

It would have been a masterful performance, but for one shortcoming: the diction. Words were rarely anywhere close to clear enough. The same problem afflicted the extraordinary encore, a setting of Flanders & Swann’s Slow Train – which really had no place here.

Some of its stations were apparently localised, but they disappeared without trace, under-projected. A lively Byrd motet might have been more appropriate. Even so, Tenebrae remains one of the best in the business.

Review by Martin Dreyer