‘We all need cheering up,’ says director Delma as York Early Music Christmas Festival returns for live and online concerts

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment: Opening the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival with two sold-out concerts on December 3

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival will be back in full swing this season, combining live concerts with a later online programme of festive music.

Running from December 3 to 11, then on demand from December 17 to January 14, the festival promises Christmas carols, candlelight, Vivaldi, Corelli, Bach, Handel, Purcell, Schubert, mulled wine, mince pies and Mexican melodies.

In the medieval St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, this celebration of Advent and the festive season will go ahead with Covid safety measures in place: seating will be socially distanced and proof of two Covid vaccinations or a negative Lateral Flow Test will be required. “No proof, no admission,” will be the strict policy, and the wearing of masks will be actively encouraged too.

To adapt to the prevailing circumstances and smaller capacities, five of the festive programmes will be performed twice, at 5.30pm and the more conventional 7.45pm.

“The philosophy is short concerts, no interval, and still selling to a limited capacity, so that people feel more comfortable because there’s more room and they don’t have to spend too much time together indoors in winter,” says festival director Delma Tomlin.

“In dark December, earlier evening concerts will appeal to a certain demographic, who can get home in good time for supper. It’s all about understanding people’s wishes as we return to going to concerts, and it’s much more practical to do two concerts in an evening, as we don’t have the same level of visitors for afternoon concerts.”

La Palatine: French songs of love, betrayal, disenchantment and loss on December 4

Looking forward to a festival with plenty of concerts sold out already, Delma says: “Christmas in most circles is a time for celebrations, a time of fanfare, ceremony and feasting. At the heart of the celebrations is a very human story which is often so beautifully illustrated through music, and we invite you to find peace, serenity, alongside mince pies and mulled wine at this busy time – and to enjoy some really fabulous music too!

“There is 500 years’ worth of glorious Advent, Christmas and winter music to go at, and frankly we all need a bit of cheering up right now.”

Opening festival proceedings will be an ever innovative, entertaining and engaging British ensemble, the Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, whose 5.30pm and 7.45pm performances of A Baroque Christmas on December 3 have both sold out. Concertos by Corelli, Manfredini, Torelli and Vivaldi will be complemented by Handel’s Pastorelle from Messiah and works by D Scarlatti and JS Bach.

Replacing Ensemble Caladrius’s O Magum Mysterium in the festival’s first NCEM Platform Artists’ concert on December 4 at 12.15pm will be French ensemble La Palatine, presenting Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux.

The raw emotions of love, betrayal, disenchantment and loss infuse the songs and opera arias of the early baroque in Italy, as explored by Marie Theoleyre, soprano, Noemie Lenhof, viola da gamba, Jeremy Nastasi, theorbo and baroque guitar, and Guillaume Haldenwang, harpsichord, in the works of Tarquinio Merula of Cremona, Domenico Mazzocchi in Rome and Claudio Moneteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna.

Travelling further afield, the festival takes a Mexican theme with Siglo de Oro’s Christmas In Puebla, a sold-out 6.30pm concert on December 4 that evokes the spirit of the warm breezes of South America, on Christmas Eve in Puebla Cathedral, blending dance-infused villancicos with traditional 17th century carols under the direction of Patrick Allies.

Siglo de Oro: Mexican melodies

“This will be Siglo de Oro’s York debut,” says Delma. “Somewhat delayed, though, because they were supposed to be here two years ago.”

York favourites The Gesualdo Six return to the NCEM once more, this time with In Winter’s House, on December 5 at 5.30pm (sold out) and 7.45pm (tickets still available). Director Owain Park’s programme of music evokes a sense of mystery and joy, from works of the Tudor church to the 21st century by Judith Bingham, Joanna Marsh and Sally Beamish. “They will be wallowing in the deliciousness of both old and new music,” says Delma

The second NCEM Platform Artists’ concert, supported by the NCEM’s Creative Europe-funded programme EEEmerging, will be given by Prisma, a German ensemble comprising Franciska Anna Hadju, violin, Elisabeth Champolion, recorder, Alon Sariel, lute, and David Budai, viola da gamba, on December 7 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm. “They’re so much fun, so cheerful, and a very delightful group to welcome at Christmas,” says Delma.

Their programme, A Baroque Christmas, will be wrapped around baroque trio sonatas and dances, inviting the audience to rediscover Christmas songs by Castello and Fantana in fresh arrangements laced with joie de vivre.

Pocket Sinfonia’s Mozart And A Miracle concert, on December 9 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, aims to re-create the atmosphere of 19th century living-room parties, where the intimacy of a chamber music performance was applied to orchestral-scale pieces.

Rosie Bowker, flute, Eleanor Corr, violin, Thomas Isaac, cello, and Emil Duncumb, piano and fortepiano, will be taking a journey through the dark wintery nights of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, onwards to the Christmas cheer of Mozart’s Sleigh Ride, in a new Pocket Sinfonia transcription, and Haydn’s Miracle Symphony No. 102 in B flat.

Pocket Sinfonia: Dark journey through wintery nights

“Two members of the ensemble are from Norway, with dual nationality, and they’ll be making their debut here after I saw them on Zoom in a showcase they did in Brussels last year, and booked them on the strength of that,” says Delma.

Tenor James Gilchrist and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth reflect on love, passion and loss in Divine Love And Earthly Passions on December 10 at 5.30pm and 7.45pm, as they open with Purcell’s Evening Hymn and close with Dowland’s In Darkness Let Me Dwell on their thoughtful, sometimes melancholic, always engaging journey, with a sprinkling of Schubert and Praetorius as a taster of the festivities to come.

