THIS thoughtful, intelligent and on the whole rewarding concert was part of The Sixteen on tour, or to give the term official dignity, a “Choral Pilgrimage”.
Sunday’s concert marked the 400th anniversary of William Byrd’s death. Harry Christophers’ programme was thoughtfully laid out, focusing not only on the English Renaissance composer himself, but his engagement and connections with the music of his contemporaries.
For example, there were pairings of Byrd’s famous motet Ne Irascaris, Domine with Philip van Wilder’s superb madrigal O Doux Regard and the settings of Tristitia et Anxietas by both Byrdand Clemens non Papa.
These works not only influenced Byrd, but he also “openly borrowed” from them. No such thing as copyright in those days. Throw into the mix two specially commissioned tribute pieces by Dobrinka Tabakova and we have a strong contextual identity.
What struck me throughout was the absolute fluency of the choir, the clarity of line and infectious enthusiasm for this familiar territory. But I also felt that it was perhaps a tad too reverential; I didn’t always feel the real urgency or vitality I would normally be experiencing from this terrific choir.
To be sure, the opening Arise Lord Into Thy Rest was impeccable with excellent balance, the part-singing in Civitas Sancti Tui was sublime and the concluding Vigilate, with its contrapuntal density, was a great way to sign off. But I found the detail of Jacobus Clemens non Papa’s Ego Flos Campi hard to hear, perhaps a little imprecise.
The Minster acoustic didn’t help. Certainly, it loves vowels: the opening of de Monte’s O Suavitas et Dulcedo was blessed with an other-worldly quality. But consonants, articulated consonants like the Ts and Ss in Byrd’s (smaller forces, choir down to 12 performers) Tristitia et Anxietas were just irritating. So were the hanging cadences that drifted sharp-wards as in the Amen closure of de Monte’s O Savitas.
The new works were not particularly standout pieces, but pieces with standout moments. There was a richly melismatic soprano solo (an excellent Julie Cooper) in Arise Lord Into Thy Rest. The opening of Ms Tabakova’s Turn Our Captivity, O Lord, the stronger of the two works, was both distinct and beautiful.
The high unison soprano line decorated with ornamental, quite eastern-influenced decoration was simply gorgeous and persuasively delivered. I did think that composer’s decision to go for a “distinctly homophonic texture, to contrast with the layered polyphony of Byrd’s exquisite settings” was the correct one. The juicy chordal dissonances not only delivered contrast, but also distance.
Also gorgeous was the visual: The Sixteen gathered in front of the magnificent Great East Window. The glow was illuminating. Which brings me to conductor Harry Christophers. Not only is he a joy to watch, being so obviously immersed in the music he clearly loves, but also he seems to physically blend into the musical performance itself.
Review by Steve Crowther
York Early Music Festival runs until July 14 with the theme of Smoke & Mirrors. Full details and tickets at: ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf. Box office: 01904 658338.
HENRY VIII and the murder of a York glazier take top spot in Charles Hutchinson’s pick of July highlights with outdoor cinema on its way too.
Community event of the month: York Theatre Royal in Sovereign, King’s Manor, Exhibition Square, York, July 15 to 30
YORK Theatre Royal’s large-scale community production, York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of C J Sansom’s Tudor-set murder mystery Sovereign, will be staged outdoors at King’s Manor, where part of the story takes place. Henry VIII even makes an appearance.
Two professional actors, Fergus Rattigan’s disabled lawyer Matthew Shardlake and Sam Thorpe-Spinks’ assistant Jack Barak, lead the 120-strong community company of actors, singers, musicians and backstage workers. Tickets update: sold out.
Exhibition of the week: Tom Wilson, City Screen Picturehouse café bar, Coney Street, York, until July 29
YORK punk expressionist artist, designer, playwright, theatre director and tutor Tom Wilson is exhibiting his riots of colour at City Screen Picturehouse for the first time with sale proceeds going to MAP (Medical Aid for Palestinians). Thirty-five works are on display, priced at £175 to £700.
“My art looks like an explosion,” says Wilson, whose dynamic abstract artwork is influenced by Kandinsky, Max Earnst, Otto Dix, Outsider art, German Expressionism and Rayonism (Russian Expressionism).
Tribute show of the week: Steve Steinman’s Anything For Love, The Meat Loaf Story, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm
FOR more than 30 years, Nottingham’s Steve Steinman has toured the world with his tribute to the songs of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf (real name Marvin Lee Aday). Now he presents his new production, showcasing 25 chunks of Meat Loaf and Steinman’s prime cuts.
Anything For Love combines Steve’s humour and a ten-piece band with such rock-operatic favourites as Bat Out Of Hell, Paradise By The Dashboard Light, Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, Dead Ringer For Love and Total Eclipse Of The Heart. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Don’t miss atYork Early Music Festival: The Sixteen, York Minster, Sunday, 8pm
THE Sixteen’s 2023 Choral Pilgrimage is inspired by the influence of Renaissance composer William Byrd in an exploration of his life, works and pervading Roman Catholic faith. His legacy is marked by two new compositions by Dobrinka Tabakova, bringing his musical heritage into the modern day.
