More Things To Do in and around York and at home in 2021, whatever barriers may yet lie ahead. List No 23, courtesy of The Press

Grayson Perry: Two shows in York in 2021; one an exhibition of “Lost Pots” at York Art Gallery, the other, his existentialist gig, A Show For Normal People, at York Barbican

AFTER a year where killjoy Covid-19 re-wrote the arts and events diary over and over again, here comes 2021, when the pandemic will still have a Red Pen influence.

Armed with a pantomime fairy’s magic wand rather than Madame Arcati’s crystal ball from Blithe Spirit, when what we need is a jab in the arm pronto, Charles Hutchinson picks out potential highlights from the New Year ahead that York will start in Tier 3.

Velma Celli: Had planned to present A Brief History Of Drag at Theatre @41 Monkgate in January; now heading online at home instead

Back on screen: Velma Celli, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, streaming on January 8

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair was planning to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show in January, and maybe more shows to follow, at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Instead, he writes: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, I am back on the streaming! My first show is next Friday at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!” Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N; expect an online show every Friday from Ian’s new riverside abode.

Shed Seven: Headlining all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, in the summer

Open-air one-off event of the summer: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26

FRESH from releasing live album Another Night, Another Town as a reminder of what everyone has had to miss in 2020, Shed Seven have confirmed their Piece Hall headliner in Halifax has been rearranged for next summer.

The Sheds have picked an all-Yorkshire support bill of Leeds bands The Wedding Present and The Pigeon Detectives and fast-rising fellow York act Skylights. For tickets, go to lunatickets.co.uk or seetickets.com.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright of Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, in May

Most anticipated York exhibition of 2021: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

CHANNEL 4’s  champion of people’s art in lockdown, Grayson Perry, will present his Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) next spring and summer instead.

The Pre-Therapy Years reassembles Perry’s earliest forays into ceramics; 70 “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994. Look out too for the potter, painter, TV presenter and social commentator’s existentialist September 6 gig at York Barbican: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, wherein he will “distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can”.

Chris Moreno: No festive cheer at Christmas, but now he looks forward to presenting The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime, Aladdin, on Knavesmire, York, in spring 2021

A pantomime in the spring? Yes, The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime in a tent on Knavesmire, York, March 19 to April 11

CHRIS Moreno, director of Three Bears’ Productions four pantomimes at the Grand Opera House from 2016 to 2019, will direct York’s first ever “tentomime”, Aladdin, this spring with a cast of “21 colourful characters”.

The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime will be presented in the luxurious, heated Tented Palace, Knavesmire, in a socially distanced configuration compliant with Covid-19 guidance.

The big top will have a capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, while the stage will span 50 metres, comprising a palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects. Look out for the flying carpets.

Going solo: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at York Theatre Royal from February 16

Falling in love again with theatre: The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, February 14 to April 21

ON December 15, York Theatre Royal announced plans to reopen on St Valentine’s Day for The Love Season, with the audience capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

Full details will be confirmed in the New Year with tickets going on sale on January 8, and that remains the case, says chief executive Tom Bird, after hearing yesterday afternoon’s statement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We’re carrying on with our plans, including presenting Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh in husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman play, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, from February 16 to 20,” he confirmed.

Van Morrison: A brace of bracing nights at York Barbican in May

Six of the best at York Barbican in 2021

YORK Barbican has remained closed since the March lockdown, foregoing even the UK Snooker Championships in November and December.

A reopening date is yet to be announced but mark these shows in your diary, if only in pencil: Rob Brydon, A Night Of Songs & Laughter, April 14; Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, May 2; country duo The Shires, May 23; Van Morrison, May 25 and 26; Paul Weller, June 29, and Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules Tour, October 13.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel: Looking forward to the 20th anniversary of York Open Studios

Anniversary celebration of the year: York Open Studios, April 17 and 18; 24 and 25, 10am to 5pm

2020 turned into a virtual Open Studios with displays online and in windows, but already 140 artists and makers are confirmed for the 20th anniversary event in the spring when they will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces.

Many of 2020’s selected artists have deferred their space to 2021, but new additions will be announced soon, the website teases. “We’re channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best,” says event co-founder and ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the 2021 York Early Music Festival, running from July 9 to 17

And what about?

Festivals galore, as always, in the self-anointed “City of Festivals”. Coming up are the Jorvik Viking Festival; York Fashion Week; York Literature Festival; York Early Music Festival; York Festival of Ideas, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and more besides. 

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

Delma Tomlin: National Centre for Early Music director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

York Early Music Christmas Festival at the double as online weekend is added to NCEM socially distanced live concerts

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the National Centre for Early Music, the other online.

Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures in place in the mediaeval St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, from December 4 to 12, complemented by a new online weekend festival to be enjoyed from the comfort of home.

After the success of the streamed York Early Music Festival, held remotely from July 9 to 11,  the NCEM will present York Christmas At Home from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

York Early Music Christmas Festival’s live concerts will be staged with socially distanced cabaret-style seating and the option to pre-order drinks, including a warming mulled wine. Tickets cost £20.

