NCEM welcomes global applications for York International Young Artists Competition. Entry deadline: January 15

Protean Quartet: Winners of the 2022 York International Young Artists Competition, pictured at the NCEM

APPLICATIONS from ensembles across the world are invited for next year’s York International Young Artists Competition. The closing date is January 15 2024.

This longstanding competition for young ensembles will take place from July 10 to 13 at the National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, as part of York Early Music Festival 2024.

The final will take place on Saturday, July 13 with a day of public performances at the NCEM. 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 2025 York Early Music Festival.

Further prizes on offer include: the Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize, the Cambridge Early Music Prize and one for The Most Promising Young Artist/s, endorsed by the EUBO Development Trust. 

The competition is open to early music ensembles with a minimum of three members and an average age of 32 years or under and a maximum age of 36 for individuals.

The ensembles must demonstrate historically informed performance practice and play repertory 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 major boost to young professional careers with opportunities for performance, recording and broadcasting, plus international exposure. 

Festival director and NCEM founder Delma Tomlin says: “We’re delighted to be staging the Young Artists competition once again in 2024. One of the highlights of our festival, the competition takes place every two years and fills every corner of the NCEM with music and laughter. 

“We believe it is extremely important to nurture and develop young talent, and the competition provides an important opportunity for young artists and musicians not just from the UK but from all over the world.” 

Last year’s winners, Protean Quartet, say: “We were delighted and honoured to win the main prize in 2022. Taking part in the competition was an amazing experience. It was wonderful performing at the NCEM’s home, the beautiful St Margaret’s Church, and meeting the other ensemble who were taking part. The prize provides a real boost to our confidence, profile and careers.”

Protean Quartet performed at last summer’s festival, as did 2019 winners L’Apothéose, who say: “Winning the York competition was an extremely important and prestigious recognition of our career. It was wonderful to return to York for the recording of our CD with Linn Records and to appear at the York Early Music Festival last July.”

For details of how to apply, head to: www.yorkcomp.ncem.co.uk or email yorkcomp@ncem.co.uk

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Rachel Podger and Daniele Caminiti at York Early Music Festival

Rachel Podger: “Her violin and Baroque music are made for each other”. Picture: Theresa Pewal

York Early Music Festival: Rachel Podger and Daniele Caminiti, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 13

RACHEL Podger’s violin and Baroque music are made for each other. The two halves of her outgoing personality, both personal and musical, are closely intertwined and enhance one another most intimately in her approach to the Baroque. In this wide-ranging tour of the period, her accomplice was the deft Sicilian theorbist Daniele Caminiti.

Although she naturally included several of the great names – Bach, Vivaldi, Biber – her surprises lay with lesser lights and with an unusual transcription. She opened with a rhapsodic sonata (Seconda) from the early Baroque by Giovanni Battista Fontana, whose simple melodies she embellished with delightful decorations, especially at cadences.

She immediately followed that with the last of 12 instrumental sonatas – believed to be the first by a woman ever to be published – by Isabella Leonarda, an Ursuline nun who composed prolifically right into her eighties.

It opened with a soulful Adagio, and continued as if telling a story, including a lyrical Aria and a brisk Veloce in jig time with a throwaway ending; its use of harmony was astounding. Podger gave its twists and turns typically stylish enthusiasm.

Bach’s Third Cello Suite, BWV1009 in C, is not what you expect in a violin recital, but it transcribes well for the higher instrument. Its Prélude was at once a tour de force, threatening to overshadow what followed.

Yet the jagged Allemande was equally engaging and Podger kept Bach’s different voices clearly apparent. The multiple-stopping of the stately Sarabande was followed by Bourrées, in which she played with the time, but tastefully, before delivering considerable fireworks in the volatile Gigue.

Biber’s Fourth Mystery Sonata, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, which calls for scordatura (re-tuning of the strings), emerged as a brilliant set of variations, coolly navigated. Predictably, Podger offered some dazzling virtuosity along the way, notably in the outer movements of a Vivaldi sonata and in the concluding race for the tape of a Schmelzer sonata.

