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.
HOW does a festival reinvent itself for the Covid-confused summer of 2021?
At Ryedale, celebrating its 40th year, although not in the way it had planned, the answer is a one-off, late-announced, open-ended, can-do-spirited programme of summer events that brings inspiring performers to play together in beautiful Ryedale places from this weekend to July 31 .
Presenting 40 live concerts to celebrate its 40 years, Ryedale Festival welcomes performers such as Jess Gillam, Abel Selaocoe, Carolyn Sampson, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Lara Melda, Milos, the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, BBC Big Band, Kathryn Tickell and Tenebrae, as well as Poet Laureate Simon Armitage – and many more besides.
The Festival will be popping up in Pickering Parish Church; All Saints’, Kirkbymoorside; Hovingham Hall; St Olave’s Church, York; Birdsall House and Church; St Peter’s Church, Norton; Duncombe Park; the Milton Rooms, Malton, and Ampleforth Abbey.
Events will be around one hour long, with no intervals and reduced capacity to prioritise audience safety, but multiple performances to enable as many people as possible to attend.
Artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “We’ve brought together a wonderful programme of British-based artists that is both vibrant and diverse. The formats of our concerts have changed but the core elements are what they have always been: great music, beautiful Ryedale locations, and audiences.
“Because, for performers like me, after the experience of the past year, one thing seems clearer than ever before: we don’t make music for an audience; we make music with the audience.”
The festival’s two weeks of summer music opened last night (17/7/2021) with the Albion String Quartet’s programme of Haydn and Shostakovich at St Mary’s Priory Church, Old Malton, and soprano Carolyn Sampson and pianist Joseph Middleton’s all-Schubert recital, themed around Elysium, the ancient Greek concept of afterlife, in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Pickering.
Today, cellist Hannah Roberts joined the Albion String Quartet for Schubert’s String Quintet at All Saints’ Church, Kirkbymoorside, at 5pm and St Michael’s Church, Malton, at 9pm, followed by a third performance tomorrow at 11am at St Olave’s Church, York.
Birdsall House and Church is the scene for a double concert tomorrow from 5pm. Fresh from her Proms debut, British/Turkish pianist Lara Melda plays Rachmaninov and Chopin’s epic third sonata in the house, while classical guitarist Miloš plays Villa Lobos, Bach and Albeniz, among others, at the church.
The format of the double concert encompasses a two-hour interval, when the audience is invited to picnic in the grounds of Birdsall House between the two performances.
Poet Simon Armitage grew up among the hills of West Yorkshire and always associated his early poetic experiences with the night-time view from his bedroom window. Now Poet Laureate, he visits the Milton Rooms, Malton, on Tuesday to read from Magnetic Field: The Marsden Poems, his compendium of poems about the village where he grew up. The 40-minute 11am and 3pm readings and question-and-answer sessions each will be followed by a book signing.
On Wednesday, in Cubaroque at 11am and 9pm at All Saints’ Church, Hovingham, tenor Nicolas Mulroy and guitarist and theorbo player Toby Carr perform a rare combination of music from two golden ages, as songs of love, sorrow and faith by baroque composers Purcell, Monteverdi and Strozzi speak across the oceans and centuries to modern Latin-American standards by Silvio Rodríguez, Caetano Veloso, Pablo Milanés and Victor Jara, who gave voice to a continent emerging from years of suppression.
At the Palladian-style Hovingham Hall on Wednesday at 3pm and 6pm, Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment violin soloists present music written for violins alone, highlighting the contrasts, textures and colours of an instrument that is usually on top of the sound-world of string instruments.
The programme takes in solos by master composer-performers, programmatic duets, profoundly beautiful trios, concertos for four violins and new arrangements.
On Thursday at 3pm and 6pm, trailblazing Jess Gillam leads her ensemble in an electrifying programme at St Peter’s Church, Norton, designed to inspire you to reflect, dance and smile with the aid of compositions by Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Björk, Thom Yorke, Will Gregory, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Piazzolla.
