REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Marian Consort, York Early Music Christmas Festival, NCEM, York, December 7

Marian Consort: Jacobean Christmas packed with familiar goodies. Picture: Ben Tomlin

IT was good to get back to a dyed-in-the-wool, truly early, seasonal celebration. The six Marian voices, with Nicholas Morris in attendance on the portative organ, delivered A Jacobean Christmas, packed with familiar goodies at the National Centre for Early Music.

Rory McCleery, the group’s countertenor, founder and director, emceed with admirable narrative, clear and concise.

Verse anthems predominated, which gave all the singers a chance to shine individually. Byrd, still rightly the subject of year-long commemorations, took pride of place. His “Carroll for Christmas Day”, This Day Christ Was Born, with its opening three-against-three syncopations, was stunning.

No less moving, although for completely different reasons, was his five-part Lulla, Lullaby, remembering the Massacre of the Innocents amid all the festivities, a crunchy ‘false relation’ at the close crystallising its bitter-sweetness.

Less often heard, but equally effective, was Byrd’s An Earthly Tree, with mezzo (Sarah Anne Champion) and countertenor (McCreery) duetting engagingly. Its closing chorus, “Cast off all doubtful care”, in a new, quicker meter, was the perfect antidote.

A trio of numbers by Orlando Gibbons included his extended verse anthem See, See, The Word Is Incarnate – almost a biography of Christ – which was given a good deal of dramatic colour. It was also an inspired idea to include one of his 17 hymns, Angels’ Song, with its original words (nowadays sung to Forth In Thy Name O Lord I Go).

Lead soprano Caroline Halls produced ideally pure, boyish tone for the anonymous Sweet Was The Song, and her co-soprano Alexandra Kidgell was equally fluent in the verses of Martin Peerson’s Upon My Lap My Sovereign Sits, to words by the London-born, Antwerp-based Richard Verstegan.

There were further anthems from two Johns, Amner and Bull, the latter also heard in a catchy organ solo. The only non-Jacobean on the menu was Robert Parsons, but the Amen of his Ave Maria, perhaps the loveliest in all Tudor music, justified its inclusion. It dates from the 1560s and was tellingly sung from behind the audience.

Not all the anthems here need or deserved organ accompaniment, but the balance of voices, solidly underpinned by tenor William Wright and bass Jon Stainsby, ensured a satisfying evening.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Baroque In The North, York Early Music Christmas Festival 2023, December 9

Baroque In The North: “Delicious programme”

York Early Music Christmas Festival:  Baroque In The North, National Centre for Early Music, York, last Saturday

THE concert programme description was headed Panettone or Bûche de Noël. Now as we know, the Panettone is an Italian sweet bread or fruitcake and Bûche de Noël (also known as a Yule log) is a traditional French Christmas cake.

The underlying theme of this delicious programme was the creeping influence of the Italian Style sweeping through Europe on a stubbornly resistant French musical style. Very tasty.

The recital opened with Baroque In The North players Amanda Babington (violin), Clare Babington (cello) and David Francis (harpsichord) performing Michel-Richard Delalande’s Or Nous Dites Marie. This is a sweet traditional French Christmas song and proved to be a musically courteous welcome.

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s Trio in E minor (op 37 no.2) is clearly influenced by the ‘Italian’ trio sonatas. I could hear the influence of both Corelli and Vivaldi in the performance. But it is also distinctly French, for example the rich harmonic language and characteristic French melodic lines.

The playing radiated charm as well as displaying considerable Italianate agility. But the performance also hinted at tensions between the instruments and the environment: the tuning, particularly in the closing Allegro, was not always dead centre.

This was to play out quite theatrically when Amanda Babington swapped the violin for the cutest of French bagpipes, the musette, in the performance of Esprit Philippe Chédeville’s Sonatille Galant no.6.

Just as the fortunes of the instrument itself – which had a deliciously spooky nasal quality – rose and fell with the heads of the 17th and 18th century French aristocracy, so too the fortunes of the musette’s intonation seemed to be at the mercy of the environmental conditions.

Remarkably, instead of hurling the thing across the room as most of us might have been tempted to do, Ms Babington incorporated, transformed the tuning adjustments into theatre. And still delivered a tremendous, insightful performance.

Anyway, it was time for Ms Babington to take a well-earned break, which duly arrived in the form of Vivald’s Cello sonata in G minor. Clare Babington (cello) teased out a brooding melancholic quality in the opening Preludio, which then seemed to infuse the following reflective Allemanda.

The emotional core of the Sonata is very much with the Sarabanda, where highly ornamented, expressive melodic lines enriched the engagement. The role of the harpsichord here is to underpin the singing cello with ever-changing harmonic support.

Not so in the concluding Giga, where both performers clearly relished the crisp vitality of the music. The cute, punctuated signing-off was a delight.

Corelli’s Sonata IV op 5 welcomed back Amanda Babington to the stage, this time armed with a well-behaved recorder. Her performance was breath-taking. The Adagio(s) sang beautifully; the Vivace was full of warmth and wit. I particularly liked the charming, crisp musical chat between the instrumentalists in the Allegro(s). But the musical narrative was recorder-driven; exhilarating stuff.

Claude Balbastre’s La Berryer ou La Lamoignon gave harpsichordist David Francis his moment in the spotlight. The music again blended the Italian and French styles but here the brew was a slightly whacky one. Great tunes, tender moments contrasted with sudden explosions of energy and tempo. Dramatic, eccentric, and ever so gently bonkers. The playing was hypnotic.

The concert closed with two works by the Chédeville brothers, Nicholas and Esprit Philippe. Joseph Est Bien Marié (Esprit Philippe) was a lovely finale, not least as it had a fitting retreat from the stage of the truculent musette. But not before leaving a lasting impression of an adolescent rebel refusing to bow to polite performance convention in ‘Scarlatti’s’ Sonates pour les Clavecins.

Despite the repeat retuning, with David Francis ‘taking bets on the outcome’, the performance was terrific. I’m sure Monsieur Chédeville would have agreed; Senior Scarlatti might have been somewhat perplexed.