In A Contest Of Equals, on December 11 at 1pm, Bojan Cicic, violin, Gawain Glenton, cornetto, and Silas Wellston, organ, celebrate the late-16th and 17th century rivalry between the violin, the irreverent newcomer, and the cornetto, the older, aristocratic instrument, with music from Italy, Germany and Spain. Who will emerge victorious? Let Battaglia! commence.

The 2021 live festival concludes on December 11 with Yorkshire Bach Choir’s 7pm to 10pm performance of J S Bach’s Mass in B minor with the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists under conductor Peter Seymour. On solo duty will be Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, alto, Matthew Long, tenor, and Johnny Herford, bass.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear the Yorkshire Bach Choir again at the festival after two years, and especially to hear them doing the Bach mass,” says Delma. “It’s such  a cracking piece.”

Joglaresa: Carols, lullabies, dance tunes and wassails

In addition, but separate from the festival, Joglaresa will be performing Lullay Myn Lykynge, a stand-alone concert on Monday, December 6 at 5.30pm, offering encouragement to celebrate Yule effervescently and chase out the chill from the Celtic fringes of Europe with traditional carols, lullabies, dance tunes and wassails from Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Armed with fidel, harp, bells, bagpipes and voices, Joglaresa will be ringing in Christmas and the New Year.

Tickets remain available for concerts unless stated otherwise at ncem.co.uk/york-early-music-christmas-festival/ and on 01904 658338.

IN the York Christmas Box Set, seven concerts from the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be available to watch online throughout the festive season.

Billed as “the perfect festive gift for music lovers” by the National Centre for Early Music, the £40 filmed concert package can be viewed on demand from 10am on December 17 to Friday, January 14.

First prompted by pandemic restrictions, the NCEM continues to share many of its festival highlights online, reaching ever-growing audiences from as far away as Japan and Australia.

The seven festival highlights in the box set are:  

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, performing A Baroque Christmas;

Siglo de Oro, celebrating Christmas with dance-infused 17th century Mexican music;

The Gesualdo Six, returning to York after sold-out summer concerts to present In Winter’s House, Christmas music spanning many decades;

Prisma: Baroque joy in the York Christmas Box Set

EEEmerging artists Prisma, bringing Baroque joy with fresh arrangements of Christmas music;

Pocket Sinfonia, conjuring up the atmosphere of 19th century living-room parties with Mozart and more;

Festival favourites James Gilchrist & Matthew Wadsworth, performing Divine Love And Earthly Passions, featuring music by Purcell, Schubert and Dowland;

Battaglia, the combative trio of Bojan Čičić, Gawain Glenton and Silas Wollston, staging an exuberant musical battle between the violin and cornetto, once considered rival instruments.

Festival director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be able to bring you this fabulous array of concerts online with this wonderful Christmas Box Set, filmed at our home of St Margaret’s Church during this year York Early Music Christmas Festival. 

“We’re continuing to share our music online, so those of you who aren’t able to join us in York will be able to enjoy this fabulous feast of music in the comfort of your own homes – and it’s the perfect gift to share with family and friends.

“We hope that our online friends will enjoy seeing the beautiful surroundings of our medieval home and we hope to welcome them in person in the future.”

For tickets and more information, go to: ncem.co.uk/events/york-christmas-at-home-festival-pass/

“Financial help from the ARG Fund ensures that we can stage the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival,” says director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, has received a “generous grant” from the City of York Council’s Additional Restrictions Grant fund to help with the cost of staging this year’s York Early Music Christmas Festival.

This discretionary scheme supports York businesses affected by the lockdowns but not eligible for Lockdown Restrictions Grant and the Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed Businesses) payments, thereby helping businesses that, while not legally required to close, were still severely impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

In keeping with other arts organisations, the NCEM was forced to close its doors for several months but it continued to stage concerts and festivals digitally, sharing specially commissioned concerts all over the world, reaching audiences from as far away as Australia, Japan and the United States.

The return of a week-long York Early Music Christmas Festival from December 3 is one of the NCEM’S most important and high-profile events, attracting not only York residents but also audiences from all over Britain and beyond.

The NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, is fully open once more, staging its year-round programme of concerts, not only Early Music, but jazz, folk and world music too.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to receive this generous grant from the City of York Council.  Financial help from the ARG Fund ensures that we can stage the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival, a week of music celebration featuring a line-up of world-class performers.

“The festival is hugely popular with residents and attracts visitors from all over the UK, who make it part of their Christmas calendar. It’s wonderful to see the city coming back to life and we’re very proud to be able to be part of its fabulous programme of events celebrating the festive season. We can’t wait to welcome audiences back to our beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church.”

Councillor Derek Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “York’s live music scene is a crucial and vibrant part of the city’s cultural offer. We recognise the ongoing challenges venues are facing as we ease out of the national restrictions and people get used to a new ‘normal’.

“We are committed to working with the sector to provide all possible support, including promoting the great experiences on our doorstep thanks to the many brilliant live music venues across our city.”

L’Apothéose in the grounds of the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, York, in 2019. Picture: Jim Poyner

CALLING young ensembles of the world: the deadline for applications for next year’s York International Young Artists Competition is January 14 2022.

This prestigious longstanding competition for young ensembles will take place on Saturday, July 16 at the National Centre for Early Music as part of next summer’s York Early Music Festival. 

The first prize includes a recording contract from Linn Records: a £1,000 prize; opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and a concert at the 2023 York Early Music Festival.

Other prizes include: the Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize; the Cambridge Early Music Prize and a prize for The Most Promising Young Artist/s endowed by the EUBO Development Trust.  

The competition is open to Early Music ensembles with a minimum of three members; ensembles must have an average age of 33 years or under, with a maximum age of 37 years for individuals.

The ensembles must demonstrate historically informed performance practice and play repertory from any period, spanning the Middle Ages to the 19th century, on period instruments.

The competition is recognised as a major international platform for emerging talent in the world of early music. Attracting musicians from all over the globe, it offers a boost to young professional careers with opportunities for performance, recording and broadcasting and international exposure. 

NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are so pleased to be staging the 2022 competition, which brings together young musicians of the highest calibre from the UK and all over the world. 

“This is one of highlights of the York Early Music Festival and we are always overwhelmed by the superb quality of the performances from these fantastically talented young artists. The competition provides a joyous, optimistic finale to our festival and we are delighted to be able give these rising stars many exciting future opportunities.”

2019 winners L’Apothéose say: “Winning the York competition was an extremely important and prestigious recognition of our career, and taking part was an immensely joyful experience.” 

Fellow former winners Sollazzo Ensemble enthuse: “Winning the competition was a turning point in our career, bringing us to the attention of both a wider audience and professionals throughout Europe.”

Details of how to apply can be found at yorkcomp.ncem.co.uk; alternatively, send an email to yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk.

York Early Music Christmas Festival boosted by City of York Council grant

NCEM director Delma Tomlin: “Delighted to receive grant”

THE National Centre for Early Music, York, is to receive a generous grant from City of York Council’s Additional Restrictions Grant fund.

This financial support will help with the cost of staging this year’s York Early Music Christmas Festival from December 3 to 11.

The city council’s discretionary scheme has supported York businesses affected by the lockdowns but not eligible for the Lockdown Restrictions Grant or Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed Businesses) payments.

In doing so, it has helped businesses that, although not legally required to close, were still severely impacted by Covid-19 restrictions.

Like fellow arts organisations, the NCEM was forced to close its doors for several months, but it continued to stage concerts and festivals digitally, sharing specially commissioned concerts all over the world, reaching audiences from as far away as Australia, Japan and the United States.

The return of the week-long York Early Music Christmas Festival is one of the NCEM’S most important events, attracting not only York residents but also audiences from all over Britain and beyond.

The festival presents a variety of concerts, many by candlelight, in its celebration of Christmas through the ages. This year’s programme features artists from the UK and Europe, including the return of The Gesualdo Six, who took York Early Music Festival by storm last year; Yorkshire Bach Choir performing JS Bach’s Mass in B minor, plus 17th century Christmas, Mexican style, from Siglo de Oro.

The NCEM is fully open once more, staging its year-round programme of concerts, spanning early music, jazz, folk, and global sounds in the medieval St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin said: “We are delighted to receive this generous grant from the City of York Council. Financial help from the ARG Fund ensures that we can stage the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival, a week of music celebration featuring a line-up of world-class performers.

“The festival is hugely popular with residents and attracts visitors from all over the UK, who make it part of their Christmas calendar. It’s wonderful to see the city coming back to life and we’re very proud to be able to be part of its fabulous programme of events celebrating the festive season. We can’t wait to welcome audiences back to our beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church.”

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, said: “York’s live music scene is a crucial and vibrant part of the city’s cultural offer. We recognise the ongoing challenges venues are facing as we ease out of the national restrictions and people get used to a new ‘normal’.

“We are committed to working with the sector to provide all possible support, including promoting the great experiences on our doorstep thanks to the many brilliant live music venues across our city.”

Tickets for the 2021 York Early Music Christmas Festival go on sale from tomorrow at ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338.

National Centre for Early Music reaps autumn harvest of jazz, world and folk concerts… and a classic icy silent film

Arm in arm: Wife-and-husband duo Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman celebrate 25+ years together in On Reflection at the National Centre for Early Music, York, on October 20

THE autumn and Christmas season of jazz, world, folk, film and classical music at the still socially distanced National Centre for Early Music, York, is under way

Saxophonist Jean Toussaint, who came to prominence with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, returned to St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, last Friday to launch the NCEM programme in the company of pianist Andrew McCormack and bass player Orlando le Fleming.

Tonight, the Black Swan Folk Club presents Devonian folk singer-songwriter John Smith, supported by Hannah Reed at 7.30pm.

Known for his intimate song-writing, honey-on-gravel voice and pioneering guitar playing, Smith has toured internationally for 15 years, and his session-musician guitar skills have been in demand from Joan Baez and Tom Jones.

Saxophone returns tomorrow at 7.30pm when Tim Garland (saxophone, bass clarinet), Malcolm Creese (double bass) and Gwilym Simcock (piano) celebrate 20 years together as the highly adventurous, ground-breaking British jazz ensemble Acoustic Triangle.

Olcay Bayir: Turkish singer makes her NCEM debut on October 10

Noted for their site-specific work, particularly in sacred buildings, such as St Margaret’s Church, they draw on wide-ranging influences, from ancient themes and folk styles, through impressionism and the jazz era, to the avant-garde, in Garland and Simcock’s compositions, complemented by works by Henry Purcell, John Taylor, Olivier Messiaen, Cole Porter and Maurice Ravel.

A third jazz highlight will be Byron Wallen’s Four Corners showcasing London trumpet player Wallen’s new album, Portrait, on November 10, with guitarist Rob Luft, bass player Paul Michael and drummer Rod Youngs.

Conceived when sitting in the central square in Woolwich, the album’s nucleus is Anthem For Woolwich, composed in response to Wallen being struck by the community around him with its mixture of ages and nationalities.

Taking inspiration from “the timeless sound of the human soul from all corners of the Earth”, Wallen explores and reinvents blues, mode and groove landmarks, while also drawing on early Renaissance music, Central and East African rhythms and polyphony and the works of Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter and Thelonious Monk.

“I’m hoping that York Music Forum’s Ian Chalk will be able to organise for young York jazz players to play with Byron and take part in the concert,” says Delma.

Out of the woods: Fiddle player Sam Sweeney re-emerges with his Unearth Repeat album and concert on November 19. Picture: Elly Lucas

The autumn season presents three world-class guitarists, demonstrating their contrasting styles: Brit Martin Taylor, Spaniard Juan Martin and Italian Antonio Forcione.