Caminiti shadowed her, if often understatedly, throughout but provided a good rhythmic foundation wherever possible. He also contributed several solos, especially a Piccininni toccata that made bold use of his bass strings and an intricate and delicate Toccata Arpeggiata by Kapsberger. He and Podger make a useful duo but not yet a great one.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Dunedin Consort in Out Of Her Mouth, York Early Music Festival

Carolyn Sampson: “Finding fighting form as both the heroine and her nemesis”. Picture: Marco Borggeve

York Early Music Festival: Dunedin Consort in Out Of Her Mouth, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 12

RARELY has York Early Music Festival dipped its toes into operatic waters, but it conjured some real drama from this unexpected plunge. In a co-production by Dunedin Consort, Hera and Mahogany Opera, directed by Mathilde Lopez, three biblical cantatas by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre were brought together to make what amounted to a one-act opera involving three excellent sopranos, singing an English paraphrase by Toria Banks.

Jacquet was born into a family of musicians and instrument makers in Paris in 1665 and became its most illustrious member, renowned as a composer and harpsichordist. She married the organist Marin de la Guerre in 1684 and ten years later became the first woman in France to write an opera, Céphale et Procris.

Her 12 sacred cantatas of 1708, to texts by the poet and playwright Antoine Houdar de la Motte (1672-1731), deal with characters from the Bible, although she uses only a soprano and continuo plus a violin ad lib.

This means, for example, that in Susanne, the soprano must handle both the title role and that of the two elderly gentlemen ogling her swim, in addition to being narrator. It was a tall order but Anna Dennis rose to the challenge, sporting jeans and T-shirt inscribed “Keep your laws off my body”.

Wrongly accused by the disappointed gents, Susanne is acquitted in court. Hardly what you might expect from Baroque opera, but Jacquet’s concept was undoubtedly vivid. Not for the first time, Lucia Capellaro delivered a searing cello line to accompany Dennis’s well-wrought tension.

Alys Roberts, in full white wedding finery, sparkly top and shiny boots, represented Rachel in the second cantata, which was originally entitled Rachel and Jacob. She was called upon to play her fiancé Jacob as well as her father Laban, who effectively demolished their wedding plans by substituting his elder daughter Leah for Rachel at the altar.

Although her declamation was not always clear, there was no doubting Roberts’s commitment, forthright in her own bitter disappointment, indignantly menacing as Jacob and smugly philosophical as Laban delivering the moral that we cannot always have what we want.

Toria Banks confessed that her version moved the focus away from Jacob towards Rachel’s own feelings, in keeping with the thrust of the evening.

The third cantata Judith was much the most ferocious, with Carolyn Sampson in a silk shift finding fighting form as both the heroine and her nemesis Holofernes, fortunately playing the latter before drunkenness took hold of him. In the interlude while he fell asleep, harpsichord and theorbo were silent, allowing violin and cello gently to the fore. Otherwise, all was rhythmic fire.

The “beheading” was achieved with two large watermelons that were beaten to a pulp, their pieces collected and held up triumphantly in a bag before being kicked like a football. It was gruesome enough. But Sampson kept her head, veering between trepidation and the excitement of revenge with a determined focus.

The specially constructed stage, built higher and wider over the permanent one with the four players at the back, made for easy sightlines. The non-singing sopranos in each cantata acted as accomplices to the protagonist, giving an over-arching unity to the three scenes.

Without access to the original French, it is hard to know how close Toria Banks’s paraphrase – she calls it a “version” – steers to Jacquet’s intentions, but the production emerged as feminist polemic. What it certainly achieved, regardless, was to underline the imaginative power of Jacquet’s scores, both rhythmic and harmonic, giving them an extra impetus they thoroughly deserved.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Helen Charlston & Toby Carr and Marian & Rose Consorts at York Early Music Festival

Helen Charlston: “A voice like no other”

York Early Music Festival: Helen Charlston & Toby Carr, Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, York, July 10; The Marian Consort & Rose Consort of Viols, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 11

THERE is something special about a late-night recital, especially when the lights are low. The low-ceilinged Undercroft, with the audience in darkness and the performers dimly back-lit, was just the ticket for a spot of drama.

With the trusty theorbo of Toby Carr for support, Helen Charlston brought her considerable voice to bear on battle-hardened heroines.

Hers is no ordinary mezzo, as in soprano without the high notes. She has a considerable range, both high and low, but her tone is smoothly focused throughout, without sign of gear changing. Add to that a flair for diction which adds conviction to her theatricality, and you have a voice like no other. This was an exciting evening.

She opened and closed with Purcell. His most successful song in Bonduca (Boadicea as imagined by John Fletcher), O Lead Me To Some Peaceful Gloom, neatly captured the heroine’s inner conflict, and An Evening Hymn spoke of bold spiritual confidence.

She also evinced a special feel for the music of17th-century Italian Barbara Strozzi, a singer herself. The bitter-sweet pain of L’Heraclito Amoroso and the marvellously Italianate decorations in La Travagliata (The Tormented Woman) were meat and drink to Charlston’s skill.

She took her programme title, Battle Cry, from an eponymous work by Owain Park setting poetry by Georgia Way, which she premiered in 2021. It pictures intimate reactions to four ‘abandoned’ women: a lament for Boadicea, the solitude of Philomela, a prayer to Sappho and love-regret for Marietta.

Here she showed an uncommon affinity for the words, in vocal lines that were grateful even when occasionally flowery. Carr’s underpinnings were invaluable; as so often elsewhere, his rhythmic awareness added colour to the ebb and flow of passion. Its harmonies were modern but its aura evoked a much earlier era.

The highlight of the programme was the nobility in Charlston’s approach to Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna, which allowed us to discern a steely centre to the heroine’s emotional roller-coaster. Her dramatic style suggested that she must soon have a future on the operatic stage.

Carr was with her every step of the way. Indeed, it would have been good to hear more from him alone than the three brief solos we were allowed. Either way, they made a powerful duo.

The Marian Consort, represented by six voices at the NCEM on July 11

THE following lunchtime saw the combination of two consorts, the Rose Consort of Viols, which harks back to this festival’s origins, and the Marian Consort (of six voices). Byrd At Elizabeth’s Court celebrated the great man’s high-wire act as a Roman Catholic under a Protestant ruler.

It also allowed anthems normally heard with organ accompaniment to be experienced with the intimate richness of viols.

At its heart lay Byrd’s carol anthem Lullaby, My Sweet Little Baby, which features the Virgin Mary’s gentle retort to the Massacre of the Innocents.

Responding to a new commission from the consorts to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Byrd’s death, Juta Pranulytė sensitively chose the same text to reflect the number of children born into war, cruelty and oppression in our own day.

Pranulytė’s smooth vocal lines moved in mainly close harmony over viols required at times to produce trills and portamentos. The soprano opened at the top of her range and needed to negotiate several high semi-tonal shifts.

The atmosphere thus conjured was elegiac, combining comfort with tears, in a style reminiscent of Byrd’s own musical misgivings about the plight of Roman Catholics under Elizabeth. Apart from its prologue, which was diffuse, this was a canny piece of writing that fell easily on the ear.

Several verse anthems surrounded this centrepiece. The higher-voiced soloists mainly needed to enunciate more clearly, but choral blend was exquisite. Byrd’s rare setting of Italian, the Ariosto poem La Verginella, was delicately treated by the soprano Caroline Halls.

Other highlights included the madrigal-style Come To Me Grief, For Ever, sung unaccompanied, and a gorgeous Amen to close the New Year carol O God That Guides The Cheerful Sun. The Tallis motet O Sacrum Convivium, sung from the back of the hall, was an apt reminder of Byrd’s important mentor and (later) close colleague.

The Roses offered several pieces on their own, including a five-part Tallis fantasia reconstructed by John Milsom and Byrd’s voluntary for Lady Nevell, infused with snappy figurations. His variation-packed Browning was typical of the ensemble’s smooth dexterity.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on Yorkshire Baroque Soloists & Rose Consort of Viols, York Early Music Festival

Helen Charlston: “Alto voice so clear in both quality and volume in the lower range”

York Early Music Festival: Yorkshire Baroque Soloists & Rose Consort of Viols, Body And Soul, St Lawrence Church, York, July 11

THIS was excellent. Real refinement and clarity was the order of the day, both in texture and line. The balance was impeccable, the instrumental playing was crisp, articulate, and the singers a joy.

They seemed at ease as soloists, in ensemble engagement and comfortable too in their own vocal range: this was particularly true of Helen Charlston. Not that she was the pick of an excellent quintet, but I haven’t heard an alto voice so clear in both quality and volume in the lower range. The church acoustic was excellent, and it behaved itself too.

However, my role isn’t just to soak the performance with appreciation and blessings but to review it, so here we go. 

The concert was descriptively labelled Body And Soul, which was particularly appropriate for the first-half performance of Buxtehude’s vocal masterpiece, Membra Jesu Nostri Patientis Sanctissima. The work is a set of seven short, beautifully crafted cantatas for Holy Week. The text is a medieval hymn cycle in which the author looks in wonder at the body of the crucified Christ.

We experience the mystical contemplations of different parts of his body: the feet in the first cantata, to the knees, hands, side and breast, and the heart to the face. Quite extraordinary.

Buxtehude’s music has a gentle, austere beauty to it, and this was enhanced by the economy of performers: five soloists, six instrumentalists, including Peter Seymour on organ, plus the Rose Consort of Viols.

The soloists teased out every nuance of the text. They lingered deliciously on every expressive dissonance and suspension, while the players added warmth, colour, as well as crisp commentary.

There was a gorgeously intense, yet poignant concerto Quid Sunt Plagae Istae. Maybe it was just me, but I thought the dramatic percussive opening of this third cantata suggestive of the nails being hammered into Christ’s hands. Perhaps not.

The dramatic focal centre of the work was the fourth movement Ad Cor. The Vulnerasti Cor Meum had a tortured intimacy, the singers embracing the honesty and humanity of the text. The precision in the agitated off-beat accents of the concluding Amen worked well.

Nevertheless, in the concluding four movements of Ad Faciem there is a relaxing of the tension, a meditative closure.

The performance captured a fascinating subtle layer of creative tension between the Catholic mysticism of the text and Buxtehude’s Lutheran faith. Maybe. We don’t seem to dwell on the sufferings of the crucified Christ but celebrate the “graces that flow from that suffering”, its humanity. 

In short, the performance was both radiant and illuminating. A triumph for Peter Seymour, who must have been delighted.

Two little grumbles. Firstly, although it did have the intended dramatic effect, change of colour and so forth, the introduction of the excellent Rose Consort of Viols did temporarily break the spell. But then again, I wasn’t ready or expecting the changing of the guard.

Secondly, although I invariably find (composer and) performer biographies tedious essays in vanity, I would have expected some biographical acknowledgement of these superb performers in the programme: sopranos Bethany Seymour and Helen Neeves, alto Helen Charlston, tenor Jonathan Hanley and bass Frederick Long. Violins, Lucy Russell and Gabriella Jones; cello, Rachel Gray; violone, Rosie Moon; theorbo, Toby Carr and organ & director, Peter Seymour. Take a bow.

Finally, the concert was dedicated to the memory of Klaus Neumann, an important figure in the York Early Music Festival. Mr Seymour gave a touching tribute and kept the programme photo on the organ next to the Buxtehude score. It summed the evening up nicely.

P.S. Bach’s Jesu, Meine Freude was very good too.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The City Musick at York Early Music Festival

The City Musick: Twenty, rather than seven, played at York Early Music Festival last Friday in a Renaissance Big Band line-up

York Early Music Festival: The City Musick, The Count and The Duke: A Renaissance Big Band, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, July 7

IN the YEMF brochure, director William Lyons said: “With a band of 20 musicians, The City Musick presents a homage to the iconic recordings made by David Munrow in the 1970s, but with a modern twist”. Which is exactly what we got, with a jazzy title too. The Count and The Duke: A Renaissance Big Band.

Praetorius’s opening rustic welcome was indicative of what was to come: gorgeous sounds, ripples of florid decoration, music of such intimacy and balance. Balance, I think, is key here.

The Renaissance Big Band was arranged into groups of soft instruments:  strings (the splendid Monteverdi String Band) and woodwind, plus the (not very) loud instruments – brass, keyboard, lute and theorbo, and percussion.

This also gives us a link to the ‘big band’ set-ups of the great Duke Ellington and Count Basie that were also grouped into instrumental sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and rhythm.

The way the instrumental groups engaged with each other throughout the concert was especially rewarding. Firstly, the alternating loud and soft instrumental groups meant that these contrasting exchanges were inherently employed to gentle dramatic effect.

They also reinforced the Renaissance dance music, adding another (gentle) dramatic layering. For example, the second-half collection of Masque arrangements of Robert Johnson, John Adson and William Brade.

Not only did the opening string section pass on the musical baton to the brass section, but there was also role play involved in these courtly dances. The strings asked the brass players to join the courtly dance; the music was seductive and invitational. And readily accepted.

We were also able to enjoy the musical moment as the individual ensembles embellished their own musical offerings before the exchanges and then collectively signing off. We could also savour the timbres, the instrumental tone colour.

Like the delightful intimacy of strings and theorbo in Praetorius’s Courante, the woodwind and percussion in the Suite des Bransles arrangement and the extraordinary wind sound when joined by the uniquely rasping racket in Susato’s Suite des Rondes.

The arrangement of Thoinot Arbeau’s Suite des Branles was arguably the most memorable contribution of the first set, with its ground-bass ushering in other instrumental players, metric (hemiola), syncopated gear changes and infectious foot-tapping music designed to put a smile on your face. Or as Count Basie put it: “If you play a tune and a person don’t tap their feet, don’t play the tune.”

Then there were the John Skene English Country Dances arrangements. They were performed by bagpipes and a hurdy gurdy. Bagpipes, surely not! But music for the original country dances of the (English) villages were indeed played by a bagpipe. Don’t know about the hurdy gurdy. The pastoral, chocolatey tunes were a delight.

And then we had the promised modern twist, notably in William Lyons’s arrangement of Maurizio Cazzati and Tarquinio Merula’s Ciaccona. Here a simple ground-bass is joined by weaving lines of string variations, then by the other players in a sound world reminiscent of Pachelbel’s Canon. Maybe. There also seemed to be echoes of the Penguin Café Orchestra and minimalism: the signing-off with striking woodblock hits and pizzicato strings recalled music by John Adams. Well, it did for me anyway.

Review by Steve Crowther

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The Sixteen, Choral Pilgrimage, York Early Music Festival, York Minster, July 9

The Sixteen: “Perhaps a tad too reverential,” says reviewer Steve Crowther

THIS thoughtful, intelligent and on the whole rewarding concert was part of The Sixteen on tour, or to give the term official dignity, a “Choral Pilgrimage”.

Sunday’s concert marked the 400th anniversary of William Byrd’s death. Harry Christophers’ programme was thoughtfully laid out, focusing not only on the English Renaissance composer himself, but his engagement and connections with the music of his contemporaries.

For example, there were pairings of Byrd’s famous motet Ne Irascaris, Domine with Philip van Wilder’s superb madrigal O Doux Regard and the settings of Tristitia et Anxietas by both Byrdand Clemens non Papa.

These works not only influenced Byrd, but he also “openly borrowed” from them. No such thing as copyright in those days. Throw into the mix two specially commissioned tribute pieces by Dobrinka Tabakova and we have a strong contextual identity.

What struck me throughout was the absolute fluency of the choir, the clarity of line and infectious enthusiasm for this familiar territory. But I also felt that it was perhaps a tad too reverential; I didn’t always feel the real urgency or vitality I would normally be experiencing from this terrific choir.

To be sure, the opening Arise Lord Into Thy Rest was impeccable with excellent balance, the part-singing in Civitas Sancti Tui was sublime and the concluding Vigilate, with its contrapuntal density, was a great way to sign off. But I found the detail of Jacobus Clemens non Papa’s Ego Flos Campi hard to hear, perhaps a little imprecise.

Harry Christophers conducting The Sixteen at Sunday’s concert at York Minster

The Minster acoustic didn’t help. Certainly, it loves vowels: the opening of de Monte’s O Suavitas et Dulcedo was blessed with an other-worldly quality. But consonants, articulated consonants like the Ts and Ss in Byrd’s (smaller forces, choir down to 12 performers) Tristitia et Anxietas were just irritating.  So were the hanging cadences that drifted sharp-wards as in the Amen closure of de Monte’s O Savitas.

The new works were not particularly standout pieces, but pieces with standout moments. There was a richly melismatic soprano solo (an excellent Julie Cooper) in Arise Lord Into Thy Rest. The opening of Ms Tabakova’s Turn Our Captivity, O Lord, the stronger of the two works, was both distinct and beautiful.

The high unison soprano line decorated with ornamental, quite eastern-influenced decoration was simply gorgeous and persuasively delivered. I did think that composer’s decision to go for a “distinctly homophonic texture, to contrast with the layered polyphony of Byrd’s exquisite settings” was the correct one. The juicy chordal dissonances not only delivered contrast, but also distance.

Also gorgeous was the visual: The Sixteen gathered in front of the magnificent Great East Window. The glow was illuminating. Which brings me to conductor Harry Christophers. Not only is he a joy to watch, being so obviously immersed in the music he clearly loves, but also he seems to physically blend into the musical performance itself.

Review by Steve Crowther

York Early Music Festival runs until July 14 with the theme of Smoke & Mirrors. Full details and tickets at: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf. Box office: 01904 658338.

