University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra to perform Mozart and Bruckner works at York Minster on June 8

The poster for University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra’s concert on June 8

THE University of York Choir, The 24, and the University of York Symphony Orchestra will perform at York Minster on Saturday, June 8.

Under the direction of Robert Hollingworth and John Stringer, the 7.30pm programme will feature Mozart’s Mass in C minor and a selection of Bruckner’s works, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth, including the Te Deum, a composition he described as “the pride of his life”. Box office: 01904 322439 or

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on University of York Choir & Baroque Ensemble, Central Hall, December 16

Sarah Latto: Guest-conductiing 250 singers

IT was a good idea to schedule two Baroque Magnificats side by side in a single Christmas programme. What was arguably less sensible was to sing them in reverse chronological order.

The large choir was joined by the chamber choir The 24, bringing its numbers up to 250, all guest-conducted by Sarah Latto.

The history of Bach’s Magnificat is not altogether simple. This Christmas marks the 300th anniversary of the premiere of his first Magnificat, which was in E flat major. Over the following three years, he revised it, cutting out its four Christmas texts so that it could be used throughout the year and transposing it into the key of D major.

That is the version normally heard. What was given here was indeed “inspired by the early version” but in the later key. So we heard it with the Christmas bonuses.

It spearheaded the evening. In the opening chorus, the Baroque Ensemble, numbering some two dozen, was immediately right on its toes. The choir took longer to find focus. In the first interpolation, ‘Vom Himmel Hoch’ (From Heaven Above), the chorale melody in the sopranos needed greater prominence.

But there was a crisp attack into ‘Omnes generationes’ and thereafter the choir was fully focused: the ending of ‘Fecit Potentiam’ was superbly triumphal and the final Gloria equally imposing.

It was entirely understandable that soloists from within the choir (all members of The 24) were used, exactly as Bach would have done. But in this dry acoustic, which is so unreceptive to solo voices, it worked only intermittently.

Only one, the soprano Molly O’Toole, had the consistent resonance to surmount this difficulty; the baritone Will Parsons ran her a close second. Both, incidentally, sang their arias by heart. All of the others, equally youthful, were never less than competent, but lacked the projection required.

The orchestra contributed strong rhythmic backing, with first-class solo work from flutes and oboes. The portative organ, however, was underpowered against these forces and the harpsichord virtually inaudible.

The ‘other’ Magnificat was by the little-known Milanese nun Chiara Margarita Cozzolani. Written in the year of Bach’s birth, 1650, it inevitably suffered by being heard in the wake of his work rather than beforehand. But it proved an engaging work, for double choir, full of imaginative metrical changes closely linked to the text, even if its harmonic palette was limited. The 24 relished its antiphonal effects.

A Sinfonia pastorale – defined as for the Christmas season by its closing movement – was led from the violin with considerable panache by Asuka Sumi, one of the Baroque Ensemble’s co-directors (the other is cellist Rachel Gray, also present here).

Thereafter we enjoyed three Michael Praetorius settings of Christmas carols, with orchestral accompaniment. Finally, Gruber’s Silent Night, to an American translation, invited audience participation.

It made for a second half that was rather less exciting than Bach’s Magnificat had been. Nevertheless, Latto had conducted decisively, mouthing all the words as choral conductors are wont to do, but achieving excellent results and infusing the choir with enthusiasm.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The Dream Of Gerontius, York Minster

Alex Ashworth: “Wonderful, resonant bass”. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

The Dream Of Gerontius, University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, York Minster, June 14

THE Dream Of Gerontius opened with a well-judged expansive orchestral Prelude; the ghost of Wagner ever present in the slowly unfolding haunting melodic lines.

The performance reminded me how surreal this instrumental journey is, quite radical really, as it closes in to greet Gerontius on his deathbed.

Joshua Ellicott’s dramatic opening Jesu, Maria, I Am Near To Death was imbued with both frailty and trepidation. Naturally, most of the vocal responsibility lies with the tenor role of Gerontius, and Mr Ellicott was simply imperious. He strove to deliver an unforgettable emotional and spiritual journey, one rich in dramatic effect and emotional depth.

The somewhat chilling opening aria was both passionate and persuasive, and the delivery of the later Sanctus Fortis, a musical statement of faith, was both powerful and compelling. Particularly musically pleasing was the way the opening aria bled into, seeped into the Kyrie Eleison.

It is not until the end of Part 1 that Gerontius is joined by the Priest, a wonderful, resonant bass, Alex Ashworth, who leads the processional Go Forth Upon Thy journey, Christian Soul. The closing…Through The Same, Through Christ Our Lord also had a wonderful, satisfying musical landing.

