REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican

York Guildhall Orchestra conductor Simon Wright

IT was a field day for horns. All the works in this afternoon programme conducted by Simon Wright featured important French horn solos. Strauss’s First Horn Concerto was centrepiece, preceded by a Humperdinck prelude and dances by Elgar, and followed by Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony.

The horn has always been considered the Romantic instrument par excellence, evocative of fairy-tale, fantasy and fanfare alike. Humperdinck opens his opera Hansel and Gretel with a chorale for a quartet of horns, suggesting the presence of the divine over the children’s adventures.  The horns here were a model of composure, although the orchestra’s subsequent capers just lacked that final ounce of playfulness.

Elgar’s three orchestrations of songs in From The Bavarian Highlands distil the essence of dance in the southern German countryside, a favourite holiday spot he enjoyed with his wife Alice. The central Lullaby found principal horn Janus Wadsworth in smooth fettle.

There was plenty of joie de vivre in the opening number, but the real joy came in The Marksmen, where Simon Wright’s delicate tempo changes were minutely observed and the final accelerando was delightfully dashing.

It was a privilege to be in the audience for the Strauss horn concerto. Its soloist, Annemarie Federle, principal horn of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, sports not merely superb technical expertise but a musicality personality that bubbles into all her playing.

It is not too strong to call her the Emma Raducanu of the horn. Both stars are 21, with bright futures and the freshness of youth on their side.

We have produced some outstanding horn players in this country over the years, but Federle is already right in the front rank. The orchestra offered every support she could have wanted, giving plenty of meaning to the ritornellos; Wright’s rapport with her was exemplary.

There was a telling moment in the opening movement. She leapt to a high note and it was not quite right. It was not out of tune, just not perfectly placed. But she made an immediate adjustment that opened out its resonance; it was the mark of a perfectionist.

Her velvety legato in the Andante encased a central section where she added heft to her tone to dramatic effect. In a seemingly nerveless finale, she managed some impeccable shades of phrasing despite the rapid tempo.

We were still not done with the horns. The slow movement of Dvorak’s Seventh features some telling moments for the instrument. Once again Wadsworth did not disappoint. He has been a faithful servant to this orchestra for many years and he deserved his moments in the spotlight.

The composer’s colourful orchestration emerged with considerable clarity in the opening Allegro, taken at a leisurely, lilting pace. But energy had been kept in reserve for the scherzo, which was crisp and taut, with idyllic contrast in its trio.

Wright’s command of this ensemble was in evidence again in the finale as he played with the tempo at phrase-endings and the orchestra responded as to the manner born. This movement has been compared to the devil’s music in Weber’s Der Freischütz and its stern drama remained strong right up until the final cadence in the major key.

The orchestra has decided to persist with Sunday matinee performances in the coming season, which begins on October 6. On this showing, any family with musical interests would be foolish to miss it.

Review by Martin Dreyer 19/5/2024

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Guildhall Orchestra/Leeds Festival Chorus, York Barbican, February 11

Henry Strutt: “Fearless tenor was well suited to the role of leading Druid”

SPORTING a new logo on the backs of their music stands and joined by their long-time colleagues from Leeds Festival Chorus (also conducted by Simon Wright), York Guildhall Orchestra here launched the first of a series of Sunday afternoon concerts.

Cantatas by Parry and Mendelssohn framed Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations. Parry’s setting of Milton’s Ode At A Solemn Music, known by its opening line Blest Pair Of Sirens, took him 20 years from conception to completion.

This performance echoed that tentative start, with the gentlemen of the chorus taking time to get into their stride. Buoyed by the orchestra’s enthusiasm, however, the choir gradually shed its inhibitions and invested increasing muscle in successive climaxes. Well before the end, Wright had them all relishing Parry’s discords.

The Mendelssohn was something of a rarity. Popular in the Victorian era, the secular cantata Die Erste Walpurgisnacht (‘The First Walpurgisnight’) sports a text by Goethe more suited to the age of Nietzsche than our own.

The roots of his ballad lie in heathen fertility rites, which were subsumed into Christian tradition by being centred on St Walpurga, a 9th-century Devonian nun who became an abbess in Germany. The modern rite is still observed on the eve of her canonisation, April 30.

Sarah Winn: “Firm contralto as a heathen woman”

Goethe, however, is not interested in the sacred aspects, more in rampaging Druids who terrorise Christians. Think witches on broomsticks and pagans with pitchforks and you are getting close.

Text aside, there is plenty for a choir to get its teeth into, along with three soloists. They all did just that. It was unashamedly enjoyable, much enhanced by some dashing brass.

