Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy launch educational early music mini-tour of Explore York libraries

Beth Stones and Dan Murphy of Flutes & Frets: Heading out on Explore York library mini-tour

MUSICAL duo Flutes & Frets embark on a mini-tour of three York community libraries tomorrow (14/3/2024) in a National Centre for Early Music cultural wellbeing initiative.

Working in partnership with Explore York Libraries and Archives, flautist Beth Stones and frets player Dan Murphy are taking Baroque Around The Books to Tang Hall Explore Library at 11am tomorrow morning; Clifton Library at 3pm tomorrow afternoon, and Explore: Acomb Library Learning Centre at 11am on Friday. Pre-booking is advised for the Acomb performance at http://ncem.co.uk/baroque-around-the-books/

The tour will continue with an invitation-only concert for NCEM members tomorrow at 2.30pm at Fairfax House, to be recorded for online viewing on March 21 as part of the NCEM’s Early Music Day celebrations. 

Tickets are free for these informal concerts under a new NCEM initiative in tandem with Explore York, supported by the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust, in a project that illustrates the NCEM’s ongoing commitment to support, encourage and nurture the skills of emerging artists in the UK and beyond.

 To conclude the tour, Flutes & Frets will head to the NCEM, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, later on Friday to work on Italian baroque repertoire with The Minster Minstrels, an ensemble that provides musical opportunities for children from across York, supported by the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust and York Music Hub in partnership with York Arts Education.

Delighted to invite Flutes & Frets to York for a residency, library tour and children’s NCEM workshops, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We’re thrilled to be able to be working with the wonderful Flutes & Frets, who appeared in York last December at the York Early Music Christmas Festival.

“Baroque Around The Books will give the people of York the chance to enjoy these fabulous concerts completely free of charge, as we work to share the joy of music making with our partners at Explore York.”

Dave Fleming, Explore York’s innovation, creativity and learning service developer, says: “The initiative emerged from Explore York’s longstanding working relationship with the NCEM, which has been developed over many years. We’ve worked collaboratively with NCEM on successful projects and initiatives over the years, such as Cuppa And A Chorus and now this.”

Assessing the role of music in libraries, Dave says: “Music contributes to Explore York’s commitment of bringing high-quality cultural experiences into our libraries for York residents to enjoy within their communities and right on their doorstep.

“York’s network of community libraries are trusted spaces: safe, creative environments, welcoming to everyone. We have developed out network of libraries as cultural spaces in the heart of communities.”

Crucially too, Explore York is now a National Portfolio Organisation (NPOs), designated by Arts Council England. “NPO recognises Explore’s cultural contribution in creating and promoting artistic experiences, supporting artists, and engaging communities. Opportunities to bring musical experiences into our libraries contributes to what we are as an NPO,” he says.

“Bringing such experiences into libraries aligns with Explore York’s status as an NPO and enhances its cultural offerings. Therefore, the role of music in libraries is seen as integral to fulfilling Explore York’s mission and enriching the cultural experiences available to residents.”

Stone and Murphy’s repertoire spans the medieval to the contemporary, backed by a passion to use instruments from throughout history to create a story that both enthrals and educate. “The educational element of these concerts lies in the opportunity for the audience to experience high-quality classical music performed by internationally renowned musicians,” says Dave.

“In addition to the performances, the musicians will engage the audience by discussing the history and background of the music being played. This approach allows the audience to deepen their understanding and appreciation of classical music, turning the concert into an enriching educational experience.”

Beth and Dan say: “We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances and so in this programme, we focus on taking the audience on a chronological journey of some of our favourite pieces: a chocolate-box selection of almost 500 years of music.”

Here Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy discuss libraries, music and books with CharlesHutchPress.

“We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances,” say Flutes & Frets’ Beth Stones and Dan Murphy

When did you form your partnership, where and why?

“Interestingly, Covid helped form the duo. We met while studying at the Royal College of Music, in London, and after collaborating on modern flute and guitar, we realised the potential that our specialisation in historical performance might bring our combination of instruments.