The premieres, Arise Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity, highlight Byrd’s influence of modern polyphony and showcase The Sixteen choir in a new light. Director Harry Christophers’ programme also features works by Van Wilder, de Monte, Clemens Non Papa and Byrd himself. Box office: 01904 658338 or tickets.ncem.co.uk.
American play of the week: Amerrycan Theatre in Our Town, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
FOUNDER Bryan Bounds directs Yorkshire’s American company, Amerrycan Theatre, in the York premiere of “America’s greatest play”, Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 study of mindfulness, mortality and brevity of life, Our Town.
“Wilder’s portrait of life, love and death set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, a fictional New England town at the start of the 20th century, could happen just as easily in Pocklington,” says Bounds. Tracing the romance and marriage of Emily Webb (Emily Belcher) and George Gibbs (Frankie Bounds), Our Town reveals the hidden mysteries behind the smallest details of everyday life. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Outdoor film event of the week: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, Museum Gardens, York, July 14 to 16, doors, 7.30pm; screenings at sundown, 9.15pm approx
CITY Screen Picturehouse heads outdoors for three films in three nights, kicking off on Friday with The Super Mario Bros Movie, wherein Brooklyn plumbers Mario (Chris Pratt) and brother Luigi (Charlie Day) are transported down a mysterious pipe and wander into a magical new world.
In Mamma Mia! The Movie, next Saturday, Greek island bride-to-be Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is set on finding out who her father is. In next Sunday’s film, Jaws, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss star as a police chief, marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop a gigantic great shark that has been menacing the island community of Amity. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor-cinema.
Pop nostalgia of the week: The Counterfeit Seventies, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 16, 7.30pm
IN the wake of The Counterfeit Sixties, here comes, you guessed it, The Counterfeit Seventies, the decade of glam rock, punk, new wave and everything in between. Revisit Slade, Sweet, T Rex, the Bay City Rollers and plenty more, aided by a light show, costumes of the period and archival footage of bands and events from the era. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Solo show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 16, 7pm
AFTER her celebrations of Kate Bush (An Evening Without…) and Julie Andrews (Julie Madly Deeply), writer-performer Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with the highly personal true story of a singer who loses her voice and embarks on an unexpected journey of self-revelation.
Warning: The show includes themes of trauma and sexual violence. As The Stage review put it, The Silent Treatment is a “a war cry and a message of resilience and hope to anyone who has faced abuse and been made to feel guilty about it”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
The Dream Of Gerontius, University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, York Minster, June 14
THE Dream Of Gerontius opened with a well-judged expansive orchestral Prelude; the ghost of Wagner ever present in the slowly unfolding haunting melodic lines.
The performance reminded me how surreal this instrumental journey is, quite radical really, as it closes in to greet Gerontius on his deathbed.
Joshua Ellicott’s dramatic opening Jesu, Maria, I Am Near To Death was imbued with both frailty and trepidation. Naturally, most of the vocal responsibility lies with the tenor role of Gerontius, and Mr Ellicott was simply imperious. He strove to deliver an unforgettable emotional and spiritual journey, one rich in dramatic effect and emotional depth.
The somewhat chilling opening aria was both passionate and persuasive, and the delivery of the later Sanctus Fortis, a musical statement of faith, was both powerful and compelling. Particularly musically pleasing was the way the opening aria bled into, seeped into the Kyrie Eleison.
It is not until the end of Part 1 that Gerontius is joined by the Priest, a wonderful, resonant bass, Alex Ashworth, who leads the processional Go Forth Upon Thy journey, Christian Soul. The closing…Through The Same, Through Christ Our Lord also had a wonderful, satisfying musical landing.
Part 2 opens with the Soul of Gerontius singing I Went To Sleep; And Now I Am Refreshed. Mr Ellicott delivered this beautifully, aided by the clarity of texture – muted strings, woodwind gentle, overlapping commentary.
Mezzo soprano Kitty Whately proved to be a worthy (female) Angel, the singer displaying a lovely, velvety tone. Her aria Softly And Gently was just heavenly. The dramatic highlight was, of course, when Gerontius sees God; a silence of shock and awe, orchestral explosion. Very effective indeed, particularly in this acoustic.
The orchestra and choir (often singing very demanding vocal lines such as Praise To The Holiest In The Height) were excellent throughout. The Minster acoustic is and was problematic; it tends to take more than it gives. Conductor John Stringer managed these huge forces plus soloists in this acoustic with exceptional musical skill, and a full-capacity audience seemed to agree.
THREE early works by Vaughan Williams made an invigorating evening, when the choir of York’s twin
city, Münster, joined forces with York Musical Society’s choir and orchestra, all conducted by David Pipe.
The programme was dedicated to Philip Moore, organist emeritus of York Minster, who celebrates his 80th birthday in September. It also marked 25 years since Martin Henning – present here as a tenor – became conductor of the Münster choir.