Henry Strutt’s fearless tenor was well suited to the role of leading Druid, as was Sarah Winn’s firm contralto as a heathen woman. Too bad they had so little to do. The lion’s share of solo work went to Christopher Nairne, an 11th hour substitute, who doubled admirably as a hectoring Priest (bass) and a woebegone Christian guard (baritone). Simon Wright just about kept his enthusiastic orchestra on the leash, but it was a close shave.

It was impossible to ignore the subtlety Wright coaxed from his players in the Elgar. Between a smoothly circumspect opening inspired by his wife, Alice, and a colourful self-portrait at the close, we had many memorable moments, including Troyte’s verve and Sinclair’s bulldog, both cameos beautifully crisp.

Nimrod needed more line, especially in its early stages. But the violas excelled themselves, not only in Ysobel but also in partnership with the cellos in the recollection of Basil Nevinson, which was truly heartfelt. The orchestra’s voyage through Elgar continues to satisfy deeply.

Christopher Nairne: “Doubling admirably as 11th hour replacement

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, Oct 14

David Greed: Former Orchestra of Opera North leader and York Guildhall Orchestra guest soloist for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Picture: Opera North

THERE was a distinct start-of-term feeling about this fixture, in which Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and Elgar’s First Symphony were preceded by a Dvorak concert overture.

It was refreshing to see several new, youthful faces in the orchestra, which was conducted by its musical director Simon Wright. But the advent of new blood, however welcome, inevitably carries an element of adjustment as compensation is made for retirees and incomers find their feet.

This may help to explain the tentative air about Dvorak’s In Nature’s Realm, where the strings initially lacked focus. But the composer’s orchestration increasingly gained in colour and the work finished confidently.

David Greed retired last summer after a mighty 44 years as leader of the Orchestra of Opera North, but thankfully has resisted reaching for the carpet slippers, continuing to freelance widely. As soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, he made an immediate impression with the sweetness of his upper range.

There was a rallentando into the second theme and an even bigger one before the cadenza, where he really let the music breathe rather than dazzle with mere virtuosity. The slow movement was an intimate affair at first, which made for a bigger contrast when the agitated central section arrived. When the opening returned, Greed was back to sharing quiet confidences with his audience, allowing us to wallow in Mendelssohn’s luscious melody.

David Greed: “Let the music breathe rather than dazzle with mere virtuosity”. Picture: Opera North

The bridge passage into the final rondo was beautifully elongated, keeping us tantalised with expectation. When the Allegro at last arrived it had all the flair and brilliance that the score implies, with Wright maintaining a strongly rhythmic backing to the soloist’s rapid figurations.

The coda was even more dazzling. But Greed was always at the service of the music rather than imposing his personality upon it showily, a refreshing and ultimately satisfying approach.

Elgar’s Symphony No 1 in A flat carries his favourite marking of nobilmente over its motto theme, but apart from the brass here, it was less than noble at first. But there was plenty of vivacity in the Allegro when it came and a nicely contrasting hush with the recall of its opening. What really impressed was the neatly controlled inner detail. Brass provided fire whenever needed.

The scherzo was exciting right from the start, with real precision from the strings and no let-up on the journey into the march-like second theme. Much tender phrasing infused the slow movement, particularly in the outer strings; there was an achingly elegiac feel to its closing pages.

Wright handled the transition into the last movement’s Allegro beautifully, where the main statement was superbly bold. The motto theme emerged more strongly than ever, symbolising the orchestra’s gradual resurgence throughout the evening. Things are shaping up nicely, not only for this season but well beyond.

Review by Martin Dreyer

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, May 20

Violinist Nicholas Wright: Soloist for Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D major

TELL a potential audience that you were giving a 20th-century programme and it used to be a large-scale turnoff. No longer, fortunately.

This attractive and imaginative one had everything you could wish for: good tunes, excitement and virtuosity, delivered with spell-binding discipline.

Its author and the man of the evening was Simon Wright, now into his fourth decade as musical director of this orchestra. He has shaped it into a formidable instrument. If there is a mainly amateur orchestra in this country that plays better than this, I have yet to hear it.

He chose Bernstein, Korngold and Rachmaninov, an unlikely-sounding trio but convincing bedfellows here. The overture to Bernstein’s comic operetta Candide was immediately effervescent, its rhythms tautly organised and confidently delivered. No-one controls a gradual crescendo more skilfully than Wright and the race to the tape was breath-taking.

How does he manage this? His attention to detail is phenomenal. Not that he is over-fussy, far from it. But he makes every section of the orchestra, indeed every individual within that section, know that he has their best interests at heart. He gives them all the signals they could wish for, but he does it without histrionics. It gives them the confidence to deliver.

