Every summer, God’s own county hosts some of the most splendid music in the land.
From May to August, the hills and dales of North Yorkshire are filled with music performed in the most idyllic locations imaginable. We kick off with the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, held in the spectacular Minster and in St Mary’s Church. Beverley has had a long association with musicians from medieval times, and this year’s festival is a jam-packed long weekend of concerts and workshops from 26-28 May. Just to give a flavour of what’s on offer, on one day you can hear The Tallis Scholars in the Minster, celebrating their 50th anniversary with music by Byrd, Tallis and Shepherd at 19.30 – and in complete contrast, at 13.00 you can enjoy Eboracum Baroque’s take on the music of the alehouses of 17th century England, in the Memorial Hall.
The Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival runs from 26-28 May 2023. More here.
27 May sees the opening of the Swaledale Festival, offering ‘Music, Arts and Walking in the Yorkshire Dales’ which combines recitals with talks on astronomy and the wildlife of the region. With no fewer than 57 events over 15 days, only a brief idea can be given of what’s on offer. The concerts which caught our eye include a rare performance of Richard Strauss’ setting of Tennyson’s Enoch Arden by Christopher Kent and Gamal Khamis on 30 May – this one takes place in the exquisite setting of the Georgian Theatre in Richmond. On 1 June, the Ligeti Quartet celebrates the composer’s centenary at St Mary’s Church in Arkengathdale, and the following day Manchester Baroque present a programme of Handel and Corelli played on period instruments in Richmond’s St Mary’s Church. Towards the end of the Festival, the Herschel Players with Julia Doyle present a programme of Rameau and Couperin on 9 June in St Andrew’s Church in Grinton.
The Swaledale Festival runs from 27 May-10 June 2023. More here.
No sooner has the Swaledale Festival closed its doors than locals and visitors need to get ready for yet another feast of music in glorious settings, with the advent of the Northern Aldborough Festival: if last year’s performance of Handel’s Theodora is anything to go by, this one should be a real treat. The first event is a double bill of Haydn operas, The Diva and The Apothecary on 15 June, performed by Bampton Classical Opera in the beautiful St Andrew’s Church. In the same venue, the Armonico Consort offers a performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 on 23 June. Between those two there’s a new singing competition, more concerts and lectures and to conclude the festival, what sounds like an evening of great fun in the grounds of Aldborough Manor on the 23rd, when The Big Cheese and The Hyde Family Jam will entertain picknickers.
The Northern Aldborough Festival runs from 15-24 June 2023. More here.
The wonderful city of York is arguably the centre of Early Music in the UK, and the 2023 Festival, running from 7-14 July, reflects this in its array of events. Our picks begin with a concert of Handel arias from Iestyn Davies and Ensemble Jupiter on 8 July – led by the lutenist Thomas Dunford, they have made a very fine recording of some of the arias, and you can get a taste on YouTube with the lovely ‘Yet Can I Hear that Dulcet Lay’. On Sunday 9th, The Sixteen will be at York Minster with a programme marking the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd; book early for this one! On Monday 10th, the superb mezzo Helen Charlston will give a recital at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, accompanied on theorbo by Toby Carr – great music in a fabulous setting.
The York Early Music Festival runs from 7-14 July 2023. More here.
Just a few days after York, the Ryedale Festival begins its two weeks of exceptional concerts, again in settings which would be difficult to equal anywhere. There’s just too much richness to list here, so a few personal choices must suffice. On July 14th at St Peter’s Church in Norton, The King’s Singers and Fretwork also commemorate the 400th anniversary of the demise of William Byrd and also Thomas Weelkes, focusing on the humanity behind these two giants of Elizabethan music; well known works and less familiar pieces are promised. On the 18th there’s an absolute gem of a concert in an equally fine setting, when Nicky Spence and Christopher Glynn offer The Food of Love in Duncombe Park in Helmsley: the music spans composers from Byrd to Dankworth, with some Schubert, Britten and Purcell along the way.
John Blow’s Venus and Adonis is widely regarded as the first great English opera, and you have three chances to hear it in Ryedale, in a pop-up production on 21, 22 and 23 July, in three different settings. This ‘mini opera’ was composed for the court of Charles II, and as you might expect it’s full of wit and seduction. Yet another unique event takes place on the 26th, when there will be a Triple Concert held at Castle Howard: you may remember the house from Brideshead Revisited. The Long Gallery, the Chapel and the Great Hall will be the settings for music by composers including Mozart, Ravel and Purcell.
On Sunday 30th, the Royal Northern Sinfonia will bring the festival to a close in yet another fabulous setting, that of Hovingham Hall, the childhood home of the Duchess of Kent. The concert features Haydn’s ‘Fire’ Symphony and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, and will be preceded by cream teas in the Worsley Arms, to the music of the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band.
The Ryedale Festival runs from 14-30 July 2023. More here.
And finally, the very individual North York Moors Chamber Music Festival begins on 12 August: this year’s theme is Into the Looking Glass, and most of the events take place in the Marquee surrounded by the lovely grounds of Welburn Manor. There are 14 concerts in all, exploring topics such as Scenes from Childhood and Along Treacherous Ways, and featuring music by Schumann, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy and many others. This is an especially friendly and welcoming festival.
The North York Moors Chamber Music Festival runs from 13-26 August 2023. More here.