York Mediale embraces city community to the max for second digital arts festival

People We Love: Video portraits focused on people filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love, at York Minster for York Mediale

EXIT York Mediale, the biennial festival launched in 2018. Re-enter York Mediale, recalibrated as a charity to create and deliver a year-round programme of digital arts events across the city.

What’s more, in response to the reaction to the debut programme two years ago, the international new media arts organisation will place a greater emphasis on working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.

In keeping with the wider arts industry, Covid-19 has had its killjoy impact on York Mediale 2020, although the festival retains its opening date of Wednesday, October 21.

“Prior to Covid, we were planning around 23 projects, but then the world changed,” says creative director Tom Higham. “We’ve had to re-structure our organisation and pivot how we go forward. We lost some funding and suddenly things that we had confirmed and things that were nearly over the line were off.

“We lost £70,000 straightaway, sponsor conversations were dead in the water and venues closed in the lockdown. But we did some speculating and reflecting, and we’ve managed to continue pursuing the small number of projects that would work for now.”

Tom Higham: Creative director of York Mediale

York Mediale 2.0 comprises six new commissions in the form of five world premieres and one UK premiere, in a festival now running from Wednesday into the New Year, whether in York neighbourhoods, online or at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.

By comparison, the first Mediale in 2018 was “the largest media arts festival in the UK”, drawing 65,000 people to cutting-edge events over ten days in celebration of York’s status as Britain’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

Festival number one, being new, attracted the support of City of York Council, Make It York, Science City and both York universities. This time, the key funding has come from Arts Council England in a rise from £100,00 to £284,000.

“That is a vote of confidence, backing the second festival where we’ve had to create a new model to succeed in this new world,” says Tom, defining a festival that will feature artists’ installations and interactive performances, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.

“Initially, as the new kid on the block, it takes a while to build trust and make connections  and to get under the skin of the city,  but the projects that sought to connect with the communities, like the Inspired Youth film-making project, went very well.”

Rachel Goodyear’s Limina: “Offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious”

Tom continues: “The projects where we engage with parts of the city are much more honest and not forced, so this time it will be a festival focusing on how we connect with our loved ones, our community, nature and culture: themes that are prevalent and poignant in society now after months of lockdown and isolation.

“We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times, picking out the ones that were safe to do and that people would engage with.

“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”

The possibilities may have narrowed for York Mediale 2020, but that has not dampened Tom’s enthusiasm for festival number two. “The way we can do it amid the pandemic is to develop projects that are outdoors or online…not in dark places with electronic music, like last time,” he says.

“The positive spin is that maybe the dramatic shutdown that has affected the arts allows for a re-set in terms of who makes it, who it’s for and what is possible. It’s a jolt of DIY-ness that’s good for creativity. It strips the ‘bull’ out of what you’re doing and why.

Kit Monkman: York artist and filmmaker bringing a passion project to fruition for York Mediale 2020

“I think people are looking to build on the possibilities of Zoom to do something more creative with what is possible, and York Mediale can do that.”

Among those taking part in the festival will be Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, better known as Gazelle Twin, and Kit Monkman’s York arts collective, KMA, whose installations have transformed public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.

York Mediale 2020 audiences can discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance; and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the Covid generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating” event.

Full details on Absent Sitters (October 21 to 25, online), Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York (October 21 to 25), Human Nature’s triptych of installations at York Art Gallery (October 21 to January 24, York Art Gallery) and KMA’s People We Love, at York Minster (November 2 to 29) can be found at yorkmediale.com.

“Taking on fewer projects but with a longer shelf-life is the way forward for York Mediale, picking the right project, doing them rigorously, and then they can go on to other cities,” says Tom.

“Trying to develop projects like that is surely the longer-term vision for York Mediale, not being a receiving festival, not just inviting artists into the city, but doing something that’s in-depth, engaging with what’s already here and then taking it elsewhere too with the stamp of Made In York.

The York Mediale 2020 logo

“Our responsibility as a comparatively small, new festival structurally is to find ways to push boundaries of technology and art.

“Like it has for all of us, this year has been grim, but to be able to focus on what we think we’re good at, fitting in with pushing our vision of the city, has been positive. The opportunity to be a bit more truthful with ourselves, to go where the energy and projects are in the city, to do that with artists from York that share our belief, that is progress.”