Vaughan Williams’s first essay into symphonic realms, A Sea Symphony, was premiered at the Leeds Festival of October 1910, with the composer conducting and Edward Bairstow as organist. But he revised it extensively over the years until 1923.
He emphasised that the words are used symphonically, as a vehicle for the choir, which must therefore be considered an extension of the orchestral textures. Walt Whitman’s poetry is not unimportant, but the overall theme of human endeavour and the brotherhood of man is what really matters.
This message was at the heart of its success here. The symphony is a rambling affair, well over an hour, and not easy to distil. But Pipe kept his eye on the ball and his singers’ eyes on him, nursing them deftly through the work’s many minefields.
We must not, however, forget the sterling contribution made by the orchestra led by Nicola Rainger. The strings worked with ferocious devotion, while the brass – who have a much easier time of it – made hay, never looking back after blasting out the crucial opening fanfare triumphantly.
Solo soprano Elinor Rolfe Johnson was straight into her stride in Flaunt Out, O Sea, doubtless inspired by several thunderous moments in the first movement. She generated considerable resonance throughout the work with a cutting edge that was ideal in this company. The choral sopranos took courage from her and sustained their high tessitura superbly.
Julian Tovey’s pleasing baritone was at his best in the slow movement On The Beach At Night, Alone, evoking a “vast similitude” under a starry sky against a gentle orchestral swell. The movement ended marvellously quiet.
In the scherzo The Waves, string tremolos offered exciting underpinning to the gurgling ocean, where the choir really laid into their lines with relish. Its finish was thrilling.
The finale is long and floundering, not easy to sustain. But the choirs’ reserves of stamina carried the day. Pipe’s broad tempos were excellently judged for this vast acoustic; he wisely concentrated on the wood, not the trees, and took us from climax to climax with increasing fervour. The offstage semi-chorus provided by the Ebor Singers was eerily effective.
In their duet, the baritone did not quite balance the soprano, needing more operatic heft; he compensated on his own later. What mattered, though, was the exhilarating timelessness of Whitman’s vision, crystallised here in the ultra-soft ending.
The evening had begun with the composer’s first work to capture the attention of critics and public alike, Toward The Unknown Region (1907), a setting of Whitman’s Whispers Of Heavenly Death. Its opening was amorphous, even nervy, where the choral basses needed to deliver more. But it came to a fighting finish, spearheaded by the excellent sopranos.
Earlier still was the composer’s first orchestral work, Serenade in A minor (1898) for small orchestra, which followed. The orchestra enjoyed – and deserved – the spotlight it offered. The cellos framed a tidy Prelude and the galloping Scherzo was redolent of rural pursuits.
The Intermezzo found Vaughan Williams experimenting with different groupings, but the rhapsodic Romance had a pleasing clarinet solo and an unforgettable passage of very high coloratura for the first violins, which was despatched with panache. The Finale had a martial flow, ending with a fanfare flourish. It was well worth exhuming.
Review by Martin Dreyer
PREVIEW: Academy of St Olave’s Summer Concert, St OLave’s Church, Marygate, York, June 17, 8pm
THE Academy of St Olave chamber orchestra rounds off its 2022-23 season with a summer concert centred on England’s musical legacy, from symphonies written for London audiences by the great Austrian composers Mozart and Haydn, to works by English composers Frederick Delius, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Paul Patterson.
The concert is book-ended by Mozart’s first symphony and Haydn’s 100th, known as “The Military”. Mozart composed his work in London during his family’s Grand Tour of Europe in 1764, when the boy wonder was eight.
Likewise, Haydn’s composition was one of his 12 “London symphonies”, to be performed during his second visit to England in 1794-95. The prominent fanfares and percussion effects employed in the second and fourth movements prompted its “Military” moniker.
Delius’s Summer Night On The River and Vaughan Williams’s rarely heard Harnham Down are short impressionistic tone poems, with each composer taking inspiration from continental counterparts: in Delius’ case, Debussy, whereas the young Vaughan Williams was clearly still working under the influence of Wagner.
The programme is completed by Paul Patterson’s Westerly Winds, a four-movement suite for wind quintet commissioned in 1999 by the Galliard Ensemble. The composer describes it as “essentially a sequence of four short fantasias based on West Country folk tunes”, including Farmer Giles and Linden Lea.
Musical director Alan George says: “While our summer concert has a nominally English theme, the programme also serves to demonstrate the rich cultural exchanges with European neighbours that have helped form today’s musical landscape, with pieces originating from more than two centuries apart.
“I’m sure our audience will be delighted by the range of music on offer, including some relative rarities, all performed by the highly skilled musicians of the academy.”
The concert is in aid of St Leonard’s Hospice, the independent York charity that provides specialist palliative care and support for those with life-limiting illnesses.
Tickets cost £15 or £5 for accompanied children (18 and under) at academyofstolaves.org.uk or on the door, if any are unsold.