This was an eventful, brilliant and utterly rewarding concert, and one further enhanced by the quirky, informative insights shared by Amanda Babington throughout the programme.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen, NCEM, York, December 3

The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen poster for December 3’s York Early Music Christmas Festival concert

York Early Music Christmas Festival: The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen, National Centre for Early Music, York

IT did not take the festival long to find a proper Christmas theme. On this second evening, “To Bethlehem in haste!” was the banner proclaiming some unusual fare. Two brief anthems by the Czech composer Šimon Brixi and an anonymous English Messiah of 1720 – the bulk of the evening – were topped off by familiar Purcell.

The Harmonious Society consisted here of a quartet of singers and ten players, a string quintet with trumpet, flutes, oboe and keyboard. There was no conductor, except in the Purcell, which was led by the group’s bassist and director Robert Rawson. It was a happy experience, even if much of the music was less than completely satisfying.

Brixi, who operated during the first third of the 18th century, was the best known of a family of musicians in Prague. He was the first to use the Czech language in church music, where Latin was the norm.

An offertory with an alto aria at its centre, in Latin, was followed by a gradual in Czech, which somehow felt more authentically joyful about the holy birth than its predecessor had done. Perhaps Brixi was happier in the vernacular.

Neither, however, offered any threat to the greater names of the era. Nor did Messiah: A Christ-Mass Song, which is based on a libretto by the Oxford tutor Anthony Alsop, although its composer remains in decent anonymity. The score was presented to Durham Cathedral in 1720, the only clue to its date. Its value may lie in Charles Jennens, librettist of Handel’s Messiah (1742), having heard it in Oxford and then had ideas of his own.

After ‘borrowing’ its overture (from Corelli’s ‘Christmas’ concerto) – a not uncommon practice, which Handel regularly espoused – it deals with the Christmas story in two main scenes: the shepherds in the fields, who include the Arcadian archetypes Corydon and Lycidas, and the Magi with the subsequent gathering at the manger.

The bass soloist’s narration is closer to arioso than recitative. There are strong grounds for claiming this as the first English oratorio, with its mix of choruses, recitatives and arias.

The composer was clearly influenced by Venetian style, especially in the use of trumpet and oboe, and understood how to handle instruments. His/her writing for voices is less clever and treats them instrumentally, which means that there are few memorable melodies, apart from a jaunty “alternate pastoral for shepherd boys” in rhyming couplets given to soprano and alto.

Among its best moments was an early bass aria with trumpet obbligato (Will Russell), which was given zesty treatment by Edward Grint. The Magi were bass, alto and tenor respectively, with the latter’s aria notable for telling pauses and well handled by Nicholas Mulroy; all three then chorused joyfully.

The arias for Corydon and Lycidas were oddly allotted to the same singer, soprano Philippa Hyde, whose overall projection improved considerably when she actually faced her audience after the interval. The alto Ciara Hendrick, by comparison, brought real charisma to her diction.

The band clearly relished the score which, while unexceptionable, always displayed a certain charm. That said, it does not challenge Handel at any level. Purcell’s cantata Behold, I Bring You Glad Tidings brought us back to safer ground, if with only strings and organ in support, and received the respect it deserved.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Christmas Festival continues until December 9; www.ncem/yemcf/

More Things To Do in York and beyond as temperatures drop and festive fervour rises. Hutch’s List No.49, from The Press, York

The Gesualdo Six, with director Owain Park, centre, back row: Two concerts in one evening at NCEM

CHRISTMAS music, Scrooge the farmer, artist fairs and pantomime frolics set up Charles Hutchinson for the festive season ahead.

Festival of the week: York Early Music Christmas Festival, today until December 9

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival 2023 takes the theme of Music, Minstrels and Mystery, with today’s concerts by Flutes & Frets (Bedern Hall) and The Gesualdo Six & Fretwork Viol Consort (NCEM) having sold out already.

So has December 9’s finale, the Yorkshire Bach Choir’s Bach Christmas Oratorio (Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall), but tickets are still available for The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen, Fiddlesticks, The Marian Consort, Ceruleo and Baroque In The North. For concert details and tickets, visit Box office: 01904 658338.

James Lewis-Knight and Emily Chattle in a scene from Badapple Theatre Company’s Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol. Picture: Karl Andre

Tour opening of the week: Badapple Theatre Company in Farmer Scrooge’s Christmas Carol, until December 30

A GRUMPY farmer? From Yorkshire? Surely not! Welcome to Kate Bramley’s rural revision of Dickens’s festive favourite, A Christmas Carol, now set on Farmer Scrooge’s farm and in his bed in 1959 in Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre’s tour of Yorkshire and beyond.

York actors James Lewis-Knight and Emily Chattle play multiple roles in a tale replete with local stories and carols, puppets and mayhem, original songs by Jez Lowe and a whacking great dose of seasonal bonhomie. For tour dates and ticket details, visit: or call 01423 331304.

South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles: Taking part in this weekend’s Christmas Artists Trail

Artists with Christmas in mind: South Bank Studios Christmas Artists Trail, hosted by South Bank Studios, Bishopthorpe Road, York, today and tomorrow, 10am to 4pm

JOIN artists, illustrators and makers in the South Bank area of York for a weekend of festive cheer and a chance to visit artists’ houses and studios. For sale will be paintings, illustrations, ceramics, textiles, cards and gifts.

Taking part: Jill Tattersall, at 11 Mount Parade, today and tomorrow; Marie Murphy, 38, Scarcroft Road, today; Donna Maria Taylor, Carolyn Coles, Karen Winship, Rebeca Mason (11am to 4pm, in the loft), Katie Hill (outside) and Rachel Jones (outside) at South Bank Studio, today only.

Other art events happening in York over the weekend will be PICA Studios’ open studio, in Grape Lane, today and tomorrow, 10am to 5pm, and Rogues Atelier’s open studio, in Fossgate, today and tomorrow, 10am to 5pm.

Damion Larkin: Hosting Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club at The Basement

Comedy gig of the week: Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club, The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York, today, 5pm and 8pm

ESSEX comedian Markus Birdman headlines Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club’s brace of Basement gigs today. Joining him will be Tal Davies, Hasan Al-Habib and promoter/master of ceremonies Damion Larkin.