York Mediale 2020 highlights

Absent Sitters, online, October 21 to 25

GAZELLE Twin, a vital contemporary voice in the UK electronic music scene, collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and Ben Eyes and Jez Wells from the University of York music department to experiment with a new form of performance in Absent Sitters.

In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, participating via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. “Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you?” it asks.

“The culmination of Absent Sitters will take place on London’s South Bank in Summer 2021 at the Royal Festival Hall with the BBC Concert Orchestra,” reveals Tom Higham.

Good Neighbours, in Layerthorpe, York, October 21 to 25

Good Neighbours: Micro-politics of communities and a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk. Picture: Kgabo Mametja and Koos Groenewald

GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s Affect Lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.

Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, co-ordinated by Lydia Cottrell, in the Layerthorpe area of York.

“In this time of Black Lives Matter, living under lockdown and communities delivering to the vulnerable, Good Neighbours is a long-term study of how communities work,” says Tom. “It’s gone from village halls and pubs to WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups.”

Absent Sitters: Online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination”

Human Nature, at York Art Gallery, October 21 to January 24 2021

THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature is jointly curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, uniting for an ambitious show at York Art Gallery as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020.

Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.

The Tides Within Us is a new commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast that looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem within nature. 

Fine artist Rachel Goodyear continues her exploration of animation-based work with Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, each responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Seeing, by Rachel Goodyear, inspired by the York Art Gallery collection

People We Love, at York Minster, November 2 to 29

THIS  new commission from Kit Monkman’s York creative collective KMA will be positioned in the York Minster Nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.

The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story in People We Love

Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.

“People We Love is a passion project for Kit that he’s been talking about for ten years,” says Tom. “It’s a love letter to the citizens of York by the best media artist in the city. It’s for the people of York, by the people of York, but I think it’s a project that will continue to travel the world after York.  

“I’ve been talking to Kit since 2016 about the seeds of what he’d like to do next, as KMA had not done a project for a few years and this was the one he wanted to do and then take to the world.”

More people from People We Love: On show at York Minster in November

Photographer Duncan Lomax makes snap decision to open Holgate Gallery at home

York Minster: An abstract work from Duncan Lomax’s photographic portfolio

“IT’S a strange and challenging time to be opening a business,” admits York commercial photographer Duncan Lomax after turning his front room into Holgate Gallery.

“Why now? I think people are looking for some good news,” reasons Duncan. “People are stimulated by visual art, perhaps now more than ever.They’ve been stuck at home in lockdown, observing their walls on Zoom, and they’re now more aware of their homes, so in that sense maybe it’s a good time to set up a gallery.

“People are looking for a connection with what they put on their walls or in their rooms, so why would you buy three stones with a white stripe for your mantelpiece?

“That’s why, at Holgate Gallery, it’s not just pretty pictures of York, though there’ll always be a demand for that, but I’d like to think that we can challenge people more. With the creative photography I do, it’s deliberately imperfect and more abstract than the commercial work, which has to be perfect and generally done to someone else’s brief.”

A member of staff in PPE at St Leonard’s Hospice, by Duncan Lomax

The gallery address is 53, Holgate Road, a Grade 2-listed building that previously housed Bridge Pianos before Duncan and his wife Tracy moved in, turning the frontage from white to a deeply satisfying blue.

Holgate Gallery becomes only the second contemporary photographic art-space to be set up in York since the much-missed, pioneering Impressions Gallery deserted Castlegate for Bradford’s Centenary Square in 2007.

Since July 2013, fellow commercial photographer Chris Ceaser has run Chris Ceaser Photography in early 15th century, Grade 2-listed, timber-framed premises at 89 Micklegate, focusing on his own landscape photographs of York, Yorkshire and beyond.

By comparison, Duncan will complement his commercial and abstract photographs and humorous faux Penguin Book cover prints with a regularly changing stock of work by other artists “who might not otherwise have the space to exhibit”.

United We Stand, by Duncan Lomax

Mostly they will be local, but in the first instance, the spotlight falls on Cold War Steve, the alias of Birmingham digital-collage political satirist Christopher Spencer, with his 250,000 followers on Twitter for his classical painting pastiches and predilection for incorporating EastEnders’ Steve “Phil Mitchell” McFadden alongside the Westminster double act of Johnson and Cummings at every opportunity.

“You don’t have to look too far to see which side he’s on,” says Duncan. “It’s putting two fingers up to the Establishment, and not everyone will like it, but he’s just been awarded a Doctor of Arts honorary degree at Wolverhampton University, so he’s now Dr Cold War Steve!”