Erich Korngold was pigeonholed for a long time by his music for stage and screen. But in the dozen years left to him after the Second World War, he turned to concertos and symphonic music, and these have brought him back into the spotlight in our neo-Romantic age.

The Violin Concerto in D major (1945), which was premiered by Jascha Heifetz, is an excellent example. The soloist here was Nicholas Wright, who happens to be the son of Simon Wright. But his presence owed little or nothing to nepotism. For he is carving out a significant career in his own right, as leader (‘concertmaster’ in North America) of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

He played as to the manner born. In the opening movement, he steered well this side of sentimentality and turned in an aggressive cadenza, littered with double-stopping and lingering delightfully before its final trill.

In the ensuing Romance he managed to make sense of the composer’s ramblings, much helped by the conductor maintaining a near-perfect balance with the orchestra, leading to an effective diminuendo towards the lower strings.

The high-speed alternating pizzicato and staccato at the start of the finale held no terrors for him and he then brought out its main melody superbly. He became a veritable crackerjack in a whirlwind finish. Having briefly reminisced about his start in York, he tenderly offered John Williams’s theme from Schindler’s List as an encore.

This might have been a very hard act to follow. But Simon Wright had cards up his sleeve for Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony after the break. The problem with much of Rachmaninov is that there is often a slushy melody lurking in the offing and his romanticism needs to be tamed, especially if you are doing this symphony without cuts, as here.

Wright was never self-indulgent. After the slow Russian Orthodox-style motto theme, he kept the opening Allegro moving, managing a fine overarching crescendo and diminuendo, with snarling trombones at its peak. There was an underlying urgency to the Scherzo, even in its second theme with violins at the top of their range. The fugue-style trio was a pleasingly screechy contrast.

When you come to the slow movement, you have to relent and admire the composer’s ability to write a seemingly endless ‘big tune’. Following the example of the solo clarinet, the full orchestra sustained it beautifully; it was good to see the violins, right to the back desks, using the full length of their bows.

The finale got off to an explosive start, its triplets positively balletic. The descending scales at the movement’s centre rang out like bells. The woodwind had set the early pace. By the end the brass had asserted themselves too. Wright had them all eating out of his hand. They responded hungrily. This is an orchestra fashioned in his own image and it has never played better.

Review by Martin Dreyer

More Things To Do in York and beyond when Vikings and young rebels rise up. Hutch’s List No.7 for 2023, from The Press

A fierce-faced warrior at Jorvik Viking Festival, back in York from today

THOSE pesky Vikings are invading again, promising battles and big beards, as Charles Hutchinson wrestles with what to do in half-term week.

Festival of the week: Jorvik Viking Festival 2023, today until February 19

SWORDS and seaxes are being sharpened, shields reinforced, beards groomed and tents prepared as York braces itself for the annual invasion of 9th century raiders, Norse warriors, craftspeople and traders in half-term week.

Welcoming 40,000 visitors each year, Europe’s largest Viking festival takes over the city centre with living history encampments, a combat-and-display arena and a Battle Spectacular on February 18, inspired by Arab writer Ibn Fadlan’s accounts of Viking traders.  

Among further highlights will be the Best Beard Competition, today, 11am; Strongest Viking Competition, February 18, 11.15am; March To Coppergate, February 18, 1.30pm, from Dean’s Park; talks and lectures; crafting workshops and a traders’ market. Full details at: 

Melanie Watson in Mythos: Ragnarok: Making its York Barbican debut on the Jorvik Viking Festival Fringe

Festival Fringe event of the week: Mythos: Ragnarok, Jorvik Viking Festival, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

MYTHOS: Ragnarok retells mythical tales of the apocalypse through wrestling, yes, wrestling, in a Fringe event new to the 2023 Viking festival programme, presented by Mythological Theatre and Phil McIntyre Live.

Half-brothers Odin and Loki must overcome primordial giants, rivals gods and goddesses and their own ambitions in their quest to seize power over the Nine Worlds through the grappling sport in Mythos’s York Barbican debut. Warning:  Contains strobe lighting, scenes of violence, references to death, indirect sexual references, occasional bad language and actors specialising in professional wrestling skills. Box office:

A chance to dress up as rebel: One of the activities at the Marvellous And Mischievous, Literature’s Young Rebels exhibition at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Exhibition of the week: Marvellous And Mischievous, Literature’s Young Rebels, York Art Gallery, until June 4

OPENING just in time for half-term week, York Art Gallery presents the British Library’s touring exhibition of memorable characters from children’s literature.

Favourites such as Pippi Longstocking, Jane Eyre, Matilda, Dirty Bertie, Zog, Tracey Beaker, Peter Pan and Dennis the Menace feature in this exploration of characters who break the rules and defy conventions. Around 40 books, manuscripts and original artwork from 300 years of literary rebels, outsiders and spirited survivors will be complemented by an activity room with a busy programme of workshops and events.