YORK digital artist and filmmaker Kit Monkman’s People We Love installation explores “the invisible transaction between a person, a piece of art and that emotion which bonds us all”. Love.
The latest edition of KMA’s community-inspired artwork has taken over the Chapel at Castle Howard, near York, where a bank of five high-definition screens is showing portraits of the estate community, residents and visitors filmed in March as they gaze at a picture of their choice. A picture you never see, but you will feel each unspoken story as the faces tell the tale of a person they love.
After gracing York Minster twice (the first run was stopped by Covid), followed by Pittsburgh, USA, Viborg, Denmark, and Selby Abbey, North Yorkshire, the latest KMA installation is once more designed by Monkman and produced by York-based Mediale.
“Each installation is a portrait of a community at that moment,” says Mediale founder and creative director Tom Higham. “What’s really exciting is doing a series of different places that collectively make a 21st century portraiture archive.
“York Minster was an awe-inspiring space for the installation, but there is something more intimate about the experience here in the Chapel. You can’t compete with the grandeur of the place, but you provide something that is complementary.”
The Castle Howard setting enables moving images of the digital age to stand alongside the grandeur, oil-painted portraiture and collections of the John Vanbrugh-designed stately home.
“Viewers of People We Love will meet the penetrating gaze of the work’s subjects, never knowing who the focus of their detailed attention is,” says Kit.
“In the most direct sense, the aesthetic subjects of the installation, the people we love, are absent, and can only be conjured into existence through an act of imagination on the viewer’s behalf. The work turns on this notion, the notion that love and empathy start as an act of imagination.”
People We Love finds its inspiration in The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Coxwold clergyman, humorist and novelist Laurence Sterne. First published in York in 1759, the book contains a blank page for the reader to imagine, draw or write about a person they love.
Participation in the Castle Howard project was by open invitation to attend the late-March filming. Among the faces is the Honourable Nick Howard, present occupant of the 18th century stately pile, in informal attire of black T-shirt and unbuttoned work shirt.
“It was brave of him, maybe that’s the right word, maybe the wrong word, to do it,” says Kit. “This house is full of portraits denoting power and stature and yet these portraits are about vulnerability, showing these really honest, vulnerable faces close up.
“If you sit in the Chapel for a long time with these faces, in the beautiful chapel light, you will have an inner dialogue with them. You absolutely will start to project a story on to them, or at least have an empathetic response.”
Among those meeting the gaze of the faces on screen on the opening day were Tim and Delia Madgwick, from nearby Yearsley. “The installation feels quite benign but also radical,” she says. “So much of our culture today is about attention-seeking, but this really repays quiet attention if you’re prepared to spend time with it,” says Delia.
“There was something that was all encompassing about being filmed, holding a photograph of Tim, being asked questions. All your senses were at play and it felt like you were in the womb. You had a sense of being very safe.”
Delia took part in People We Love after undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, being filmed when she had no hair but had no qualms about facing the KMA camera for the six-and-a-half-minute recording.
“I didn’t feel self-conscious, even knowing it was going to be out there for hundreds of people to see. It was an extremely appropriate moment to do it, and that moment was all that mattered,” she says. “I found Kit’s approach very welcoming and comforting.”
After deliberation, Tim was her choice for her photo. “My daughter said, ‘Good! I’d have been worried if you hadn’t done that’!” says Delia.
Tim selected one from their time in Australia. “It was a lovely picture of us taken in Perth, Western Australia in 1982/1983 , when we decided we couldn’t stay over there. It’s that moment, looking at it, where you think, ‘where have the last 40 years gone? How things have changed’.”
Delia put herself forward to be filmed first. “Afterwards, I said to Tim, ‘you must do it too’, ” she recalls of her experience.
“It was very emotional, when you reflect on having been together for 44 years and the challenges we have been through this winter” says Tim. “I looked at the photograph for some time on the day, so it was on mind, and as you look at it, you realise the essence of the person you’re looking at hasn’t changed.
“In fact it has developed and matured, and what has changed is that life experiences have added to it. We could reflect on our good fortune when thinking things were not quite so fortunate.”
Coming next for People We Love will be a return to Viborg Cathedral for a new installation of Danish faces from September 2023 after an installation of York faces there last autumn. ArtHouse Jersey will follow. “Some discussions are under way for 2024, but nothing is locked in yet,” says Mediale’s Tom Higham.
People We Love is on show in the Chapel at Castle Howard, near York, until October 15, open 10am to 4pm, as part of the general admission ticket at castlehoward.co.uk.
WHICH shows will draw the crowds? Charles Hutchinson prepares to join the merry throng across the summer beyond the Bank Holiday sunshine.
Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Pocklington Arts Centre, tonight, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, June 5, 7.30pm
CHARMINGLY offbeat Pocklington-raised poet, stand-up comedian, actor, author, artist and podcaster Rob Auton heads back north from his London abode on his 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour to play Pock and Leeds.
After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Leeds, hydeparkbookclub.co.uk.