More reviews will follow.

REVIEW: Robert Gammon’s verdict on Iestyn Davies & Ensemble Jupiter, York Early Music Festival, July 8

York countertenor Iestyn Davies: “Inhabiting this repertoire so completely”

York Early Music Festival 2023: Iestyn Davies & Ensemble Jupiter, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, 8/7/2023

ENSEMBLE Jupiter’s seven instrumentalists teamed up with leading countertenor Iestyn Davies to immerse themselves in the music of Handel, mainly arias from his late secular oratorios.

From the mellifluous opening of Eternal Source Of Light Divine, everything sounded perfectly natural, and Davies and Ensemble Jupiter seemed in tune throughout, in every sense.

Some brilliant violin virtuosity from Louise Ayrton and Magdalena Sypniewski was underpinned by classy continuo playing from lutenist Thomas Dunford and harpsichordist Benoît Hartoin, which provided percussive vitality at just the right moments; Hartoin shifted to chamber organ for music requiring less bite. Instrumental numbers were rhythmically pointed and sharply characterised.

Davies inhabits this repertoire so completely, with such dedication and beauty of voice, that the audience was willingly drawn into his musical world. His tone in Yet, Can I Hear That Dulcet Lay was as sweet as the honeydew the text alludes to.

In Despair No More Shall Wound Me, such vocal virtuosity is called for that his further decorations on its reprise were a marvel. On the surface, the lyrics of Mortals Think That Time Is Sleeping appear commonplace, but here they were invested with mortifying meaning.

The ovation demanded two encores, the second being the song We Are The Ocean by Thomas Dunford, Ensemble Jupiter’s director. Its jazzy, improvisatory episode was a jammy middle to a delicious confection and showed further evidence of these musicians’ enjoyment of each other’s company.

This year’s York Early Music Festival is already in full swing!

Review by Robert Gammon

More Things To Do in York as Sovereign takes over King’s Manor. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 28 for 2023, from The Press, York

Sovereign actors Fergus Rattigan, left, and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, right, with playwright Mike Kenny

HENRY VIII and the murder of a York glazier take top spot in Charles Hutchinson’s pick of July highlights with outdoor cinema on its way too.

Community event of the month: York Theatre Royal in Sovereign, King’s Manor, Exhibition Square, York, July 15 to 30

YORK Theatre Royal’s large-scale community production, York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of C J Sansom’s Tudor-set murder mystery Sovereign, will be staged outdoors at King’s Manor, where part of the story takes place. Henry VIII even makes an appearance.

Two professional actors, Fergus Rattigan’s disabled lawyer Matthew Shardlake and Sam Thorpe-Spinks’ assistant Jack Barak, lead the 120-strong community company of actors, singers, musicians and backstage workers. Tickets update: sold out.

York artist Tom Wilson stands by his artworks in the City Screen Picturehouse cafe bar

Exhibition of the week: Tom Wilson, City Screen Picturehouse café bar, Coney Street, York, until July 29

YORK punk expressionist artist, designer, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom Wilson is exhibiting his riots of colour at City Screen Picturehouse for the first time with sale proceeds going to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians). Thirty-five works are on display, priced at  £175 to £700.

“My art looks like an explosion,” says Wilson, whose dynamic abstract artwork is influenced by Kandinsky, Max Earnst, Otto Dix, Outsider art, German Expressionism and Rayonism (Russian Expressionism).

Industrial Revolution, one of Tom Wilson’s works on show at City Screen Picturehouse

Tribute show of the week: Steve Steinman’s Anything For Love, The Meat Loaf Story, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

FOR more than 30 years, Nottingham’s Steve Steinman has toured the world with his tribute to the songs of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday). Now he presents his new production, showcasing 25 chunks of Meat Loaf and Steinman’s prime cuts.

Anything For Love combines Steve’s humour and a ten-piece band with such rock-operatic favourites as Bat Out Of Hell, Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Dead Ringer For Love and Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Sixteen: Marking 400th anniversary of the death of composer William Byrd in Sunday’s York Early Music Festival concert at York Minster

Don’t miss at York Early Music Festival: The Sixteen, York Minster, Sunday, 8pm

THE Sixteen’s 2023 Choral Pilgrimage is inspired by the influence of Renaissance composer William Byrd in an exploration of his life, works and pervading Roman Catholic faith. His legacy is marked by two new compositions by Dobrinka Tabakova, bringing his musical heritage into the modern day.

The premieres, Arise Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity, highlight Byrd’s influence of modern polyphony and showcase The Sixteen choir in a new light. Director Harry Christophers’ programme also features works by Van Wilder, de Monte, Clemens Non Papa and Byrd himself. Box office: 01904 658338 or tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Emily Belcher’s Emily Webb and Frankie Bounds’ George Gibbs in rehearsal for Amerrycan Theatre’s Our Town

American play of the week: Amerrycan Theatre in Our Town, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

FOUNDER Bryan Bounds directs Yorkshire’s American company, Amerrycan Theatre, in the York premiere of “America’s greatest play”, Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 study of mindfulness, mortality and brevity of life, Our Town.

“Wilder’s portrait of life, love and death set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, a fictional New England town at the start of the 20th century, could happen just as easily in Pocklington,” says Bounds. Tracing the romance and marriage of Emily Webb (Emily Belcher) and George Gibbs (Frankie Bounds), Our Town reveals the hidden mysteries behind the smallest details of everyday life. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Amerrycan Theatre’s poster for the York premiere of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Outdoor film event of the week: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, Museum Gardens, York, July 14 to 16, doors, 7.30pm; screenings at sundown, 9.15pm approx

CITY Screen Picturehouse heads outdoors for three films in three nights, kicking off on Friday with The Super Mario Bros Movie, wherein Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and brother Luigi (Charlie Day) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world.

In Mamma Mia! The Movie, next Saturday, Greek island bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is set on finding out who her father is. In next Sunday’s film, Jaws, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss star as a police chief, marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop a gigantic great shark that has been menacing the island community of Amity. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor-cinema.

The Counterfeit Seventies: Heading to Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Pop nostalgia of the week: The Counterfeit Seventies, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 16, 7.30pm

IN the wake of The Counterfeit Sixties, here comes, you guessed it, The Counterfeit Seventies, the decade of glam rock, punk, new wave and everything in between. Revisit Slade, Sweet, T Rex, the Bay City Rollers and plenty more, aided by a light show, costumes of the period and archival footage of bands and events from the era. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Solo show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 16, 7pm

AFTER her celebrations of Kate Bush (An Evening Without…) and Julie Andrews (Julie Madly Deeply), writer-performer Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with the highly personal true story of a singer who loses her voice and embarks on an unexpected journey of self-revelation.

Warning: The show includes themes of trauma and sexual violence. As The Stage review put it, The Silent Treatment is a “a war cry and a message of resilience and hope to anyone who has faced abuse and been made to feel guilty about it”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond with the chance to go Wildish in the town and country. Hutch’s List No. 27, from The Press

Wildish curator Jo Walton with a pot by Julie O’Sullivan and one of her own metal paintings at Pyramid Gallery

MUSIC festivals and mystic femininity in art, comedy antics and bucket list stunts, a scary scientist and a madcap whodunit spark Charles Hutchinson’s interest.

Exhibition launch of the week: Wildish, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, today until August 13

CURATED by Rogues Atelier Studios artist and interior designer Jo Walton, Wildish unites six women – five artists and a poet – through a theme based loosely on deep and sensual mystic femininity.

Taking part will be Jo Walton, Julie O’Sullivan, Christine Pike, Izzy Williamson, Zoe Catherine Kendal and York poet Nicky Kippax. Meet them at today’s 11am opening for a drink, nibbles and a chat.

Niall Ransome, left, and Dave Hearn in rehearsal for The 39 Steps at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Revival of the week: The 39 Steps, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until July 29

ARTISTIC director Paul Robinson revives his hit 2018 production of Patrick Barlow’s fast and frenetic stage adaptation of John Buchan’s juicy spy novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s film in tandem with the Theatre by the Lake, Keswick.

Barlow adds a dash of Monty Python to the winning combination of whodunit and old-fashioned romance as Mischief Theatre founder member Dave Hearn’s Richard Hannay is joined by fellow Mischief alumnus Niall Ransome, reprising his Clown role from 2018, Lucy Keirl and SJT debutante Olivia Onyehara. Cue the iconic chase on the Flying Scotsman, the first-ever theatrical biplane crash and a death-defying (well nearly) finale. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Paul Heaton: Performing with special guest singers rather than regular partner in song Jacqui Abbott at Scarborough Open Air Theatre tonight. Picture: David Harrison

Outdoor gig of the week: Paul Heaton, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, today, gates open at 6pm

PAUL Heaton, former frontman of Hull bands The Housemartins and The Beautiful South, heads up the Yorkshire coast for a headline gig in Scarborough. Special guests supporting the self-styled “Last King Of Pop” will be Ian Broudie’s Lightning Seeds.

Busy week ahead for Scarborough OAT: Hollywood Vampires, Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and Tommy Henriksen’s American rock supergroup, play a sold-out show on Wednesday, followed by The Cult on Thursday, Tom Grennan on Friday and Pulp (sold out) next Sunday. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Chris Lynam: Topping tonight’s Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club bill at The Basment, City Screen Picturehouse

Comedy gig of the week: Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club presents Chris Lynam, Patrick Monahan, Dean Coughlin and Damion Larkin, The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York, tonight, 8pm

HEADLINER Chris Lynam has been feverishly subverting the traditions of the stand-up comic for more than 30 years with his grasp of crazy antics. Patrick Monaghan holds the world record for Longest Hug at a time of 25 hours and 25 minutes, set at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Dean Coughlin has worked on the comedy circuit since 2017. Master of ceremonies and club organiser Damion Larkin will be improvising his set as ever. Further LOL Comedy nights are in place for August 5 and September 2. Box office: lolcomedyclubs.co.uk.

Amy Gregory in rehearsal for her role as Emma Carew in 1812 Theatre Company’s Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

Musical of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Helmsley Arts Centre, Wednesday to Sunday, 7.30pm

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident troupe, the 1812 Theatre Company, in their first ever musical production, Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Jekyll & Hyde, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s story.

Marking the venue’s 30th anniversary, the show features husband and wife Joe and Amy Gregory in the lead roles of Jekyll/Hyde and Emma Carew. John Atkin is the musical director; Michaela Edens, the choreographer. Box office: 01439 771700  or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Mezzo soprano Helen Charlston: Performing Battle Cry: She Speaks with theorbo player Toby Carr at York Early Music Festival on July 10

Festival of the week: York Early Music Festival 2023, Friday until July 14

THIS summer’s York Early Music Festival takes the theme of Smoke & Mirrors with a focus on William Byrd, a practising Catholic composer working for a constantly threatened Protestant queen.

The City Musick, Ensemble Jupiter & York countertenor Iestyn Davies, The Sixteen, violinist Rachel Podger, The Marian Consort and Rose Consort of Viols and mezzo soprano Helen Charlston are among the week’s musicians. Full festival details and tickets: ncem.co.uk; 01904 658338.

Tom Figgins: Showcasing new songs at Stillington Mill on Friday

Solo gig of the week: Tom Figgins, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Friday, 7.30pm

SINGER and songwriter Tom Figgins, programmer for At The Mill’s summer’s season of music, comedy and theatre, plays the Stillington garden for a third time this weekend. Noted for his vocal range, distinctive guitar playing and complex lyrics, he numbers radio presenter Chris Evans among his fans, appearing on his BBC Radio 2 show. Expect songs old and new at one of his favourite spots. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill/925897.

Steve-O: Working through his bucket list of stunts at York Barbican

Stunts of the week: Steve-O, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

EVERY idea on American entertainer Steve-O’s bucket list was so ill advised, he never expected to go through with any of them. Until it was time to prepare for this tour. Not only are the stunts even more ridiculous than Steve-O pulled off on MTV’s Jackass, but now he has made a highly XXX-rated, multimedia comedy show out of them too. Not for children or the faint of heart, he warns. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Magpies: Curating and playing at their festival at Sutton Park in August

Heading to the park: The Magpies Festival, Sutton Park, Sutton-on-the-Forest, near York, August 11 and 12

TRANSATLANTIC folk trio The Magpies have confirmed the line-up for their two-day open-air festival of music, activities, stalls and food and drink. The Friday main stage acts will be Laura Cortese & The Cards, Chris Difford and Holy Moly & The Crackers, followed by the Saturday bill of Liz Stringer, Honey & The Bear, Blair Dunlop, Rachel Sermanni, The Magpies and Edward II.

Friday acts on the Brass Castle Stage will be The Dicemen, Thorpe & Morrison, The Often Herd and New York Brass Band; Saturday will welcome Jack Harris, Megan Henwood, Tom Moore & Archie Moss, Gilmore & Roberts, and Bonfire Radicals, concluding with a Ceilidh with Archie Moss. Box office: themagpiesfestival.co.uk.