“Beth had been very keen to try playing with lute compared to harpsichord, and Covid brought out a renewed sense of need for chamber music.”

What was the highlight of your York Early Music Christmas Festival concert last December?

“The previous night to our 11am concert, we had a chaotic journey up to York due to train cancellations, meaning we arrived at the hotel at 4am, so to wake up to a cold, frosty morning but have a sold-out audience that had many warm comments to make afterwards made it all worthwhile!”

How did the Baroque Around The Books mini-tour come about?

“Delma has been incredibly supportive of us as an ensemble and believed that we would be appropriate for the intimate setting of libraries. We’re enthusiastic to make the most of our portability and enjoy performing in the types of venues that are harder to accommodate live music.”

Libraries are associated with silence, peace and calm! Does that add to the joy of making music there?

“Every venue has its charm. Libraries in particular tend to bring people that weren’t expecting to find music, especially children and families. As the Italian 15th century philosopher Marsilio Ficino wrote, music is ‘nothing but the decoration of silence’.”

How did you put together the programme for Baroque Around The Books?

“We’re always keen to educate and inform through our performances and so, in this programme, we focus on taking the audience on a chronological journey of some of our favourite pieces: a chocolate-box selection of almost 500 years of music.”

How have books had an impact on your musical selections?

“They haven’t had a direct impact on the programme we’re performing but musical treaties inform the way we play and so affect our approach to all our concerts.”

In what way is the concert educational?

“We encourage our audience to see a bigger picture and think about the changes that instruments and compositional styles have undergone throughout the history of music. Similarly to how a documentary might try to capture hundreds of years in a short space of time.”

The poster for Flutes & Frets’ Baroque Around The Books mini-tour of York libraries

Do you have a target audience?

“Not particularly! We appreciate the attention of anyone and everyone.”

What will Friday’s workshop session with The Minster Minstrels involve?

“We’ll be spending some time working with them on Italian baroque repertoire that they’re currently exploring and hopefully sharing some insight in how to approach and interpret early music.”

In a nutshell, what is the relationship between music and books?

“Both are expressions of thoughts, emotions, creativity and storytelling.”

If you could recommend one book each, what would it be?

Beth: “No book means more to me than the Bible, so that’s an easy choice.”

Dan: “It was The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss that first inspired me to develop an interest in lute playing, so that’s always my first recommendation.”

When you arrive home, what do you reach for first: music or a book?!

“Music usually!”

York writer Patrick Kelly launches debut novel A Hard Place, an ill-fated love story rooted in pre-Troubles Northern Ireland

Patrick Kelly: Journalist, editor and now novelist

YORK journalist and editor Patrick Kelly’s first foray into “the novel-writing business”, A Hard Place, will be launched in the Upstairs Bar at Everyman York, Blossom Streetr, York, at 6pm tonight (12/12/2022).

Inspired by his own childhood in Belfast, his ill-fated love story is set against the backdrop of a political event that foreshadowed the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Inside every journalist is a novel, the saying goes – even if Austrian writer and journalist Karl Kraus (1874-1936) quipped “and if he’s smart, he’ll keep it there” – and now Patrick is joining that club, bringing all his experience of long service to the fourth estate.

What’s more he is doing so in York, the city where Kate Atkinson, Matt Haig and Fiona Mozley’s novel-writing talents blossomed.

“There’s an awful lot of writing going on in York, and that’s helpful if you’re going to write a novel – which I discovered was a hell of a lot harder than I thought it would be,” says Patrick.

“As a journalist, you think it will just be writing a long story, but it turns out it’s a completely different animal.

“What I found useful in this city is that there are lots of writers and writers’ groups, and I must praise Lizzi Linklater, who was a creative writing tutor at the University of York (and is now Teaching Fellow for Creative Writing at the university’s Centre for Lifelong Learning at Heslington).

“She convened this little group that met once a month at the library [now York Explore] and encouraged each other in our writing.”