You can sense Duncan’s enthusiasm for stretching his wings beyond running Ravage Productions Photography. “Doing commercial photography, you spend three hours ‘in the field’ and then just as much time doing the editing, marketing and updating the website. I’ve always thought that feels like time wasted, though it’s not, because it’s part of the job, but I most enjoy being behind a camera.

“So, I thought, is there a way of being creative while also doing the [commercial] job? When we bought the piano shop, it needed everything doing to it, but I could see it being a gallery, shop and editing facility for me as well as a home, so rather than being on my own when I’m working, it becomes a more social experience and another string to the bow related to the commercial photography, while it keeps pushing me on the creative side.

In the red corner: York Central MP Rachael Maskell, whose Labour Party office is nearby, conducts the opening ceremony at Holgate Gallery. Photographer, owner and curator Duncan Lomax keeps his social distance

“I might find there’s no interest in photography in York, but I’m pretty certain there is, and not just for my work, so this gallery is not an ego trip.”

Duncan has been the official photographer for York Minster for several years, notably for the 2016 York Mystery Plays, and has shot portraits, marketing images and PR material for all manner of businesses both in the city and at large.

He also has taught photography to degree level and his pictures have appeared many times in the local and national press, from The Press and YorkMix to the Yorkshire Post, the BBC and The Times.

Born on the Wirral and brought up in Warrington, Duncan played guitar in early Nineties’ Widnes “baggy wannabees” and two-time John Peel Session band 35 Summers, but he was just as likely to be holding a camera as a guitar.

Conference speaker Ian Donaghy: a business portrait by Duncan Lomax

“I’ve always had a camera; I’ve always been interested in photography,” says Duncan, who gives talks to camera clubs to give a different slant on taking pictures beyond landscapes and wildlife.

“I went to see Echo & The Bunnymen in 1982, when they were playing this secret gig where no-one knew where it would be when they bought a ticket. I got right to the front with my mum’s thin Instamatic camera, and there were no press photographers, but there I was, leaning on the stage, with all this dry ice everywhere, hiding the camera away because you weren’t supposed to be taking pictures. The next day I sold the photos at school, so that lit the spark for me.”

Duncan went on to work in PR, but as a writer. “I was always jealous of the photographers,” he recalls. So jealous that the camera would eventually win out because he thinks like a photographer at all times.

“You are constantly looking at the light, checking it, looking outside, and then you see this mackerel sky, and you know you have to stop and go and get the camera,” he says.

The former Terry’s chocolate factory, by Duncan Lomax

“Sometimes, with a photograph, it’s about pre-visualising…but then accidents can happen. That’s serendipity, but more normally, nine times out of ten those circumstances don’t come together.

“You almost know the shot before you take it, but whether you’re able to get it is another thing; whether you can manipulate it and be in control of the camera. Everything has to come together, not only technically but also emotionally. That’s where you get the story.”

He highlights a distinction between the amateur and the professional. “When I was giving a club talk, I remember asking, ‘Who’s shot a landscape photo of Robin Hood’s Bay?’. All the hands went up, but then I said: ‘Hands up, who’s shot a portrait one?’ and no hands stayed up…whereas I’m always thinking of where the headline can go on the picture,” says Duncan.

The photographer’s eye enables him to “show something that you can see that someone else can’t in that situation”, by using such a technique as underexposure.

Light and shade and grand ceremony at York Minster, by Duncan Lomax

“But what you don’t do in either commercial or press photography is let the camera lie,” Duncan says. “Though if you’re doing a commercial shot and you notice there’s a fag end on the floor, you do take it out of the picture.”

Among Duncan’s most memorable photographic work is his remarkable portfolio for the 2016 York Mystery Plays, especially those capturing actors in character, but neither on stage nor posed. “I did those 15 seconds after they came off stage. They weren’t meant to be ‘nice’ pictures, but pictures while they were still in the moment, which is different from portraiture,” he says.

The relationship between photographer and subject is one of trust, requiring skills of communication and connection. “What puts them at ease, I think – and I say this to everyone – is that I tell them, ‘I’m not trying to catch you out’, which is different from some press photographers, whose job is to do exactly that,” says Duncan.

