Sunday, 16 October 2016

Yorkshire Bach Choir 2016-17: Bach and beyond

Image copyright Ian Martindale:

We are happy to announce our 2016-17 concert season! Join us for a year of music brimming with inspiration, excitement and history.

Yorkshire Bach Choir has a reputation for the quality and authenticity of its performances including the greatest pieces in the choral repertoire. Along with this familiar fare, this season will introduce less familiar music from figures as diverse as CPE Bach and Zoltan Kodály. For lovers of great choral or early music can there be a better way to spend a Saturday evening in York?

Renaissance Unchained: 29.10.16

Byrd (TL), Lassus (TR), Sweelinck (BR),
Victoria (BL), Palestrina (Ctr)
Our opening concert showcases the variety and depth of music across Europe during the Renaissance with music by Byrd, Sweelinck, Lassus, Palestrina and Victoria. Challenging the idea that Renaissance musical innovation was centred exclusively in Italy it includes music from Spain, the Low Countries and our own Isles. 

We unlock the mysteries of William Byrd’s intriguing Mass for Five Voices which was secretly performed in the private chapels of devout English Catholics during the turbulence of the late sixteenth century. Italy is not ignored in our tour of Europe as we perform Palestrina’s plangeant, suspension-filled setting of the Stabat Mater for double choir. Other gems of Renaissance music included in the programme are the exquisite motet ‘Justorum Animae’ by Lassus and a festive ‘Hodie’ by Sweelinck.

YBC @ Illuminating York
We are thrilled that this opening concert will once again be a part of the artistic programme for the Illuminating York Festival. We are pleased that our singing will once again be part of the magical atmosphere across the city on evenings of the festival. 

This year's festival makes a particular focus of some of York’s greatest religious spaces including York Minster and the adjacent St Michael le Belfrey which is the home of our concert series. Illuminations on the exterior of St Michael le Belfrey promise to be complemented by tranquil sonorities inside.   

Bach at Christmas: 10.12.16

For our December concert we make the first of two visits this season to the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall (University of York) to perform Bach at Christmas with Yorkshire Baroque Soloists. The concert includes an unmissable trio of festive works with JS Bach’s Magnificat and cantata Wachet Auf (Sleepers, wake’). Particularly exciting will be the York premiere of CPE Bach’s exciting setting of the Magnificat text.  

Tickets are selling quickly for what promises to be a highlight of the York Early Christmas Music Festival.

Heinrich Schütz at the Dresden Court: 4.02.17

2017 will open with Heinrich Schütz at the Dresden Court when we explore the wonderful range of music written by one of the most important, innovative composers of the seventeenth century. 

We showcase the range of his musical style from his expressive, trailblazing settings of the passion story to the sonorous vocal textures of his colourful psalms.    

Bach: Mass in B minor: 18.03.17

Completed in the final year of his life, the monumental Mass in B minor is arguably Bach's greatest achievement. All in all, it is the perfect realisation of his endlessly flexible and inventive musical style. 

An outstanding line-up of vocal soloists complements the period-style agility of Yorkshire Baroque Soloists.

20th Century Choral Classics: 13.05.17

Organist Ben Horden
We return to the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall (University of York) on 13 May for a colourful programme of music for organ and choir entitled 20th Century Choral Classics accompanied by organist Ben Horden. 

In this concert we present three distinctive twentieth century settings of spiritual texts for voices and organ. Both Kodály and Duruflé take their cue from earlier musical styles, especially Gregorian chant, and reinvent familiar texts in the full technicolour of their own individual musical languages. Completing the trio of works is Walton’s The Twelve a hugely imaginative and distinctive setting of W H Auden’s words.    

Read more about Ben Horden at

Monteverdi: Vespers (1641) and Carissimi: Jephte: 17.06.17

YBC and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists at
York Early Music Festival December 2015
Known as ‘the other vespers’, Monteverdi’s 1641 collection Selva morale e spirituale is a greatest hits compilation from his many years’ experience as a church composer. The virtuosic settings combine a characteristic combination of weighty, expansive choral writing and exquisite vocal solos. Forming an ad hoc vespers sequence, the music performed reflects Monteverdi’s revolutionary, colourful treatment of voices and instruments. Dramatic flair and vividly imagined biblical characters are the hallmarks of Carissimi’s compact masterpiece Jephte. 

Come to hear us!

Full details of ticket prices and season subscriptions can be found on our website. You can save money across the season by subscribing for one of our season tickets. For the first time this year £5 student tickets will be available in advance of the concert.
Further details on Yorkshire Bach Choir:
Yorkshire Baroque Soloists:

All our concerts (except for the December and May concert at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall) are performed in the spacious St Michael le Belfrey a historic church in the heart of the city.

YBC Concert reminder service:

Twitter: @YorksBachChoir

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Songs and Elegies of the English Romantics

We look ahead to our upcoming concert on Saturday 7 May which presents a programme of musical works by English 20th Century composers - Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Tippett and Howells -  spanning two continents and covering the old world and the new world. 