In 2022, Birdman suffered a stroke and ended up with a platinum heart, the subject of his Platinum Tour show. This year he was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent. Box office:

Nina Cumin, left, Jonathan Sage and Kate Ledger: York Late Music concert of Anthony Gilbert works tonight

York Late Music: Micklegate Singers, After Byrd, today, 1pm; Nina Kumin, Jonathan Sage and Kate Ledger, 7.30pm, both at Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York

MICKLEGATE Singers bring together three anniversaries, Byrd, Rachmaninov and Thomas Weelkes, in a lunchtime musical sandwich of more than 500 years of a cappella choral music.

In the evening, Nina Kumin, violin, Jonathan Sage, clarinet, and Kate Ledger, piano, mark July’s death of Anthony Gilbert by performing four of the British composer’s works, plus music by Nicola LeFanu and David Lumsdaine, who both knew him well. Box office: or on the door.

Kirk Brandon: Fronting Spear Of Destiny at The Crescent

40th anniversary gig of the week: Spear Of Destiny, The Crescent, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

FORTY years on from Epic Records’ release of Spear Of Destiny’s debut album, The Grapes Of Wrath, Kirk Brandon leads his punk-influenced power rock band on a 17-date November and December tour.

On the back of American travels, Brandon will be performing with his longest-serving line-up:  Adrian Portas (New Model Army/Sex Gang Children), Craig Adams (Sisters Of Mercy/The Cult/The Mission) and Phil Martini (Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind), bolstered by Clive Osborne on saxophone and Steve Allen-Jones on keys. Support comes from former Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes & The Dark. Box office:

Kate Rusby: Showcasing her new Christmas album, Light Years, at York Barbican on Thursday

Festive folk gig of the week: Kate Rusby, Established 1973 Christmas Tour, York Barbican, Thursday, 7.30pm

BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby marks turning 50 on Monday with the release of her seventh Christmas album, Light Years, and an accompanying tour that opens in York.

In the company of her regular band, coupled with the added warmth of the Brass Boys, Kate combines carols still sung in South Yorkshire pubs with her winter songs and favourite Christmas chestnuts. Look out for the fancy dress finale. Box office:

Rowntree Players having a ball in rehearsal for Cinderella

Pantomime opening of the week: Rowntree Players in Cinderella, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, December 9 to 16, except December 11

HOWARD Ella directs Rowntree Players in a rollicking romp of a pantomime, wherein Cinderella and Buttons are fighting to save the Windy End Hotel when the Queen announces a ball to celebrate Prince Charming’s birthday.

Trouble is brewing with the arrival of a “truly horrific trio”, determined to find themselves a prince. Expect song, dance, all the traditional silliness…and a mad rush for the last few tickets for all performances. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Billie Marten: Dropping into The Crescent with her Drop Cherries album. Picture: Katie Silvester

Recommended but sold out already

RIPON singer-songwriter Billie Marten, now based in London, returns home to Yorkshire to showcase her fourth album, Drop Cherries, on which she explores the struggle with modernity versus tradition, nature, mental health, relationships and “a general voyeurism on the world as she sees it”. Clara Mann supports.

York Early Music Christmas Festival opens week of music, minstrels and mystery

Beth Stone and Daniel Murphy of Flutes & Frets: Sold-out opening concert today at York Early Music Christmas Festival 2023

MUSIC, Minstrels and Mystery is the theme of the York Early Music Christmas Festival 2023, running from tomorrow to December 9.

This annual celebration conjures up the spirit of Christmas past with an array of atmospheric music, primarily at the National Centre for Early Music, in the medieval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, complemented by concerts at Bedern Hall and the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.

Opening at the beginning of Advent, the festival features a host of world-class artists from the Early Music world, celebrating the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the medieval to the baroque.

To complete the Christmas experience, many concerts take place by candlelight, with mince pies and mulled wine available at most events.

Already the festival has been previewed on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune on November 26, when festival artists the Gesualdo Six spoke to Katie Derham and performed a selection of their work.

Both immersive Gesualdo Six concerts with the Fretwork Viol Consort at 6pm and 8.30pm on Saturday have sold out. Marking composer William Byrd’s 400th anniversary, Secret Byrd will theatrically intersperse Byrd’s private mass for secret worship with his virtuosic music for strings.

Sold out too are Saturday’s opening concert, European Court and Salon Music, by Flutes & Frets (Beth Stone, flute, and Daniel Murphy, lute, theorbo, guitar) at Bedern Hall at 11am, backed by funding from the European Festival Fund for Emerging Artists, and December 9’s Bach Christmas Oratorio concert at 7pm by the Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.

Festival director Delma Tomlin will host an introductory talk at Sunday’s 6.30pm concert, A Christmas Song – The “original” Messiah, by festival debutants The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen at the NCEM. The Harmonious Society’s 14 musicians and singers face a busy three days of travel, playing Canterbury on Saturday, York on Sunday and Durham on Monday.

Baroque In The North: Festive sweetmeats from Versailles to Rome on December 9 at the NCEM

Fiddlesticks, a new ensemble featuring former festival advisers Kati Debretzeni and Steven Devine, will make their festival debut too with Monday’s 7pm NCEM programme of European court music for three violins and continuo. Earlier that day, the NCEM’s youth instrumental ensemble, Minster Minstrels, will be working on Christmas repertory with Fiddlesticks in the afternoon.

Further festival highlights will be The Marian Consort, performing music written for the festive court, on Thursday and Ceruleo’s Love Restor’d, a theatrical Restoration England programme of Henry Purcell, John Blow and John Eccles works, on Friday, both at 7pm at the NCEM.

On December 9, Baroque In The North will play this festival for the first time, performing Panettone or Bûche de Noël?, Festive Sweetmeats, featuring works by Esprit-Philippe, Chédeville, Vivaldi and Corelli at the NCEM at 11am.

In addition, the Minster Minstrels will work with the Harmonious Society’s baroque trumpeter Will Russell on Sunday, while Owain Park, director of The Gesualdo Six, is inviting singers to join him for a choral workshop, designed to celebrate the music of Willam Byrd on Saturday and Sunday at Bedern Hall.

The York Early Music Festival Christmas Box Set, featuring a selection of recorded highlights from the festival, plus this year’s York Early Music Festival and Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, is on sale now and will be available to enjoy online from December 15 to the end of January 2024. Highlights include concerts by violinist Rachel Podger and the Dunedin Consort, the Scottish baroque ensemble. The box set costs £50 or concerts can be bought individually at

Ahead of the week of festive music, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “Our Christmas festival is one of the highlights of the city’s Christmas calendar. This December we are delighted to present an array of atmospheric Christmas concerts featuring music from the medieval times, through the ages and ending with Bach’s glorious Christmas Oratorio.