Part 2 opens with the Soul of Gerontius singing I Went To Sleep; And Now I Am Refreshed. Mr Ellicott delivered this beautifully, aided by the clarity of texture – muted strings, woodwind gentle, overlapping commentary.

Mezzo soprano Kitty Whately proved to be a worthy (female) Angel, the singer displaying a lovely, velvety tone. Her aria Softly And Gently was just heavenly. The dramatic highlight was, of course, when Gerontius sees God; a silence of shock and awe, orchestral explosion. Very effective indeed, particularly in this acoustic.

The orchestra and choir (often singing very demanding vocal lines such as Praise To The Holiest In The Height) were excellent throughout. The Minster acoustic is and was problematic; it tends to take more than it gives. Conductor John Stringer managed these huge forces plus soloists in this acoustic with exceptional musical skill, and a full-capacity audience seemed to agree.

Review by Steve Crowther

More Things To Do in York and beyond in a mighty crowded calendar. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 22 for 2023, from The Press, York

Rob Auton (self portrait): Seeking a crowd in Pocklington and Leeds

WHICH shows will draw the crowds? Charles Hutchinson prepares to join the merry throng across the summer beyond the Bank Holiday sunshine.

Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Pocklington Arts Centre, tonight, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, June 5, 7.30pm

CHARMINGLY offbeat Pocklington-raised poet, stand-up comedian, actor, author, artist and podcaster Rob Auton heads back north from his London abode on his 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour to play Pock and Leeds.

After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: Pocklington, 01759 301547 or; Leeds,

Antler alert: Comedian Tim Vine in his alarming headwear for Breeeep! at the Grand Opera House, York

“Witness the stupidity” comedy gig of the week: Tim Vine: Breeeep!, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

EXPECT a mountain of nonsense, one-liners, stupid things, crazy songs and wobbly props, plus utter drivel, advises punslinger Tim Vine.

“Tim’s like the manager of a sweet shop where all the sweets are replaced by jokes, and he serves them in a random order,” says the show blurb. “So it’s like a sweet shop where the manager just throws sweets at you. Enjoy the foolishness and laugh your slip-ons off.” Sold out; for returns only, check

Amy May Ellis: North York Moors singer-songwriter promotes her debut album at The Crescent

Homecoming of the week: Amy May Ellis, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 8pm

NOW moved to Bristol, singer-songwriter Amy May Ellis was raised on a remote dale on the North York Moors, playing her early gigs at The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale.

Steeped in the culture, scenery, folklore and wildlife of the countryside that surrounded and shaped her as a child, she wrote her debut album Over Ling And Bell – named after two types of heather – in a secluded moorland farmhouse, mostly alone but sometimes with friends. Released on Lost Map Records on May 12, it is available on digital platforms and limited-edition vinyl. She will be joined by her new band for tomorrow’s gig, when North Yorkshire-London combo Wanderland support. Box office:

Ryan Addyman as Jamie New, right, in York Stage’s Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Musical of the week: York Stage in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Teen Edition, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

JAMIE New lives on a council estate in Sheffield with his loving mum. At 16, he doesn’t quite fit in. He may be terrified about the future, but Jamie is going to be a sensation.

The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s coming-of-age musical follows the true-life story of Sheffield schoolboy Jamie Campbell as he overcomes prejudice and bullying to step out of the darkness to become a drag queen. York Stage artistic director Nik Briggs directs. Box office:

Sarah Dean: Plucking strings at the City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend at the Black Swan Inn

City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend, Black Swan Folk Club, Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, June 2 to 4

TOM Bliss and The Burning Bridges open the three-day folk fiesta at the Black Swan on Friday night, to be followed by afternoon and evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

Among the weekend’s acts will be: Stan Graham; Eddie Affleck; The Barbarellas; Blonde On Bob; Clurachan; Union Jill; White Sail; Edwina Hayes; Minster Stray Morris; Caramba; The Old Humpy Band; Tommy Coyle; Paula Ryan; Judith Haswell; Sarah Dean; Chris Euesden and Ramshackle. Full details at:

Alexander Ashworth: Baritone soloist for Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius at York Minster. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

Purgatory awaits: University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius, York Minster, June 14, 7.30pm

THE University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform Edward Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius with soloists Joshua Ellicott (Gerontius), Kitty Whately and Alexander Ashworth, conducted by John Stringer.