Matthew Wadsworth: York Christmas At Home streamed concert with Kate Bennett Wadsworth

The line-up comprises:

Palisander, Mischief & Merriment, December 4, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort, The Great Mystery, December 5, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Illyria Consort, How Brightly Shines The Morning Star, December 7, 4.30m and 7pm;

Joglaresa, Bring Us Good Ale, December 8, 4.30pm and 7pm;

The Marian Consort: Concerts at both the York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home

The York Waits, The Waits’ Wassail, Music for Advent & Christmas, December 9, 4.30pm and 7pm;

Bethany Seymour, soprano, Helen Charlston, mezzo-soprano, Frederick Long, baritone, and Peter Seymour, harpsichord, Bacchus Is A Pow’r Divine, December 12, 4.30pm and 7pm.

In addition, the 7pm concerts by Joglaresa on December 8 and The York Waits the next night will be live-streamed, with tickets available at £10.

The York Christmas At Home programme will feature many of the NCEM’s favourite artists, who have “worked tirelessly to deliver a joyful selection of music, guaranteed to lift the spirits”.

The concerts will include works by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi, Dowland and many others, with harpsichords, recorders, lutes, trumpets, oboes, theorbos and glorious voices, plus verse by John Donne, George Herbert and others.

Bethany Seymour, left, Frederick Long and Helen Charlston: On song at the NCEM and online

A York Christmas At Home festival pass costs £50, covering all nine concerts, while individual concerts cost £10.

Artists taking part are:

The Marian Consort in a programme of vocal music from Renaissance Italy;

The Chiaroscuro Quartet, performing Mozart’s late Prussian Quartets;

Palisander with their Mischief And Merriment programme;

Illyria Consort, performing seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe;

Singers Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston and Frederick Long exploring the theatrical genius of Purcell and John Blow with harpsichordist Peter Seymour;

Theorboist Matthew Wadsworth and cellist Kate Bennett Wadsworth, sharing an extravaganza of Venetian music;

Illyria Consort: Seasonal music for the Nativity from across Europe

Spiritato!, presenting The Leipzig Legacy with music by Bach and Fasch;

Steven Devine, continuing his 2020 project to share Bach’s Preludes & Fugues: Book 3;

Stile Antico, completing the weekend with a return to the Renaissance for their very own Nine Lessons and Carols.

Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says:  “The York Early Music Christmas Festival was created in 1997 to introduce audiences to the extraordinary wealth of music associated with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, from the Medieval to the Baroque, intertwined with the sagas, stories and tales of the north.

“This year, I’m delighted to be able to carry on the tradition, welcoming audiences to our beautiful home, St Margaret’s Church. I’m also thrilled to spice things up, introducing our online festival York Christmas At Home, an array of amazing music, which can be enjoyed well beyond Christmas and into Twelfth Night.”

Full programme details for both Yuletide festivals can be found at ncem.co.uk. Tickets are on sale at ncem.co.uk/york-christmas-at-home/

Review: York Early Music Festival Online, Stile Antico; Consone Quartet, National Centre for Early Music, York, July 11

Stile Antico: First concert since lockdown. Picture: Marco Borggreve

CAN it be as long as 15 years ago that Stile Antico burst onto the scene by copping the audience prize at this festival’s international competition? Indeed it can.

This crack group of 12 singers, without a conductor, seems to have been part of the festival’s fabric ever since. Certainly it was the perfect choice to bring this year’s online festival to a stunning close.

Breaking The Habit was the punning title of a programme exploring Renaissance music by and for women, many of the former being nuns. Since most belonged to closed orders, there was some affinity between them and our own recent isolation.

The choir stood in a wide circle, facing inwards and exactly distanced, apparently performing for the first time together since lockdown, after a series of Zoom-style rehearsals. Remarkably, the singers went straight into full stride; it was as if they were simply in the middle of the season. Impeccable tuning and a blend that never faltered marked music that showed remarkable breadth of character, both sacred and secular.

Raffaella Aleotti, daughter of the court architect in Ferrara, revealed notable rhythmic flair in two motets she published in 1593, while in her mid-twenties. Two eight-voice motets showing equally nimble counterpoint were the work of Sulpitia Cesis, a nun in Modena, who published them in 1619.

Maddalena Casulana, though not a nun, was the first woman to have madrigals printed; working out of Vicenza, she produced three books – 66 madrigals in all – between 1568 and 1583. Her word-painting and daring harmony combine infectiously: Stile Antico had their measure, in fact a mere two madrigals left us wanting more.

Consone Quartet recording their concert at the empty National Centre for Early Music for the online York Early Music Festival

Finally, another nun from Ferrara, Leonora d’Este, tested the group’s high sopranos in three motets for five female voices. Needless to say, discipline was maintained, to thrilling effect.

The remainder of the programme explored music written for female rulers. Margaret of Austria, who governed the duchy of Burgundy in the early 16th century, commissioned an exceptionally dark, mysterious motet from Pierre de la Rue to commemorate her brother’s death, while herself writing a three-voice piece in both French and Latin.

Music for Queen Mary included John Sheppard’s mighty Gaude, Gaude, Gaude Maria, with several wordless plainsong interludes, delivered with exceptional smoothness. Byrd’s motet for Elizabeth I, O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth, boasted an exquisitely controlled Amen, kept prayerful. Two madrigals from The Triumphs of Oriana illuminated the spicier side of the Elizabethan court.