First up, on October 15, Grammy-nominated Harlow jazz guitarist Martin Taylor shows why he is widely regarded as the world’s foremost exponent of solo jazz and finger-style playing.

Next, in his solo concert Melodic Beauty And Rhythmic Passion on October 29, Andalusian flamenco master Juan Martin performs pieces from his latest album Guitar Maestro.

Intense, artistic, passionate, unpredictable and formidably inventive jazz guitarist Antonio Forcione, from Molise, Italy, returns to the NCEM on November 26, blessed with “the hands of a tarantula and the heart of a lion”, as one reviewer put it.

Twenty albums to his name, Forcione has toured extensively, to Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and the Caribbean, as well as Europe.

Martin Taylor: Finger-style guitar playing on October 15

“The wonderful acoustics of the NCEM’s beautiful home of St Margaret’s Church provide the perfect setting for the acoustic guitar, adding a special touch of magic to the experience,” says director and programmer Delma Tomlin.

World music is represented by not only Juan Martin but also Olcay Bayir, from Gaziantep, Turkey, and the welcome return of Making Tracks.

Making her NCEM debut on October 10 – and appearing on the cover of the NCEM’s September to December brochure to boot – Olcay Bayir focuses on ancient poems and original songs in Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian in Dream For Anatolia: an evening of music and words that reflect her Anatolian heritage. Note the earlier starting time of 6.30pm.

Set up in 2010 and relaunched with an ambitious new model in 2019, followed by a digital edition in 2020, Making Tracks brings together young artists from the UK and around the world to showcase unique musical traditions, initiate collaborations and contribute towards a global community of environmentally engaged musicians.

Full details of November 1’s NCEM concert are yet to be confirmed but the eight diverse musicians from Britain and Europe have been chosen.

Antonio Forcione: Returning to the NCEM on November 26

Scottish folk multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer John McCusker has cancelled his John McCusker Band 30th Anniversary Tour date on October 3, although The Wishing Tree Tour gig by John Doyle, John McCusker & Michael McGoldrick is still in the diary for The Cresent, York, on November 3.

The enduring folk partnership of wife and husband Kathryn Roberts & Seth Lakeman marks 25+ years of making music with On Reflection at a rearranged NCEM concert on October 20.

Co-promoted by the Black Swan Folk Club, this celebratory night takes a whistle-stop tour through their artistic journey from the early days of folk supergroup Equation to latest album Personae, via a nod or two to their extracurricular musical adventures.

After his Unfinished Violin Project, former Bellowhead fiddle player Sam Sweeney returns the NCEM on November 19 to promote his latest album, Unearth Repeat, wherein he embraces the groove and swagger of traditional English folk and the huge sound, flair, energy and festival spirit of bands from the Celtic and Scandinavian music scenes.

Sweeney first played the NCEM when director of the National Youth Folk Ensemble. This time he will be joined by Jack Rutter on acoustic guitar, Louis Campbell on electric guitar and Ben Nicholls on double bass.

Nanook Of The North: Robert J Flaherty’s 1922 film will be accompanied by an improvised live score by Frame Ensemble at a Yorkshire Silent Film Festival screening on October 14

The Yorkshire Silent Film Festival plays host to Nanook Of The North (certificate U, 79 minutes) on October 14, when the pioneering 1922 documentary film will be accompanied by a live score by Frame Ensemble, a quartet of improvising musicians that specialises in creating spontaneous soundtracks for silent film.

“Pianist Jonny Best, who runs the film festival [as well as being a musician, researcher, producer, educator and writer], will be doing the accompaniment with his ensemble,” says Delma. “I find it so enthralling that they create such musical magic out of nowhere.”

Filmed by director Robert J Flaherty in the vast Canadian Arctic, where Nanook and his family live under an endless sky and in conditions of unimaginable cold, Nanook Of The North is a mix of recorded reality and staged drama, depicting the everyday struggle of the Innuit (Eskimo) people to stay alive.

From the bitter chill of the northern reaches of Arctic Quebec to Christmas at the NCEM in the form of the York Early Music Christmas Festival 2021, running from December 3 to 11.

Guest musicians include The Gesualdo Six; Joglaresa; Pocket Sinfonia; Prisma; tenor James Gilchrist and lutenist Matthew Wadsworth, plus the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, presenting JS Bach’s B Minor Mass, with more details to follow in a separate preview shortly. 

Green Matthews: Midwinter Revels in the mood for Christmas on December 16

.Christmas revelry continues with modern-day folk balladeers Green Matthews on December 16. That night, Chris Green and Sophie Matthews perform Midwinter Revels: A Celebration Of Christmas Past, a seasonal selection of stories, carols, winter folk songs and tunes played on a plethora of weird and wonderful instruments.

Delma says: “We’re so pleased to be able to bring you this wonderful season of music for all tastes and to welcome friends old and new back to our home in York. We decided: let’s get dates in the diary and enjoy music-making again and try to get back to a sense of normality.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians, and we’re also looking forward to the return of our community singing group, Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as the latest in our not-to-be-missed series of silent films with live music. We hope to see you at the NCEM very soon.”

Nevertheless, in light of these pandemic times, a reduced capacity will be in operation. “The NCEM realises that audiences are returning to live events with caution, and for added safety and comfort, we are reducing our capacity so that social distancing is possible,” explains Delma.

“We’ve put together a programme of world-class musicians,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

“We are continuing to operate with many safety precautions in place and recommend mask wearing and hand sanitising.”

Tickets for the autumn season are on sale on 01904 658338 and at ncem.co.uk, joined by the York Early Music Christmas Festival from October 4. “Tickets for all concerts are selling quickly, so early booking is advisable,” recommends Delma.

