REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on York Early Music Festival, The Sixteen, Masters Of Imitation, York Minster, July 6

The Sixteen: Master Of Imitation programme at York Minster

A SURPRISE introduction: as per usual the concert was prefaced by a clerical welcome plus loo, safety and mobile phone instruction. This closed with a prayer, which I thought was a bit of a no-no. But then I got the (possible) subtext: England were to embark on a penalty shoot-out. And it worked; we won!

The Sixteen’s Masters Of Imitation celebrates the art of parody in renaissance music, focusing on the works of Orlande de Lassus to link this inspired programme together.

Today we are very used to the term ‘parody’ meaning to imitate, to exaggerate the style of a particular writer or artist but to comic effect. Here Lassus’s parody works are akin to creating a musical patchwork quilt: taking musical bits, passages from his own historic compositions or his great predecessor Josquin des Prez, for example, and reworking the material into an entirely new composition. This latter process being a dedicated act of homage.

The concert opened with the timeless beauty of the plainchant Lauda Jerusalem Dominum. It was performed as a processional with the tenor calls answered with soprano responses. There is invariably a deep simplicity of beauty in these non-metric, homophonic lines and this, being The Sixteen, was no exception.

Lassus’s reworking of the plainchant (it has the same text) was a thing of beauty. Here melodies rising high into the air, the singing just glorious. But there was also a sense of fun, of joy as the music rhythmically danced. And word painting too. I think it was this sense of warmth, of Lassus’s humanity that was communicated so effectively.

Lassus’s motet Osculetur Me Osculo Oris sui is scored for two choirs and the composer exploits the different sonorities to dramatic effect, such as Trahe Me Post Te. I was reminded of the music of the Gabrielis, but doubt I’m the only one to have made this connection.

And then there was the sensuous setting of some quite juicy texts:

“Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth;

for thy love is better than wine

Thy name is as oil poured out;

therefore the young maidens have loved thee.”

Be rest assured, the Latin text gives these lines a “cloak of decency” (Bob Dylan).

To be honest, I had never heard of Maddalena Casulana. According to a leading authority in these matters, Wikipedia tells us “she was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer of the late Renaissance. [Casulana] is the first female composer to have had a whole book of her music printed and published in the history of western music, dedicated to her female patron Isabella de Medici”.

Her pretty radical dedication reads: “These first fruits of mine, flawed as they are … show the world the futile error of men, who believe themselves patrons of the high gifts of intellect, which according to them cannot also be held in the same way by women.”

Of the two madrigals I found the second much more rewarding. The choir was reduced by half, which added some welcome relief from conductor Harry Christophers’ insistence on performing the programme with a full complement of singers. Greater clarity of line and text massively enhanced enjoyment. This love song was a real gem.

It is perhaps worth noting that this rediscovery and promotion of Maddalena Casulana’s music –this may be the first time these works have been committed to a CD recording, Masters Of Imitation, available at all good record shops near you – is clearly significant.

In The Sixteen’s 2023 Choral Pilgrimage, Harry Christophers programmed the world premiere of two commissioned works by female composer Dobrinka Tabakova.

I struggled with Lassus’s eight-part Credo from his Missa Osculetur Me. There was just so much wonderful contrapuntal detail unable to escape from the Minster acoustic black hole. At times passages hung in the air, just a haze of sound, albeit a beautifully sung one. And yes, the closing coming together and Amen final cadence was delicious.

Jean Guyot de Châtelet’s arrangement of Josquin, adding six extra parts to Benedicta es Caelorum Regina, was thrilling, if somewhat eccentric. There were juicy false relations and a spine-tingling Amen. This is original music composition and performance of the highest order.

Other memorable highlights included Josquin Desprez’s Benedicta es Caelorum Regina with its exquisite tenor opening, its slightly whacky atmosphere of splendour and its forceful, dramatic descending scales prosecuting the message-with-a-twist:

“The Word became flesh from you,

by whom all are saved.”

Lassus’s Magnificat Benedicta es Caelorum Regina was another, with its clear contrapuntal lines and exciting antiphonal exchanges that seemed to dissolve or evaporate, allowing the light to shine.

Although there is no doubting the brilliance of Bob Chilcott’s choral music – surely every choir in the UK worth its salt must have Chilcott in its repertoire – his music just doesn’t “turn me on” (John Lennon). But this specially commissioned sacred parody of Lassus’s secular madrigal, Lauda Jerusalem Dominum, undoubtedly called for a personal rethink.

The setting was pretty conservative – no surprises here, Chilcott is a pretty conservative composer. But there were truly magical moments. For example, the delicate ostinato soprano patterns, beautiful on their own terms, then as a gorgeous backdrop for the soaring melodies.

I would have liked greater contrasts in scoring and dynamic, but the rich tonal harmonic identity, distinctive variations in colour and ending delivered a tasty punch. The performance was of the usual exemplary quality; instinctive melodic shaping, expression and care for detail. And so musical.

The concert as a whole showed yet again Harry Christopher and The Sixteen’s deep understanding of repertory and, just as importantly, communicated an infectious engagement in the music itself. The audience response was both instinctive and rapturous.

They really are a class act.

Review by Steve Crowther

York Early Music Festival launches cultural partnership with Flanders, led off by Utopia and Cappella Pratensis concerts

Utopia: Making their York Early Music Festival debut at the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York

YORK Early Music Festival is launching a cultural partnership celebrating the musical heritage of Flanders at next month’s event.

Two world-class ensembles from northern Belgium, Utopia and Cappella Pratensis, will be performing in York as part of the new collaboration, organised in association with the Alamire Foundation, in Leuven, and AMUZ, a thriving arts centre in a disused baroque church and former Augustine monastery in Antwerp, with support from the Flanders government.

“The partnership celebrates the historic ties between York and Flanders from the medieval period, built on the trading of wool by enterprising merchants, through to the present day,” says festival director Dr Delma Tomlin, the first woman governor in the 660-year history of the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall.

“The York Early Music Festival has worked with our partners in Flanders for 25 years and we have a similar mind-set to supporting and developing Early Music ensembles, with a willingness to provide opportunities.

“We are particularly delighted to be part of this exciting new partnership, the beginning of a new collaboration with artists and colleagues based in Flanders in what is a considerable investment on their part. I would like to say a huge thank-you to the Almire Foundation, AMUZ and the Flanders Government for their support.

“This marks a very important moment in this city’s musical history and highlights York’s historical relationship with Flanders, giving us the opportunity to celebrate our cultural heritages. We look forward to building on this partnership in the future with the embassy to fly the flag for York and Flanders.”

Both concerts will take place on July 12, firstly Flemish vocal ensemble Utopia – “hot favourites in Antwerp,” according to Delma – making their York debut at the festival’s home, the National Centre for Early Music, in a 6pm programme entitled Salve Susato: Treasures from Antwerp’s Golden Age.

Cappella Pratensis: Returning to York for July 12 concert in the Quire of York Minster

“Utopia invite you to meet Tielman Susato, a composer known today mostly for his instrumental works but who flourished in 16th-century Antwerp as a publisher of vocal music by Josquin, Lassus, Gombert, Crecqillon, Clemens non Papa and Susato himself,” says Delma.  “His Missa [mass] In Illo Tempore and motet Salve Quae Roseo will sit at the heart of this programme.”

At 9pm, in the Quire of York Minster, Cappella Pratensis and I Fideli will be directed by Stratton Bull in a hour-long programme of Jacob Obrecht and Jacobus Barbireau works.

“Obrecht and Barbireau were two prominent representatives of Franco-Flemish polyphony with connections to the Church of Our Lady – today’s Antwerp Cathedral – around 1500,” says Delma.

“In his masses and motets Obrecht was an innovative user of the cantus firmus technique in which polyphonic fabric weaves around an existing melody, as in his celebratory Missa, Sub Tuum Praesidium. Osculetur Me, Barbireau’s only surviving motet, will complete the programme.”

Delegates from Flanders will host a reception in York Mansion House to welcome the artists and celebrate this new partnership on July 11 – aptly Flanders National Day – in the presence of York’s Civic Party and representatives of York industries with links to Flanders.

Bart Brosius, General Representative of Flanders in the United Kingdom and Ireland, says: “Flanders and York share historical connections through several key aspects of their heritage and centuries of cultural and economic exchanges. We share bustling medieval markets, elegant Gothic architecture, entrepreneurship and academic excellence.

“We are celebrating this connection in York in July through Early Music. We are delighted to work with the local authorities, the University of York and the renowned York Early Music Festival. We also look forward to welcoming our friends from York later in the summer for the Flanders Festival Antwerp.”

This marks a very important moment in this city’s musical history and highlights York’s historical relationship with Flanders,” says York Early Music Festival director Delma Tomlin

Established in 1977, York Early Music Festival celebrates music from the medieval to the baroque within an array of historic venues across the city, attracting an array of world-class artists and audiences from all over the world.

Among the 2024 highlights will be the festival climax on July 13, the York International Young Artists Competition, a groundbreaking event held every two years where young ensembles compete for a professional recording contract with Linn Records, a £1,000 cheque and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music.

The competition also offers prizes supported by the Cambridge Early Music Festival, the European Union Baroque Orchestra Development Trust and Friends of York Early Music Festival.

Presented by keyboard musician Steven Devine at the NCEM from 10am to 5pm, the 2024 competition final will feature Rubens Rosa, Ensemble Bastion, (Hanse) Pfeyfferey; Ayres Extemporae; Apollo’s Cabinet; Pseudonum; Trio Altizans and Friedrichs Nebelmeer Ensemble.

Swiss-based ensemble Brezza also were selected for the final but have since had to withdraw from the competition. 

The finalists will spend time in York performing informal concerts and learning from experts before the July 13 final, when festivalgoers will discover who will follow in the footsteps of such past winners as Protean Quartet, L’Apothéose, Barroco Toutand Sollazzo Ensemble.

The 2024 festival has the theme of Metamorfosi for eight days of concerts and illustrated talks focusing on the human voice and song, with The Gesualdo Six, Concerto Soave, Vox Luminis and The Sixteen among the vocal specialists taking part.

Among the sell-outs are Florilegium on July 7  and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on July 8, both at the NCEM. BBC Radio 3 will be recording Florilegium, Cubaroque (July 7, NCEM), The Gesualdo Six (Chapter House, York Minster, July 9), Apotropaik (Holy Trinity, Micklegate, July 10) and the International Young Artists Competition for later broadcast. The competition final will be streamed live too.

For the full programme and ticket details, head to:

Copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The Creation, York Musical Society, York Minster, 22/6/2024

Alexandra Kidgell: Soprano soloist for The Creation at York Minster

AS tradition decrees, the concert was introduced by the Dean of York Minster, the Very Reverend Dominic Barrington.

I only mention this because, in the midst of all the usual ‘great music, please switch off mobile phones and the loos are over there’, was a joke. In case of the fire alarm going off, it will not be a practice and therefore can I ask you to remain in your seats. Well, it made me chuckle.

The opening Representation of Chaos of Haydn’s oratorio is utterly unexpected in that it is so radical. The York Musical Society Orchestra superbly caught the haunting evocation of chaos, putting down a marker of excellence that they displayed throughout.

Baritone Thomas Humphreys sang the weighty opening narrative with a lovely clean tone (good lower register) and apposite nobility. The spine-tingling blast of C major enlightenment gets me every time, and here was no exception.

Nathan Vale has a lovely lyrical tenor voice, although I did lose some of the lowest register, but his aria Now Vanish Before The Holy Beams, complemented with assured string support, was right on the money.

The choir delivered an infectious A New Created World chorus, embracing the music’s almost child-like innocence. The balance wasn’t quite right for The Marvellous Work Beholds, the orchestra obscuring much of soprano Alexandra Kidgell’s singing.

This was quickly remedied in the later With Verdure Clad The Fields Appear where this fine soprano was allowed to deliver the aria with both clarity and infectious charm.

Conductor and musical dirtector David Pipe: “Directed the performance with an assured, understated authority”

As ever, in an impressive performance of a truly great work, there are fresh moments of insight. For example, the gorgeous window illuminated during Nathan Vale’s singing of With Softer Beams And Milder Light. It came across as so gentle, so unexpected.

Then there was the ghost of Mozart I hadn’t noticed before: With Flying Mane And Fiery Look (The Magic Flute) and On Thee Each Living Soul Awaits (The Marriage Of Figaro). Maybe it’s just a senior moment.

The closing The Heavens Are Telling (Part One) chorus was splendid. The string playing at the opening of the aria On Mighty Pens Uplifted Soars was delivered with crisp, clean articulation. There were also lovely flute (Della Blood) and clarinet (Andrew Cavell) solo contributions.

Haydn clearly relished the musical tone-painting opportunities; for example the musical depiction of the merry larks and cooing doves. In The Scream (Cave Birds), Ted Hughes said that the worms in the ground were doing a good job. Well, not here they’re not, and as for the outrageous raspberry tart signing off the heavy beasts, the contrabassoon pitch seemed to emanate from the very bowels of Hell itself.

Back in the heavenly spheres, the love duet By Thee With Bliss, sung by Thomas Humphreys and Alexandra Kidgell, was simply divine and the soaring oboe (Jane Wright) angelic.

The closing The Lord Is Great, with its monumental double fugue, brought the best out of a very good choir. There was fine work throughout the orchestra, the violins in particular, along with Shaun Turnbull (organ continuo), while Oliver Bryant (contrabassoon) should get a pay rise for that one low note alone.

Finally, conductor David Pipe had mercifully decided against the irritating musical windmill-on-speed approach, choosing instead to direct the performance with an assured, understated authority.

Review by Steve Crowther

More Things To Do in York and beyond light nights. Plenty of stuff and Nunsense in Hutch’s List No. 26, from The Press, York

Sing something wimple: Emily Rockliff’s Sister Robert Anne to the fore in a rehearsal for York Light Opera Company’s Nunsense: The Mega-Musical

FROM nuns in a riotous revue to a celebration of Caribbean culture, The Fonz’s memoirs to Ballet Black’s heroes of dance, Charles Hutchinson’s arts diary matches the June sunshine.  