Finally, Dialogo and Quodlibet, written last year by Joanna Marsh, contrasted scholarly theorising by the six men with the flightier disruption intended by the six ladies, until finally they agreed to unite and entertain. The style harked back to the Renaissance and fitted wittily into this context.

A lunchtime concert by the Consone Quartet included two of Beethoven’s Op 18 quartets, Nos 1 and 3. I cannot comment on the first since it was disfigured by transmission problems, except to say that it was tackled cautiously and with introspection. The group appeared to abandon this approach in No 3, which was altogether more relaxed, reaching a peak in a finale full of energy and joie de vivre.

The online festival has not been without technical difficulties, but we may be extremely grateful for the huge effort put into it both by the performers and by the Early Music Centre staff. It has lightened everyone’s mood to be able to see music “live” again at long last.

Review by Martin Dreyer

York Early Music Festival goes digital from today for three days of online concerts

A socially distant Consone Quartet recording their Breaking The Habit concert at the otherwise empty NCEM for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival

THE 2020 York Early Music Festival will be streamed online from this evening until Saturday.

Replacing the Covid-cancelled Method & Madness-themed live event from July 3 to 11, the revised remote festival now combines performances and talks by a line-up of performers based in England.

The virtual festival will be headlined by York countertenor Iestyn Davies and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny in a concert streamed live tonight at ncem.co.uk, complemented by performances recorded over the past ten days by Steven Devine, Richard Boothby, Consone Quartet and Matthew Wadsworth.

Stile Antico will close the three-day event with a live concert on Saturday, performed, like all the rest, with no live audience at the National Centre for Early Music, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate.

Since the decision was taken to cancel this year’s live festival, under the Coronavirus lockdown, organisers have been working hard behind the scenes to deliver the weekend-long programme of music.

Digital producer Ben Pugh’s technical equipment for recording the Consone Quartet concert for streaming on Saturday afternoon

To bring the online festival together, the NCEM has linked up with digital producer Ben Pugh, who has brought his ubiquitous expertise to the concert recordings and will be on hand, at a distance, to stream the live Davies & Kenny and Stile Antico concerts.

“We’ve purchased more video and sound equipment, so it’s more like a TV studio environment now,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin. “It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which will help with social distancing.”

Tonight, at 7.30pm, Davies and Kenny present A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, combining song and music by Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s extra string to his bow: his rendition of readings and poems by Dowland, Robert Burton, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Barnabe Googe, Ben Jonson, William Leighton, Henry Peacham, Leo Tolstoy and Rose Tremain.  

“To place John Dowland’s artistic output squarely in the frame of ‘Elizabeth melancholia’ is to strip away a richer layer of biography that lies within his crafted lines of music and words,” says Davies.

“Rather, by embracing the songs and solo lute airs as the expressions of a man seeking to find words to say how we fail, we engage in a dialogue that enriches both us and the artistic subject of John Dowland himself.”

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor opens the virtual 2020 York Early Music Festival tonight in tandem with theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny

Tomorrow, John Bryan begins the day with an illustrated introduction to the festivities at 10.30am, highlighting how each concert is linked by a theme of fantasy. This will be followed at 1pm by lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth playing works by Kapsperger, Piccinini, Dowland and Francesco da Milano, plus Echoes In Air, a piece written specially for him by Laura Snowden.

“In a world where live music is in a very fragile place, I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this programme, while being sensitive to the fact that so many artists and arts organisation are in very difficult circumstances,” says Wadsworth.

“I have put together a programme of some of my favourite 17th century music, ending with a wonderful new piece written for me in 2019 by guitarist and composer Laura Snowden.

“When I was asked in 2019 to give a concert in the 2020 festival, I, along with everybody else, had no idea that we would be facing a pandemic together. As we adjust to a new normal, and start to find our way again, I am ever more convinced that music and the arts are an absolute necessity, not a luxury.”

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth recording tomorrow’s Echoes In Air concert

Wadsworth continues: “I am reminded how, when I moved abroad for the first time in 1997 to study in The Hague, I felt very lost and out of place.

“Music and the lute were a constant, and I realised I could take this source of security anywhere with me. I feel that same comfort and sense of reassurance today, knowing that live music – that most precious shared listening experience between artist and audience – has a past, present and a future.” 

At 3.30pm, harpsichord player Steven Devine performs JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, Preludes & Fugues, from Book 1: Nos. 13 to 24. At 7.30pm, lyra viol player Richard Boothby plays music by Ferrabosco, Jenkins and Lawes,  alongside William Corkine’s virtuoso settings of popular tunes such as Come Live With Me and Be My Love. 

The BBC’s New Generation artists Consone Quartet open Saturday’s online programme at 1pm with Beethoven’s String Quartets Opus 18, Nos 2 & No 3.

“Performing Beethoven’s music is both an exciting and an exhausting experience,” says violinist Magdalena Loth-Hill, who plays alongside Agata Daraskaite, violin, Elitsa Bogdanova, viola, and George Ross, cello.