Anastasia Bevan: Soprano soloist at York Guildhall Orchestra’s all-Beethoven concert tonight

Classical concert of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus for the Angels’ Hallelujah Chorus, from the oratorio Christ On The Mount Of Olives in a wholly Beethoven night.

The Egmont Overture and Fidelio Overture and the Meeresstille und Glückliche Fahrt setting of two Goethe poems feature too before the climactic, gloriously melodious Symphony No. 9, “The Choral”, billed as “a real work out for orchestra, choir, and soloists” Anastasia Bevan, Sarah Winn, Sam Knock and Matthew Kellett. Box office:

Dnipro Opera take to the York Barbican stage in Carmen

Ukrainians in York: Dnipro Opera in Carmen, York Barbican, Sunday, 7pm

DNIPRO Opera, from Ukraine, perform Georges Bizet’s opera of fiery passion, jealousy and violence in 19th century Seville in French with English surtitles (CORRECT), to the accompaniment of a 30-strong orchestra.

Carmen charts the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who falls head over heels in love with Carmen, a seductive, free-spirited femme fatale, abandoning his childhood sweetheart and neglecting his military duties, only to lose the fickle firebrand to the glamorous toreador Escamillo. Box office:

The double act that nearly was…and now is: Danielle Reid’s Charlie Chaplin and Jerone Marsh-Reid’s Stan Laurel in Told By An Idiot’s Charlie & Stan

Double act of the week: Told By An Idiot in Charlie & Stan, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm, plus 2pm, Thursday and 2,30pm, Saturday

IN 1910 the unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York on a voyage of discovery as part of Fred Karno’s music hall troupe, sharing a cabin and then spending two years together touring North America, with Stan as Charlie’s understudy.

In a fantastical reimagining that plays fast and loose with the facts, Told By An Idiot tells the story of “the greatest comedy double act that nearly was” in Paul Hunter’s homage to the English comedy legends pre-fame, played out by Danielle (CORRECT) Bird’s Chaplin and Jerone (CORRECT) Marsh-Reid’s Laurel in the style of a silent comedy to a Zoe Rahman piano score. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Katie Melia’s Charity Hope Valentine in York Stage’s Sweet Charity

Musical of the week: York Stage in Sweet Charity, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30pm, except Sunday; 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees

THE John Cooper Studio will be transformed into a seedily seductive Fandango Ballroom from St Valentine’s Day for Sweet Charity, the 1966 Broadway musical with a book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Played by Katie Melia, Charity Hope Valentine fantasises about three things in life: romance, luxury and escaping the questionable ballroom clientele. Lovable, gullible and spirited, she longs to find a lover who can sweep her off her feet but Charity keeps handing over her heart and earnings to the wrong man. Hey big spender, box office:

Velma Celli: On song in a night of drag diva belters at Pocklington Arts Centre

Drag show of the week: Velma Celli, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

YORK drag queen supreme Velma Celli, alias West End musical actor Ian Stroughair, promises an overindulgent diva fiesta in celebration of the  songs, mannerisms and behaviour of Mariah, Whitney, Aretha, Cher, Britney and many more.

Cue cheeky impressions, belting singing and saucy banter from the international star and creator of A Brief History Of Drag, Me And My Divas, Equinox and Irreplaceable (in praise of David Bowie). Box office: 01759 301547 or

The Forest Awakens: The new hole at The Hole In Wand York magical golf course

In Focus: The Hole In Wand York on course for more magic at wizard visitor attraction

FORE! Watch out, The Hole In Wand York, the “World’s Most Magical Golf Course”, has a new woodland hole at the Potions Cauldron visitor attraction in the Coppergate Shopping Centre, York.

In a magical makeover, wands have been raised and spells cast to create The Forest Awakens hole and several additions for wizards to enjoy, including a new quest.

Opened last May, the award-winning mini golf venue also has upgraded the tavern area to help with the visitor flow and journey.

For The Forest Awakens, a hole based on the North York Moors National Park’s Dalby Forest, near Pickering, a new scent and soundtrack have been added to the room to create an immersive experience.

The hole places wizards among the trees as they aim for a hole in one, looked on by magical creatures of the darkened and mythical forest.

Chief Wizard Oliver Brayshaw says: “‘We’re excited to reveal the new holes; we know that our visitors are really going to enjoy them. Both Hole 6 and 7 are quite eerie but great fun.

“We have designed and built the holes and upgraded the tavern with the visitor journey in mind to ensure that everyone that visits has a fantastic experience.”