“The concerts are the perfect way to celebrate Yuletide and we look forward to seeing old friends and welcoming new ones at the special time of year.”

Full programme details can be found at Box office: 01904 658338 or

The Marian Consort: Performing music composed for the festive Stuart court in For Delighting The People – A Jacobean Christmas on December 7

York Early Music Christmas Festival programme highlights

Saturday, 11am: Flutes & Frets, European Court and Salon Music, Bedern Hall, Bedern. SOLD OUT.

FLUTES, lutes, theorbo and guitar introducing music of European courts across the ages, performed by NCEM Platform Artists Beth Stone and Daniel Murphy, who received grant from European Festivals Fund for Emerging Artists, leading to concerts in Antwerp, Krakow and York. Final concert of tour for young duo selected for annual International Artist Presentation in Flanders. Flutes & Frets will return to York next spring for Baroque Around The Books library tour.

Saturday, 6pm and 8.30pm, The Gesualdo Six & Fretwork Viol Consort, Secret Byrd, National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate. Both SOLD OUT.

CREATED and directed by Bill Barclay, this 80-minute immersive experience marks the 400th anniversary of composer William Byrd with a mix of voices, viols and theatricality. A small number of audience members sit and stand among costumed musicians who gather by candlelight to worship in secret as Byrd’s setting of the Ordinary is mixed with his most probing instrumental works, played where the five Proper sections of the Mass would take place.

Sunday, 6.30pm, The Harmonious Society of Tickle-Fiddle Gentlemen, A Christmas Song – The “original” Messiah, NCEM.

PRESENTING the only surviving Nativity story in England set to music in the baroque era: the original Messiah and possibly the first oratorio in English. Full title: the anonymous Messiah. A Christ -Mass Song for Voices and Instruments, circa 1720. Complete with tuneful shepherd dialogues, the joyful song of the Virgin Mary, Three Wise Men arias and even a ‘halleluia’ chorus. Plus offertory by Prague composer Simon Brixi.

Monday, 7pm, Fiddlesticks, Three Parts on a Ground: European Court Music for three violins and continuo, NCEM

VIOLINISTS Huw Davies, Kati Debretzeni and Debbie Diamond are joined by harpsichordist Steven Devine for glorious programme of the Pachelbel Canon, a new arrangement of the Corelli ‘Christmas’ Concerto and Bach Concerto for three violins.

Thursday, 7pm, The Marian Consort, For Delighting The People – A Jacobean Christmas, NCEM

DIRECTED by Rory McCleery, one of the festival’s favourite vocal groups returns for a special seasonal programme from the Golden Age of English composers at their most unbuttoned and celebratory, featuring music written for the famously festive Stuart court. Plus more intimate, introspective sacred works by Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes and Bull.

Friday, 7pm, Ceruleo, Love Restor’d, NCEM

IN the summer of 1660, London’s theatres are reopening after 18 long years of Puritan rule: time for one Henry Purcell – the “English Orpheus” – to make his entrance on the musical stage to lead a musical revolution and new English baroque music. Ceruleo’s programme runs the gamut of Restoration English music, encompassing some of Purcell’s most famous pieces, alongside his lesser-known works and those by John Blow and John Eccles, while also celebrating the first female stars of the English stage.

Saturday, December 9, 11am, Baroque In The North, Panettone or Bûche de Noël? Festive Sweetmeats, NCEM

THIS multi-instrumented programme by Amanda Babington (violin, recorder, musette), Clare Babington (cello) and David Francis (harpsichord) showcases their debut album, Music For French King. Be prepared to fly from Versailles to Rome with works by Esprit-Philippe and Nicholas Chédeville, Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Enjoy the Advent spirit too with a tempting set of “French Noëls”. Musette, you ask. 18th century French bagpipes.

Saturday, December 9, 7pm, Yorkshire Bach Choir & Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Bach Christmas Oratorio, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York. SOLD OUT.

WRITTEN in 1734, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is heard rarely in its complete form, encapsulating rituals of belief, the human spirit’s diversity and the ecstatic joy in the Christmas message. Enjoy all six cantatas written for the feast days of Christmas and New Year, works that demand the largest and most spectacular orchestral forces Bach ever required. Soloists will be soprano Bethany Seymour, countertenor Robin Blaize, tenor Jonathan Hanley and bass Frederick Long.

Green Matthews: Dickens of a festive good time in A Christmas Carol In Concert

Festive folk concerts at NCEM

YULETIDE celebrations at the NCEM will be bookended by three festive folk nights: St Agnes Fountain, tonight; The Furrow Collective on December 5 and Green Matthews, December 19, all at 7.30pm.

Presented by the Black Swan Folk Club, St Agnes Fountain lines up with Chris While on vocals, guitar, bodhran, dulcimer, darbuka and percussion; Julie Matthews on vocals, piano, guitar, accordion and gazouki, and Chris Leslie on fiddle, mandolin, tenor guitar, bouzouki, ukulele, banjo, oud, whistle, Native American flute and “anything else he can lay his hands on”.

Postponed from last year, The Furrow Collective perform We Know By The Moon with Lucy Farrell on viola, voice and saw; Emily Portman on banjo, concertina and voice and Alasdair Roberts on guitars and voice.

Playing the NCEM for the second Christmas season in a row, Green Matthews turn Dickensian for A Christmas Carol In Concert, performed by Sophie Matthews, voice and flute, Chris Green, voice, guitar, mandocello and piano, and Jude Rees, voice, oboe and melodeon. Box office: 01904 658338 or

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Solomon’s Knot, NCEM, York, 16/12/2022

Solomon’s Knot: Thrilling programme of Christmas cantatas. Picture: Dan Joy

York Early Music Christmas Festival, Solomon’s Knot, Johann Kuhnau: Christmas Cantatas, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 16

JOHANN Kuhnau’s name has not carried much resonance in this country until recently. Even if you have played some of his keyboard music, you might still be unaware that he wrote some terrific music for voices.