Devine inspiration: Steven Devine at the harpsichord in the stillness of the deserted National Centre for Early Music, recording Bach’s Preludes and Fugues

“The abrupt changes of dynamic, key and direction require the musicians to be alert and adaptable, both musically responsive and elastic in technique. This opus is particularly fascinating because it marks an important turning point in the history of the string quartet.

“It is clearly influenced by the classical form and structure of ‘Papa’ Haydn’s work, yet the listener can sense the winds of change blowing, and a new musical language on the horizon.”

At 3.30pm, York Early Music Festival luminary Peter Seymour, a titan of the York classical music world, will introduce the story behind his recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The festival closes with vocal ensemble Stile Antico’s 7.30pm programme, Breaking The Habit: Music by and for women in Renaissance Europe, featuring works by Raffaella Aleotti; Sulpitia Cesis; Maddalena Casulana; Pierre de la Rue; Margaret of Austria; Leonora d’Este; Thomas Tallis; John Sheppard; William Byrd; John Taverner; John Bennett and Richard Carlton.

The 16th century saw an unprecedented number of female rulers,” says Delma, setting up the concert’s premise. “From the powerful Medici women of Italy to the great Tudor queens of England, women across Europe held more power than ever before. 

“Many of these monarchs used their patronage to facilitate the production of music of exquisite beauty by the finest composers of the day, extravagant showcases of their power contrasting with intimate and personal compositions. 

The recording set-up for Consone Quartet’s York Early Music Festival concert

“The century also saw the first publication of music by female composers, often Italian nuns, whose convents supported musical groups of astonishing ability.” 

Drawing attention to BBC Radio 3’s festival broadcasts, Delma says: “As an added treat, Radio 3 is presenting its Early Music Show from the festival on Sunday at 2pm, as we celebrate 35 years of supporting emerging ensembles through the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.

“Radio 3 then completes our celebrations with two magnificent performances from our archive: The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, on July 14, recorded in York Minster in 2015, and Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX1, recorded in 2014 and now broadcast again on July 15.”

The NCEM was one of the first arts organisations to stream live concerts online during the Covid-19 crisis, beginning with performances by Steven Devine and The Brabant Ensemble. Since March, the fortnightly series of streamed concerts has  reached a worldwide audience of more than 70,000.

It is not too late to book tickets for the latest batch at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package costing £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

“At this complicated time, it’s a great joy to be able to share music with our audiences once again,” says Delma. “The digital festival is a first for the NCEM and we look forward to people’s reactions.  Whatever else, everyone gets a front row seat!”  

“I would also like to thank Arts Council England, City of York Council, JWP Creers, Shepherd Group and Creative Europe for their invaluable support.”


Stile Antico, back in the days when you could share a stairway. Social distancing will prevail at their July 11 concert at the NCEM. Picture: Marco Borggreve

Did you know?

AFTER Saturday’s concert, Stile Antico will stay on at the NCEM for three days of recordings for their Mayflower project, now put back to 2021.

NEWSFLASH!

MARTIN Dreyer’s reviews of tonight’s opening concert by Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny and Saturday’s closing concert by Stile Antico will run on the CharlesHutchPress website.

And then there were two…as Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny perform online concert A Delightful Thing at NCEM

The loneliness of the socially distanced singer: Countertenor Iestyn Davies will have only lutenist Elizabeth Kenny for company, rather than the Dunedin Consort, at his York Early Music Festival concert

YORK countertenor Iestyn Davies should have been performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort next Wednesday at the 2020 York Early Music Festival.

Instead, in a revised, streamlined, online version of the event now running from July 9 to 11, Iestyn switches from the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall to the National Centre for Early Music for a socially distanced concert with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, streamed from an otherwise empty St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, at 7.30pm next Thursday. Empty save for technical manager Ben Pugh recording the performance from across the floor.

“When Delma [festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin] got in touch, initially she wondered, ‘Could you still do the concert with the Dunedin?’, but they’re based in Scotland and we couldn’t have the whole consort down here under lockdown rules, so we decided that I’d rather re-schedule that concert,” says Iestyn.

“But I said, ‘look, I’m already doing a concert with Liz at Wigmore Hall, we could do one at the NCEM too, where I could do the readings as well as sing and we can have the building to ourselves for the day’.”

Consequently, Davies and Kenny, a former artistic adviser to the York Early Music Festival and frequent performer at the NCEM, will present A Delightful Thing, Music and Readings from a Melancholy Man, wherein the music of Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland will be complemented by Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself. Kenny will play theorbo.

“Dowland is known for his music of extraordinary misery but utter beauty,” says Delma Tomlin. “He knew that in love, the only thing sweeter than happiness was sorrow. Few living interpreters understand his music more profoundly than Iestyn, who has devised this evening of poetry, music and drama for voice and lute to explore a composer for whom a single teardrop can hold a universe of emotion.”

Davies and Kenny’s Wigmore Hall concert was broadcast live from London on BBC Radio 3 on June 22, drawing 750,000 listeners to their 1pm performance of works by Purcell, Dowland, Campion, Johnson, Mozart and Schubert.