South African cellist Abel Selaocoe is joined by pianist Benjamin Powell on Thursday at 11am and 9pm at Birdsall House, Birdsall, as he highlights the links between Western and non-Western musical traditions in a programme that complements his own work Nagula with compositions by Debussy, James Macmillan, Ravel and Schedrin.
Selaocoe returns on Friday at 3pm and 6pm with Sirocco, his energetic, joyful collaboration with Manchester Collective and Chesaba, at the Milton Rooms, Malton. Their great storm of music celebrates the warmth and diversity of folk traditions from across the globe, from Purcell to Stravinsky, original African folk to Danish folk songs.
The BBC Big Band and jazz chanteuse Tina May perform timeless feel-good numbers from the classic era of swing, all arranged and curated by leader Barry Forgie, on Saturday at 5pm and 8pm at the Scarborough Spa Grand Hall. Expect Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Benny Goodman works, plus a few surprises along the way.
On Sunday, July 25, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason performs a wide-ranging programme of contrasting sonatas by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Gubaidulina at Duncombe Park at 3pm and 5.30pm.
The festival’s second week opens with speaker Lucy Beckett discussing Rievaulx and Mount Grace: Contrasting Histories on July 27 at 11am and 3pm at St Michael’s Church, Malton. Twelve miles apart, both mediaeval monasteries were abolished by Henry VIII, but their glory days were nearly four centuries apart, and the difference in their histories makes for a gripping tale.
Fresh sounds merge with ancient influences when Kathryn Tickell, British folk scene luminary and Northumbrian piper, and her close collaborator, accordionist and clog dancer Amy Thatcher, of The Monster Ceilidh Band, perform at the Milton Rooms, Malton, on July 27 at 5pm and 8pm.
Coco Tomita, winner of the strings category in this year’s BBC Young Musician competition, joins pianist Simon Callaghan to play Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Poulenc’s Violin Sonata at Duncombe Park on July 28 at 11am and 3pm.
Directed by Nigel Short, Tenebrae sing Renaissance Glories, music from the Golden Age of Spanish art, on July 29 at the Benedictine monastery of Ampleforth Abbey at 7.30pm. The closing piece will be Tomás Luis de Victoria’s luminous Requiem Mass of 1605, full of humanity and beauty.
All Saints’ Church, in Hovingham, plays host to two Young Artist Day concerts on July 30. The first, at 11am and 6pm, promises a wide-ranging programme from pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, who journeys from Bach to Ligeti to Schubert’s most virtuosic work for solo piano, Wanderer-Fantasy.
In the second, two fast-rising artists, violinist Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux and pianist Ljubica Stojanovic, present works by Biber, Schubert and Brahms (“Rain” Sonata) at 3pm and 9pm.
The final concert, by Solem Quartet and Friends at Hovingham Hall on July 31 at 3pm and 6pm, is filled with music of optimism and friendship, led off by Florence Price’s tribute to her extraordinary friend, the jazz musician and singer Memry Midgett, Summer Moon, and her arrangement of the folk song Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes. Schubert’s Octet, a work of dazzling invention and uplifting lyricism, is the finale.
Throughout July and August at Helmsley Arts Centre, York-born artist Jake Attree presents The Spirit Of The North, an exhibition inspired by time spent in and around Ryedale, dedicated to the memory of Dr Richard Shephard, York composer and headmaster.
“I want the paintings, oil pastels and drawings to have a sense of the places that inspired them, whether York, the landscape around Welburn, the River Derwent at Malton, or a view across the Howardian Hills from Pickering Castle,” says Jake, whose studio is at Dean Clough, Halifax.
“Completely dependent on the subject while simultaneously independent of it, these works are a celebration of Paul Cézanne’s idea that art is ‘a harmony that runs parallel to nature’ and full of a sense of what it feels like to spend time in North Yorkshire.”
The full programme and ticket details can be found at ryedalefestival.com.