That is all changing, thanks to Solomon’s Knot and its director Jonathan Sells. His ensemble of eight voices (including the bass of Sells himself) and 18 players delivered a thrilling programme of Christmas cantatas, three of them British premieres, which is extraordinary when you consider that the German composer died exactly 300 years ago.

The London premieres, incidentally, took place the following night: another feather in this festival’s cap.

So who was he – and why have we taken so long to acknowledge him? The fault lies with J S Bach, who in 1722 succeeded Kuhnau as Kantor (music director) at the prestigious Thomasschule in Leipzig.

Kuhnau’s choral works have slumbered in Bach’s long shadow ever since. Not Bach’s fault really, of course, but we have been distracted. For Bach learned a lot from Kuhnau and the proof was right here.

All five cantatas followed a similar pattern: a short orchestral intro (not a full overture) preceded a combination of recitative, aria and choruses, many of those being a heady mixture of chordal material and fugal procedures.

Unlike Bach, he made little use of formal chorales, incorporating them into orchestral textures. Nor did he mark off the various styles into separate numbers: they flow seamlessly from one to another. This enormously enhances their dramatic effect.

Alex Ashworth: Smoothly sung bass aria

The first of the premieres, Singet dem Herrn, which uses two trumpets and a bassoon alongside strings and continuo, bore similarities to what in this country we call a verse anthem, solo voices incorporated into predominantly choral passages.

The final fugue ended slowly and majestically, à la Handel. O Heilige Zeit was not a premiere but is known to have a libretto by Erdmann Neumeister, Kuhnau’s go-to poet, who was widely popular for his cantata texts.

It opened with what to my ears was a full-scale double fugue. After a forceful bass aria, alternating long melismas with syllabic text-setting and sung by Sells, it peaked with a persuasive contralto aria delivered by Kate Symonds-Joy with excellent diction, before the final chorus.

Clarino trumpets returned for Das Alte Ist Vergangen, another premiere, which contrasted the old year and the New Year, via an analogy with the Old and New Testaments. Thus an old-style alto aria larded with coloratura was complemented by a more ‘modern’ bass aria smoothly sung by Alex Ashworth. The final ‘Happy New Year’ chorus was decidedly upbeat, trumpets dancing in triple time.

Not a premiere, but making colourful use of the familiar chorale of the same name, was Wie Schön Leuchtet der Morgenstern, where horns – with their bells upwards – and flutes added to the joy of the choruses.

Finally, and closest in style to Bach, we had another premiere in Frohlocket, Ihr Völker, which was notable for a stunning tenor aria beautifully articulated by James Way (who must make a superb Bach Evangelist). Its opening chorus, with trumpets and timpani back in the fray, had set the scene sensationally – and the finale was almost its equal.

The excitement generated throughout the evening was the musical equivalent of discovering Tutankhamun’s tomb: Solomon’s Knot has put Kuhnau firmly back on the map, and in marvellous style.                                                                                      

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Christmas Festival 2022 is streaming until January 31 2023 at, for £10 per concert or £45 for all seven festival events recorded at the NCEM.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Bojan Čičić, Part 2, York Early Music Christmas Festival, 17/12/2022

Bojan Čičić: “The prospect of his playing Bach’s three solo partitas was irresistible”

York Early Music Christmas Festival: Bojan Čičić, Part 2, JS Bach Partitas, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 17

IT was never my intention to cover both Bojan Čičić recitals, but so compelling was the first – Bach’s solo violin sonatas on December 10 – that the prospect of his playing Bach’s three solo partitas was irresistible.

The partitas are essentially suites of dances. In addition, each of the four dances of Partita No 1 in B minor is followed by a ‘Double’. Common in French harpsichord suites, a double is a variation on the dance it partners, usually twice or three times as fast as the original. Thus, after the Corrente (Courant), there is a double marked Presto. Čičić took this at an incredible pace, showcasing his daring virtuosity.

In the Sarabande that followed his triple-stopping was chordal and deliberate, with an arpeggiated double to follow: in its way, this was as breath-taking as the Corrente.

No 2 in D minor was no less striking. After an intimate Allemanda, with fluent ornamentation, the different registers of the Corrente were strongly differentiated, so that we sensed three simultaneous lines.

The Giga was another dazzler. The concluding chaconne started innocently enough, but built into some fearsome runs, which were despatched nonchalantly. In the middle of all this was a D major interlude of teasing suspensions.

The pastoral No 3 in E major was a gentler affair. Its well-known Gavotte was positively bouncy, its two minuets exquisitely graceful and its final Gigue (offshoot of the original English jig) brilliantly steady. This unassuming virtuoso had worked his magic again.

Review by Martin Dreyer

YORK Early Music Christmas Festival 2022 is streaming online until January 31 2023 at, at £10 per concert or £45 for all seven festival concerts recorded at the NCEM.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Bojan Čičić, J S Bach Sonatas, NCEM, York, 10/12

Bojan Čičić: “Magical sounds”

York Early Music Christmas Festival: Bojan Čičić, JS Bach’s Sonatas for solo violin, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 10

SEEING is believing. The magical sounds that Bojan Čičić coaxes from his baroque violin have not only to be heard, they need to be seen.

In 1720, while part of Prince Leopold’s court at Cöthen, Bach wrote six sonatas and partitas (effectively suites) for the unaccompanied violin, three of each, in response to the violin’s newly developed capability to play chords. This meant the possibility of adding a bass line to a melody.

They represent the Everest of the solo violin repertoire (not forgetting the Paganini caprices) and are fiendishly demanding. But they hold no terrors for this supremo. He is playing all six at this festival on consecutive Saturday lunchtimes and began here with the three sonatas. All fall into four movements.

The first is invariably slow, giving the player time to find their feet. The second, believe it or not, is a fugue, allowing the possibility of two or even three lines to overlap or seem to do so. The third is slower, often with origins in the dance, and the fourth is (very) fast.

Bach demonstrates throughout his intimate understanding of violin techniques at what was the cutting edge in his own day. The first two sonatas are in minor keys – G and A – and their opening movements have an elegiac quality. The third sonata, in C major, has a positively chordal opening, almost like a chorale.

All three are deceptive, because the succeeding fugues sound unplayable by a single instrument. In all, but especially the first, Čičić delivered incredible clarity, even playing down the countersubjects so that they did not overshadow the main subjects. There was also a touch of sheer bravura at the end of the second fugue.