Elgar dramatically sets to music Cardinal Newman’s poem depicting the journey of Gerontius’s soul from his deathbed to judgement before God. On his way, he encounters angels and demons, colourfully portrayed by the chorus, before settling finally in purgatory. Box office: 01904 322439 or

The poster for City Screen Picturehouse’s outdoor cinema season, Movies In The Moonlight, at York Museum Gardens in July

Outdoor cinema: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, York Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York, July 14 to 16, from 7.30pm

MUSEUM Gardens play host to City Screen Picturehouse for three nights of summertime open-air film action, opening with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, starring Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy on July 14. Next come Mamma Mia!, featuring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, on July 15 and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark attack classic Jaws on July 16.

All these outdoor cinema events start at 7.30pm. Films will be shown at sundown; drinks and snacks will be on offer but guests can bring picnics. Box office:

Ruby Wax: Presenting the latest Wax work, I’m Not As Well As I Thought, at the Grand Opera House, York, this autumn

Looking ahead: Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought, Grand Opera House, York, September 28, 7.30pm

AFTER four years, American-British actress, comedian, writer, television personality and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, 70, follows up her How To Be Human show with a stage adaptation of her May 11 book, I’m Not As Well As I Thought, promising her rawest, darkest, funniest show yet. 

In 2022, Wax began a search to find meaning, booking a series of potentially life-changing journeys: swimming with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic; joining a Christian monastery; working in a Greek refugee camp; undertaking a silent 30-day mindfulness retreat in California. Even greater change marked her inner journey. Box office:

Tom Allen: Completely and utterly at York Barbican

Recommended but too late for tickets

ACERBIC comedian Tom Allen’s Completely gig at York Barbican on Sunday at 8pm has sold out. Completely.

Under discussion will be Allen’s life updates, his vegetable patch and the protocol for inviting friends with children for dinner.

University of York Choir to perform joyful ‘Colossal Baroque’ Roman music at Central Hall with The 24 and The City Musick

Robert Hollingworth: University of York Choir musical director

THE University of York Choir join forces with The 24 and The City Musick for an evening of the “Colossal Baroque” music of 17th century Rome at Central Hall, University of York, on March 18.

Under the direction of Robert Hollingworth, the 7.30pm programme combines Orazio Benevoli’s Missa Di Deus Pro Nobis for four choirs with what the choir’s musical director describes as “other monstrous works” by Benevoli’s Venetian teacher, Vincenzo Ugolini, among others.

Almost forgotten today, Benevoli (1605-1672) was one of the most important Roman Baroque composers of his day. “He wrote glorious, large scale, multi-choir music that included a technique called ‘reining in the donkey’, in which the lower parts move hastily underneath a static soprano line, supposedly like a priest sitting on and trying to hold back a frenetic donkey,” says Hollingworth. “Think King Of Kings in the Hallelujah Chorus,” he suggests.

The 24 is a University of York music department ensemble, conducted by Hollingworth, founder/director of I Fagiolini. The City Musick comprises cornett, sackbut, dulcian, strings, organs and theorbos.

Tickets for this “wonderfully joyful and uplifting event” are on sale at:

Robert Hollingworth appointed musical director of University of York Choir

Robert Hollingworth: New musical director for University of York Choir. PIcture: Frances Marshall

ROBERT Hollingworth is the new musical director for University of York Choir, taking over from the long-standing Peter Seymour.

Peter has retired from the post after directing the choir through much of the large-scale choral repertoire for many years but will continue to direct the Yorkshire Bach Choir.

Hollingworth, who moved to York in 2012, is a member of the university’s music department and a vocal specialist, and he has a professional performing career too, leading the vocal ensemble I Fagiolini and directing the annual Stour Music Festival. 

He is keen to promote female conductors and composers, hence this term’s repertoire will include Pie Jesu by French composer Lili Boulanger, alongside Faure’s Requiem and other French music.

Peter Seymour: Retiring from director’s post for University of York Choir

For a flavour of Robert’s work, his entertaining and informative Sing The Score videos, produced during lockdown, are well worth exploring at

Membership of University of York Choir is open to students and staff, as well as by audition to those outside the university. Rehearsals are held on Mondays in term time from 7.30pm to 9.30pm in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, Heslington, York.

Registration and auditions will be held on September 27, followed by the first rehearsal on October 4. The Faure concert is in the diary for December 1 at St Lawrence’s Church, Lawrence Street, York. For more details, contact membership secretary Catherine Duncan via

University of York Choir performing at York Minster under Peter Seymour’s direction. Picture: Alexandru Ichim