At The Hole In Wand York, in Coppergate Walk, wizard players take on nine magical golf holes. Along the “course” are bubbling cauldrons, magical portals and a giant picture frame where they become part of the painting. Visitors can do cast a Light Spell to illuminate the way in the dark hole and awaken the spirits.

At the end of the adventure, players will find out if they have the magical powers of a Serpent, Basilisk, Unicorn or Wizard. Every player will receive a magic potion gift to take home and hopefully find Grobblenook.

Wizard golf with a potion drink costs from £6.99 per person. The minimum age for players is three and the maximum group size is six wizards with wands. To book tickets, go to:

York Barbican confirms five new concerts with Tony Blackburn to host one of them

Tony Blackburn: BBC Radio 2 presenter and host of Sound Of The 60s Live at York Barbican. Copyright: BBC

YORK Barbican has five new concerts in the diary for autumn and early 2023.

York Guildhall Orchestra are booked in for October 15 and February 11; the York Community Carol Concert for December 12; The Classic Rock Show for March 14 and Tony Blackburn: Sound Of The 60s Live for March 23.

The first concert of York Guildhall Orchestra’s 42nd season will welcome back Will Clark, who played with the orchestra as a youngster, to perform as the soloist for the Vaughan Williams centrepiece. Returning too will be old friends Leeds Festival Chorus for works by Lambert and Fauré, and the finale will be Marquez’s Danzón No. 2.

The Guildhall Orchestra’s February concert will feature Leeds Festival Chorus in an all-Beethoven programme comprising a show-stopping symphony, two overtures and a setting of two Goethe poems, Meeresstille und Glückliche Farht (Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage).

The Leeds choir will join the orchestra for the Hallelujah Chorus from Beethoven’s oratorio, Christ On The Mount Of Olives.

The York Community Carol Concert continues to draw full houses after 64 years. Hosted by the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson, the festive event for all ages will bring together York choirs and musicians to perform favourite carols and Christmas songs under the musical direction of Mike Pratt.

Concert proceeds will be shared by the Lord Mayor of York and Sheriff of York’s Christmas Cheer Fund and Martin House Children’s Hospice, The Press’s nominated charity.

The Classic Rock Show vows to be “bigger and even better in 2023” when paying tribute to such favourites as Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, The Who, Eric Clapton, AC/DC, Queen, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and many more.

Performed with note-for-note precision, the show brings era-defining recordings back to life on stage, with a sound and light show to match, culminating in a show-stopping guitar duel.

Next March, veteran BBC Radio 2 presenter Tony Blackburn, 79, will host an evening of 60s’ classics performed live by the Sound Of The 60s All Star Band and singers. Songs by The Everly Brothers, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, Elvis Presley, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Otis Redding, The Beatles and The Who will be to the fore.

Tickets are on sale at and

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Pinter’s pause and effect comes home to roost. List No 82, courtesy of The Press

Keith Allen: Homing in on The Homecoming arriving at York Theatre Royal on Monday

AVOIDING the “devastation of stag and hen parties” (copyright Rachael Maskell, York Central MP), Charles Hutchinson finds reasons aplenty to venture out.

Play of the week: Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, York Theatre Royal, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm; Saturday, 2.30pm

GAVIN & Stacey star Mathew Horne and Keith Allen star in Jamie Glover’s new production of The Homecoming, Harold Pinter’s bleakly funny 1965 exploration of family and relationships.

University professor Teddy returns to his North London childhood home from America, accompanied by his wife Ruth, to find his father, uncle and brothers still living there. As life becomes a barely camouflaged battle for power and sexual supremacy, who will emerge victorious: poised and elegant Ruth or her husband’s dysfunctional family? Box office: 01904 623568 or

Tom Figgins: Introducing new material tonight at Stillington Mill. Picture: Daniel Harris

Outdoor gig of the week: Tom Figgins, Music At The Mill, Stillington Mill, near York, tonight, 7.30pm

SINGER-SONGWRITER Tom Figgins returns to At The Mill’s garden stage after last summer’s sold-out performance, with the promise of new material.

Figgins’ vocal range, guitar playing and compelling lyrics caught the ear of presenter Chris Evans, who hosted him on his BBC Radio 2 show and invited him to play the main stage at CarFest North & South.

His instrumental works have been heard on Countryfile and Panorama and he is the composer for the Benlunar podcast, now on its fourth series. Box office:

Martin Roscoe: Guest piano soloist for York Guildhall Orchestra

Classical concert of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra’s final concert of their 2021-2022 season welcomes the long-awaited return of pianist Martin Roscoe, originally booked to perform in May 2020.