York musical of the week: York Light Opera Company in Nunsense: The Mega-Musical!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, 7.30pm, June 26 to 28, July 2 to 5; 3pm; June 29 and 30, July 6

AFTER the unfortunate passing of four beloved sisters in a “culinary catastrophe”, the remaining Little Sisters of Hoboken find themselves in a sticky situation. To raise funds for a proper burial (and perhaps a new cook), the nuns take centre stage for a riotous revue unlike any other.

Director Neil Wood brings Dan Goggin’s musical to mega-sized life in a version that boasts an expanded cast, new characters and even more musical mayhem. Box office:

Lynda Burrell, left, and Catherine Ross, founders of exhibition curators Museumand, at the launch of 70 Objeks & Tings at York Castle Museum. Picture: Gareth Buddo

Exhibition of the week: 70 Objeks & Tings, York Castle Museum, until November 4; Mondays, 11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm

70 OBJEKS & Tings, a celebration of 75 years of Caribbean culture, showcases 70 items that connect us to the Windrush Generation in an “extraordinary exhibition of the ordinary”.

Curated by mother and daughter Catherine Ross and Lynda Barrett, founders of Museumand, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, it features objects that combine familiarity and practicality and have been passed down the generations. On show are cooking and household goods, food packaging and beauty supplies, funeral items, music, games, books and newspapers. Tickets: 

Alexandra Kidgell: Soprano soloist for Haydn’s The Creation at York Minster

Classical concert of the week: York Musical Society, Haydn’s The Creation, York Minster, tonight, 7.30pm

FOUR years later than first planned – blame Covid – York Musical Society performs Haydn’s oratorio The Creation under the baton of musical director David Pipe. The choir and orchestra will be joined by soloists Alexandra Kidgell, soprano, Nathan Vale, tenor, and Thomas Humphreys, baritone.

The Creation was composed in 1797, following Haydn’s visits to London, when he was inspired by hearing Handel’s great oratorios, such as the Messiah, sung by huge choral gatherings.

“Haydn’s oratorio is one of the most upbeat and enjoyable works in the repertoire, with plenty of drama for the chorus to bring to life,” says Pipe. “We are excited to have the chance to perform The Creation in York Minster’s inspiring surroundings.” Box office: 01904 623568, at or on the door.

Mostly Autumn: Highly summer concert at The Crescent tonight

York band of the week: Mostly Autumn, The Crescent, York, tonight, 7.30pm

MOSTLY Autumn may have been called “the best band you have never heard”, but that is a misnomer in their home city of York, where Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh’s classic rock combo play tonight.  

Twenty years of gigging, whether headlining or supporting Blackmore’s Night, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull and Bryan Adams, goes into performing their combination of Seventies’ rock and prog-rock, peppered with a sense of the future. Box office:

Henry Winkler: American actor discusses The Fonz and more on Sunday

Coolest show of the week: Henry Winkler, The Fonz & Beyond, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

HEY, Happy Days star HenryWinkler shares stories of his life on the 50th anniversary of his time in Hollywood after being told he would “never achieve”.

The Emmy award-winning actor, author, director and producer, now 78, is promoting his Being Henry memoir as he reflects on his sitcom days as The Fonz, the Happy Days role that defined a generation of cool, as well as subsequent appearances in Arrested Development, Parks And Recreation and Barry. Box office:

Tom Jones: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the first time since July 2022

Coastal gig of the week: Tom Jones, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 26, gates open at 6pm

SEATED tickets have sold out for Welsh whirlwind Tom Jones’s outdoor gig in Scarborough but that still leaves room for standing. Sixty years since releasing his first single, Chills And Fever, in 1964, he is still blowing those bellows as powerfully as ever at 84, having made history as the oldest man to notch up a number one with an album of new material in the UK Official Album Charts in 2021 with Surrounded By Time, overtaking Bob Dylan.

Expect It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat?, Delilah, She’s A Lady, Green, Green Grass Of Home, Kiss, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Sex Bomb et al from Sir Tom. Box office: Box office:

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: Introducing new album South Of Here at York Barbican

Rhythm & blues gig of the week: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, York Barbican, June 27, doors 7pm

NATHANIEL Rateliff & The Night Sweats play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire venue on their six-date South Of Here summer tour.

Noted for supplying the zeal of a whisky-chugging Pentecostal preacher to songs of shared woes, old-fashioned rhythm & blues singer and songwriter Rateliff will be showcasing his Missouri band’s fourth studio album on the eve of its Friday release. William The Conqueror support. Box office:

Crowning glory: Ballet Black in If At First, on tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance show of the week: Ballet Black: Heroes, York Theatre Royal, June 28, 7.30pm

CASSA Pancho’s dance company returns to York with the double bill Ballet Black: Heroes. Choreographer Mthuthuzeli November contemplates the meaning of life in The Waiting Game, a 2020 work infused with a dynamic soundtrack featuring the voices of Ballet Black artists.

