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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
THE call-out for entries for the 2021 NCEM Young Composers Award in York is under way.
Launched on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show today, the annual competition invites composers aged 25 and under to write a new work for recorder quartet.
Each year, the award is presented by the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, in association with BBC Radio 3, joined for the 2021 award by the vibrant young recorder quartet Palisander.
This major national award is open to young composers resident in the UK and is divided into two categories: 18 years and under and 19 to 25 years.
Composers are asked to create a new work for recorder quartet based on any dance form from across all eras and cultures, from the bransle and the galliard to the Charleston and the tango.
The work may be a single movement rooted in a single dance form, a continuous movement that combines different dance forms, or a suite made up of two, three or four short movements. The entire piece should last between three to four minutes.
Shortlisted composers will be invited to the award day at the NCEM on Thursday, May 13 2021 when the shortlisted compositions will be presented by Palisander in a workshop led by composer Christopher Fox. In the evening, Palisander’s Lydia Gosnell, Teresa Wrann, Miriam Monaghan and Caoimhe de Paor will perform each of the pieces for a panel of judges.
The two winning pieces, one from each age category, will be premiered by Palisander in a public performance at St John’s Smith Square, London, on May 20 2021 as part of the London Festival of Baroque Music and recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.
NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to introduce an exciting new element of dance into this year’s awards. This really helps us to open up the award, giving us the opportunity to work with an ever-broader community.
“Palisander are well versed in supporting school groups and emerging musicians and we are thrilled to work with such a dynamic young ensemble. We can’t wait to hear what people come up with!
“Shortlisted candidates will be able to enjoy an action-packed day of workshops in York with Palisander plus composer Christopher Fox. The winning compositions will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, a feather in the cap of any young composer.”
Alan Davey, the Beeb’s controller of BBC Radio 3 and classical music, says: “Supporting young talent and promoting new music are both central to BBC Radio 3 and we are proud to continue our commitment to supporting the next generation of composers inspired by early music.”
Palisander, all alumni from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, are “very proud” to be partnering with the NCEM and Radio 3 for next year’s award. “Our programmes, though rooted in history, are not bound by it. Contemporary compositions, arrangements and performance presentation play a central role in our concerts, so we’re eager to hear the next generation’s take on one of our favoured genres: music to dance to!” say the London quartet.
“We look forward to introducing the young composers to our plethora of recorders of varying shapes and sizes, as well as the different timbres and extended techniques at their disposal. As passionate ambassadors of our instrument, we hope that the young composers will be as inspired as we are by the plentiful possibilities of the recorder family.”
The closing date for registration is Friday, February 19, 5pm; the deadline for submission of scores is Friday, March 19, 12 noon. Shortlisted candidates will be informed on Friday, April 9 and will be invited to attend the award day and workshops in York on May 13.
Terms and conditions and details of how to take part, including Palisander’s advice on composing for recorder quartet, can be found at: www.youngcomposersaward.co.uk/2021. Alternatively, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PALISANDER will present Mischief & Merriment at the York Early Music Christmas Festival at the NCEM, Walmgate, York, on December 4 at 4.30pm and 7pm.
The recorder quartet of Lydia Gosnell, Miriam Monaghan, Caoimhe de Paor and Teresa Wrann will recall how Christmas was the highlight of the Tudor calendar when strict Advent fasting would be followed by 12 indulgent days of mischief and merriment.
These elaborate celebrations were presided over by the Lord of Misrule, who co-ordinated the Christmastide entertainments for the court. For their December 4 programme, Palisander will return to the NCEM to take on the role of Lords of Misrule, presenting festive songs and dances to keep toes tapping throughout December.
Traditional Renaissance settings of familiar carols will be paired with music to accompany the whopping 20-plus course Tudor Christmas dinner, complemented by Yuletide courtly dances and playful contemporary takes on the Lord of Misrule’s spectacles.
Palisander will showcase their full recorder family, from the six-inch garklein to the six-foot contrabass, plus everything in between, and among the featured composers will be Antony Holborne, John Dowland, Thoinot Arbeau and Michael Praetorius.
York Christmas At Home will present nine online concerts in three days from December 11 to 13. Palisander’s Mischief & Merriment will be streamed at 1pm on December 12 and will be available to view on demand until January 6 2021. Tickets are on sale at: https://tickets.ncem.co.uk/en-GB/shows/palisander%20online/events.
Tickets for the York Early Music Christmas Festival can be booked at ncem.co.uk. Hurry, hurry, is the advice
AFTER the tiers of a clown, now comes the even greater frustration of Lockdown 2 from today, knocking the growing revival of arts, culture and life in general back into hibernation.
Nevertheless, in one chink of light, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has decreed that theatre companies can continue rehearsing shows in Covid-secure workspaces, behind closed doors, with a view to lockdown being lifted in early December.
Whether that turns out to be a mere fairytale, only time will tell, so please forgive the unpredictability of what may or may not be happening.