“I’ll ask them, ‘what are you looking for from this photograph?’, as it’s about gaining their trust. That’s the bit I really enjoy; getting that interaction, even if I’m there to photograph a building, I’ll interact with the site manager.”

Toby Gordon as Lucifer, on stage in the 2016 York Mystery Plays at York Minster, by Duncan Lomax

Duncan’s work spans commercial, portrait, event, PR, creative, architectural and travel photography. Can he ever switch off? “If you come across me on a rare day off, I’ll still have my camera with me, so when we go on a walk, my wife hates it as we’ll take three times as long as we otherwise would!” he says.

“Like when we went to Cuba earlier this year, I just had to film the textures of the walls as they tell a story in their amazing colours: they give such a sense of place to Cuba.”

Those Cuban colours are now framed in Pantone style and for sale at Holgate Gallery, the new calling card for Nineties’ guitarist, ace photographer and now gallery owner and curator Duncan Lomax.

More good news has just come his way too: he has been selected to participate for the first time in York Open Studios next April.

Holgate Gallery’s opening times will vary but will be updated regularly at www.holgategallery.co.uk and on Facebook. Visits also can be arranged by appointment via duncan@ravageproductions.co.uk

Cuban Colours, by Duncan Lomax

Will you dig it all as York Mediale, the digital media arts festival, seeks a cutting edge?

“We want to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture,” says Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director

YORK Mediale returns next month to deliver ambitious and cutting-edge digital arts projects inspired by and reacting to 2020.

For its second iteration, the international new media arts organisation has lined up six new commissions, five being world premieres, the other, a UK premiere.

Running from October 21 into the New Year, the programme of events will take place in York neighbourhoods, online and at two cultural landmarks, York Minster and York Art Gallery.

The first York Mediale in 2018 was the largest media arts festival in Britain, drawing an audience of 65,000 to diverse digital-rooted events over ten days, celebrating York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.

The Coronavirus pandemic has led York Mediale to forego the original 2020 festival dates of October 21 to 25, instead “pivoting from a biennial festival to a charity creating and delivering a year-round programme of exceptional digital arts events, embedded in and enriching the creative life of the city of York and beyond”.

In a progression from the 2018 debut, this will involve working closely with York artists, young people and neighbourhoods.

Themes of love, nature and community – particularly poignant at this time following months of lockdown and isolation – will run through artists’ installations and interactive performance, engaging audiences both in person and digitally.

Leading artists in their field from across the world have created work for York, such as Marshmallow Laser Feast, fresh from their show at the Saatchi Gallery in London; composer, musician and producer Elizabeth Bernholz, otherwise known as the artist Gazelle Twin, and arts collective KMA, whose installations have transformed numerous public spaces, from London’s Trafalgar Square to Shanghai’s Bund.

The York community is being encouraged to take part, so today the Mediale team is launching two calls for participation. Firstly, Mediale is calling out for 50 members of the public to feature in a piece that will serve as a memento for the times we live in.

Secondly, in collaboration with York’s Guild of Media Arts and nine other UNESCO Creative Cities of Media Arts, Mediale is launching a call-out to York artists, worth £2,500.

Tom Higham, York Mediale’s creative director for the  2018 festival and now the 2020 one too, says: “York Mediale is a place where, through digital arts, we can explore, challenge and reflect on our lives.

“Plans for this year’s Mediale were well underway as the pandemic took hold. That we’re able to work with artists and producers to create an event at all is something we’re really proud of.”

Mediale planned “as best it could” for what it knew would be a different type of event. “We looked closely at the works already submitted and worked to develop the pieces that would most closely examine these extraordinary times,” says Tom.

“We wanted to explore how we connect with loved ones, with our community, with nature and with our culture. We have been developing projects around those themes, and we’re excited to now present a series of works.

“All of these projects resonated with us at the start of 2020 but we could never have imagined how they could develop to so beautifully reflect our worries, hopes and relationships to our communities.”

York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman: Collaborating with Gazelle Twin and University of York Music Department for Absent Sitters, an online event at York Mediale 2020

York Mediale audiences will discover how the human body is hardwired, synchronised and inextricably linked to nature; experiment with a new form of performance, and explore the invisible transaction between a person and a piece of art and how WhatsApp has shaped communities for the COVID generation at this year’s “diverse, digitally engaged and mentally stimulating event”.

What digital delights are upcoming in York Mediale 2020-2021?