How did Patrick find the novel-writing experience? “It can be very lonely writing, and even if you’re writing from home as a journalist, part of the job is going out and meeting people,” he says. “Writing a novel, you have to create an atmosphere of your own, but the great thing about being part of a group is that you do it in an atmosphere where you’re willing to accept criticism, and that criticism is informed criticism from people who are doing the same things as you are.

“When you show your writing to friends and family, they usually say, ‘I don’t like it, but I don’t know why,’ whereas fellow writers can spot common mistakes or things that don’t sound quite right.”

Lizzi Linklater’s group morphed into another one. “Now there are two or three around York, and York St Jon University now does a creative writing programme with poetry readings in various places around the city,” says Patrick.

So, to the business of writing A Hard Place. “I knew I didn’t want to write a Troubles novel,” he says. “That’s been done to death, and there are some appalling novels…as well as good ones.

“I wanted to focus on Northern Ireland before the Troubles and maybe explain how the Troubles came to be, and also what it was like growing up there at that time.

“I left in 1973, pretty much at the start of the Troubles, but I had five years’ experience of what it was like before I left at 18 to study History and Politics at Warwick University.”

Those studies could be called on all these years later when writing the book. “It’s about looking at the evidence,” he says.

Patrick had grown up as a Roman Catholic living in a Protestant area of east Belfast. “Everything was more mixed in those days than it is now, which is one of the legacies of the Troubles,” he says. “Communities have become more divided, physically, geographically and politically.

“As a child, I would play with both Protestant and Catholic children. You went to a Catholic school, but your neighbourhood was mixed. I mainly played with Protestant children, and we all went to watch the Protestant football team because they were the local club.

“Those were the days when you were lifted over the turnstiles by friendly adults, and I saw George Best play at Windsor Park. He was a beacon on a dark day, a shining light who transcended the whole Protestant-Catholic thing.

“There’s now a programme to replaces sectarian murals with ones that are more acceptable: Bestie, Van Morrison, CS Lewis, because he was born in east Belfast.”

Patrick vowed to write about not only the roots of the Troubles but also about the society that existed in Northern Ireland at the time and just how different it was. “The storyline is based on a true incident, when the Northern Irish government employed an English academic, Sir John Lockwood, to decide on the siting of a new university,” he says.

“He was a knight of the realm, a Latin scholar, a man who had experience of setting up universities…in colonial Rhodesia, South Africa and Nigeria. So, he was the obvious man to go to Northern Ireland!

“He comes along with a bunch of his mates from English academia and a smattering of locals, but not a single Catholic among them.”

The assumption was that Derry/Londonderry would be the obvious place to site the university. “But the committee, at the end of their deliberations, decided not on Derry, the largest centre of population after Belfast, but on Coleraine, a small Protestant town some 20 miles from Derry, which had lobbied hard, and it caused a huge outcry.

“In the book, I try to be fair to Sir John, who was trying to do his best in a difficult situation he didn’t really understand, but it emerged that people high up in the Unionist Party had persuaded the Northern Ireland government not to place it in Derry.

“The reason being that they didn’t want a Catholic city to prosper, which having a university there definitely would have helped it to do. This was the 1960s, when the idea of an influx of politically minded students into a Catholic city was not considered desirable – though Derry now has a campus that’s part of the University of Ulster.”

In A Hard Place, Sir John Lockwood employs the entirely fictional David McMaster, a young English Oxford graduate, recruited in 1965 to help look for a site for the new university in Ulster. “His job is to act as secretary to the committee and to be Sir John’s eyes and ears in Northern Ireland when he’s elsewhere,” says Patrick.

“So, this young man, intelligent but naïve, finds himself at a complete loss within this world, but he makes a friend who shows him the ropes and, more importantly, he falls in love with a young Catholic girl, Catherine Connolly, and it’s their ill-starred love story that’s at the core of the book.