Retained from that Covid-cancelled programme are Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite, with its combination of cheeky jazz tunes and the Russian’s mastery of orchestration, and Dohnanyi’s mock-serious take on a children’s nursery rhyme. Leeds Festival Chorus join in for Elgar’s Music Makers. Box office:

Go West and Paul Young: Eighties’ revival at York Barbican

Eighties’ nostalgia of the week: Go West & Paul Young, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

PETER Cox and Richard Drummer’s slick duo, Go West, and Luton soul singer Paul Young go north this weekend for a double bill of Eighties’ pop.

Expect We Close Our Eyes, Call Me, Don’t Look Down and King Of Wishful Thinking, from the Pretty Woman soundtrack, in Go West’s set. The chart-topping Wherever I Lay My Hat, Love Of The Common People, Everytime You Go Away and Everything Must Change will be on Young’s To Do list. Box office:

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums: Wanting a word with you at the Grand Opera House

Fun and word games of the week: Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm

HAVE I Got News For You regular and Comedy Store Players co-founder Paul Merton teams up with fellow seasoned improvisers Richard Vranch, Suki Webster and Mike McShane and accompanist Kirsty Newton to flex their off-the-cuff comedy muscles on their first antics roadshow travels since August 2019.

“What audiences like about what we do is that we haven’t lost our sense of play, our sense of fun, the sort of thing that gets knocked out of you because you have to get married or get a mortgage or find a job,” says Merton. Let the fun and games sparked by audience suggestions begin. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Hayley Ria Christian: All aboard her Midnight Train To Georgia for a night of Gladys Knight hits

Homage, not tribute show, of the week: Hayley Ria Christian in Midnight Train To Georgia, A Celebration Of Gladys Knight, Grand Opera House, York, Friday, 7.30pm

HAYLEY Ria Christian’s show is “definitely not a tribute, but a faithful portrayal that truly pays homage to the voice of a generation, the one and only Empress of Soul, Ms Gladys Knight”.

In the late Sixties and Seventies, Gladys Knight & The Pips enjoyed such hits as Take Me In Your Arms And Love Me, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Try To Remember/The Way We Were, Baby, Don’t Change Your Mind and her signature song Midnight Train To Georgia. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or

Milton Jones: International spy turned comedian in Milton: Impossible

Comedy gig of the week: Milton Jones in Milton: Impossible, Harrogate Theatre, May 21, 7.30pm

ONE man. One Mission. Is it possible? “No, not really,” says Kew comedian Milton Jones, the shock-haired matador of the piercing one-liner, as he reveals the truth behind having once been an international spy, but then being given a somewhat disappointing new identity that forced him to appear on Mock The Week.

“But this is also a love story with a twist, or at least a really bad sprain,” says Jones. “Is it all just gloriously daft nonsense, or is there a deeper meaning?”  Find out next weekend. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Grace Petrie: Carrying on the fight for a better tomorrow when every day you are told you have lost already

Protest gig of the week: Grace Petrie, The Crescent, York, May 23, 7.30pm

DIY protest singer Grace Petrie emerged from lockdown with Connectivity, her 2021 polemical folk album that reflects on what humanity means in a world struggling against division and destruction.

Petrie’s honest songs seek a way to carry on the fight for a better tomorrow when every day you are told you have lost already. Bad news: her York gig has sold out. Good news: she will be playing Social, Hull, too on May 18 at 8pm (box office, On both nights, she will be accompanied by long-time collaborator, singer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Moss.

More Things To Do in and around York when Wrong is the right choice. Magical List No.79, courtesy of The Press, York

Mind games: Beverley actor Rory Fairbairn as the Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday

MAGIC is on the cards in the week ahead, and you can’t wrong if you follow Charles Hutchinson’s tips for what else to do and see.

Mayhem in April: Mischief in Magic Goes Wrong, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30pm (except Sunday); 2pm, Thursday and Sunday, 2.30pm, Saturday

MASTERS of catastrophic comedy Mischief team up with deconstructionist American magicians Penn & Teller for Magic Goes Wrong, their most daring calamitous show yet.

When a hapless gang of magicians strive to stage an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity, magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target. Penn & Teller will not be appearing on stage. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Kristin Hersh: Fronting her Electric Trio at The Crescent

Cult gig of the week: Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

BOSTON songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and author Kristin Hersh, leader of indie rock band Throwing Muses and noise rock power trio 50 Foot Wave, is on the road with her hard-hitting super-group.

Joining Hersh, 55, will be 50 Foot Wave drummer Rob Ahlers and Throwing Muses bassist Fred Abong, who opens the night playing solo, promoting his Yellow Throat album. Expect Throwing Muses’s 2020 album, Sun Racket, to feature alongside material spanning Hersh’s 30-year career. Box office:

Improvising a musical: Showstoppers Ruth Bratt, left, Lauren Shearing and Pippa Evans with Duncan Walsh Atkins, on keys, and Chris Ash on reeds. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Anything could happen: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm

OLIVIER Award winners Showstopper! return to York with…well, you decide! At each show, a new musical comedy is created from scratch as audience suggestions are transformed on the spot into an all-singing, all-dancing production.