The stately siciliana of No 1 demanded intense multiple-stopping – two or three notes at once – and the Andante of No 2, also a third movement, was so dense that you could have sworn that you were hearing several instruments.

All three finales took the breath away. The first was a high-speed moto perpetuo, allowing the player no respite. The Allegro of No 2 began innocently enough, but turned fierce, even including echo effects. The dazzling virtuosity of No 3’s finale brought the house down.

Čičić’s bow is a magic wand, but he does not brandish it at all pompously. On the contrary, his approach is almost self-effacing. The result is all the more sensational.

I cannot recommend his recital of Bach’s three partitas on Saturday (17/12/2022), at 1pm, highly enough. On this evidence, it is a totally mouth-watering prospect. Box office: 01904 658338 or

Review by Martin Dreyer

The Marion Consort. Picture: Nick Rutter

REVIEW: Spiritato with The Marian Consort, Inspiring Bach, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 11

THIS was almost two concerts in one, combining two groups – instrumental and vocal – who normally lead quite independent existences.

Spiritato, led from the violin by Kinga Ujszászi, is a chamber orchestra of some 18 players, dedicated to rekindling the unique sounds of the mid-17th century.

Joining them in this exploration is the 12-voice Marian Consort under its director and countertenor Rory McCleery.

Their programme, entitled Inspiring Bach, dealt with some of the bigger names that preceded the great man. The most notable of these was Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703), who is widely regarded as the most important member of the Bach family before Johann Sebastian himself (and not to be confused with a later JCB, Johann Christian, the ‘English’ Bach). He was a composer and organist, who spent virtually all his career as harpsichordist at the Duke of Eisenach’s court.

The first of JC’s two contributions here was an elegiac cantata featuring McCleery’s countertenor (though he sang it on ground level more or less behind a pillar). More compelling was Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit, (‘There Arose A War’, a Picander text which JSB used for his Cantata 19) in which a bass duet was accompanied by two trumpets, before the brilliant tutti of the final chorus.

Given that there were no less than four trumpets on hand, all valveless and without finger holes, they were bound to capture the spotlight – and thrilling they were.

Possibly Sebastian Knüpfer’s last work, written just before he died in 1676, was Die Turteltaube Lässt Sich Hören(‘The Voice Of The Turtle Dove Is Heard’). It made clever use of soloists across the choir, building towards a final chorus in which the trumpets truly blazed.

On either side of this, we heard both Pachelbel’s and Bach’s settings of Christ Lag In Todesbanden (‘Christ Lay In Death’s Bonds’), based on a Lutheran Easter hymn – not especially seasonal, but good pieces anyway.

Pachelbel omits trumpets and timpani from his version, but contrasts vigorous, optimistic choruses with lighter episodes. Bach’s more familiar setting was distinguished here by an exciting acceleration into and through the Alleluia of the opening chorus and a brisk fugal finale.

A Buxtehude sonata, spotlighting violin and viola da gamba, allowed a brief excursion northwards into Denmark. It all amounted to a delightful concoction                                               characterised as “music of healing in a time of catastrophe”.

Best of all, there was never a feeling, from either trumpets or strings, that the use of authentic instruments was in any way detracting from our enjoyment. On the contrary, these on-the-sleeve sounds enhanced our pleasure.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Orlando Consort: Bidding farewell after 35 years

REVIEW: Orlando Consort, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 15

ORCHESTRAS may go on forever, but smaller groups tend to have a more limited life-span. The Orlando Consort has existed for no less than 35 years.

Astonishingly, two of its members have lasted the full course since 1988, tenor Angus Smith and baritone Donald Greig. Its other current members are countertenor Matthew Venner and tenor Mark Dobell, who took over from Robert Harre-Jones and
Charles Daniels respectively.

Between them, these six have established the Orlando as a world-class ensemble. Now the group has decided to call it a day and will give its last performance in June. So this final
appearance in York, where it has become a familiar visitor, was tinged with sadness.

A touch of nostalgia was in order and each of the singers in turn reminisced between groups about their experiences touring the world.

A seasonal start took us back to a Christmas trio from the Winchester Troper, whose earliest scribe began work around 1000 A.D. It included some fascinating stresses. A Machaut group from around 300 years later was more melismatic – multiple notes to a single syllable of text. A countertenor solo here was wonderfully expressive.

Before we embarked on a continental tour, two English composers gave a good account of
themselves. An anonymous Credo from Fountains Abbey dating to the early 15th century was positively bouncy, especially in its upper two voices. John Plummer’s Anna Mater Matris Christi was delightfully studded with imitation between the parts, highlighting the two tenors.

The three lower voices delivered a nicely tongue-in-cheek farewell to the wines of Lannoy, while the three upper ones made the complications of Vergine Bella, also by Dufay, sound ridiculously easy.

The quartet was more full-throated in Hortus Conclusus by the Spaniard Rodrigo de Ceballos, but without endangering its smooth ensemble. Italy yielded the incredibly busy Plaude Decus Mundi by Cristoforo de Monte (early 15th century), again dispatched with cool panache.

The Flemish masters were kept back for the finale. Josquin’s imitative techniques depend on singers alive to where the shifting spotlight should fall among them. The Orlando did not disappoint: in two motets, one with refrain, the tension ebbed and flowed beautifully.

Nicolas Gombert’s Quam Pulchra Es, sung last, was the most intricate and varied piece of the evening. It was stunningly fresh, with interest revolving between the voices, no mean feat after a full programme sung without vibrato.

These singers have flown the flag for Britain with distinction in all corners of the globe. They deserve our wholehearted thanks. Any just society would deck them with medals. In the King’s next birthday honours perhaps? Let’s hope so.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on La Palatine and Ensemble Augelletti, NCEM, York Early Music Christmas Festival

La Palatine: “Building a happy hour around two important Italian visitors to Baroque Spain”

York Early Music Christmas Festival: La Palatine and Ensemble Augelletti, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 8 and 9

JUST as the nights turned chill, Early Music’s Christmas celebration in York blazed into life with two young groups determined to bring warmth. In their different ways, they succeeded.

La Palatine’s Fiesta Galante built a happy hour around two important Italian visitors to Baroque Spain, Domenico Scarlatti and Luigi Boccherini, framing them with lesser-known but equally talented locals.

Directed from the harpsichord by Guillaume Haldenwang, La Palatine’s complement includes soprano Marie Théoleyre, backed up by violin, cello and theorbo or guitar.

José de Nebra (1702-1768) is a name not as well known in this country as it should be, but he staged more than 50 zarzuela-style works in Madrid, while holding down a church job. His punchy rhythms reinforced by strumming were right up Théoleyre’s street, playing to the mezzo side of her voice.

In Nebra’s Que Contrario, Señor, which involved two arias, one song-like, one cheerful, Théoleyre delivered some tricky coloratura as she ornamented repeats, and her colleagues backed her to the hilt, especially violinist Murielle Pfister, who sometimes doubled her line.

Her style was less idiomatic, although equally fiery, in two higher-lying arias by Scarlatti, where she tended to fly off onto top notes without covering the tone.

More restrained was a trio sonata by Jose Herrando, although sunshine quickly re-emerged with Jeremy Nastasi’s account of Santiago de Murcia’s rhapsodic Marizapalos for solo guitar, which bordered on flamenco by the end. In such solo pieces, Nastasi would do well to face his audience so that his sound projects better into the audience.

A Boccherini cello sonata elicited much tricky double-stopping, which Cyril Poulet despatched briskly, especially in its central military allegro. A keyboard sonata by Scarlatti, K.144 in G (of no less than 555 that he wrote), enjoyed a smooth line at the hands of Haldenwang amid numerous deceptive cadences. A Spanish encore brought the full ensemble back into joyous life. More of that, please: it suits you perfectly.

Ensemble Augelletti: “A group whose enthusiasm is infectious”

The following evening saw Ensemble Augelletti, another quintet although all instrumental, take the stage in Pick A Card!, which highlighted some historical playing cards in the British Museum collection.

These were shown on a back-screen. They were amusing enough, although the link with the group’s Baroque programme was sometimes tenuous.

Olwen Foulkes, who is a dab hand on a variety of recorders, is the prime mover and most dominant voice among the Augellettis. But equally important to the ensemble’s success is the highly intelligent cello of Carina Drury, whose every note is attuned to what is going on around her. Her phrasing is exemplary.

She was largely responsible for the success of Bach’s Trio Sonata in G major, BWV 1039, especially in the incredibly active bass line of the concluding Presto. Its earlier Allegro had also generated terrific momentum. It was the group’s crowning glory.

Two dances from Purcell semi-operas were beautifully shaped and there was special entertainment in hearing Geminiani base his Third Trio Sonata on the folk-tune The Last Time I Came O’er The Moor.

After Handel at his most effervescent in part of a trio sonata, it was good to hear the dancing shepherds’ Piva from Messiah. It was immediately followed by Corelli’s Christmas’ Concerto Grosso, Op 6 No 8, moving gracefully from its dark opening through excitement into its closing lullaby. This was exactly what the festival needed.

Along the way we had appreciated Ellen Bundy’s lithe violin and Johan Lofving’s deft theorbo, but we had not heard quite enough from the harpsichord of Benedict Williams. Even so, this is a group whose enthusiasm is infectious.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Christmas Festival runs until December 16. Full details at: Box office: 01904 658338 or

More Things To Do in York and beyond, from an Old Granny Goose to Grayson. Hutch’s List No. 108, courtesy of The Press

Goose by the Ouse: Dame Berwick Kaler, centre, with Martin Barrass, left, AJ Powell, Suzy Cooper and David Leonard, gathering again at the Grand Opera House, York, for The Adventures Of Old Mother Goose. Picture: David Harrison

KALER on the loose, Christmas music, art and crafts and a stellar trio on the horizon have Charles Hutchinson hopping between diaries

Berwick’s back: The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose, Grand Opera House, York, December 10 to January 8

THE script is complete, as of 6am on Thursday morning, for writer, director and perennial York dame Berwick Kaler’s second year at his adopted panto home, presented in tandem with the Grand Opera House’s new partners in pantomime, UK Productions.

At 76, expect a greater emphasis on the verbal jousting from Dame Berwick, but still with slapstick aplenty in the familiar company of sidekick Martin Barrass, villain David Leonard, principal gal Suzy Cooper, luverly Brummie AJ Powell and ever-game dancer Jake Lindsay in his tenth Kaler panto, me babbies, me bairns. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Angel With Gift, linocut print by Anita Klein, part of The Christmas Collection at Pyramid Gallery, York

Exhibition launch of the week: The Christmas Collection at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, today until January 12, open daily

YORK ceramicist Ben Arnup opens The Christmas Collection, the last exhibition of Pyramid Gallery’s 40th anniversary celebrations, at midday today.  He will be exhibiting 12 new trompe l’oeil ceramic sculptures too.

Gallery curator Terry Brett has invited London printmaker Anita Kelin to fill the walls with 15 large linocut original prints and two paintings in her 28th year of showing her depictions of family life at Pyramid. Exhibiting too will be printmaker Mychael Barratt, sculptors Christine Pike and Jennie McCall, ceramicist Katie Braida and glassmakers Rachel Elliott, Alison Vincent, Keith Cummings and David Reekie, plus 50 jewellery makers.

Sara Davies: Crafty ideas for Christmas at York Barbican

Return to York of the week: Craft Your Christmas with Sara Davies, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

DRAGONS’ Den entrepreneur Sara Davies, who founded her Crafter’s Companion company in 2005 while studying at the University of York, offers practical demonstrations, creative ideas and a healthy slice of down-to-earth know-how.

Taking you from gifts to garlands, cards to crackers, via a peek into the Den and a sprinkling of Strictly Come Dancing sparkle, Sara will help you to create your own unique handmade Christmas. Box office:

The Ebor Singers: Christmas music from America and Britain at St Lawrence Parish Church

Christmas concert of the week: The Ebor Singers, A Christmas Celebration By Candlelight, St Lawrence Parish Church, Lawrence Street, York, tonight, 7.30pm

PAUL Gameson directs The Ebor Singers in an evening of beautiful choral arrangements for Christmastide that also marks the launch of the York choir’s CD recording of Christmas music by contemporary American composers, Wishes And Candles.