“So far, there’s definitely a substantial core audience who do want to return, and we’re so fortunate that there’s no fixed seating, so we can give people more space, and hopefully they will feel more comfortable with that and will gain confidence as we come into the winter.

“That’s why we’re retaining social distancing while ensuring there’s still a three-pronged energy between the venue, the artist and the audience.”

Performances start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise.

Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti awaken online audience to spring music in lockdown as part of NCEM’s weekend

Olwen Foulkes at Ensemble Augelletti’s recording of A Spring In Lockdown for the National Centre of Early Music’s Awaken online weekend. Picture: Ben Pugh

ENSEMBLE Augelletti will make their York debut on Saturday at the National Centre for Music’s online weekend celebration of the rise of spring, Awaken.

Founded and directed by recorder specialist Olwen Foulkes, the young, up-and-coming ensemble will perform A Spring In Lockdown, an intriguing tale of 18th century music-making from an English debtors’ prison.

Premiered at 3pm on Saturday (27/3/2021), on sale until April 23 and available to watch on demand until April 30, the concert will feature Olwen, recorders; Ellen Bundy and Alice Earll, violins; Elitsa Bogdanova, viola; Carina Drury, cello; Harry Buckoke, double bass; Toby Carr, theorbo, and Benedict Williams, chamber organ.

Winner of the FBAS Young Artists Competition in Italy in 2019, the ensemble explores the chamber music and concertos performed on the London theatre stages in the first decades of the 18th century.

Ensemble Augelletti members, led by recorder player Olwen Foulkes, front, centre

Hence Olwen’s focus on trumpeter John Grano in A Spring In Lockdown: “In the spring of 1729, Grano, dubbed ‘Handel’s trumpeter’, was serving the end of a sentence, incarcerated in the infamous Marshalsea debtors’ prison,” she says.

“The prisoner kept a diary detailing his musical exploits as he composed, taught, organised concerts, and tried to maintain a performance schedule from the ‘home’ of his cell.

“Our concert will explore some of his fascinating diary entries from a very different kind of lockdown and will include music that he was performing, writing, and listening to, by Francesco Geminiani, Grano, William Corbett, John Baston and of course Mr Handel.”

Ensemble Augelletti recorded the concert at the NCEM’s home of St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, on March 15. “I’d been there in the past, performing Shepherds Of Bethlehem with Fieri Consort at the York Early Music Christmas Festival in December 2019,” says Olwen.

“The one thing we found strange was taking a bow to an empty room, which made us realise how much we miss playing to an audience,” says Olwen Foulkes of Ensemble Augelletti’s performance for Awaken

“But this is the first time the ensemble has played there. Since lockdown started last March, it was one of the few times we could play together because the NCEM is such a big space.”

How did Olwen settle on A Spring In Lockdown for Saturday’s concert? “Delma [NCEM director Delma Tomlin] offered us some proposals, giving me the chance to propose this programme, which is completely bespoke for the Awaken festival,” she says.

“I’d been reading the diary of John Grano, a trumpeter, flautist and recorder player, written in 1728, when, in some ways, London was very similar to now. So much of the musician’s experience resonated with us today, reading of when he was working in West End theatres, at the Haymarket and the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

“Grano was the principal trumpeter in Handel’s orchestra for 15 years and is likely to have played in the premiere of Handel’s Water Music.

A socially distanced line-up of Ensemble Augelletti in pandemic times

“For our concert, one of the pieces we’ll play will be the only surviving publication of Grano’s music.”

Ensemble Augelletti made the recording with Ben Pugh, omnipresent at the NCEM’s online recordings for the 2020 York Early Music Festival and Early Music Christmas Festival.

“The one thing we found strange was taking a bow to an empty room, which made us realise how much we miss playing to an audience,” says Olwen.

“I last played to a full audience a year ago, on March 15, with Dramma Per Musica at the Barnes Festival, and the last performance by Ensemble Augelletti was to a very, very small audience in the London Sound Galler, for an online festival with The Gesualdo Six in September.”

Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti released their debut album, Indoor Fireworks, in November 2019, taking the name Augelletti [little birds] from the aria Augelletti Che Cantate from the first act of Handel’s opera Rinaldo.

The artwork for Indoor Fireworks, the album by Olwen Foulkes and Ensemble Augelletti released on Barn Cottage Records in 2019

“We’d been playing together for a while, and when I did that CD, I was thinking about where I wanted the group to progress, and I thought it would be lovely to have a new identity for the group, so I said, ‘Can we call ourselves an ‘ensemble’?’ and that’s when we became Ensemble Augelletti,” says Olwen.

Her ensemble has plans to make a new recording this year, but Olwen will remain quiet on its exact nature, subject to the outcome of a “big funding application”. “But I can say it’s really exciting and will be another project celebrating musicians that we don’t necessarily know of as a composer,” she says.

Unlike so many of us whose first encounter with playing music is a forlorn blow on a recorder, Olwen’s journey was different. “I actually started playing the recorder second! I started with the violin when I was five,” she recalls. “I didn’t start the recorder till I was 11 and that was to keep my sister Ethnie – now an acoustic and electronic composer – company in a recorder group.

“I just fell in love with the recorder at the point, but I’d found that love in the opposite way to the usual graduation to another instrument!”

Olwen Foulkes played violin first before discovering the recorder at the age of 11

Olwen went on to study at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London from the age of 13 to 18, and later as the Christopher Hogwood Scholar at the Royal Academy of Music, and a career specialising in recorders has ensued.

Once the easing of pandemic strictures allows, she would love to perform to an audience in York, taking a bow in more familiar fashion. “It is such a lovely place to play,” she says.

The Awaken weekend will run online on Saturday and Sunday, March 27 and 28. The full programme and ticket details can be found at ncem.co.uk.