Charles Hutchinson picks through the debris of Lockdown 2 to find signs of artistic life for now and the months ahead.
It’s started and it won’t finish until November 30: Aesthetica Short Film Festival online
YORK’S tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival opened on Tuesday, switching from a spread of historic and modern locations to a digital and live-streamed festival for home entertainment, enlightenment and education on phones, TV sets, tablets and computers.
Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands this week, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.
Masterclasses, guest speakers, panel discussions, guest film programmes and an industry market are further highlights of an online festival unimpeded by the new lockdown. Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.
Fighting off the new lockdown blues: Badapple Theatre’s Theatre On Your Desktop podcast
GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has added a new Kate Bramley play to its Theatre On Your Desktop series as it extends its lockdown season of free podcasts.
Click on https://badappletheatreonyourdesktop.podbean.com/ for The World Is Still Next Door, artistic director Bramley’s account of some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment as Mo and her young son search for a place to fight off the lockdown blues.
Set during four sunny days in May in deep lockdown, Bramley’s play seeks to capture the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination. “I got really interested in the idea of creating a new short piece with many voices of varying ages and accents, as well as delving into sound montages that evoke settings from our local Yorkshire all the way to Watamu Beach in Kenya,” says Kate. “With a bit of Badapple signature magic-realism thrown in for good measure.”
Travelling Pantomime, not travailing pantomime, as the show must go on…hopefully: York Theatre Royal’s alternative neighbourhood watch
YORK Theatre Royal began rehearsals in the billiards room on Tuesday for associate director Juliet Forster’s Travelling Pantomime production.
It could still be pot luck whether the first collaboration between Evolution Pantomimes and the Theatre Royal will go ahead, everything hanging on Lockdown 2’s fate, but plans are taking rapid shape to cement the itinerary for a tour of 21 York wards from December 3, plus York Theatre Royal performances too.
Just Josh magician and entertainer Josh Benson, Robin Simpson’s Dame Dolly, Anna Soden’s Fairy/Singing Captain, Faye Campbell’s Jack/Dick and Reuben Johnson’s villainous Fleshcreep/Ratticus Flinch will rehearse three pantomimes, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White, all scripted by Evolution’s Paul Hendy, for each show’s audience to vote for which panto they want to see.
The other Jack And The Beanstalk in York this Christmas: York Stage at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, December 11 to 30
YORK Stage are going full team ahead with their inaugural pantomime, to be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio, where Perspex screens will be in place for the first time for the traverse staging.
Writer-director Nik Briggs has added West End choreographer Gary Lloyd to his production team, proclaiming: We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”
Jordan Fox, May Tether, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Ian Stroughair, Danielle Mullan, Emily Taylor and Matthew Ives will be the cast bringing life to Briggs’s debut panto script.
Barrass is back: Bev Jones Music Company in Strictly Xmas In The Park, Rowntree Park, Amphitheatre, York, December 13, 2pm
MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter. Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.
As part of Bev Jones Music Company’s Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance, Barrass will tell a few jokes and orchestrate the song-sheet rendition of You Can’t Put A Better Bit Of Batter On Your Platter Than A Good Old Yorkshire Pud.
Barrass will wear black and pink to honour the late Bev’s favourite colour combination.
Early notice: York Early Music Christmas Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 13
AS the NCEM website states: “We are planning for these concerts to go ahead and are still selling tickets. If the situation changes, we will of course be in touch.”
Fingers crossed, then, for a socially distanced festival in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, featuring Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour.
Among the highlights, on December 9, festival favourites The York Waits will present The Waits’ Wassail: Music for Advent and Christmas: Carols, songs and dance from across medieval and renaissance England and Europe, played on shawms and sackbuts by York’s Renaissance town band.
A hat-trick of new shows on the East Coast: Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol at Scarborough Open Air Theatre
IN quick succession, Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol have been confirmed for Cuffe and Taylor’s ever-expanding programme at Britain’s biggest purpose-built outdoor concert arena.
Booked in for July 7, Birmingham glam pop band Duran Duran will introduce their first new material since 2015, alongside such favourites as Save A Prayer, Rio, Girls On Film and The Reflex.
Glaswegian singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi sold out two nights at Scarborough OAT in 2019 and says he is “buzzing” to be returning on July 25 next summer. “It’s a great venue, the crowds there are always unreal and so here’s to another unforgettable night,” he says.
Snow Patrol’s sold-out 2020 Scarborough show had to be scrapped under Covid restrictions but Gary Lightbody’s band are now booked in for July 3 2021. Tickets for all three shows go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.
And what about?
THE Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.
However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Days on December 12 at 7.30pm (GMT). Expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: sparkly dress, twinkling lights, her regular folk band, her “brass boys”, Ruby the reindeer and a fancy-dress finale.
Tickets go on sale on Friday (6/11/2020) via https://katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/