Pieces from the disc, featuring works by Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre,  Dan Forrest, Abbie Bettinis and Matthew Culloton, will be complemented by festive compositions by John Rutter and Bob Chilcott. Expect audience participation in carol singing too. Tickets: and on the door.

Russell Watson and Aled Jones

Festive musical duo of the week: Aled Jones and Russell Watson, Christmas With Aled & Russell York Barbican, Tuesday, 8pm

ALED Jones and Russell Watson are reuniting for Christmas 2022, combining a new album and tour. Performing together again after a three-year hiatus, the classical singers will be promoting their November 4 release of Christmas With Aled And Russell. 

The album features new recordings of traditional carols such as O Holy Night, O Little Town Of Bethlehem and In The Bleak Midwinter, alongside festive favourites White Christmas, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Little Drummer Boy and Mistletoe And Wine, complemented by a duet rendition of Walking In The Air. Box office:

York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust cast members in rehearsal for A Nativity for York. Picture: John Saunders

Nativity play of the week: York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust in A Nativity for York, Spurriergate Centre, Spurriergate, York, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, Sunday, 3pm, 5pm and 7.30pm

A NATIVITY for York returns to the Spurriergate Centre following a two-year enforced break, staged by York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust (YMPST). After directing the Last Judgement plays  on the city streets in 2018 and 2022, Alan Heaven has created a fresh, vibrant and magical retelling of the Nativity, combining “music, dance, sorrows and joys and some audience participation”.

Heaven’s company of actors, dancers and musicians is drawn from a wide range of community volunteers, in keeping with the YMPST productions of A Nativity for York in 2019 and A Resurrection for York in 2021. Tickets: 01904 623568, at or in person from the Theatre Royal box office.

Solomon’s Knot: Christmas Cantatas at Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, in York Early Music Christmas Festival 2022’s concluding concert

Festival of the week: York Early Music Christmas Festival, mainly at NCEM, Walmgate, December 8 to 16; online box set, December 19 to January 31

MUSIC, minstrels, merriment, mulled wine and mince pies combine in York Early Music Christmas Festival 2022, to be complemented by an online box set of festival highlights post-festival.

Taking part will be La Palatine (Fiesta Galante); Ensemble Augelletti (Pick A Card!); Solomon’s Knot (Johann Kuhnau’s Christmas Cantatas); Spiritato and The Marion Consort (Inspiring Bach); Ensemble Moliere (Good Soup);  Bojan Čičić (Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas); The Orlando Consort (Adieu) and Yorkshire Bach Choir & Yorkshire Baroque Soloists (Handel’s Brockes Passion). Box office: 01904 658338 or

Guitarist Tom Bennett and baritone Sam Hird, outside their training ground, the Royal College of Music. On Friday, they perform a Christmas recital in York

Homecoming of the week: Sam Hird and Tom Bennett, A Winter Night’s Recital, All Saints’ Church, North Street, York, Friday, 7pm to 9pm

YORK baritone Sam Hird and his fellow Royal College of Music graduate, guitarist Tom Bennett, perfrom classical songs from around the world, by Schubert, Faure and Britten, complemented by festive favourites such as Adeste Fideles, O Holy Night and A Cradle In Bethlehem to stir the Christmas spirit.

The 15th century All Saints’ Church will be the “perfect backdrop” to this candlelit concert, Hird’s professional solo debut. A glass of mulled wine and a mince pie is included in the ticket price of £10 plus booking fee, available from and on the door.

Big jumpers, big songs: Alistair Griffin presents The Big Christmas Concert, St Michael le Belfrey Church, York, December 9, 10 and 17, 8pm; doors, 7.30pm

Alistair Griffin: Christmas hits

BILLED as “the biggest Christmas concert in York”, singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s winter warmer returns with classic Christmas tunes, carols and bags of festive cheer, heralded by a brass band.

The Big Christmas Concert takes a festive musical journey from acoustic versions of traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues, as audiences sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York. Christmas jumpers and Christmas attire are encouraged; a prize will be given for the best costume. Box office:

One way or another, you’re gonna get ya ticket for Blondie at Scarborough Open Air Theatre next summer

Booking ahead: Blondie, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 22 2023

LOWER East Side New York trailblazers Blondie are off to the East Coast next summer to play Britain’s largest outdoor concert arena.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame icons will be led as ever by pioneering frontwoman/songwriter Debbie Harry, 77, guitarist/conceptual mastermind Chris Stein and powerhouse drummer Clem Burke, joined by former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen.

Blondie join Sting, Pulp, rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires, N-Dubz, Olly Murs and Mamma Mia! among Scarborough OAT’s 2023 headliners, with plenty more to be added. Box office:

The Waterboys: 40th anniversary celebrations in 2023, taking in York Barbican

Booking ahead too: The Waterboys, York Barbican, October 12 2023, 7.30pm

GREAT, Scott will be back for yet another evening with The Waterboys at York Barbican, this time to mark the Scottish-founded folk, rock, soul and blues band’s 40th anniversary.

Mike Scott, 63, has made a habit of playing the Barbican, laying on the “Big Music” in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015,  2018 and October 2021, since when The Waterboys have released 15th studio album All Souls Hill in May. Box office:

Grayson Perry: A Show All About You…and surely about him too at Harrogate Convention Centre?

A brush with an artist: Grayson Perry: A Show All About You, Harrogate Convention Centre, October 1 2023, 7.30pm

ARTIST, iconoclast and TV presenter Grayson Perry follows up A Show For Normal People with A Show All About You, wherein he asks, “What makes you, you?”. Is there a part deep inside  that no-one understands? Have you found your tribe or are you a unique human being? Or is it more complicated than that?

Perry, “white, male, heterosexual, able bodied, English, southerner, baby boomer and member of the establishment”, takes a mischievous look at the nature of identity, promising to make you laugh, shudder, and reassess who you really are. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Also recommended but sold out: The Cure, The Lost World Tour 2022, Leeds First Direct Arena, Tuesday, doors, 6pm

ROBERT Smith’s ever-changing band play Leeds for the first time since September 21 1985 at the whatever-happened-to-the Queens Hall. Expect a long, long set of all the heavenly, hippy pop hits, the gloomier goth stalwarts and more than a glimpse of the long-promised 14th studio album, Songs Of A Lost World, pencilled in for 2023.