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny: Iestyn Davies’s socially distanced accompanist on theorbo for A Delightful Thing

“Phew, it’s over,” Tweeted Iestyn immediately after the Lunchtime Concert, one of a series of 20 recitals presented in the stillness of a Wigmore Hall devoid of an audience every weekday in June as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

“It was an absolute joy,” says Iestyn, of his first concert performance since performing to a packed Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center in New York City on March 7.

“But what was strange was that it felt like taking an exam. We did the rehearsal in the hall the day before, and you think, ‘it’s not going to change that much’, but Martin [presenter Martin Handley] was seated at a desk like an examiner, and there was just the hush of an audience listening on their radios, where normally there’s applause.

“The great thing about live music is that it’s ephemeral, you perform, then it’s over, and people remember it differently afterwards even though they were together. But this was more of an exam experience, where you have to wait for your results, and the only way you can tell how you did is in the reviews…though two people I know in York said straightaway they enjoyed it!”

Marking his 40th birthday on September 16 last year, Iestyn was only one concert into a four-concert residency at Wigmore Hall when Covid-19 intervened, but he was delighted to take up the invitation to partake in the season of BBC Radio 3 recitals, each featuring a singer and a musician, all from Britain.

“My regular recital partner, [French lutenist] Thomas Dunford, lives in Paris, so that ruled him out, but Liz and I have performed regularly together before, and she’s one of those wonderful multi-strings-to-her-bow musicians, what with her being director of performance at the University of Oxford and professor of Lute at the Royal Academy of Music,” says Iestyn.

“I learnt that it’s good to give your voice a rest for three months,” says countertenor Iestyn Davies

New York in March, then silence, before the Davies-Kenny concerts this summer. “What’s been wonderful in lockdown has been there’s been no fear of missing out,” says Iestyn. “I also learnt that it’s good to give your voice a rest for three months.”

Rested…and now that pure, pure voice is in fine working order again: “Like getting back on a bike, or going back to the gym, it all starts to flow, though they say it’s one day’s work for every week you have off, but generally I try to pace things out anyway,’” says Iestyn. “When you’re busy with work, you press ‘Start’ and you know how to run the engine.”

Before the Wigmore Hall concert, he was able to “get back into the swing of singing” when recording 20 Schubert songs over four of five days in Suffolk, “singing carefully” five to six hours a day.

Iestyn may be happy to be performing once more, but he is perturbed by the Covid cloud hanging heavily over the performing arts world, the alarm bell clanging ever louder with the rise of the Let The Music Play campaign amid the calls for urgent financial support for venues and artists alike.

“No-one chose this situation, so it shouldn’t be about a popular vote, but Boris Johnson and [Culture Secretary] Oliver Dowden are playing to the gallery, the Prime Minister trying to win points by saying you can go to the pub,” says Iestyn.

“What they’ve done to the arts is devolve responsibility both financially and philosophically, and of course it doesn’t help that some people think of the arts the way they do.”

Before it is too late, you can play your part in supporting the arts by buying tickets  for the online York Early Music Festival at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each. Access to the festival events is via ncem.co.uk, where full details of the July 9 to 11 programme can be found too.

Liberation Day arrives on Saturday, but Lockdown is still a block to theatres and gigs. Nevertheless, here are More Things To Do on days in and days out, courtesy of The Press, York. LIST No. 9

Opening the gateway to venturing outdoors once more….

JULY 4 is “Liberation Day”, apparently, but not for theatres and concert halls. They can re-open, not for live performances, however, leaving them in a state of inertia that only exacerbates their growing crisis.

As for cinemas, tipped to return to life next weekend, the consensus is that July 31 is now looking the more likely re-start date for the summer blockbusters.

This column will steer clear of the pubs and bars and restaurants making their comebacks – you can read of that welcome uptick elsewhere – but focus on the widening opportunities for entertainment, enlightenment and exercise beyond the front door, while still highlighting the joys on the home front too.

CHARLES HUTCHINSON makes these suggestions.

Back on track: Jorvik Viking Centre is “Good To Go” from next Saturday

Jorvik Viking Centre, re-opening on July 11

THE ever-resilient Jorvik Viking Centre is back on track from next Saturday with the Good To Go certification from Visit England, so all the boxes marked Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines have been ticked.

One important change is a switch to pre-booked visits only, with designated time slots every 20 minutes, to help control visitor flow and numbers, as well as extended hours over the summer months.

Within the building, in Coppergate, free-flow areas, such as the galleries will be more structured with presentations delivered by Viking interpreters, rather than video content or handling sessions.

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny: Joining countertenor Iestyn Davies at a socially distanced National Centre for Early Music for York Early Music Festival online concert

York Early Music Festival, online from July 9 to 11

NEXT week’s “virtual” three-day event will be streamed online from the National Centre for Early Music, replacing the July 3 to 11 festival that would have celebrated Method & Madness. Concerts will be recorded at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, with social-distancing measures in place and no live audience.

York counter-tenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny present The Art Of Melancholy on July 9 at 7.30pm, when John Dowland’s Elizabethan music will be complemented by Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself.

On July 10, online concerts feature lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth at 1pm, harpsichordist Steve Devine at 3.30pm and lyra viol player Richard Boothby at 7.30pm. July 11’s programme includes Consone Quartet at 1pm and Stile Antico at 7.30pm.

Tickets are on sale at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

Richard Bainbridge RIP: York Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of his passing on Sunday

Remembering Richard, York Musical Theatre Company, Sunday, 7.30pm, online

YORK Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of leading light Richard Bainbridge’s exit stage left on Sunday with a special online memorial concert.

Streamed on YMTC’s YouTube channel, the 7.30pm programme will celebrate Richard’s theatrical life with songs from all the shows he loved and the many he graced with the company.

Taking part will be Eleanor Leaper; Matthew Ainsworth; John Haigh; Florence Taylor; Moira Murphy; Amy Lacy; Rachel Higgs; Peter Wookie; Matthew Clare; Chris Gibson; Helen Singhateh, Jessa & Mick Liversidge. Returning to the ranks will be professional York actor Samuel Edward-Cook, alias Sam Coulson in his YMTC days.

Joker: One of the films at the Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema in York

Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema, Knavesmire, York, tomorrow to Sunday

STATIC cinemas remain in the dark, but drive-in cinemas with social distancing rules in place have been given the Government green light.

North Easterners Daisy Duke’s Drive-In Cinema are revving up for four screenings a day. Take your pick from the very familiar Mamma Mia!, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Frozen 2, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman, A Star Is Born, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction and Joker. Tickets can be booked at dukescinema.epizy.com.

Interaction between staff and customers will be kept to a minimum, with cars parked two metres apart and those attending expected to remain within their vehicles for the duration of the screenings on LED screens with the sound transmitted to car radios.

Ready for a reading challenge? Here comes The Silly Squad

The Silly Squad, Explore York Libraries’ Summer Reading Challenge 2020, July 10 to September 18

GIVEN that Explore York’s libraries “aren’t open fully yet”, The Silly Squad Challenge is going virtual this summer, enabling children to take part online. There will be activities to do too, all on the same theme of fun, laughter and silliness.

The Silly Squad is a team of animal friends that loves to go on adventures and get stuck into all manner of funny books. This year, the Challenge features extra special characters designed by the author and illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson.

The Silly Squad website provides an immersive and safe environment for children to achieve their reading goals. Head to Explore’s website and join through the Summer Reading Challenge button.

Paul Weller: York Barbican in 2021; new album tomorrow

Keep seeking out the good news

NO Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad at York Theatre Royal from July 14, and Everybody’s no longer Talking About Jamie at Leeds Grand Theatre that week too. Even the Downing Street daily briefings are off after all the unintended humour of 24 episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour.

However, all’s Weller that’s Paul Weller as the Modfather’s autumn 2020 gig at York Barbican is moved to June 29 2021. In the meantime, his new album, On Sunset, is out tomorrow.

Drag diva Velma Celli, the creation of York actor Ian Stroughair, has announced another online outing, The Velma Celli Show, Kitchen, on July 11 at 8pm.

Kitchen sing drama: York drag diva Velma Celli announces latest online show on the home front

And what about…?

BBC One revisiting Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues, each one even starker in their isolation in these dislocated times of solitary confinement, shielding, loneliness and finding other people irritating. The Leeds playwright, now 86, has added two ones to his 1988 collection. “Quite bleak,” he says.

New albums by Neil Young (“new” but unearthed 1970s’ recordings); Jessie Ware, Nadine Shah and Haim.

Scarborough Art Gallery unlocking its doors from this weekend. A walk on York’s city walls with its new temporary one-way system in place for social distancing from Saturday….and then drop down for a drink at Grays Court Hotel’s new walled garden bar, in the shadow of York Minster.

Or a walk along Pocklington Canal, but watch out for the two swans, guarding their nine cygnets by the water’s edge.

Sollazzo Ensemble and BarrocoTout re-live York triumphs in NCEM online concerts

Sollazzo Ensemble: 2017 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

THE National Centre for Early Music’s lockdown season of free concerts from York presents a double bill of Sollazzo Ensemble and BarrocoTout on Saturday.

“We have selected the very best concerts from two ensembles who won the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition in 2015 and 2017 respectively,” says director Dr Delma Tomlin.

To view these concerts for free at 1pm, follow facebook.com/yorkearlymusic/ or log on to the NCEM website, ncem.co.uk.

Directed by mediaeval fiddle player Anna Danilevskaia, joined by sopranos Perrine Devillers and Yukie Sato, tenor Vivien Simon, fiddle player Sophia Danilevskaia and harpist Vincent Kibildis, the Swiss group were recorded on July 11 2015.

Formed in 2014 in Basel, Switzerland, where the members were all studying at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, that year they were selected for the “EEEmerging” programme supported by Creative Europe, going on to win the main prize in the YorkEarly Music International Young Artists Competition and the public’s Friends of York Early Music Festival Prize in 2015.

They built their winning performance around Jehan de Cordoval and Jehan Ferrandes, two blind fiddle players in the 15th century court of Burgundy, playing works by Guillaume Dufay and Loyset Compère, among others, that they would have peformed .

Cordoval and Ferrandes caught our attention because, unlike many medieval musicians known today, they were famous exclusively as performers, not as composers or theorists,” said Anna.

BarrocoTout: 2015 winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition

“Soloists before the time of soloism: the simple fact of their existence and their success offers us a perspective on the richness of the musical scene at the Burgundian court in the 15th century.” 