“He’s Protestant but not religious at all; she’s Catholic, religious, but quite critical and radical in her views, a political firebrand. Through their relationship, they learn something from each other.”

Patrick says that “when you start writing, you’re not entirely certain what they will do”, “but I I knew from the beginning of their relationship that it would not work out. I think I even say in the blurb on the back that it’s not going to be a happy ending.

“They’re in their 20s, she’s a student, reading English Literature, and they meet at the Maritime Hotel, in Belfast, where Van Morrison used to have a residency, when he was in the band Them, (so there’s a scene where Van sings Gloria).

“Anyway, I wanted to say something about how Northern Ireland was changing at the time, how young people were throwing off the shackles of their elders and enjoying a different kind of music – and who knows where it might have led, had it been allowed to develop [in Derry].

“I try to suggest what could have happened. If you think of all the new universities being built in the 1960s, like in York and Warwick, when the idea was to bring a new dynamic, to create a future economy and a society that was highly educated, open to the world and to new horizons.

“That was the political consensus at the time, for the Conservatives and Labour, that what you needed to do to prosper was to invest in education. So there’s something in the book about a lost opportunity, though I’m hoping the book is not a polemic.

“It’s not meant to be polemical; it’s a novel about a time and a place when opportunities were opening up but in Northern Ireland that vision was closed down because of a narrow, sectarian view of the world, which sadly triumphed briefly.”

Explaining the title, Patrick says: “It’s an acknowledgement of both being between a rock and a hard place and in that hard place. The reason I went with that title is that I thought it captured how the protagonist, David, experienced Northern Ireland in the end.”

Patrick has settled on the self-publishing route, in tandem with Silverwood Books, with A Hard Place being available in paperback at £10.99 and on Kindle at £3.99, initially via Amazon. Orders also can be made directly to Patrick at patrickkelly1@hotmail.co.uk or www.jornalistpatrickkelly.com.

Patrick Kelly’s book launch for A Hard Place takes place at Everyman York, Blossom Street, York, tonight (12/12/2022) at 6pm. Drinks and nibbles provided. RSVP to patrickkelly1@hotmail.co.uk.

Patrick Kelly biography

Born and brought up in Belfast, Patrick has been living in York for many years. He is a freelance journalist and editor, who has contributed to many newspapers and magazines in the United KIngdom and Spain, including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Independent On Sunday, Irish Times, Evening Standard, New Statesman and The Times.

He has written regularly on the arts for Museums Journal, Arts Industry and a number of other publications.

He is a former board member of York Theatre Royal, York Music Hub and York at Large.

Simon Loxley’s book cover for Patrick Kelly’s A Hard Place

A Hard Place synopsis

PATRICK Kelly’s ill-fated love story is set against the backdrop of a political event that foreshadowed the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

David McMaster returns to Belfast after discovering a cryptic, posthumous note from his friend Roddy, whom he last saw 40 years ago.

As a young English Oxford graduate in 1965, David had been recruited to help look for a site for a new university in Ulster. David is excited by the job, one he sees as a kind of undercover operation.

But he finds Belfast strange and unwelcoming, until he befriends Roddy and falls in love with Catherine Connolly, a political firebrand from a working-class Roman Catholic family.

However, David fails to tell her why he is in Northern Ireland and as their relationship develops, his secret is a burden, particularly as the university becomes the cause of a major sectarian row.

A quarrel between Roddy and Catherine exposes David’s subterfuge and Catherine leaves. After failing to find her at a rowdy political meeting in Derry, David has to be rescued and bundled on a plane back to London. He never sees Catherine again, but thanks to Roddy’s note, he eventually learns of her fate.

The book cover was designed by Felixstowe graphic designer Simon Loxley.

Jessa and Mick Liversidge team up with Helmsley Arts Centre for Fields & Lanes song and poetry livestream tomorrow

Field work: Actor Mick Liversidge and singer Jessa Liversidge take the country air

EASINGWOLD singer Jessa Liversidge and husband actor Mick Liversidge will present the Fields & Lanes Livestream show from Helmsley Arts Centre tomorrow night (13/3/2021).

“Mick and I have been working on a collaborative project with the arts centre all about engaging communities creatively,” says community singing leader and music tutor Jessa. “Now, we’ve recruited some more field singers and outdoor performers to join us virtually for our performance at 7.30pm.”

Since the first Coronavirus pandemic lockdown in March 2020, Jessa and Mick have taken to performing outside to lift spirits and cheer those stuck inside. While Jessa sings in fields, Mick recites poetry down country lanes, and together they have devised Fields & Lanes, a celebration of poetry and song as well a celebration of the great outdoors.

Mick and Jessa perform with no accompaniment, their sincere and heartfelt delivery letting the poems and songs speak for themselves.

Last Saturday, Jessa notched her 50th “field sing”: a Saturday morning routine for the past 50 weeks wherein she “gets up and performs a song outdoors”.

“Over 50 songs now as some weeks I have done two,” she says, and you can watch that performance as she lists all the songs at https://www.facebook.com/JessaLiversidgeSinger/videos/207646327454590/ or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/a8bzyhocd-U.

“I might delay the field sing a bit if it’s snowing or raining, or I’ll shelter under a tree, but I find doing these songs really beneficial for me; doing it every week, having that fixed in my diary, knowing I need to do it on a Saturday morning,” Jessa says.

Mick, a professional actor on stage and screen for six years, and Jessa also performed a socially distanced Fields & Lanes Under The Willow Tree at Easingwold Community Library on a September Sunday afternoon and for Joseph Rowntree Theatre volunteers when testing the York theatre’s Covid-safety regime last October.

Mick LIversidge recording one of his Fields & Lanes poems in lockdown

Buoyed by the response to their outdoor pursuits, Jessa and Mick teamed up with Helmsley Arts Centre (HAC) to offer the Ryedale and wider community the chance to join the Fields & Lanes family in remote workshops.

“You will have the chance to develop singing or recitation skills and work towards your own pre-recorded performance, which will be featured in the livestream Fields & Lanes show on March 13,” read the invitation to recruits on the HAC website.

Places were strictly limited, enabling Jessa and Mick to work with both small groups and individuals on February 27 and March 6. Participants also received support, feedback and guidance from Jessa or Mick in between sessions and they are entitled to a gratis ticket for tomorrow’s livestream.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa. “We’ve enjoyed everything that comes with performing in the open air: the bird song, the fields, the winds, and we wanted to help others take part and feel the benefits.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Helmsley Arts Centre, who have provided the funding for a project to demonstrate how music and poetry can connect the community through creativity, and we’re delighted with the wide range of performers who have joined us, from seasoned professional performers to hobby singers and poets.

“In the workshops and individual sessions over the two weekends, we’ve worked on field singing and outdoor recitation techniques and created some collaborative performances. As a result, members of these groups will be appearing with us in the livestream via pre-recorded video.”

Tomorrow’s livestream viewers can expect a wide-ranging show featuring poetry from William Wordsworth to Spike Milligan, Lord Byron to D H Lawrence, and songs from folk standards to pop favourites and gospel classics, The Beatles to Bill Withers, Cilla Black to Carole King.

Poetry collaborators in tomorrow’s livestream are Bill Laverick, Helen Wilson and Maurice Crichton, from York Shakespeare Project and York Settlement Community Players, and Ted Naisbitt, from Sowerby, near Thirsk, performing one of his own poems, My Lakes, inspired by Wordsworth.

Helen Wilson, performing at last summer’s Sitdown Sonnets, presented by York Shakespeare Project at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York. Tomorrow she is taking part in the Fields & Lanes livestream

Mick worked with Bill, Helen, Maurice and Ted, each taking a verse from Wordsworth’s Daffodils and Sir John Betjeman’s Business Girls, reciting both on Zoom and in the open air.

New field singers taking part are Sinead Livingston, Mary Bourne, Madeleine Cordes, Gary Cordes, Cat Ellis, Caitlin Ellis, Sarah Boyle and Bill Laverick.

“They’re spread across the country from Essex to the North East,” says Jessa. “One of the positives of these times has been being able to work with people from all over the place!

“Sinead, Mary and Madeleine are all singing leaders, who I’ve been liaising with over the past year, all liking the idea of singing outside, and it’s been really great to have such high-quality people to work with.

“Mary runs choirs in Kingston and writes songs, and she’s been a friend for a couple of years. We’ve recorded a duet called My Call, where I recorded my part outside and as she’s ‘Choir Leader In A Kayak’, she’s done her part from a kayak.”

Introducing more of tomorrow’s remote singers, Jessa says: “Cat and Caitlin are a mother and daughter from Easingwold; Cat is in one of my choirs and I teach Caitlin. Sarah Boyle is a ‘hobby singer’ from York who’s joined one of my choirs, and Madeleine and Gary Cordes run a talent agency in Essex.

“In the first workshop, we did Stand By Me and The Water Is Wide, with me editing the virtual performances together and then last Saturday we worked on individual song choices.”

For tomorrow’s livestream, “bubble couple” Mick and Jessa will be performing live and alone in Helmsley Arts Centre, where the pre-recorded songs and poems will be projected on a screen.

“We’ve found that singing and performing poetry outside has been both therapeutic and uplifting during these challenging times,” says Jessa

The 7.30pm show marks a return to Helmsley Arts Centre for Jessa, after performing three of her one-woman shows there: ’Til The Boys Come Home, Some Enchanted Sondheim and Songbirds.

She has been a freelance singer and singing leader for the past 12 years, completing high-level training on performance, singing teaching and musical direction with Vocal Process and qualifying as a Vocal Health First Aider.

“From youth choirs and dementia-friendly groups to community choirs and private lessons, my sessions all have an encouraging atmosphere and a positive, inclusive ethos,” she says.

“I’m continuing to run my singing groups online – Singing For All and Community Singers Online, as well as the live YMHSing sessions for the York Music Hub – and I’m always looking for more singers of all abilities to join in.

“One new singer recently said, ‘you fill the screen with fun and enjoyment’ and I’d love to reach a few more of these people.” 

As testament to her teaching skills, Jessa has been nominated for two 2021 Music and Drama Education awards on March 24 for her inspiring work with singers of all ages in the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Quite an honour and a big surprise!” she says. “I’ve no expectations of winning but will glam up and tune into the ceremony on the 24th anyway!”

Jessa is shortlisted for the #goldstars Award, for any teacher who has shown particular flair, creativity or compassion during this past year, and the Francesca Honley Inspiration Award, which honours an individual who has had a hugely inspirational impact on students of any age in their music-making. 

Outdoor pursuits: Mick Liversidge and Jessa Liversidge head out for a song and a poem in the Yorkshire air

“The person who nominated me mentioned the wide range of ways I have adapted and created different ways of inspiring people of all ages through singing, including the live sings and Zoom choirs for York Music Hub, song and music videos, live singing for all and field sings,” says Jessa, as she looks forward to listening to the 6pm online ceremony at https://www.musicdramaedawards.com/.

Looking ahead, Jessa says: “I’m definitely going to continue with the choirs online. I even have participants from Milton Keynes, Rochdale, Bedfordshire, and I’ve been able to engage in various ways, along with continuing my ‘real’ groups.

“I feel loyal to them all, so when lockdown eases under the Government ‘roadmap’, I’ll do hybrid ‘Room and Zoom’ sessions. I did one in October, which I enjoyed, though it is quite exhausting trying to do two things at once!”

Reflecting on 12 months under the pandemic cloud, Jessa says: “I’m really happy with the way I’ve managed to grow and create this past year despite everything, or actually out of necessity due to everything.

“I’ve developed a lot of skills, like a lot of people like me have. I’ve really enjoyed it, picking up technical skills, such as learning how to synch up people singing separately for streaming. It’s quite time consuming but I think it’s worth it, recording people standing alone in a field but then seeing themselves in a group online.”

Jessa is proof positive that singing is good for the soul, for physical health, for mental wellbeing. “Singing just lifts you and takes you somewhere else,” she says in her break from her online “three hat day” for this interview.

“Singing keeps me going. Today [8/3/2021] I’m running a Singing For All session; teaching a couple of pupils and doing a York Music Hub session at four o’clock, so I’ll be buoyant all day!”

Tickets for tomorrow’s 7.30pm livestream cost £8 per household. To book, go to: https://www.helmsleyarts.co.uk/whats-on/fields-and-lanes-livestream-from-hac.

All the Fields & Lanes poems and songs performed by Mick and Jessa outdoors can be found at the Fields & Lanes Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/fieldsandlanes/.

York Music Hub shares online platforms to keep young talent on song in lockdown

In sunnier times: York Music Hub musicians playing outside the Spurriergate Centre, York

YORK Music Hub is responding to the Covid-19 lockdown by launching an online sharing site, #YMHShare.

The idea is to build an online forum featuring music making and creativity by the young people of York, celebrating the fantastic talent within the city. 

The site has been put together by Squeegee Design, the York web design company based at Lancaster House, James Nicolson Link, and is monitored and updated regularly with content sent in from families, individuals and groups.

“The #YMHShare initiative is for anyone who had a concert cancelled, a festival pulled, an exam postponed or indeed anyone who’s using this time to work on being musical,” says Molly Newton, York Music Hub’s strategic manager.

“So much hard work has gone into school productions, concerts and all kinds of events, and #YMHShare offers a virtual alternative. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far, as many of York’s young musicians have uploaded digital performances and video-link collaborations, and groups have taken this opportunity to showcase previous triumphs in absence of planned concerts.” 

York Music Hub had two major events cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic: the Schools Choral Festival in March and the upcoming city-wide showcase Hubfest2020, now in its second year.

Molly Newton: York Music Hub strategic manager

“The Schools Choral Festival usually takes place at the University of York in March,” says assistant strategic manager Craig Brown. “This year would have seen nine primary and five secondary schools perform.

“Hubfest2020 would have built on the success of the inaugural festival last year, featuring 15 primary and eight secondary schools. The festival is a showcase of all youth music within the city; last year’s festival attracted more than 1,000 young people to make music as part of the event.”

The hub’s response to 2020’s cancellations has been to curate the hard work in a virtual space, as young people, families, groups of friends and bespoke online collaborators come together for this initiative, drawing on the many providers and musicians in a “central area of celebration”. Cue #YMHShare, a sharing platform for a “whole host of music making from any and all young people in and around York”, aged five to 21.

“From next Monday (April 20), when school term would be restarting, we’re launching YMH Online Learning,” says Molly. “This will be a dedicated section of #YMHShare where downloadable resources, YouTube live and Zoom music-making sessions will be posted for anyone to get involved with.”

These sessions will kick off with the York Music Hub Zoom Choir, led by York singer and entertainer Jessa Liversidge, the ubiquitous driving force behind so much online singing activity in York and beyond at present, on Mondays at 2.15pm.

Open to any singer aged eight to 18 -18 from York and the surrounding area, the Zoom Choir offers the chance to connect with other singers, take part in fun vocal warm-ups to develop your vocal technique and learn songs in a range of styles: a “fantastic way to wind down and interact with others in these strange times”.

” I’m raring to go with the young singers of York,” says online-singing driving force Jessa Liversidge

“I’m hoping to attract young people who are missing the inspiring feeling of connecting with others through song,” says Jessa. “I can’t wait to see who signs up for a Monday afternoon, after a day of doing work at home (or at school); those who would enjoy seeing and hearing other melodious youngsters on screen. All young singers are welcome, whatever their previous singing experience.”

Jessa adds: “How the York Music Hub Zoom Choir evolves and what we can achieve depends very much on who gets involved, and how long the lockdown continues.

“I have all sorts of fantastic songs planned to work on with the group, as well as some lag-resistant experiments, and I’m really looking forward to getting going. After a short, self-taught crash course in Zoom choirs these past few weeks with my adult groups, I’m raring to go with the young singers of York.”

Singing For All @TheHub will take place on Fridays at 11am. All are invited to tune in to these lively singing sessions suitable for all ages, again led by Jessa Liversidge. “We want to get everyone involved and lift your spirits with songs and singing games, from well-known school assembly songs, partner songs and rounds to classic pop tunes and even some new songs to learn,” says Molly. “Tune in every Friday at 11am, live on the York Music Hub YouTube channel.”

Ukulele Stars tuition will be open to all ages on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am, with these fun and interactive YouTube sessions being led by Steven Hawksworth, of Hawkulele fame. No previous ukulele experience is necessary.

Curriculum-based GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition sessions for Key Stages 4 and 5 will run throughout the summer term, led on Wednesdays from April 22 at 11am by York Arts Barge Project co-founder, workshop leader, teacher and bass player Christian Topman.

York Music Hub GCSE/A-level Zoom music composition session tutor Christian Topman

These tutorials will be delivered via Zoom but also will be available every week to catch up on via York Music Hub’s YouTube channel. They are aimed at students in Year 9 to 13 who will need to access the Zoom app to join in with the live sessions. They can contact Christian directly at christian@yorkartseducation.org.uk with any composition ideas 

Those needing more information regarding the sharing site or any of the online sessions should contact info@yorkmusichub.org.uk.

Summing up the importance of music-making at this time, Molly says: “It seems to me that music is our salvation. It’s what we turn to in times of celebration and sadness; it keeps us calm or builds us up, it helps us relax, escape, endure, survive.

“It’s the medium through which we express and share our feelings. As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music.

“The internet is now flooded with “virtual” responses to current events: isolation compositions; play-off challenges; streamed concerts and Broadway shows; balcony performances and quarantine choirs.”

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating,” says Molly Newton of her love for musical interplay

Molly’s passion for music oozes from her whenever she leads a project or performance. “I was lucky enough to have hugely supportive parents and inspiring music teachers in my youth and grew up believing that anyone can achieve musically, regardless of their perceived ability or intellect,” she says.

“It’s our fundamental method of communicating and I’ve been lucky enough over the years to see hundreds of young people flourish and grow through music-making opportunities.”

Why is music such a good educative tool, Molly? “I’m going to draw from Plato, who said: ‘I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning’.

“However, regardless of how much music can support the learning of other subjects, music is important in its own right in that it’s a fundamental aspect of all societies.

“Music is a truly collaborative subject, a universal language, and learning it enables a global communication with others that transcends borders and cultures. It’s a subject that teaches creative thinking, discipline, confidence, resilience, patience, perseverance, diligence, achievement and joy, to name but a few!”

“As everything stops, the thing that keeps going – and keeps us all going – is music,” says Molly Newton, as she builds up the York Music Hub online sharing forum

In these strange, alien, disconnected days, Craig has noted our power still to be creative and musically resilient. “The #YMHShare site has really embodied a public celebration of the arts,” he says. “Within this feed, we see so much of the appreciation, value and celebrations of music.

“We speak to many of the city’s instrumental teachers, who are continuing to give private lessons through video links, and it is clear that pupils and parents really value the role that music is playing, offering an escape, opportunity of relaxation, or providing a welcome challenge.”

Looking ahead to when musicians can meet up again, how may York Music Hub celebrate? “We’re already planning a ‘Post-Lockdown’ celebration and are hoping that we will be able to bring as many schools, providers and young people together in a truly collaborative and inclusive way,” says Molly.

“Given the uncertainty and challenge we’re all facing, we’re hoping that when this is all over, we will be able to bring people together through music and remind ourselves how joyful it feels to play and sing together.”

Roll on that day. In the meantime, make a home for music at home.