Happy memories from last year’s Thoroughly Good Trip to the Ryedale Festival abound flicking through the 40th festival brochure this morning. Thanks to the work of Artistic Director and pianist Chris Glynn, Ryedale builds on its growing artistic reputation.
This year sees residencies with Roderick Williams, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco, the Maxwell Quartet and Gesualdo Six, the latter’s rise during and post-pandemic across the UK and international arts scene is a delight to see.
Highlights across the 52 concerts mix appearances from Dame Janet Baker and Stephen Kovacevich, Leeds Piano Competition winner from 2021 Alim Beisembayev, Royal Overseas League Gold Medal Winner accordionist Ryan Corbett, London Mozart Players with pianist Martin James Bartlett.
There are also six world premieres from Julian Philips, Errollyn Wallen and Tarik O’Regan, Roxanna Panufnik, Joseph Howard, Roberts Balanas and Callum Au.
Ryedale Festival Programme 2022
Full listings for the entire programme are available via the festival brochure and website. General booking opens 20th April 2022.
I’m in the zone now. Curated playlist concerts are my new thing. If I was down with the kids, I might even say they’re my ‘new jam’. But I won’t do that. Because that would be a bit corny. And I’ve probably said it wrong. And I’ve probably made myself look like a twat. Regardless.
Perched on the stage in the Milton Rooms, Malton, every available surface painted various shades of blue, members of the Manchester Collective and Chesaba were accompanied by cellist Abel Selacoe who swung from one group to the other with ease.
This was a collaborative creation. From time to time music stands were deliberately set to one side. Musicians leaned in. Smiles got wider and brighter. Heels dug in even more.
“We look for the string that binds us together,” said Selaocoe back-announcing two pieces in the set – the second movement from Haydn’s Op.54 No. 2 followed by an African hymn the name of which escapes me, but the emotional impact absolutely didn’t. Touching, lump in the throat stuff.
Four Dramatic Miniatures from Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen brought enthralling edge-of-the-cliff drama, minimalism, and a plaintive statement, concluding with a frenetic pizzicato frenzy with a clever echo effect created across four string players.
Later in a traditional South African song ‘Shaka’ Chesaba percussionist gave us a heartfelt melismatic plea, after which soft strings and a plucked electric bass gave things an altogether festival vibe. When voices joined in, it was all a bit too much to contemplate. Yet another example of how just a handful of musicians can create something so very uplifting.
Selaocoe tried his best to get us singing along and – ‘COVID permitting’ – to dance along as well, but it wasn’t going to happen really. This was mid-afternoon on a weekday. And we’re all achingly middle class. And British (majority Yorkshire).
But this was as expected, incredible musicianship. Keep an eye out for Sidiki on drums in particular. Quite how he doesn’t finish a gig with bleeding hands I’m not entirely clear.
Jess Gillam and the Jess Gillam Ensemble (Roberts Balanas and Michael Jones on violin, Eoin Schmidt-Martin, Gabriella Swallow on cello, Sam Becker on bass, percussionist Elsa Bradley and pianist Leif Kaner-Lidstrom) took to the stage in St Peter’s Church, Norton in Malton, North Yorkshire yesterday for two performances featuring music from Decca 2020 release Time plus an exhilherating work by Gillam’s saxophone teacher John Harle, ‘Flare’.
I’ve written before about how Gillam’s ‘Time’ recorded weeks before the first UK lockdown, ended up being something I listened to time and time again in the months that followed.
So much, in fact, that come the live performance in glorious 3D sound on Thursday of Thomas Yorke’s Suspirium it was almost too much to bear – a musical reminder of a time when those of us with empathy looked on the world and wondered what the hell was going on and kept on asking when it would end.
Suspirium, like John Metcalf’s arrangement of Bjork’s ‘Venus as a Boy’ underlined what a considerable achievement Gillam’s work on Time really is – not only is it a cracking album from beginning to end, but hear it in the same physical space and it takes on a whole other form.
The “kind characters and generous people” Jess introduced on stage with her are called upon to play resourcefully, clapping, banging, and scraping in addition to the more conventional up and down bows.
Gillam bounces around in the middle communicating with her peers, passionate leadership without pretension. From time to time members of the group look and smile at one another connecting over a shared sequence that tickles. Infectious smiles are exchanged, observed by the distanced masked audience. And at the beginning of John Metcalf’s ravishing arrangement of Sakamoto’s ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’, blissful pizzicato from Gabriella Swallow – notes that bounce around the church like they’ve suddenly learned themselves that restrictions have been eased.
John Harle’s ‘Flare’ highlights the new kind of classical music that really isn’t being written about nor celebrated anywhere near enough. It’s a style that proudly draws on multiple influences and genres. It’s a style that refuses to revere. It’s not light nor easy (just look at what Harle demands of the players). It’s not crossover. Nor is it imitative. This new classical, as demonstrated in Harle’s ‘Flare’ is a glorious shimmering colourful celebration of music, here brought to life by an energetic ensemble.
Reference should also be made to what could so easily be overlooked in amongst all of this loveliness: Jess Gillam’s technique is remarkable. As a wind player myself I don’t understand how such a solid unwavering column of air can support a melodic line without even a hint of air escaping where her mouth meets the mouthpiece of the instrument she’s playing. The tone is round and firm. It caresses. It’s never shrill. It’s consistent too. Never a duff moment. The mind boggles.