BarracoTout, from Belgium, were recorded on July 15 2017 when winning the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, having been selected in 2015 for the EEEmerging programme (EEE standing for ‘Emerging European Ensembles’)

Carlota Garcia, flute, Izana Soria,violin, Edouard Catalan, cello, and Ganael Schneider, harpsichord, presented To Paris And Back: Return, a programme of 17th and 18th century works by Henri-Jacques de Croes, Jean-Marie Leclair and Georg Philipp Telemann.  

In 2018, they recorded their first album for Linn Records, La Sonate Égarée, an album dedicated to Henri-Jacques de Croes.

Izana Soria said of her fellow Belgian: “Born in Antwerp, de Croes was an important innovator of his time. He was maître de musiqueof the Chapelle Royale in Brussels and Frankfurt, and, like Telemann, able to synthesise the Italian, French and German styles in his sonatas and symphonies.

“The Largo of his sixth sonata has an operatic lyricism, whereas the Fuga combines markedly rhythmical passages, typically baroque dissonances and pre-classical articulations, with a polished and convincing result.”

Formed in Brussels in 2013, BarrocoTout take their name from a sketch on the Spanish comedy show Muchachada Nui: Barroco Tu (meaning “Baroque yourself”), and their mission is to explore work written for their four-piece formation by well-known composers, while also re-discovering other composers who have fallen into oblivion.

Iestyn Davies and Elizabeth Kenny perform together on BBC Radio 3 today ahead of online York Early Music Festival pairing

York countertenor Iestyn Davies: Two concerts with Elizabeth Kenny, one today on BBC Radio 3, the second at York Early Music Festival on July 9

IF you can’t wait for York countertenor Iestyn Davies’s July 9 concert with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny at the online 2020 York Early Music Festival, tune into BBC Radio 3 today.

At 1pm, Davies and Kenny will be introduced by Martin Handley live at London’s Wigmore Hall, where they will perform works by Purcell, Dowland, Campion, Johnson, Mozart and Schubert.

In York next month, Davies and Kenny, a former artistic adviser to the York Early Music Festival, will team up at a socially distanced, otherwise empty National Centre for Early Music for The Art Of Melancholy.

Streamed live from the former St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, their 7.30pm programme will combine the music of Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland with Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself.

Tickets for the July 9 to 11 festival are on sale at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

Back to today’s live Lunchtime Concert, one of a series of 20 recitals being broadcast from Wigmore Hall every weekday in June as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny

Taking place without an audience present, these are the first live concert broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 since the start of lockdown, bringing together “some of the UK’s finest instrumentalists and singers in music from the 16th century to the present day”.

Today’s hour-long programme comprises:

Purcell: Strike The Viol from Come, Ye Sons Of Art Away;
Purcell: By Beauteous Softness from Now Does The Glorious Day Appear;
Purcell: Lord, What Is Man?;
Purcell: Rigadoon (arranged by Elizabeth Kenny);
Purcell: Sefauchi’s Farewell (arr. Elizabeth Kenny);
Purcell: Lilbulero (arr. Elizabeth Kenny).

Dowland: Behold A Wonder Here Opus;
Campion: The Sypres Curten Of The Night Is Spread;
Johnson: Fantasie;
Dowland: Sorrow, Stay, Lend True Repentant Tears;
Dowland: King Of Denmark’s Galliard;
Campion: I Care Not For These Ladies;
Anon: Mr Confess’ Coranto.

Mozart: Abendempfindung;
Schubert: Heidenröslein;
Schubert: Litanei Auf Das Fest Aller Seelen.

York Early Music Festival embraces new technology to go online for three-day event

Iestyn Davies: York countertenor switches from Bach arias on July 8 to John Dowland and The Art Of Melancholy on June 9

THE cancelled 2020 York Early Music Festival is back on…online, headlined by York international countertenor Iestyn Davies.

The virtual version of the summer festival will be streamed from the National Centre for Early Music from July 9 to 11, replacing the original live event from July 3 to 11.

Concerts will be recorded at the NCEM’s home, St Margaret’s Church, in Walmgate, with social-distancing measures in place and no live audience.

Booking will open on Friday, June 19 at tickets.ncem.co.uk and boxoffice@ncem.co.uk, with a festival package at £30, individual concert tickets at £10 each and illustrated talks at £3.50 each.

The artwork for the 2020 York Early Music Festival , now replaced by a streamlined, streamed version of the festival next month

Iestyn Davies would have been performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort on July 8 at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York. “We figured we couldn’t get the whole of the Dunedin Consort down from Scotland under the lockdown rules,” says festival administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin.

Instead, Davies will present The Art Of Melancholy, joined by lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, a former artistic adviser to the York Early Music Festival and frequent performer at the NCEM, for a concert streamed on July 9 at 7.30pm.

The music of Elizabethan lutenist John Dowland will be complemented by Davies’s renditions and readings of poetry by Robert Burton, Michael Drayton, Rose Tremain, Leo Tolstoy and Dowland himself.