“Witness the stupidity” comedy gig of the week: Tim Vine: Breeeep!, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm
EXPECT a mountain of nonsense, one-liners, stupid things, crazy songs and wobbly props, plus utter drivel, advises punslinger Tim Vine.
“Tim’s like the manager of a sweet shop where all the sweets are replaced by jokes, and he serves them in a random order,” says the show blurb. “So it’s like a sweet shop where the manager just throws sweets at you. Enjoy the foolishness and laugh your slip-ons off.” Sold out; for returns only, check atgtickets.com/york.
Homecoming of the week: Amy May Ellis, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 8pm
NOW moved to Bristol, singer-songwriter Amy May Ellis was raised on a remote dale on the North York Moors, playing her early gigs at The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale.
Steeped in the culture, scenery, folklore and wildlife of the countryside that surrounded and shaped her as a child, she wrote her debut album Over Ling And Bell – named after two types of heather – in a secluded moorland farmhouse, mostly alone but sometimes with friends. Released on Lost Map Records on May 12, it is available on digital platforms and limited-edition vinyl. She will be joined by her new band for tomorrow’s gig, when North Yorkshire-London combo Wanderland support. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Musical of the week:York Stage inEverybody’s Talking About Jamie, Teen Edition, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees
JAMIE New lives on a council estate in Sheffield with his loving mum. At 16, he doesn’t quite fit in. He may be terrified about the future, but Jamie is going to be a sensation.
The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s coming-of-age musical follows the true-life story of Sheffield schoolboy Jamie Campbell as he overcomes prejudice and bullying to step out of the darkness to become a drag queen. York Stage artistic director Nik Briggs directs. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend, Black Swan Folk Club, Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, June 2 to 4
TOM Bliss and The Burning Bridges open the three-day folk fiesta at the Black Swan on Friday night, to be followed by afternoon and evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday.
Among the weekend’s acts will be: Stan Graham; Eddie Affleck; The Barbarellas; Blonde On Bob; Clurachan; Union Jill; White Sail; Edwina Hayes; Minster Stray Morris; Caramba; The Old Humpy Band; Tommy Coyle; Paula Ryan; Judith Haswell; Sarah Dean; Chris Euesden and Ramshackle. Full details at: blackswanfolkclub.org.uk/programme.cfm.
Purgatory awaits: University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius, York Minster, June 14, 7.30pm
THE University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform Edward Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius with soloists Joshua Ellicott (Gerontius), Kitty Whately and Alexander Ashworth, conducted by John Stringer.
Elgar dramatically sets to music Cardinal Newman’s poem depicting the journey of Gerontius’s soul from his deathbed to judgement before God. On his way, he encounters angels and demons, colourfully portrayed by the chorus, before settling finally in purgatory. Box office: 01904 322439 or yorkconcerts.co.uk.
Outdoor cinema: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, York Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York, July 14 to 16, from 7.30pm
MUSEUM Gardens play host to City Screen Picturehouse for three nights of summertime open-air film action, opening with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, starring Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy on July 14. Next come Mamma Mia!, featuring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, on July 15 and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark attack classic Jaws on July 16.
All these outdoor cinema events start at 7.30pm. Films will be shown at sundown; drinks and snacks will be on offer but guests can bring picnics. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor.
Looking ahead: Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought, Grand Opera House, York, September 28, 7.30pm
AFTER four years, American-British actress, comedian, writer, television personality and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, 70, follows up her How To Be Human show with a stage adaptation of her May 11 book, I’m Not As Well As I Thought, promising her rawest, darkest, funniest show yet.
In 2022, Wax began a search to find meaning, booking a series of potentially life-changing journeys: swimming with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic; joining a Christian monastery; working in a Greek refugee camp; undertaking a silent 30-day mindfulness retreat in California. Even greater change marked her inner journey. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Recommended but too late for tickets
ACERBIC comedian Tom Allen’s Completely gig at York Barbican on Sunday at 8pm has sold out. Completely.
Under discussion will be Allen’s life updates, his vegetable patch and the protocol for inviting friends with children for dinner.
YORK Open Studios artist Gerard Hobson has produced a limited-edition screen print of the York Minster Peregrine falcons for sale in the Minster shop from Saturday.
In the wild, Peregrines are to be spotted on sea cliffs and rocks, but they have taken to occupying city buildings too, not least a pair residing on the towers of northern Europe’s largest gothic cathedral, where Mr and Mrs Minster, as they are known affectionately, have bred successfully each year since 2017. This spring, they have returned once more to build a nest for the new breeding season.
Typically, the eggs are laid towards the end of March, hatching at the end of April. The young Peregrines fledge early in June, and remain around the Minster until late summer, although some may stay longer.
“York Minster’s Peregrines have a dedicated following, and the best bet for information is to look at the yorkperegrines.info website for the latest news and to follow the @YorkPeregrines Twitter feed for the latest sightings,” says Clifton printmaker Gerard.
Although “Mr and Mrs Minster” have been seen perched on each side of all three of York Minster’s towers, they are most often to be spotted on the north face of the north-west bell tower. This is best viewed from Dean’s Park, usually open to the public from around 07.30am to 7.30pm each day.