How to view
The Awaken weekend of concerts will be shown on ncem.co.uk. On the day before the festival starts, all bookers will be emailed the viewing links and clear navigation to the concerts from the home page will be added.

The NCEM advises: “Please ensure that you have a strong broadband connection, and you may want to use external speakers or headphones to maximise your experience. If you experience any difficulties with the concerts, please contact us and we will do our best to help you via ncem.co.uk.”

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Spiritato! Online; Stile Antico, live, NCEM, York, December 13

Step into Christmas: Stile Antico, pictured by Marco Borggreve before socially distanced Covid times

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival went out with a splurge of concerts over its last weekend.

Your reviewer caught two of the four on the final day. Spiritato! was the largest ensemble to appear at the festival, 18 period-style players, who concentrated on Bach and his contemporary Johann Friedrich Fasch in The Leipzig Legacy.

Had he not been born directly in Bach’s shadow, Fasch would surely be better known. We heard at once, in the opening Concerto in D, how Fasch was already anticipating the classical shapes and sounds that were to feature in Haydn’s earlier symphonies.

There were exciting trumpets in the opening Allegro and delightful solos from violin and oboe in the finale: enough meat on these bones, indeed, to make further exploration of Fasch an exciting prospect.

His Quartetto in D minor, dating from about 1750, was marginally less exciting, but well above run-of-the-mill Baroque, gracefully delivered in its slow movements, with contrastingly crisp counterpoint in the Allegros.

Spiritato! was led from her violin by Kinga Ujszászi, who came into her own in Bach’s Sinfonia in D, where her effortless panache was breath-taking. But elsewhere too, she led by example, sustaining a real sense of dance through both Bach’s Second and Third Suites.

The Second, in B minor, believed to be the last of the four to be written, was given here in its earliest version for strings alone. Here the sound was a touch top-heavy, needing an extra cello or two for good balance.

The Third Suite, in D major, was probably much earlier, written at Cöthen (where Bach was succeeded as Kapellmeister by Fasch) in 1718. Apart from its famous Air, caressed here by strings alone, the Gavottes had a gentle lilt and the Gigue made a triumphant finale. Spiritato’s palpable enjoyment had proved infectious throughout.

The festival closed with the 12-voice ensemble Stile Antico, in an appearance at the unusual but most welcome hour of 5pm. Here we were back to purely Christmas repertory, mimicking Nine Lessons and Carols with nine Renaissance works, each preceded by a contemporary reading, in A Renaissance Christmas.

My heart usually sinks when I see that musicians are doing their own readings: few manage it with much prowess, let alone clarity. Stile Antico largely proved me wrong; these well exceeded expectation. There were two poems each from John Donne and George Herbert.

Robert Southwell’s The Burning Babe was another excellent choice, as was Emilia Lanier’s Eve’s Apologie. But the laurels went to a sermon by Lancelot Andrewes, its wit and wisdom about the Magi (including “a cold coming they had of it”) delivered here with supreme clarity. None of the readers was identified.

The conductor-less choir was arranged in two semi-circles, eight on the outside, four inside, socially distanced. This meant that, for the first time that I recall, it was possible to spot one singer keeping time with a gentle nod.

Needless to say, ensemble remained impeccable, matched by tuning that surely heaven will not better. The sopranos were particularly stunning. I recall just one occasion when a very high entry was slightly misjudged, though instantly rectified.

The tone of the evening was nicely set by an extract from the Piae Cantiones of 1582, that Finnish collection rediscovered by our man in Helsinki in the early 19th century.

Victoria was the only composer to feature twice, once with an eight-voice Agnus Dei, once with a gorgeous O Magnum Mysterium, partnering Donne’s Nativity. In between these two came the starker harmonies of a graceful Ave Maria by Des Prez, alongside Donne’s Annunciation, another clever pairing. Byrd’s Rorate Coeli had reminded us of his matchless counterpoint.

A very peppy Angelus Ad Pastores by a Ferrara nun, Raffaella Aleotti, in madrigal style, reminded us of how many such ladies are only now being brought to light, not before time. Guerrero’s villancico – nowadays synonymous with Christmas carol – A Un Niño Llorandowas cleverly shaped by five soloists.

It remained for a beautifully sustained account of John Sheppard’s Verbum Caro Factum Est, which was written for Christmas matins, to remind us of the reason for the festival. If you’ve never heard Stile Antico, make a beeline for them: you won’t be disappointed.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Both concerts are still available to buy online from the York Christmas At Home programme at ncem.co.uk until December 21 to watch on demand until January 6 2021.

NCEM director Delma Tomlin nominated for Freeman of City of York status…following in the footsteps of Dame Judi Dench

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

DR DELMA Tomlin MBE, founder and director of the National Centre for Early Music, has been nominated to receive the status of Honorary Freeman of the City of York. 

The decision will be made next Thursday (17/12/2020) at a special full council meeting of City of York Council, which “may lawfully appoint a person or persons who have, in its opinion, rendered eminent services to the city as outlined in Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972”.

The meeting will consider nominations for awarding the title to both Delma, as busy as ever this week hosting the York Early Music Christmas Festival at the NCEM, and York historian Alison Sinclair. 

The last time this status was awarded was in 2014 to Lord Crathorne and, if the status is awarded next week, Delma and Alison will be following in the footsteps of the only women honoured since 2002: actor and national treasure Dame Judi Dench and Quaker, peace campaigner and long-serving head teacher of The Mount School, Joyce Pickard, who died in September 2017.

Delma’s nomination comes in recognition of her commitment to arts and culture in York over the past 40 years. She helped to secure significant funding to establish the National Centre for Early Music to deliver early music, world music, folk and jazz in the converted St Margaret’s Church building in Walmgate.

The NCEM stages the summer York Early Music Festival and its winter marrow, the York Early Music Christmas Festival, this year running a series of socially distanced concerts from December 4 to 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival, streamed online from December 11 to 13. In addition, beyond York, she programmes the annual Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival.