“Iestyn lives in York but he’s a countertenor of truly international prowess and we’re delighted he can join us for the revised festival,” says Delma.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the York Early Music Festival

“Dowland is known for his music of extraordinary misery but utter beauty. He knew that in love, the only thing sweeter than happiness was sorrow. Few living interpreters understand his music more profoundly than Iestyn, who has devised this evening of poetry, music and drama for voice and lute to explore a composer for whom a single teardrop can hold a universe of emotion.”

On July 10, festival artistic advisor John Bryan will provide an illustrated introduction to the day’s online festivities at 10.30am, with each concert linked by a theme of fantasy. Lute and theorbo player Matthew Wadsworth will perform Echoes In Air, a 1pm programme of works by Kapsperger and Piccinini, Dowland and Francesco da Milano, alongside a new piece written specially for him by Laura Snowden, Echoes In Air. 

At 3.30pm, harpsichordist Steve Devine will continue his NCEM series of Preludes and Fugues from Book 1 of J S Bach’s The Well-tempered Clavier, here performing Nos 13 to 24. The day will end with Richard Boothby’s 7.30pm concert on lyra viol, with his programme yet to be announced.

Pianist and professor David Owen Norris will give an illustrated introduction to the July 11 online concerts at 10.30am.

Stile Antico back in the days when you could stand together on a staircase. Social distancing will prevail at their July 11 concert. Picture: Marco Borggreve

BBC New Generation artists Consone Quartet, comprising Agata Daraskaite and Magdalena Loth-Hill, on violins, Elitsa Bogdanova, on viola, and George Ross, on cello, will play Beethoven’s String Quartet in G Major Op 18, No 2 and String Quartet in D Major Op 18, No 3 at 1pm.

York Early Music Festival luminary Peter Seymour, a leviathan of the York classical music world, will introduce the story behind his recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion at 3.30pm.

Stile Antico will present Breaking The Habit: Bringing to life the music of the Renaissance through song at 7.30pm.

The 16th century saw an unprecedented number of female rulers,” says Delma, setting up the concert’s premise. “From the powerful Medici women of Italy to the great Tudor queens of England, women across Europe held more power than ever before. 

Steven Devine: Bach to the future as he works his way through Preludes and Fugues

“Many of these monarchs used their patronage to facilitate the production of music of exquisite beauty by the finest composers of the day, extravagant showcases of their power contrasting with intimate and personal compositions. 

“The century also saw the first publication of music by female composers, often Italian nuns, whose convents supported musical groups of astonishing ability.” 

To bring the online festival together, the NCEM is working with digital producer Ben Pugh.” We’ve purchased more video and sound equipment, so it’s more like a TV studio environment now,” says Delma.

“It’s fortunate that the NCEM is a big space, being a church building, which will help with social distancing. The opening and closing concert will be streamed as live, and the other concerts will be pre-recorded over a ten-day period.

Elizabeth Kenny: Joining Iestyn Davies for July 9 concert

“After their concert, Stile Antico will stay on at the NCEM for three days of recordings for their Mayflower project, now put back to 2021.

“We’ll also be putting the remainder of Steven Devine’s Bach’s Preludes and Fugues series online in the autumn as his Bach concerts streamed from the NCEM during lockdown have been received really well.”

The 2020 festival was to have run from July 3 to 11 with a theme of “the Method & Madness of musical styles, from the wild excesses of the Italian Renaissance, through the soothing virtuosity of Bach, to the towering genius of Beethoven”.

Among the artists would have been Davies; Devine and Consone Quartet; The Sixteen, singing The Call Of Rome at York Minster, and Barokksolistene, from Norway, with their vivacious festival opener, Alehouse.

Violinist Rachel Podger: Scheduled to play 2021 York Early Music Festival

Lined up to take part too were Rose Consort of Viols; Voces Suaves; Prisma; Profeti della Quinta; L’Apothéose; Hubert Hazebroucq & Julien Martin; The Society of Strange & Ancient Instruments; the University Baroque Ensemble and Peter Seymour directing Handel’s opera Orlando.

Already Delma has confirmed the 2021 festival will run from Friday, July 9 to Saturday, July 17. “Guest artists scheduled to join us next summer include The Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, Brecon Baroque, led by violinist Rachel Podger, and gamba specialist Paolo Pandolfo,” she says.

The 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will go ahead, “but it may all be online,” reveals Delma. “That should be a little bit easier to arrange than for this summer’s festival.

“I should be able to work it all out in good time, whereas re-organising the summer event on a big scale became utterly impossible because the majority of performers were from overseas.

Consone Quartet: Performng Beethoven String Quartets on July 10

“So, instead, we’re doing a digital festival of musicians based in England willing to come to the NCEM next month for this very exciting venture that’s turned out to be brilliant, but for different reasons than the festival we first envisaged.”

The NCEM’s spring series of streamed concerts in lockdown has gone well. “They’ve been free with the option to donate to the NCEM afterwards, and we’ve even had people tuning in from Ecuador, Australia and Southern India, which has been fascinating for us,” says Delma.

“It gives us a chance to connect with a much broader audience and we may well re-share these concerts in the future, but we’re now going to have to find a way of earning money from streamed concerts, setting up a paywall to pay for watching them, in order to help us still be here in a year’s time. The free model can’t continue; we will have to get people into the habit of paying for streaming.”