“The Peregrine is one of those unusual cases in which an iconic species has somehow successfully come back from the brink of becoming extinct in Britain and has somehow adapted to city living,” says Gerard.
“That’s such a positive outcome in what seems to be a rather gloomy time when so many things are being wiped out, so I’m delighted to have done this limited-edition print for York Minster.
“I look back to when I grew up in the 1970s, when Peregrine falcons were incredibly rare in the country, as with most birds of prey. One reason was that egg collectors were taking the eggs; another was because of a pesticide that got into insects, and at the top of that food chain was the Peregrine.
“The eggshell became thinner, so the eggs couldn’t survive the hatching stage when the parent sat on the nest. Fortunately, that pesticide was banned, and the Peregrine – the fastest bird in the world when it goes into a swoop – has made a remarkable comeback.”
Gerard’s regular artwork comprises hand-coloured, limited-edition linocut prints and cut-outs focused on nature and wildlife, inspired by the countryside around where he lives in York.
As well as prints and bird, animal, tree and mushroom cut-outs, he creates anything from cards, mugs, cushions and coasters to chopping boards, lampshades, tea towels, notepads and wrapping paper. Now comes his commission for a 50cm by 45cm print of York Minster’s male Peregrine, a work that has been a year in the making from roof visit to Minster delivery.
“The starting point was the fact that several cathedrals in the UK now have resident Peregrines, and the Minster caught on to the public’s interest in the birds as much as the building, leading to the website being set up,” he says.
“Two members of the Minster staff visited my shop [now closed] that I ran in the old Bulmers building on Lord Mayor’s Walk, and they thought, ‘would it be worth having some of my work for the Minster?’.
“My initial reaction was, I thought they’d got the wrong artist as I don’t do buildings! At first, they were talking about mugs and tea towels, but I suggested doing a print. They were up for it, and at that point I managed to convince them that I needed to go up on to the roof to see the Peregrines. Thankfully, I’m OK with heights!”
Gerard had the nest site pointed out to him. “It’s around a corner where you can’t see it, where they’ve nested for the past five years, and now they’ve paired up again for this year. That’s wonderful news,” he says.
On the day of his visit last year, Gerard had the joy of seeing both birds in flight. “The female’s favourite perch is on a grotesque on the belfry window – grotesques don’t have waterspouts whereas gargoyles do – and as if on cue, she landed on the grotesque while I was there,” he says.
Gerard settled on designing a print of the male Peregrine perched on a grotesque against a backdrop of the Minster with the female in flight.
“I’d never done a screen print before, so I went to Penfold Press, Dan Bugg’s studio just outside Selby, which does York artists Mark Hearld and Emily Sutton’s prints [along with Ed Kluz, Jonny Hannah, Angela Harding, Clive Kicks-Jenkins, and more besides],” he says. “I took him the linocut and Dan worked on the screen print from there.
“Because I’d gone there, I really wanted to keep as many things as possible local, aside from the print being printed on Somerset Printmaking Paper [from St Cuthbert’s Paper Mill in Haybridge, Wells].
“The tubes for the prints come from a company outside Selby; Make Your Mark Rubber Stamps, in Goodramgate, have done the labels; the tissue for wrapping is from an independent business at Clifton Moor; Gillygate Framing is doing the framing for the print on display in the Minster shop.”
York Minster has acquired the entire 150 Peregrine print run for sale in the York Minster Shop and online at shop.yorkminster.org from Saturday, priced at £95.
“If you want to have it framed like the one in the shop, Gillygate Framers is only four minutes from the Minster,” says Gerard.
A second framed Hobson Peregrine screen print went on display in the new York Minster Refectory to coincide with King Charles III and the Queen Consort’s official opening of the restaurant during Thursday’s visit for the Royal Maundy Service at York Minster.
The brasserie-style restaurant, in the converted Grade II-listed 19th-century Minster School, is taking bookings at yorkminsterrefectory.co.uk from April 20 when it formally opens to the public.
The restaurant will be run day to day by Joshua Brimmell, executive head chef of The Star Inn The City, in Museum Street, York, while he and Andrew Pern, the Michelin-starred restaurateur behind the Star Inn at Harome and The Star Inn The City, are overseeing the development of the menus and hospitality functions.
Later this month, Gerard Hobson will be opening his printmaking home studio at 51, Water Lane, Clifton, for York Open Studios on April 15, 16, 22 and 23, from 10am to 5pm each day.
Full details of more than 150 artists and makers taking part in the two weekends at 100 locations can be found at www.yorkopenstudios.co.uk. Work will range from ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery and mixed media to painting, print, photography, sculpture, textiles and wood.
Did you know?
IN keeping with many other birds of prey, the female Peregrine, charged with brooding duties, is significantly larger than the male, the fast-moving food collector. Just as Mallards are ducks and drakes, the female Peregrine is the falcon; the male, the tiercel or tercel.