Franco-British artist Sophie Laplane, choreographer-in-residence at Scottish Ballet, follows up her 2019 Ballet Black debut, Click!, with If At First, her exploration of “a more subtle heroism, a quieter triumph over adversity, in a struggle that unites us all”. Humanity, heroism and self-acceptance combine in this celebratory piece. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Eliza Carthy: Performing solo at the NCEM, York, and Fylingdales Village Hall

Folk gigs of the week: Eliza Carthy, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, June 28, 7.30pm; Fylingdales Village Hall, Station Road, Robin Hood’s Bay, June 30, 7.30pm

ELIZA Carthy, innovative fiddler and vocalist from the First Family of Folk, heads from Robin Hood’s Bay to York for a solo gig at the NCEM. At once a folk traditionalist and iconoclast, she revels in centuries-old ballads and Carthy compositions alike.

In her 32-year career, Carthy has performed with The Imagined Village, The Wayward Band and The Restitution, collaborated with Paul Weller, Jarvis Cocker, Pere Ubu, Rufus & Martha Wainwright, Jools Holland, Patrick Wolf and Kae Tempest, served as president of the English Folk Dance & Song Society and artist in residence in Antarctica and been described by comedian Stewart Lee as “not the Messiah, but a very naughty girl”. Broadside balladeer Jennifer Reid supports at the York gig. Box office: York, for returns only, 01904 658338 or; Robin Hood’s Bay,

David Ward Maclean, centre, and musical friends Sarah Dean and Steve Kendra

Retirement concert of the week: David Ward Maclean and Friends, with special guest Edwina Hayes, Friargate Theatre, York, June 29, 6.30pm

YORK music scene stalwart and busker supreme David Ward Maclean plays his retirement gig with friends on the eve of his 66th birthday (June 30). “I’m retiring from all public performance, except the occasional open mic when I fancy it, maybe the odd charity appearance if requested, and will be focusing on finishing recording some 40 unreleased songs of mine,” he says.

Joining David will be The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths, Bradley Blackwell, Sarah Dean, Steve Kendra, Emily Lawler, Dan Webster, Paul Heaney, Al Hamilton, Robert Loxley Hughes, Amy Greene, Sarah Jennifer and special guest Edwina Hayes. Box office:

300 Yorkshire schoolchildren take part in Make Music Day in York today, courtesy of the Richard Shephard Music Foundation

Schoolchildren taking part in the 2023 Make Music Day in the Chapter House at York Minster. Picture: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

THREE hundred primary schoolchildren from Yorkshire and the North East are taking part in Make Music Day in York today.

This special celebration of all things musical is run by the Richard Shephard Music Foundation, the charity set up as a memorial to the late York composer and Minster School headmaster Dr Richard Shephard.

Since its creation, 5,000 children have been receiving weekly music lesson within their schools, subsidised by the foundation, and today’s event will give some of them even more opportunities to express themselves musically by spending the day singing, playing instruments and composing music in the Chapter House of York Minster and the Creative Centre at York St John University.

Make Music Day 2023 in the Creative Centre at York St John University. Picture: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

Cathy Grant, from the foundation, says: “The day is all about celebrating children’s natural musical talent, supporting their wellbeing, and raising children’s musical aspirations.

“What drives us forward is the ambition that every child should have music in their lives. It shouldn’t be for the privileged few. I’ve been lucky over the past two years to witness the transformational experience of music for young people.

“Working alongside our partners, we’re seeking to remove the geographical and financial barriers to a high-quality music education so that every child can experience the great many educational, health and well-being benefits it can bring.”

Schoolchildren enjoying the 2023 Make Music Day in York. Picture: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

Cathy continues: “I can get absolutely lost in the swathes of research that seek to prove the benefits of music education, particularly from an early age. Researchers are even working on proving the ‘psychoneuroimmunological’ benefits – essentially evidencing how music is not only good for our minds, but also the long-term health of our bodies. And what’s not to like about schools being full of music and singing?”

As well as an inspiring day for young people, the event will give supporters a glimpse of what the foundation has done since 2021. “We’ve got ambitious plans,” says Cathy. “We aim, over the next three years, to allow over 10,000 young people to receive a high-quality music lesson each week and to have the opportunity to join a choir, to come along to a music holiday club or take up an instrument.

“The day’s activities will include plenty of singing, a folk workshop, an introduction to the Gamelan – a set of huge traditional percussion instruments – and the chance to play the ‘Bamboo Tamboo’, an instrument that can be used to play vibrant Caribbean grooves. We hope it will not only inspire the children but also the teachers accompanying them.”

A session at the 2023 Make Music Day in York. Picture: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

The schools taking part today are: Easterside Academy, Middlesbrough; St George’s RC Primary School, Scarborough; St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Pickering; Abingdon Primary School, Middlesbrough; Badger Hill Primary Academy, York; Clifton Green Primary School, York; St Francis of Assisi Primary School, Stockton; Ainderby Steeple CofE Primary School and Middleham CofE Aided School.

Make Music Day: the back story

MAKE Music Day is the largest single-day music festival in Great Britain, encouraging musicians, producers, promoters and music lovers to collaborate and organise in-person and online performances in and for their communities.

Since beginning as Fête de la Musique in France in 1982, Make Music Day has grown into a global phenomenon that takes place annually in 125 countries, always on June 21. Solo performers, groups and music creators of all types are invited to take part, regardless of age, ability or musical genre.

To more information, go to:

Giving instruction at the 2023 Make Music Day in York. Picture: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, The 24, York Minster, June 8

The University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra in concert at York Minster. Picture: Steve Crowther

AS the Match Of The Day football pundits might say, this was a game of two halves.

Despite the obvious musical intelligence and quality on offer, I struggled with the performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor. It is a large-scale work scored for two soprano soloists, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and large orchestra.

Coupled with the nature of Mozart’s musical dialogue, this meant that I simply could not hear all of the detail, thanks to this very generous Minster acoustic.

There was, however, much to admire: Elspeth Piggott’s soprano solo in the Christie was impressive, although I lost some of the lower register. The fine, crisp string playing in the Gloria. Soprano Rebecca Lea, a last-minute substitute for Helen Neeves, sang the Laudamus Te with real assurance, although again I lost some of the lower register.

More rewarding was when the two singers combined forces in the Domine Deus – tender exchanges and reassuring support. The following Qui Tollis was also satisfying, with Mozart using a double chorus underpinned by a pulsating dotted rhythm ostinato.

The highlight was always going to be Et Incarnatus Est, simply because of the intimacy of the scoring: soprano solo, solo flute, oboe and bassoon. That and the quality of Ms Piggott’s performance of this operatic aria.

Elspeth Piggott and Rebecca Lea were joined by tenor James Beddoe and bass Patrick Osborne for a very fine Benedictus before the recap of the fugal Hosanna, signing off the performance with aplomb.

And so, to the second half. As vocal musical experiences in the Minster go, it doesn’t come much better than the excellent The 24, directed by Robert Hollingworth, singing Bruckner’s Locus Iste and Christus Factus Est motets.

These are not the most technically demanding of works but, nevertheless, we were royally treated with performances of clarity, balance, detail and very real musical insight. The Minster acoustic loved it and, as a consequence, so did we.

This was followed by an inspired piece of programming with Elgar’s rarely heard Elegy op. 58. Well, I’ve never heard it anyway. The performance revealed a delightful jewel of a work intimately scored for string orchestra.

To be sure, there were echoes of Nimrod. Evidently his friend August Jaeger had died one month earlier, but it worked just fine in and of its own terms. Quite poignant, actually.

The concert closed with a full-bodied performance of Bruckner’s Te Deum in C, superbly marshalled by conductor John Stringer. Due to the cleaner, predominantly homophonic nature of Bruckner’s setting, the experience was much more rewarding than the Mozart.

The textures were less busy. Having said that, the sound world had a monumental quality: full-on tonal building blocks of sound augmented by the organ blasts of affirmation; a “cathedral of sound”. This is, after all, a deeply religious work.

There were moments of tranquillity, glimpses from within: the wonderful quartet of soloists – Elspeth Piggott, James Beddoe and Patrick Osborne, who were now joined by mezzo-soprano Helena Cooke. It was such a welcome relief to actually hear all the detail; a tender tenor solo with telling solo violin commentary (Michael Capecci).

However, the work ended as it had begun, in triumphant affirmation and splendour. I thought the sheer volume of sound might blow the Minster roof off; it certainly brought the house down.

Review by Steve Crowther

More Things To Do in York and beyond, whether Unfortunate or fortunate to be here. Hutch’s List No. 24, from The Press

Swing when you’re singing: Ryedale Primary Choir schoochildren doing their vocal exercises for Across The Whinny Moor

MUSICAL moorland mermaids and a villainous sea witch, motion in art and a Mozart mass, vintage Pink Floyd and a Louise Brooks silent movie set up Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead.

Ryedale Festival community event of the week: Across The Whinny Moor, St Peter’s Church, Norton, today, 4pm

THE world premiere of the Community Song Cycle: Across The Whinny Moor follows the trail of North Yorkshire’s Lyke Wake Walk, meeting cheeky hobs, angry mermaids, resourceful giants and wise witches along the way. 

The all-age cast for a walk through stories and songs by John Barber and Hazel Gould includes the schoolchildren of the Ryedale Primary Choir, the Ryedale Voices, Harmonia and The RyeLarks choirs, Kirkbymoorside Town Junior Brass Band, storyteller Rosie Barrett and mezzo-soprano soloist Victoria Simmonds, conducted by Caius Lee. Box office: 

Tim Pearce’s poster artwork for Life Forms In Motion at Blossom Street Gallery

Six of the best: Life Forms In Motion, Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, until June 30

SIX Yorkshire artists give individual responses to the challenge of interpreting the motion of life forms in a range of static media. In a nutshell, time and space condensed into single, dynamic images.

Taking part are Tim Pearce, painting and sculpture; Cathy Denford, painting; Jo Ruth, printmaking; Adrienne French, painting; Mandy Long, ceramic sculpture, and Lesley Peatfield, photography. Opening hours: Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm; Sundays, 10am to 3pm.

Robert Hollingworth: On baton duty at the University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra’s concert at York Minster tonight

Classical concert of the week: University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, York Minster, tonight, 7.30pm

UNDER the direction of Robert Hollingworth and John Stringer, the University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart’s ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, widely considered to be among his supreme choral works.

This will be complemented by a selection of works by Anton Bruckner, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Austrian composer’s birth, including the Te Deum, “the pride of his life”. Box office: 01904 322439 or

Across The Fields To The Sea, by John Thornton, from his Kentmere House Gallery exhibition

“Favourite artist” of the week: John Thornton, Across The Fields To The Sea, Kentmere House, Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York

BORN in York and now living in Selby, seascape and landscape artist John Thornton has opened his latest show, Across The Fields To The Sea, at his regular York gallery.

“John is everyone’s favourite painter,” says gallery owner and curator Ann Petherick. “I’m delighted he has produced a new and exciting collection of paintings of Askham Bog and Skipwith Common woodlands and meadows and the occasional seascape, inspired by his travels in Yorkshire since the end of Covid.” Opening hours: First weekend of each month, 11am to 5pm; every Thursday, 6pm to 9pm; any other time by appointment on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825.

Louise Brooks in Diary Of A Lost Girl, showing at the NCEM on Tuesday

Film event of the week: Diary Of A Lost Girl (PG), with pianist Utsav Lal, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, June 11, 7.30pm

TRAILBLAZING New York raga pianist Utsav Lal improvises his live score to accompany Diary Of A Lost Girl, a rarely shown gem of German silent cinema starring American icon Louise Brooks.

Presented by Northern Silents, G W Pabst’s 1929 film traces the journey of a young woman from the pit of despair to the moment of personal awakening. Box office: 01904 658338 and at

Sex, sorcery and suckers: Shawna Hamic’s filthy-humoured Ursula in Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch. Picture: Pamela Raith

Musical discovery of the week: Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch, Grand Opera House, York, June 11 to 15, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

AFTER a hit London season, Yorkshire writer-director Robyn Grant heads north with her raucously rude, wickedly camp parody musical Unfortunate, wherein Disney diva Ursula, the villainous sea witch, rules the waves and waves the rules.

New York actress Shawna Hamic’s Ursula gives her filthy-humoured take on what really happened all those years ago under the sea in a bawdy tale of sex, sorcery and suckers. Age recommendation: 16+, on account of strong language, partial nudity and scenes of a sexual nature. Box office:

Courtney Broan as Ado Annie in Pickering Musical Society’s Oklahoma!

American classic of the week: Pickering Musical Society in Oklahoma!, Kirk Theatre, Pickering, June 11 to 15, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

LUKE Arnold directs Pickering Musical Society in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 love story of Curly (Marcus Burnside) and Laurie (Rachel Anderson), set in the sweeping landscapes of the American heartland. 

Further roles go to Courtney Broan as Ado Annie, Stephen Temple as Will Parker, Michael O’Brien as Mr Carnes and Rick Switzer-Green as AliHakim, joined by dancers from the Sarah Louise Ashworth School of Dance. Box office: 01751 474833 or

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets: Re-visiting Pink Floyd at York Barbican

Rock gig of the week: Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, York Barbican, June 12, 7.45pm

NICK Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets follow up their April 2022 appearance at York Barbican with Wednesday’s date on their Set The Controls Tour.

Once more, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason will be joined by Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris and keyboardist Dom Beken to perform vintage Pink Floyd material. Box office:   

The poster artwork for Calamity Jane, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, on tour at Grand Opera House next spring

Show announcement of the week: Carrie Hope Fletcher in Calamity Jane, Grand Opera House, York, April 29 to May 3 2025

IN the week when Nikolai Foster’s production of An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical is on tour at the Grand Opera House, the York theatre announces the booking of another show with the North Yorkshire director at the helm, this one bound for the West End.

Three-time WhatsOnStage Best Actress in a Musical winner Carrie Hope Fletcher will star in the whip-crackin’ musical as fearless Dakota gun-slinger Calamity Jane. “She is one of those roles that doesn’t come around all too often,” she says. “She’s action, romance and comedy all packed into one character, and I can’t wait to take on the challenge of filling her shoes.” Box office:

University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra to perform Mozart and Bruckner works at York Minster on June 8

The poster for University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra’s concert on June 8

THE University of York Choir, The 24, and the University of York Symphony Orchestra will perform at York Minster on Saturday, June 8.

Under the direction of Robert Hollingworth and John Stringer, the 7.30pm programme will feature Mozart’s Mass in C minor and a selection of Bruckner’s works, celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth, including the Te Deum, a composition he described as “the pride of his life”. Box office: 01904 322439 or

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Chapter House Choir, Chapter House, York Minster, March 9

Benjamin Morris

IT was good to hear the Chapter House Choir under Benjamin Morris back in their rightful home, where they started nearly 60 years ago.

The lively acoustic of the Chapter House itself is a double-edged sword, wonderful for lending warmth to certain types of music, but equally relying on a decisive beat and keenly attentive singers who respond to it immediately.

Neither requirement was much in evidence during the first half of this programme devoted to ‘Queen of Heaven’, the Virgin Mary, and criss-crossing between the 12th century and the present day.

With a choir of 34 voices stretched out in two lines right across the stage, cohesion was made even more difficult. Almost all the early attacks were woolly, a series of mini-crescendos as voices joined in after the beat. All this was a pity because the choir’s essential sound was attractive and balance between parts generally pleasing.

Each half of the evening began with plainsong by Hildegard and Pérotin, given from the back by small female groups. Thereafter we had six pairs of settings of the same text, mostly old versus new, with motets by Cecilia McDowall and John Tavener thrown in for contrast. It might have been a heady mix, except that the majority of the settings were geared for meek adoration and thus mainly slow.

Grieg’s hymn-like setting of Ave Maris Stella was easily outpointed by James MacMillan’s, with its pedal points in the upper voices and an Amen that really took flight. Similarly, Rachmaninov’s treatment of the Russian ‘Hail, Mary’ was outshone by Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s version with its imitations over repeating underlay; its ending resolved sweetly, too.

Morris forsook his previously circular motions for a more incisive beat in Poulenc’s Salve Regina, which was much better co-ordinated as a result. So too was Victoria’s eight- voice version, although the top soprano line sounded effortful.

The best pairing after the interval involved two living composers, both female. Master of the King’s Musick, Judith Weir, was shown at her vigorous best in Ave Regina Caelorum, where Morris encouraged muscular treatment, which suited its quirky ending.

By contrast, the setting by Kerensa Briggs, who won the Early Music Young Composers Prize ten years ago, preferred a wash of sound from which a solo alto emerged mystically.

Bruckner’s marvellous Ave Maria left Stravinsky’s version sounding pallid: impassioned, deeply spiritual and bringing out a real sense of ensemble, right at the very end.

Review by Martin Dreyer

Team Titania or Team Oberon? Which side will you be on in Hoglets Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Mischief?

Hoglets Theatre’s poster for A Midsummer Night’s Mischief, playing York Theatre Royal Studio on March 8 and 9

THE fairies in the forest are starting a fight, but which side are you on? Team Titania or Team Oberon? Come on down! It’s all kicking off in the forest in Hoglets Theatre’s Shakespeare-loving children’s play A Midsummer Night’s Mischief at York Theatre Royal on March 8 and 9.

Based on Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the York company’s interactive, larger-than-life, fun production is designed especially for five to 11-year-old children, but everyone is welcome.

Expect wild characters, raucous singalong songs, puppets, stunts, and some frankly ridiculous disco dancing,” says Hoglets Theatre founder, writer and performer Gemma Curry. “While we love the bard, no previous experience of Shakespeare is required!”

A Midsummer Night’s Mischief is the tenth Hoglets production, following on from their sell-out Yorkshire tours of Wood Owl And The Box Of Wonders and The Sleep Pirates and December 9’s two spectacular Christmas performances of The Nutcracker at York Minster, accompanied by the cathedral organ no less.

Writer Gemma will be joined in the cast at York Theatre Royal by Claire Morley and Becky Lennon, who replaces Charlotte Wood from earlier performances. Song lyrics are by Andy Curry and Lara Pattison; costumes by Julia Smith; set design by Andy Curry and choreography by Charlotte Wood.

Hoglets Theatre in A Midsummer Night’s Mischief, York Theatre Royal Studio, March 8, 4.30pm; March 9, 10.30am. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Claire Morley, left, Charlotte Wood and Gemma Curry in an earlier performance of Hoglets Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Mischief

Hoglets Theatre CIC: the back story

Not-for-profit children’s theatre company and associate children’s theatre company of York Theatre Royal.

Stages original theatrical productions across the country, aimed at primary and preschool-aged children.

Runs interactive workshops for schools, libraries and groups.

Provides child-centric consultation and content creation for museums, organisations, apps and publications.

Mission statement: “Everything we do is centred around storytelling and the amazing impact that stories, imagination and creativity can have on young minds.”

Find out more at