Who will be performing at York Early Music Festival 2024 in eight-day celebration of the human voice and song in July?

Consone Quartet: Participating in York Early Music Festival’s chamber music programme

THIS summer’s York Early Music Festival 2024 will be an eight-day celebration of music from medieval to the baroque under the title of Metamorfosi.

“The festival will focus on the human voice and song, a combination prized for its power to communicate most directly, and through metamorphosis, the inspiration behind the creation, reimagination and reconstruction of music across time,” says festival director Delma Tomlin.

“This is a very prestigious early music festival that everyone wants to play. We’re looking forward to bringing to York an outstanding line-up of artists, celebrating the power, magnificence and influence of the human voice over the centuries. This year’s exciting line-up will see the return of many festival favourites and a host of new ensembles.

“As ever, the festival will take place in an array of York’s most beautiful churches and historic buildings, and this year’s programme includes four performances in the iconic York Minster.”

Presented by the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM), York, from July 6 to 13, festival will feature a line-up of vocal specialists such as French festival debutants Concerto Soave (NCEM, St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, July 6, 12 noon); The Gesualdo Six (Chapter House, York Minster, July 9, 7.30pm); festival newcomers Vox Luminis (York Minster Quire, July 11, 7.45pm) and Cappella Pratensis & I Fedeli (York Minster Quire, July 12, 9pm).

Highlighting the theme of reimagination, guest artists including The Sixteen (York Minster, July 6, 7.30pm), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (NCEM, July 8, 7pm), Rose Consort of Viols, with mezzo-soprano Martha McLorian (NCEM, July 9, 9.30pm), and Gawain Glenton’s Ensemble In Echo (St Lawrence Church, Hull Road, July 10, 7.30pm)  will reveal how much composers have borrowed from each other and themselves.

As well as performing herself, mezzo-soprano, BBC New Generation Artist and YEMF artistic adviser Helen Charlston is curating a series of chamber concerts, where the Consone Quartet, harpsichordist John Butt and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Leggett will be her guests.

Leggett, Butt and basse de viole player Jonathan Manson will join Charlston for Couperin: Lecons de Tenebres at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, Aldwark, on July 8 at 9.15pm, and later she will perform William Thorp’s arrangement of Schumann’s song-cycle Frauenlieben und leben with the Consone Quartet through a new lens of string quartet and voice at the NCEM on July 9 at 12 noon.

Cubaroque, a new combination of tenor Nicolas Mulroy and lutenists Elizabeth Kenny and Toby Carr, will bring together an unusual programme of music by Purcell and Monteverdi, plus more modern songs from South America, at the NCEM on July 7 at 7.30pm.

Making a return to York for two concerts in a residency will be Apotropaïk, winners of the Friends Prize, the EEEmerging+ Prize (CORRECT) and the Cambridge Early Music Prize at the 2022 York International Young Artists Competition. First up, Holy Trinity, Micklegate, on July 10 at 12 noon, followed by the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall, on July 11 at 9.45pm.

Against the tide of the Brexit divorce from Europe, the NCEM and YEMF have been “especially thrilled” to be working on a new collaboration with artists and colleagues based in Flanders, Belgium, with support from the Alamire Foundation, AMUZ in Antwerp and the Flanders government.

“This partnership enables us to bring Flemish vocal ensemble Utopia to the festival [at the NCEM, July 12, 6pm,] to perform Salve Susato: Treasures from Antwerp’s Golden Age,  as well as the Cappella Pratensis & I Fedeli’s celebration of Renaissance polyphony in the Franco-Flemish music of Jacob Obrecht and Jacobus Barbireau later that day,” says Delma. “Both concerts will mark Flanders Day.”

Once more, the festival will play host to ensembles from across Europe in the prestigious biennial York International Young Artists Competition, a ground-breaking initiative that attracts young artists from all over the world.

Looking to follow such past winners as the Protean Quartet, L’Apotheose, Barroco Tout and Sollazzo Ensemble, finalists will spend time in York performing informal concerts and learning from experts before the final concerts on Saturday, July 13, from 10am to 5pm.

“We end the festival with one of the most important dates on the NCEM’s calendar, the York International Young Artists Competition York Early Music Festival,” says Delma. “The NCEM is internationally renowned for promoting and mentoring aspiring young musicians through its extensive work and we can’t wait to host this year’s competition.”

The full festival programme can be found at: https://www.ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf/.

To book tickets, ring 01904 658338 or go to: https://www.ncem.co.uk/whats-on/yemf/.

In Focus: Who will be the eight ensembles taking part in the 2024 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition?

Rubens Ros, from Switzerland

MEDIEVAL music ensemble based in Basel, co-directed by Aliénor Wolteche (fiddles) and Matthieu Romanens (tenor), graduates of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Repertoire ranges from 13th century accompanied monody to late-medieval vocal and instrumental polyphony. Rubens Rosa made its debut in 2022 at the Basel festival Erasmus klingt.

[hanse]Pfeyfferey, from Germany

RENAISSANCE wind band specialising in improvised and rediscovered music from circa 1500. Their goal is to reproduce authentic and refined Renaissance wind band sound that can be heard from high church towers and serves as the soundtrack for grand processions and balls.

Ayres Extemporae, based in Belgium

TRIO comprising Moldovan-Spanish violinist Xenia Gogu, Spanish cellist Víctor García García, playing on a five-string cello piccolo, and Portuguese cellist Teresa Madeira. Awarded first prize and audience prize at 2022 Semana de Música Antigua de Estella-Lizarra, leading to them being programmed in 2023 festival too. Also received second prize at Biagio Marini International Early Music Competition in Germany.

Brezza, from Switzerland

CREATED in the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, this versatile ensemble’s research, rehearsal and concert activities explore 17th and 18th century music in the core instrumentation of traverso, viola da gamba, and harpsichord.

Apollo’s Cabinet, from Great Britain

MURDERS, drinking songs, Cinderella stories, virtuosic cantatas, European tours, serene polyphony and candlelit rituals all feature in the evocative and story-driven programmes of these Göttingen Händel Competition and 2022 Maurizio Pratola competition winners. Signature mix of acting, dancing, poetry and silliness brings historical performance to modern audiences, while educational outreach for children and adults alike is at the core of the ensemble’s work.

Pseudonym, based in Switzerland

SCHOLA Cantorum Basiliensis graduates Gabriel Smallwood, Maya Webne-Behrman, Stephen Moran and Liane Sadler perform adventurous interpretations of 17th and 18th century music. Finalists and prize winners at MA Competition Bruges, Van Wassenaer Concours, international harpsichord competition Wanda Landowska in Memoriam, Bach-Abel Wettbebwerb, the International Telemann Wettberwerb and International Biagio Marini Competition.

Trio Pellegrino, from the Netherlands

FORMED after playing in larger ensemble at 2023 La Risonanza Early Music Festival in Bertinoro, Italy. Focusing on Classical and early Romantic repertoire, ranging from Haydn to Schubert, they plan to perform in Germany and England later this year.

Friedrichs Nebelmeer Ensemble,from Switzerland

DYNAMIC woodwind ensemble of Pablo Gigosos (flute), Mei Kamikawa (oboe), Claudia Reyes (clarinet), Andrés Sánchez (horn), and Angel Alvarez (bassoon) formed in 2022 out of shared passion for chamber music and commitment to artistic excellence.

The 2024 competition final will be presented by a panel of judges: Bart Demuyt, director of AMUZ/Alamire; lutenist Elizabeth Kenny; Philip Hobbs, from Linn Records; Lionel Meunier, director of Vox Luminis, and clarinettist/University of York lecturer Emily Worthington. .

The main prize includes a professional CD recording contract from Linn Records; a cheque for £1,000 and opportunities to work with BBC Radio 3 and the National Centre for Early Music, York.

Other prizes are supported by Cambridge Early Music Festival, the European Union Baroque Orchestra Development Trust and Friends of the York Early Music Festival.