People We Love, November 2 to 29 at York MInster

THIS commission from creative collective KMA will be positioned in the Minster nave, where a new temporary “congregation” will be made up of a collection of five large high-definition screens, showing a series of video portraits focused on people that have been filmed looking at a photograph of someone they love.

The viewer will not know who is being looked at but will experience the emotion on the face projected on screen before them, interpreting each unspoken story.  

Visitors can add their story to the installation as a pop-up booth will be on-site, ready to capture the love stories of the city without the need for words.

Human Nature, October 21 to January 24 2021 at York Art Gallery

A TRIPTYCH of installations under the banner of Human Nature, curated by York Mediale and York Museums Trust, comes together as a centrepiece of York Mediale 2020 in a “hugely ambitious show”.

Embers And The Giants, a short film by Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson, makes its UK premiere, exploring human intervention through thousands of tiny drones mimicking a natural spectacle, suggesting a time when we will need to amplify nature in order to convince the public of its worth.

The Tides Within Us, a commission from immersive art collective Marshmallow Laser East, looks at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echoes the ecosystem within nature. 

Fine artist Rachel Goodyear presents Limina, a series of animations supported by her intricate drawings, in response to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection; all offering a glimpse into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Absent Sitters, October 21 to 25, online

GAZELLE Twin, billed as “one of the UK’s most vital contemporary voices in electronic music”,  collaborates with York artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman and the University of York Music Department to experiment with a new form of performance.

In this intimate, shared event, you will be guided by a “performer medium” to investigate what is live performance in 2020? The audience, contributing via video call, will become part of an online audio-visual experience that examines the power of “collective imagination” and the importance of “presence/absence” in a live event. Are we live? Can we connect? Who are you? Questions, questions, questions.

Good Neighbours, October 21 to 25, The Groves, York

GOOD Neighbours, from Amsterdam’s affect lab – interactive artist Klasien van de Zandschulp and researcher Natalie Dixon – is based on research into the micro-politics of communities and the increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown.

Individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in The Groves area of York.

What exactly is York Mediale?

York Mediale is an international media arts organisation that celebrates York as the UK’s first and only UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.  The independent arts charity was founded in 2014 to mark that designation.

As well as bringing new commissions from leading artists to the city for each festival, Mediale provides opportunities for the best emerging talents to showcase their art. Through incorporating technologies into their works, artists of all kinds will challenge, provoke, interrogate and celebrate our cities, our landscapes, our lives.

When a concert is postponed, not cancelled….

York Musical Society in the days before Covid-19

YORK Musical Society’s glorious celebration of Baroque music at York Minster tonight is postponed rather than cancelled.

“We are classing it as ‘postponed’ as we do plan to incorporate this fabulous repertoire at some point in the future when we are allowed to sing together again,” says YMS’s Lesley Peatfield..


“We are still rehearsing the lovely Handel anthems and the Gloria via Zoom for those members of YMS who have been taking part this term and plan to sing each piece through online in the ‘splendour’ of our own homes instead.”

Lesley adds: “With the future of choirs and singing in groups a big subject for debate, we are planning to rehearse and enjoy Handel’s Messiah for the autumn term via the Zoom platform. Keep singing and stay safe.”

York Musical Society embraces remote rehearsal revolution for singing therapy

Zoom with a view: York Musical Society members face up for Monday’s online rehearsal

YORK Musical Society’s online rehearsals are on song and on trend, as the Monday sessions on Zoom go from strength to strength.

Session host Lesley Peatfield says: “We’ve been running them from the start of the lockdown, and I’m especially proud as a lot of our older members have successfully navigated the software to be able to manage this.

“Some have even got their first computers for lockdown to be able to appear at our regular Monday night events.” 

As many as 80 singers join in, their ages ranging from an 18-year-old bass to 90. “We meet at 7pm for the sopranos and altos and 8pm for the tenors and basses, an hour each every Monday evening, when either David Pipe, our musical director, or John Bradbury, our accompanist, each take a session, leading from the piano, and swap over each week,” says Lesley.

“As well as hosting, I keep each session running technically and answer questions in the chat box.”

In the week the nation went into Covid-19 lockdown, York Musical Society was to have performed at York Minster. “That should have been a night of Faure’s Requiem, alongside a less well-known Michael Haydn requiem, which is so beautiful,” says Lesley.

“Thank you for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” said one York Musical Society member in the online chat room after a Monday rehearsal

“We had to cancel, of course, but we do hope to offer that programme sometime next year.”