The NCEM is recognised internationally for its promotion of Early music, also hosting the NCEM Young Composers Award and running a vibrant education and outreach programme, working with the communities of York throughout the year.   

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful,” says Honorary Freeman of the City of York nominee Delma Tomlin

In 2000, Delma was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of York in recognition of her work in the City of York. In 2008, she was appointed an MBE for services to the arts in Yorkshire in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

In 2018, she was made Cultural Ambassador for the City of York and was named Cultural Champion at that year’s York Culture Awards. In 2022, she will become the first female Governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers.

Reacting to today’s nomination, Delma said: “As someone who has lived in York for 40 years, I couldn’t be more pleased or imagine more of an honour. The city has given me such opportunities, and the people have always been extraordinarily welcoming.

“I have had so much fun with all the projects I’ve been involved in and, in this rather miserable year, it’s wonderful to be offered something so joyful.” 

Councillor Keith Aspden, leader of City of York Council, said: “Given their eminent services to our city, I am delighted to support the award of Honorary Freedom of the City of York to both Delma Tomlin and Alison Sinclair.

“York has a rich history of freemen, with records dating back to 1272, making it an honour of great historical importance rarely awarded. It has been fascinating to read the nominations for Delma and Alison and learn more about the outstanding work they have done for both the city and its residents, in particular in the fields of heritage, culture and music.

“If the nominations are approved at the council meeting, a subsequent Civic occasion would then take place later next year to recognise and formally celebrate the honour.” 

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Illyria Consort, NCEM, York

Illyria Consort: Concert programme began and ended in Italy, travelling north to Germany in between

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival, Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 7

ONE of the most pleasing of the Christmas Lutheran chorales is How Brightly Shines The Morning Star. It is still in most of our hymn books.

It was actually composed by Philipp Nicolai in 1674 during an outbreak of the plague, which gives it a certain contemporary resonance. So, its inclusion in two sets of variations as the centrepiece of this Baroque recital could hardly have been more appropriate.

Illyria Consort is a trio led by violinist Bojan Čičić, who is underpinned by David Miller’s theorbo and Stephen Devine at the organ (whose advertised use of the harpsichord sadly did not materialise). They began and ended in Italy, travelling north to Germany in between.

Frescobaldi had a knack for crystallising Italian traditions and latched onto the playing of bagpipes by shepherds in the Christmas season, with a capriccio on La Pastorale (known more widely later on as Pastorella), a tradition that endures to this day in the south.

It opened peacefully here, with organ and theorbo alone, before the violin introduced some frolicking. In Germany it was picked up by Biber, a violin virtuoso himself, in his Pastorella, where frolics soon turn to fireworks. It was a delight to hear them side by side and played with such relish.

Quite a different side to Biber emerged in his Third Mystery Sonata, The Nativity, which clings doggedly to the key of B minor in its three movements, doubtless presaging the trials the Christ child was eventually to face. There was plenty of theatre here, but not much comfort.

That came with the Morning Star variations. Buxtehude’s set for solo organ gained in rhythmic coherence as it progressed, culminating in a lively jig. But the real drama came in Nicolaus Strungk’s variations for the whole trio, which was a revelation, beginning as a slow passacaglia and developing into an imaginative fantasia at a variety of tempos. The Illyrians clearly loved it.

Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli’s Sonata VIII allowed a touch of Britain into the programme. Although born in Rome, he spent over half a century in London and died there in 1773, having become a Brit as John Stephen Carbonell in 1735.

Certainly, the sonata was on a par with Handel’s best in the genre, with two central Allegros, one free flowing, the other in a zesty staccato, before an evocative closing pastorale. It came as no surprise to discover that the Illyria chose six of his sonatas for their debut recording.

Tartini is right up there as a composer for the violin, his own instrument. His Pastorale sonata also has Christmas connotations, while exploiting a number of different bowing techniques that must have sounded avant-garde in his day. Čičić by now was in full flow and obviously enjoyed its challenges.

After a majestic Adagio and a frankly showy Allegro, it wound down into another gentle pastorale. This was definitely the child in the manger rather than the angels on high. A dream ending.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, York Early Music Christmas Festival

Palisander: First concerts for nine months in this Covid-blighted year

REVIEW: York Early Music Christmas Festival: Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4, evening

THE latest lockdown ended just in time to allow York Early Music to open its Christmas festival before a real audience.

There were only about 30 of us, to be sure, seated at small tables in ones or twos, but what a difference over livestreaming. Best of all, it inspires the players. Palisander confessed that these two performances – there had been one in the afternoon – were their first for nine months. You would not have guessed.

The period of Advent, or preparation for Christmas, has lost much of its original intent. It was once a time of strict fasting – not a bad idea in these days of sedentary constraint – to be followed by a 12-day yuletide blowout of Mischief and Merriment, the title of this concert.

Palisander’s quartet of recorders ranged all over the Tudor and Stuart periods, with occasional sorties into traditional and modern repertory, an invigorating mix.

Recorders cover a vast rainbow of colours, from the pipsqueak garklein, barely six inches long with only three finger-holes, to the avuncular contrabass, which stands over six feet tall. The whole panoply was on display here.

Players changed instruments on the move, so that as many as ten different ones were heard in a single piece. Toes began to tap at once in dances by Susato and Arbeau, which prepared the ground for a lively quintet of English numbers, three by Antony Holborne, marked by subtle use of staccato.

Several carols were woven into the tapestry, most with tasty but idiomatic harmonies arranged by one of the group, Miriam Monaghan. They included the spring song from Piae Cantiones (1582), nowadays better known through Good King Wenceslas.