From Hamilton in a hospital to Sondheim in the Sahara, you suggest it and The Showstoppers will sing it. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Blues power: Guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor returns to York Barbican

Blues gig of the week: Joanne Shaw Taylor, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

WEST Midlands blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Joanne Shaw Taylor plays York as one of five British dates this month, performing songs from 2021’s The Blues Album.

That album showcased covers of 11 rare blues classics first recorded by Albert King, Peter Green, Little Richard, Magic Sam, Aretha Franklin and Little Milton. Expect selections from her albums Reckless Heart, Wild, The Dirty Truth, Almost Always Never, Diamonds In The Dirt and White Sugar too. Box office:

Gabrielle Sargent: Soprano soloist for York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day concert

Celebration of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day Concert, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra make their JoRo debut under the baton of conductor Simon Wright, who turns the spotlight on English composers in an Anglophile programme of light music to mark St George’s Day.

“Come down for a springtime evening of joyful music and not a dragon in sight,” says Wright, who will be combining favourite pieces with lesser-known gems. Sullivan, Elgar and Handel feature; so do Strachy’s Party Mood (from Housewives’ Choice), Wood’s Barwick Green (The Archers) and Coates’s By The Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island Discs). Box office: 01904 501935 or

One giant leap for Lee Harris’s Mr Toad during rehearsals for NE Musicals York’s York premiere of The Wind In The Willows The Musical

Family musical of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wind In The Willows The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 27 to May 1, 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees, Saturday, Sunday

NE Musicals York transform the JoRo theatre into a riverbank and wildwood for director and designer Steve Tearle’s York premiere of Julian Fellowes’ stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s story with a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Join Ratty (Finlay Butler), Mole (Jack Hambleton), Badger (Tom Henshaw) and the impulsive Mr Toad (Lee Harris), whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious bother. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Horse Chestnut Leaves, a watercolour by Selby artist Lynda Heaton, from her Village Gallery exhibition in York

Exhibition launch of the week: Lynda Heaton, Expressions In Watercolour, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, Tuesday to June 4

SINCE retiring, Selby artist Lynda Heaton has spent much of her time painting in her home studio. “I’m passionate about watercolour painting and love the way the colours mingle and move across the paper, sometimes giving surprising effects,” she says.

“My works come from my imagination or from memories of somewhere I’ve been and the mood of that place.” Other pieces are inspired by the natural world, the colours, textures and rhythms found in nature.

Diversity performing Connected in their April 4 performance at York Barbican. Picture: Sarah Hollis

Quick return of the week: Diversity: Connected, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm

HOT on the heels of their April 4 visit, London street dancers Diversity return to York Barbican due to public demand as part of their 79-show 2022 tour.

In a show created by choreographer Ashley Banjo, the 2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners will be building their routines around the internet, social media, the digital era and how it connects us all. Their Black Lives Matter-inspired dance, premiered on Britain’s Got Talent to a flood of complaints to Ofcom in September 2020, definitely features. Box office:

This woman’s re-work: Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush at Theatre@41

An Evening Without Kate Bush but with Sarah-Louise Young, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York,  Thursday, 7.30pm

THE “chaotic cabaret cult”, An Evening Without Kate Bush”, finds Cabaret Whore, The Showstoppers, La Soiree performer Sarah-Louise Young teaming up theatre maker Russell Lucas to explore the music and mythology of one of the most influential voices in British music.

Kate’s not there, but you are, for a show that is as much about fandom as Bush’s songs and wider cultural impact. Box office:

More Things To Do in York and beyond, when Jason’s gig is but one good reason to go out. List No. 71, courtesy of The Press

Michael McIntyre: Road-testing new gags at the Grand Opera House, York

FROM McIntyre to Macbeth, two Aussies to an English celebration, a Ugandan story to a pioneering Welsh icon, Charles Hutchinson spreads his net wide.  

Talking point gig of the week: Michael McIntyre: Work In Progress, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm

COMEDIAN Michael McIntyre will put new material to the test in a “York In Progress” show hastily arranged mid-month for February 28.

Tickets sold out within two hours of going on sale on February 15 for the 45-year-old Londoner’s latest dollops of observational comedy, wherein he turns everyday situations into outpourings of startled exasperation.

The jovial Big Show and The Wheel host previously played a three-night run of Work In Progress gigs at the Grand Opera House in July 2012. For returns only, 0844 871 7615.