Coming next, on Saturday, June 13 at York Minster, would have been YMS’s summer concert, Splendours Of The Baroque, a joyful programme of Vivaldi’s Gloria, Marcello’s Trumpet Concerto in D minor, Handel’s Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba and Handel’s Coronation Anthems.

“We’ve had to cancel that concert too,” says Lesley. “The Corona-tion anthems – Zadok The Priest, Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart Is Inditing – and have never been more appropriate,” says Lesley, poignantly.

After one Zoom rehearsal, Lesley wrote on social media: “Over 80 members joined us for a bit of note bashing for Vivaldi and Handel. Even though we may never perform this, the feeling of the community coming together is priceless.”

Members’ post-session comments to Lesley on the chat line testify to the “virtual” rehearsals being such a breath of fresh singing air amid the pandemic. “Thank you – this is the highlight of my week in lockdown,” said one.

“A very big ‘thank you’ for the Monday evening rehearsals, which I am very much enjoying, and for sending the scores out – much easier to follow,” wrote another. “Thank you to David [Pipe] and to John [Bradbury] for their patience and efforts and to Lesley for her expertise in enabling the sessions.”

Zoom for improvement: York Musical Society members gather for a “virtual” singing session

A third commented: “I’d just like to express my thanks to you all for organising these online rehearsals. I think David is too modest about how valuable they are musically. We can learn a lot at this stage.

“There is no doubt they are a huge boost to the morale of all the individual members, restoring our sense of community and connection to those we cannot meet in person.”  

A fourth enthused: “It is amazing how some proper singing, even over only half an hour, leaves one with such a good feeling inside.  Can’t wait for the next session.”

The Zoom uplift each Monday is best summed up by one member, who confessed to “enjoying it far more than I thought I would”, concluding that “Singing is pure therapy”.

Such a sentiment no doubt will be shared by so many other singing groups in York and beyond, now in the grip of the “remote rehearsal revolution”, be it Ewa Salecka’s “Prima Virtual Ensemble” or Jessa Liversidge’s myriad groups.

Looking ahead, Lesley says: “ We’re rehearsing with a view to an informal performance for friends and family at St Olave’s School, where we normally rehearse in the Shepherd Hall, whenever we manage to get back to face-to-face rehearsals.” Roll on that day.

York Musical Society to perform Faure’s Requiem at York Minster on March 28

Soprano Anna Prosser

SOPRANO Anna Prosser and tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner will sing with York Musical Society for the first time in March 28’s performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in York Minster.

This luminous work will be complemented by Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor. “You might think that having two requiems in one concert isn’t an imaginative programming choice,” says conductor David Pipe.

Tenor Robert Anthony Gardiner

“Even in rehearsals, though, it’s fascinating to hear how these two works, using much of the same liturgical text but separated by over 100 years, are so very different in style and musical content. This is an unusual opportunity to savour the contrasting responses of two fine composers.”

Fauré’s Requiem, first performed in 1890, uses a shortened version of the funeral mass and is serene, peaceful and full of haunting melodies. Michael Haydn is the lesser-known younger brother of Josef Haydn. “His less frequently performed but exquisite Requiem (1772) is said to have inspired Mozart’s own final work,” says Pipe, York Musical Society’s principal conductorsince April 2012.  

Mezzo-soprano Kate Symonds-Joy

Anna Prosser, a choral scholar and vocal coach at Leeds Cathedral, and Robert Anthony Gardiner, who lives in Leeds, will be joined on solo duty by mezzo-soprano  Kate Symonds-Joy  and bass Alex Ashworth.

Both have sung previously with York Musical Society, Symonds-Joy performing Verdi’s Requiem in November 2014 and Bach’s St Matthew Passion in March 2018; Ashworth, the title role in Mendelssohn’s Elijah in May 2015 and in Bach’s St Matthew Passion in March 2018.

Bass Alex Ashworth

Both sing with Solomon’s Knot Collective, who performed at last summer’s Ryedale Festival and enjoyed a sold-out performance at last December’s York Early Music Christmas Festival at the National Centre for Early Music, York.

Tickets for this 7.30pm concert are on sale at York Minster box office, on 01904 557256, at yorkminster.org or on the door. Prices are £25/£20 in the nave; £12 in the side aisles; £6, age 13 to 17; under-12s, free, but a ticket is required and they must be accompanied by an adult.