Most of the mischief and merriment in the Elizabethan court was organised by the Lord of Misrule. He would surely have selected Toby Young’s Recorder Revolution!, which was pleasingly anarchic and lots of fun. Similarly, a theatre suite, played in masks, reflected Stuart customs. All were given with enthusiasm and joie de vivre that were infectious.

I had not previously thought that an hour of nothing but recorders could be so entertaining. You live and learn.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Christmas Festival opens today…and it’s live at the NCEM

Welcome to the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival: Palisander reach for their recorders for today’s opening brace of concerts. Picture: Marc McGarraghy

CHRISTMAS arrives today at the National Centre for Early Music with the reopening of its doors for the annual York Early Music Christmas Festival.

Recorder quartet Palisander will launch the festivities at the Covid-secure St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, with two socially distanced concerts at 4.30pm and 7pm.

The festival of live concerts will run until December 12, complemented by the inaugural York Christmas At Home festival of streamed concerts from December 11 to 13. Full details, including tickets and concert times, can be found at ncem.co.uk.

Look out for Martin Dreyer’s reviews of Palisander’s Mischief & Merriment programme today and Illyria Consort’s How Brightly Shines The Morning Star on December 7 in CharlesHutchPress.

Post-Lockdown 2, lights on for More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No 20, courtesy of The Press, York

Travelling players: York Theatre Royal pantomime stars Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Williams’ hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic. Picture: Ant Robling

EXIT LOCKDOWN 2, enter Tier 2 for York and North Yorkshire, Tier 3 for next-door neighbours The Humber and West Yorkshire.

That means plenty of openings and re-openings for Charles Hutchinson to highlight, but no roads leading to Leeds, Hull or…Pocklington.

The pantomime season in York

NO Dame Berwick Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the still-closed Grand Opera House, alas, but after two nights at the Theatre Royal this week, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around York’s wards until December 23.

Dame for a laugh: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Trott in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Audience members will vote for whether they want to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White. All performances have sold out but more may yet be added.

Tickets are still available for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, directed by Nik Briggs and choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd at Theatre @41 Monkgate from December 11 to January 3. Fans of York drag diva Velma Celli should look out for creator Ian Stroughair’s transformation into baddie Flesh Creep.

The Marian Consort: Live at the NCEM for the York Early Music Christmas Festival and online for York Christmas At Home

Festival at the double for 2020: York Early Christmas Music Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 12 and York Christmas At Home, December 11 to 13

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the NCEM, the other online. Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures and cabaret-style seating at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, complemented by a new digital weekend festival.

York Christmas At Home will be streamed from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

Performing live will be Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour. Add The Chiaroscuro Quartet, Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Spiritato!, Steven Devine and Stile Antico to that list for the At Home programme.

On your mask, get set, go: Susan Bower’s Christmas Party 2020, newly on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

Post-Lockdown 2 gallery re-opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from this evening (3/12/2020)

NEW work by Susan Bower, John Thornton and Rosie Dean has arrived at Kentmere House Gallery in good time for Christmas. Ann Petherick will re-open her home art-space tomorrow evening from 6pm to 9pm, followed by weekend opening each Saturday and Sunday until December 20 from 11am to 5pm.

Oils, watercolours, pastels and original prints by 70 British artists are on display, along with books, greetings cards and Christmas cards exclusive to the gallery.

Visits arranged by appointment will be resuming too, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or by emailing ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk.

Climate change: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Christmas snow: Badapple Theatre Company, in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre revive their 2019 Christmas hit, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

Welcome back: Stu Freestone wants a word with you at Say Owt’s December 11 return to live performance

Owt and about again: Say Owt word weavers at The Crescent, York, December 11, 7pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent, re-opening that night with Covid-secure measures and a seated capacity of 60.

Stepping up to the mic will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola.

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Raby. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves.”

A guided quest with Potions Professor, magical spells and afternoon tea add up to A Very Magical Christmas on the streets of York

New children’s attraction of the week in York: A Very Magical Christmas, York city centre, until January 5

FROM the creators of A Very Magical Adventure comes A Very Magical Christmas: a live interactive theatrical quest with magical spell-casting and a fun, festive afternoon tea with special effects to knock your socks off. Even a visit from old St Nicholas is promised.

The quest will begin at St Michael le Belfrey, where you will meet your guide, the Potions Professor from Old Jacob’s School of Magic, who will teach you how to cast spells and find clues that will lead you to the secret location of the wizard school. For more details, go to averymagicaladventure.co.uk.

A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail: Solve clues at Beningbrough Hall on various dates in December

Children’s attraction of the week outside York: A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail, Beninbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, December 5 and eight other open days, 10am to 3pm

GRAB a £2 goody bag per child while stocks last, complete with an activity sheet, pencil, certificate, badge and play pack, to embark on a family-friendly Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Trail in the Beningbrough Hall gardens and grounds.

The task is to solve the clues to help Peter and his friends prepare for the winter ahead, while spotting nature in all its seasonal glory. Expect to find Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail before having your photograph taken beside the Peter Rabbit board.

Do check availability of the goody bags before setting off at nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Ghost story for Christmas: Alan Ayckbourn has voiced all the roles for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s audio version of his 1994 play Haunting Julia. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

And what about?

TUNE into Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost story for a winter chill, his 1994 play Haunting Julia, in an audio version for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with all three roles voiced by Ayckbourn, at  sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5.

Don’t miss the SJT’s Christmas show, Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, starring Polly Lister at some shows, Jacoba Williams at others, from December 7 to 31.

York Barbican has been busy booking shows for 2021: artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry’s existentialist distraction from the very meaningless of life, A Show For Normal People, September 6;  London indie-pop trio Scouting For Girls, October 10; astronaut Tim Peake’s Journey Into The Unknown, November 2, and comedian Sarah Millican’s Bobby Dazzler, November 12 and 13.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry