YORK Early Music Festival 2023 takes the theme of Smoke & Mirrors with many of next month’s concerts reflecting the religious uncertainty of life in Tudor times.
Running from July 7 to 14 in York’s churches and historic buildings, the nine-day extravaganza of concerts, talks and workshops features The Sixteen, Ensemble Jupiter & Iestyn Davies, Rachel Podger and the City Musick among its headline performers.
Festival director Dr Delma Tomlin says: “This year’s outstanding line-up of artists also includes Carolyn Sampson, RPS Vocal Award winner Anna Dennis, Alys Mererid Roberts and Helen Charlston, leading the charge for women across the ages.
“We are also presenting some of the most accomplished emerging ensembles from across Europe, including the 2019 and 2022 winners of the York International Young Artists Competition, who we are delighted to be welcoming back to York.”
The 2023 festival commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of one of England’s most celebrated composers, William Byrd, a man who lived a life beset by “smoke and mirrors” – hence the festival theme – as a practising Roman Catholic composer working for a constantly threatened Protestant Queen.
“The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort will share music of state and church for voices and viols, in Byrd At Elizabethan Court, at the National Centre for Early Music, directed by Rory McCleery on July 11,” says Delma.
“You can learn about his keyboard music with harpsichord supremo Francesco Corti in Musica Transalpina, also featuring toccatas and variations by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Peter Philips, at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, on July 10, and take a ‘Byrd pilgrimage’ around the churches of York with York Minster organist Benjamin Morris at All Saints’ Church, North Street, on July 12, and St Lawrence’s Church, Hull Road, and St Denys’s Church, Walmgate, on July 13.
“You can also enjoy the heavenly sounds of Byrd’s liturgical masterpieces in The Sixteen’s A Watchful Gaze concert with the York Minster Choir, directed by Harry Christophers at York Minster on July 9, when Byrd’s legacy will be taken firmly into the modern day with two new works by Dobrinka Tabakova, Arise, Lord Into Thy Rest and Turn Our Captivity.”
Tickets are still available for several prominent festival concerts, not least The Sixteen, the festival’s opening concert by The City Musick on July 7 and York countertenor Iestyn Davies with festival debutants Ensemble Jupiter on July 8, both at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York.
Directed by William Lyons, The City Musick’s Renaissance big band – 20 musicians in all – will be focusing on the legacy of David Munrow in an homage to his iconic 1970s’ recordings but with a modern twist.
Lyons’s band brings together – deep breath – consorts of recorders, strings, shawms, crumhorns, racketts, dulcians, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, cornetts, sackbuts, keyboard, lutes and percussion to delight in the joy and richness of Renaissance instrumental sounds and dance styles, from sombre almains and pavans to effervescent bransles, galliards and ciaconnas.
Directed by lutenist Thomas Dunford, Ensemble Jupiter join with Iestyn Davies to perform Eternal Source Of Light, a selection of Handel’s most beautiful arias from the 1740s and ’50s, as heard on their award-winning Eternal Heaven album collaboration. Expect a seamless sequence of the secular and the sacred, the tranquil and the tempestuous, the sumptuous and the sophisticated.
On July 12, sopranos Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis and Alys Mererid Roberts join the Dunedin Consort to perform Out Of Her Mouth, three miniature cantatas written by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre.
Performed in three historic venues, the NCEM at St Margaret’s Church, the Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers Hall, Fossgate, and the hall’s Undercroft, these works by a woman, about women and for women reveal the stories of three Biblical women narrating their own complex, heart-searching experiences.
This concert has sold out, as have the The Rose Consort of Viols and The Marian Consort’s celebration of Elizabeth I and her courtiers, festival artistic advisor Helen Charlston’s July 10 concert with theorbist Toby Carr at the Undercroft, Merchant Adventurers Hall, and violinist Rachel Podger’s return to the NCEM with theorbist Daniele Caminiti on July 13.
Mezzo soprano Charlston and Carr explore the intimate sound-world of solo voice and theorbo in Battle Cry: She Speaks, those battle cries resounding down the centuries in song; Podger and Caminiti perform Hidden In Plain Sight, celebrating the virtuosity of the violin and its place on the concert platform.
The NCEM Platform Artists’ showcase for emerging European ensembles opens with 2019 EEEmerging+ Prize winners The Butter Quartet’s Well Met By Moonlight on July 9, moved to the NCEM after selling out Bedern Hall, followed by Apotropaïk, who scooped three prizes in last year’s York International Young Artists Competition, performing songs from a 13th century re-telling of the story of Tristan and Isolde, on July 12 at All Saints’ Church
2019 winners L’ Apothéose, from Spain, launch their new album, recorded at the NCEM last year, with a July 13 programme of Carl Stamitz chamber works from the 1780s, back at the NCEM. 2022 prize winners The Protean Quartet perform Tempus Omnia Vincit there on Juy 14 ahead of recording their debut album with Linn Records.
The festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2023 will be awarded to baroque trumpet player Crispian Steele-Perkins at the NCEM on July 9 immediately after the live edition of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, broadcast from there.
For the full festival programme and tickets, visit: ncem.co.uk.
I Zefirelli to play July 6 concert in NCEM gardens as part of week-long residency
AWARD-WINNING young instrumental ensemble I Zefirelli will arrive in York from Germany on July 4 for a week-long residency.
They will perform Mr Handel In The Pub! on July 6 in the National Centre for Early Music gardens, at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, where they will present a very particular blend of folk and early music as seen through the lens of life in London in the 1700s.
The ensemble will be undertaking the residency as part of the EEEmerging + programme, a large-scale European cooperation project that promotes the emergence of new talent in early music.
In the I Zefirelli line-up are Luise Catenhusen, recorder; María Carrasco, baroque violin; Jakob Kuchenbuch violoncello, viola da gamba; Tobias Tietze, lute, theorbo, baroque guitar, vihuela; Jeroen Finke, percussion, baritone, and Tilmann Albrecht, harpsichord, percussion.
Tickets for the 6.30pm to 7.30pm concert cost £10 at www.ncem.co.uk/events/i-zefirell. Refreshments will be available.