TWO Requiems, one familiar, one rarely heard, were combined for this Lenten concert which, despite the biting cold both inside and out, attracted a considerable audience.
This was the ninth time that York Musical Society had given Fauré’s Requiem, dating back to its York premiere in 1949. By contrast, Michael Haydn’s Requiem in C minor had never been heard here before.
Haydn was a prolific composer, but never quite emerged from the shadow of Joseph, his elder brother by five years. His style was more conservative and thus also more predictable, rarely straying far from convention.
He was a good craftsman, however, and everything in his Requiem, written in December 1771 after the death of Archbishop Sigismund Schrattenbach – and in the wake of his infant daughter’s death – is neatly tailored and politely ordered. Just what the doctor ordered, in fact, for a decent funeral.
It found the choir in good voice, if at first more cautious than inspired. The Introit eerily heralded what Mozart was to produce fully two decades later. Haydn’s Dies Irae, although not as terrifying as Mozart’s, was strong, with the four soloists well led by Brittany King’s vibrant soprano; she was ably partnered by the contralto-toned mezzo of Marie Elliott.
Robert Anthony Gardiner’s tenor lacked heft in the latter stages of the Dies Irae, but he negotiated the opening of the Offertorium smoothly. Felix Kemp’s baritone offered a firm underpinning to the solo quartet, which was at its best in the Benedictus.
The choir really warmed to their task in the fugal passages at the end of the Offertorium, and although the Agnus Dei moves at a stately plod, it had a certain majesty here. The orchestra, with four seemingly omnipresent trumpets in fine voice, responded keenly to David Pipe’s authoritative beat, despite a bass line that barely pauses for breath.
Fauré’s justifiably well-loved Requiem was on a different plane. Faces were out of copies and engagement throughout the choir ranks was total. As a result, we had a lively Sanctus, much enhanced by the harp of Georgina Wells. We needed a touch more bite from the tenor line in the Agnus Dei, but there was plenty of fire in all voices for the ‘Dies illa, dies irae’ section of the Libera Me. The sopranos were truly angelic for the In Paradisum.
The two soloists were first-class. Felix Kemp found excellent legato for the ‘Hostias’ section of the Offertory and forthright resonance for the start of the Libera Me. Brittany King adopted a much straighter tone for the Pie Jesu and sustained it beautifully, making it sound much easier than it really is.
The violas, mellow and dusky, really came into their own in the orchestra – which only lacked flutes – and Pipe’s baton cajoled the choir as needed. Alhough he is now based in Leeds, we must hope that he maintains this valuable connection with York.
NAOMI Simon, 2022 winner of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year Award, has agreed to sing at her home city’s Community Choir Festival on March 11 at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York.
Naomi, 16, was a chorister at York Minster before taking up a scholarship at Rugby School to pursue her love of music. She is the daughter of JoRo Theatre patron Frances Simon, a speech and drama coach in York.
Joining Naomi will be a fellow BBC finalist, soprano-singing Bootham School pupil Sam Brophy. Each will sing solos before they perform a duet together.
From the age of seven, Sam has sung in choirs across the country, and now that his family lives in York, he sings in the York Minster Choir. Last December, he was the soprano soloist for Walking In The Air at the York Minster performance of Carrot Productions’ The Snowman.
York Community Choir Festival was started by JoRo trustee Graham Mitchell seven years ago. From small beginnings, the event has grown to a format of 33 choirs of all ages and singing styles performing in eight concerts over seven days.
“In a little coup for the event, the organising group is absolutely thrilled that Naomi and Sam are able to perform a short set for us on the final Saturday of the week-long festival,” says Graham, the Jo Ro’s community engagement director.
“Naomi’s performance in the BBC live final displayed a wonderful maturity and understanding of the carol that she chose to sing, Mary, Did You Know?, which wowed the three judges.
“Naomi has a busy schedule and we’re extremely fortunate that she can be in York when the festival is on. The festival itself is a celebration of music making regardless of age, ability or genre.
“Any choir based in the York area can apply to join in. This year, in addition to the vast range of adult choirs, we’ll have two primary school choirs performing in different concerts and about 100 pupils from Huntington School will sing in four different choirs run by the school – all on the Thursday night alongside three adult choirs. “
Graham adds: “The variety of song, genre and singing styles is absolutely marvellous and there’ll be no repetition in any concert. To confirm the variety of music on offer, on the night Naomi and Sam will be singing, we’ll have the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir, ladies’ close harmony group Track 29, the mixed voices of The Celebration Singers and Robert Wilkinson Primary Academy.”
“The whole world of music will be on stage with at least four choirs performing in every concert. Show tunes, pop, folk, world music, classical, gospel, close harmony, blues and jazz will all feature.
“From primary school choirs to young adult choirs, adult choirs to pensioner-only choirs, singing in male, female or mixed voice choirs, the festival is a celebration of how people come together to make music and have fun.
“Pensioners choir The Rolling Tones and York Wellbeing Choir, for example, are both aimed at enjoyment and combating loneliness.”