Tachia Newall and Jessica Baglow in a masked rehearsal for their roles as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at Leeds Playhouse

Play of the week outside York: Macbeth, Leeds Playhouse, tonight until March 19

DIRECTOR Amy Leach and designer Hayley Grindle have created a vibrant, raw and visceral vision of Shakespeare’s thrilling tragedy, Macbeth.

Tachia Newall plays the ambitious northern warrior, who does whatever it takes to gain power and, ultimately, the throne, propelled further into darkness by his wife, Jessica Baglow’s Lady Macbeth, whose hands bear witness to her own greed and corruption. Look out for York actress Ashleigh Wilder as one of the witches. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at

She Drew The Gun: Songs decrying corruption, abuse and division at The Crescent, York

York indie gig of the week: She Drew The Gun, The Crescent, York, tonight, 7.30pm

PASSIONATE, principled, and refreshingly plain-spoken, proud socialist, feminist, bi-sexual mother of one Louisa Roach will not be cowed into silence.

As She Drew The Gun, the Wirral singer-songwriter uses punk-infused psych-pop as a vehicle for exposing injustice and for advocating a fairer and more tolerant society.

Written in lockdown and recorded at McCall Sound Studios in Sheffield, latest album Behave Myself decries corruption, abuse and the continued divisions between rich and poor that have only worsened in the pandemic. Annabel Allum supports. Box office:

Jason Donovan: So many reasons to celebrate his York Barbican concert

Third time lucky: Jason Donovan, Even More Good Reasons, York Barbican, Monday, 8pm

AFTER postponements in September 2020 and November 2021, Aussie heartthrob Jason Donovan’s 52-date tour to mark the 30th anniversary of his debut album, Ten Good Reasons, is finally happening. That anniversary actually passed as long ago as May 2019 on a faraway pre-pandemic planet!

“Having not done my own live shows for a while, I can’t wait to get out there again among my fans and deliver a new energetic show that is both personal, creative and reflective – something that is both nostalgic and just a good night out,” says the one-time Neighbours soap pin-up turned star of pop, stage musicals and theatre. Box office:

Writer-performer John Rwothomack in his one-man show Far Gone at York Theatre Royal Studio

Solo show of the week, John Rwothomack in Far Gone, York Theatre Royal Studio, Thursday and Friday, 7.45pm

WRITTEN and performed by John Rwothomack, Far Gone is set in northern Uganda, where Okumu’s village is attacked by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), changing Okumu and his brother’s lives forever.

The story of a young boy’s journey from childhood innocence to child soldier is seen through the eyes of those that love him and those that betray him, as presented by Ugandan-born, London-trained and Sheffield-based Rwothomack in his debut play as writer and performer, prompted by himself nearly being kidnapped by the LRA guerrilla rebel group.

He explores complex issues of war, religion and power, drawing on the contrast between his experiences as a child in Uganda and as a young black man in Britain, and how perceptions of “Africa” have affected his own narrative. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Tommy Emmanuel: Playing his best “Tommysongs” at the Grand Opera House, York

Guitar virtuoso of the week: Tommy Emmanuel, Grand Opera House, York, March 6, 8pm

LAST seen in Britain performing on the Transatlantic Sessions Tour, Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel returns for 13 dates in February and March with dobro master Jerry Douglas as his special guest.

Emmanuel, 66, who improvises big chunks of each concert, will be showcasing The Best Of Tommysongs, a double album of re-recordings of his best original songs from the past 30 years with new modern arrangements.

Angelina, Lewis & Clark, It’s Never Too Late, fan favourites Mombasa and Train To Dusseldorf and new compositions Fuel and Song For A Rainy Morning will be aired in York. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Simon Wright: Conducting York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day debut at the JoRo

Bring out the flags: York Guildhall Orchestra, St George’s Day Concert, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 23,7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra and conductor Simon Wright make their Joseph Rowntree Theatre debut with a celebration of patron saint St George in an evening of light music with the spotlight on English composers.

Expect a variety of favourite pieces alongside some lesser-known gems, but not a dragon in sight in this joyful springtime programme. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

Going Underground: Velvet pioneer John Cale to play York Barbican at 80

Gig announcement of the week: John Cale, York Barbican, July 19

VELVET Underground icon John Cale will play York as the only Yorkshire gig of his seven-date summer tour, his first British itinerary in a decade, with tickets going on sale on Wednesday at 10am.

The Welsh multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, who turns 80 on March 9, will perform songs from a career that began in classical and avant-garde music before he formed The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed in New York in 1965.

Over six pioneering decades, Cale has released 16 solo studio albums, most recently M:Fans in 2016, while also collaborating with Brian Eno, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Squeeze, Happy Mondays, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers. Box office: