THE King’s Singers and Fretwork open the 2023 Ryedale Festival tonight at St Peter’s Church in Norton, near Malton.
They will be marking the 400th anniversaries of Thomas Weelkes and William Byrd in a concert affectionately titled Tom & Will. Focusing on the humanity behind these two behemoths of Elizabethan music, the 7pm programme comprises well-known pieces alongside works performed less often.
New works by Sir James MacMillan and Roderick Williams find their place among the tributes to Byrd and Weelkes, and the unique fashion of The King’s Singers’ performances will bring drama, beauty and storytelling to Ryedale for the festival’s grand opening.
The King’s Singers have maintained their six-strong formation of two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass throughout their 55 years. In the 2023 line-up tonight will be countertenors Patrick Dunachie and Edward Button, tenor Julian Gregory, baritones Christopher Bruerton and Nick Ashby and bass Jonathan Howard.
The Fretwork consort of viols is heading into its 37th year of exploring the core repertory of English consort music alongside pioneering contemporary music for viols, with more than 40 commissioned new works in their repertoire of old and new.
Fretwork consists of Richard Boothby, Emilia Benjamin, Jonathan Rees, Joanna Levine, Sam Stadlen and Emily Ashton.
Taking part too will be the Ryedale Primary Choir, a new initiative for children aged seven to 11, run by Caius Lee and launched this year in collaboration with the Richard Shephard Music Foundation. Children attend free music sessions in school holidays, where they meet and sing with professional musicians, especially Ryedale Festival Young Artists.
The choir will be making its festival debut by appearing on stage with The King’s Singers in a special encore at this opening concert, having worked with them in a masterclass.
Festival artistic director Christopher Glynn says: “We open this year’s Ryedale Festival with a fantastic concert celebrating the life and work of two of England’s greatest composers of early music.
“Bringing together the best in a cappella singing and in viol consorts with The King’s Singers and Fretwork, there aren’t many better ways to bring up the curtain on the festival and mark the anniversaries of William Byrd and Thomas Weelkes.
“We are also very excited to have the Ryedale Primary Choir join the ensembles on stage for a very special encore. The festival is all about sharing great music with more people every year – and having this choir join us for free music sessions over the summer holidays and up on stage to open the festival is a great part of that. I look forward to seeing St Peter’s Church in Norton fill up for what will be a magnificent opening night.”
Box office for tickets: ryedalefestival.com.