Tickets for this fundraising event for the JoRo Theatre’s Raise The Roof appeal are available at £6 to £10 at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935 during opening hours.
Who is singing and when at the York Community Choir Festival
DARKNESS and light, American and Scottish singers, Yorkshire brass players and a York comedian will draw the crowds in the week ahead, advises Charles Hutchinson.
Light show of the week: Doubletake Projections’ Colour and Light, York Minster, 6pm to 9pm nightly until February 23
DOUBLETAKE Projections are using projection mapping to re-imagine the facade of York Minster’s South Transept in a free public show visible from the South Piazza.
Brought to the city by the York BID (Business Improvement District) to illuminate the cathedral during winter’s dark nights, this immersive digital experience is running on an eight-minute loop. Viewers are invited to stay for as many showings as they wish. No booking is required.
In addition to paying homage to the cathedral’s construction and incorporating nods to local history, York Minster’s medieval stained glass is in the spotlight. Collaged compositions of biblical stories told through the glass is being animated and beamed onto the towering transept walls, shining a new light on the medieval window illustrations.
Using animation techniques and styles, the after-dark projection show showcases elements of the rich historical archives in a new way while emphasising the grandeur and ornate detail of York Minster’s architecture.
Dark show of the week: York Light Opera Company in Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday to March 4, 7.30pm, except February 26; 2.30pm, February 25 and March 4
YORK Light return to York Theatre Royal for a 70th anniversary production of “one of the darkest musicals ever written”, Stephen Sondheim’s noir thriller Sweeney Todd, directed by Martyn Knight with musical direction by Paul Laidlaw.
Neil Wood plays the Georgian-era misanthropic barber who returns home to London after 15 years in exile, seeking vengeance on the corrupt judge (Craig Kirby) who ruined his life. The road to revenge leads him to open new tonsorial premises above the failing pie shop run by Mrs Lovett (Julie-Anne Smith). Cue a very tasty meaty new ingredient to boost sales in this now cutthroat business. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Fundraiser of the week: York Brass Against Cancer 2, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 2.30pm
YORK’S Shepherd Group Brass Band joins up with West Yorkshire’s world famous Black Dyke Band for a charity collaboration in aid of York Against Cancer. BBC Radio Leeds presenter David Hoyle hosts this two-hour concert. Box office: atgtickets.com/york
California calling: Belinda Carlisle, The Decades Tour, York Barbican, Monday, 7.30pm
NOW living in Bangkok and once the lead vocalist of The Go-Gos, “the most successful all-female rock band of all time”, Los Angelean Belinda Carlisle, 64, has enjoyed chart-topping solo success too with Heaven Is A Place On Earth.
At a gig rearranged from October 2021, hopefully The Decades Tour set list will be taking in Runaway Horses, I Get Weak, Circle In The Sand, Leave A Light On, Summer Rain, (We Want) The Same Thing, Live Your Life Be Free, In Too Deep and Always Breaking My Heart from her eight studio albums. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Storyteller of the week: Suzanne Vega, An Intimate Evening Of Songs And Stories, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm
2022 Glastonbury acoustic stage headliner Suzanne Vega, 63, plays York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of the New York singer-songwriter’s 14-date tour.
Emerging from the Greenwich Village folk revival scene of the 1980s, Vega has brought succinct, insightful storytelling to songs of city life, ordinary people and social culture. Her support act will be Tufnell Park folk singer and traditional song archivist Sam Lee. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24 (Burning Duck Comedy Club) , 8pm, sold out; Pocklington Arts Centre, May 27, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, June 5, 7.30pm
CHARMINGLY offbeat York poet, stand-up comedian, actor and podcaster Rob Auton returns home from London on his 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour. Next Friday’s show is crowded out already but space is available at his Pocklington and Leeds gigs.
After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Leeds, hydeparkbookclub.co.uk.
Doing her Nut: KT Tunstall, York Barbican, February 24, 8pm
SCOTTISH singer-songwriter KT Tunstall returns to York on Friday for the first time since she lit up the Barbican on Bonfire Night in 2016. In her line-up will be Razorlight’s Andy Burrows, on drum duty after opening the gig with his own set.
The BRIT Award winner and Grammy nominee from Edinburgh will be showcasing songs from her seventh studio album, last September’s Nut, the conclusion to her “soul, body and mind” trilogy after 2016’s Kin and 2018’s Wax. Box office: kttunstall.com and yorkbarbican.co.uk.
You should walk 500 miles for: Central Hall Musical Society in Sunshine On Leith, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 23 to 25, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
SUNSINE On Leith, aka “the Proclaimers’ musical”, is a tale of love; love for family, love for friends, love for romantic partners and love for our homes, as one tight-knit family, and the three couples bound to it, experience the joys and heartache that punctuate all relationships.
Secrets will be revealed, relationships made and lost and broken hearts mended once more, all while singing the songs of Charlie and Craig Reid in this student production by the University of York’s musical theatre society, directed by Romilly Swingler. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.