The Old World is represented in Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor.  The composer's oft-quoted words "There is no reason why an atheist could not write a good mass" belie the originality with which Vaughan Williams created the mass which is an intricate homage to Tudor polyphony. Gerald Finzi’s Seven Poems of Robert Bridges beautiful response to the classical, delicate poetry of Robert Bridges. The New World arrives in Tippett’s vibrant Five Negro Spirituals extracted from his larger work A Child of our Time including classic arrangements of Steal Away and Deep River. Howells’ short, but intensely moving, setting Take him Earth, for Cherishing was publically dedicated as a response the the assassination of John F Kennedy but was arguably a more personal reaction to the tragic death of the composer’s son Michael.

Original title page of Howells
Take him Earth, for Cherishing

As Peter Seymour our conductor comments: ‘It is great to be rehearsing these highly individual works which are fantastic examples of not only of the skill of the their four very individual composers but geographically span both sides of the Atlantic. Much of the music seems to defy easy categorisation as Vaughan Williams and Tippett in particular both take something that was old and refashion in their own unique, often daring musical language. There is a huge range of musical expression from the gentle poetry to more extrovert, sonorous moments which will sound glorious in the uniquely resonant acoustic of St Michael le Belfrey.  

St Michael le Belfrey, York

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a wonderful concert on Saturday 7 May starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £14 (full price) and £12 (concessions). £5 tickets for students will be available on the door.  Tickets are available in advance from the National Centre for Early Music or by clicking here: 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Artist Spotlight - Violinist Lucy Russell


Lucy Russell is among the most distinguished of international violinists who has now led the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists for several years. She has achieved eminence on both historical instruments and their ‘modern’ counterparts, performing and recording music from Monteverdi to the present day with equal distinction and authority. She became leader of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet in 1995; with them she has played all over Europe, North America, South Africa, Canada and Israel as well as making recordings for Linn Records, Divine Art Records, the BBC and various foreign radio stations. The quartet plays on both modern and historical set ups and will be recording late Beethoven String Quartets on heavy gut for Linn this Autumn. In addition to Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Lucy is much in demand as Leader of several Early Music orchestras and has worked in this capacity for such as The King’s Consort, Classical Opera Company, Dunedin Consort, and she has also been a key player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  She has made numerous recordings over the years as an orchestral and chamber player and regularly teams up with Rachel Podger with her own ensemble, Brecon Baroque. 

Tell us a bit more about performing in York with the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists: 
I was a student when I first had the opportunity to play with YBS. I must have been fairly clueless and 'green' but I cut my teeth on some of the very best repertoire. It's been about 3 decades now since I first played and I think I can only have been unavailable to play with the group for only one or two concerts! We've  played abroad, recorded and done what most successful outfits do but most importantly, we are a tight knit bunch who cherish making music together and enjoying each other's company!

Lucy Russell
You've recently recorded J.S Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord with John Butt what was your experience of recording such a cornerstone of the repertoire?    
Recording the Bach Violin Sonatas was the mission of a lifetime!  I started to dabble with these works whilst still a student at York and had always been drawn to them but to finally record them was a dream come true. They offer the best of Bach - they encompass Bach the cerebral, the human being, the profound, the emotional, the jazzy. It's all there and playing with John was a 'hand in glove' experience and a lot of fun too!

Do you plan any similar projects? 
I'm into CPE Bach (one of Bach's sons) and Beethoven and I'd love to record these sonatas some day. Maybe also long have I got?!!

As a youngster, did you ever have a eureka moment listening to or performing a certain piece of music? 

I've had so many eureka moments whilst listening to music/playing music that it's hard to single out any particular one. As a youngster, performing Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances fuelled my passion for the great romantic composers. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Verdi's Requiem also blew my mind. I think I'm very fortunate to have these kind of moments on a regular basis and as leader of the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, this can happen on an almost daily basis - Beethoven late quartets spring to mind.......Thank goodness for Music!

Lucy leading Yorkshire Baroque Soloists rehearsing Haydn Creation
If you could travel in a musical time machine to experience a certain period or era in history where and when would you travel to?
I'd have loved to meet Haydn. His music, like that of Bach, appeals to me for all the same reasons I quote above.  He is a three-dimensional composer and his imagination, humour, pathos etc seemingly endless. Hugely respected by Beethoven and Mozart, to name but two, he had a profound influence on his contemporaries and beyond yet I think he'd have been more fun to hang out with in the Bier Keller than either of his aforementioned grumpy or flighty chums!

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
Lucy with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet
Mainstream jazz or Bruckner symphonies listened to at home with no lights on!

How do you relax?
Inventing new ways to incorporate yet more garlic or chilli into my cooking. And practising yoga!

What would your super power be?
To ensure a permanent state of world peace.

What is your most treasured possession?
Life itself.

What keeps you awake at night?
The music I'm currently working on!

We look forward to hearing Lucy lead the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists in JS Bach Easter Oratorio (BWV 249), Bach Mass in G minor (BWV 235) and Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11).   The concert will take place in St Michael le Belfrey, York on Saturday 12 March and further details on the concert and how to buy tickets can be found at:

You can find more information on Lucy and the Fitzwilliam string quartet at Details of her first solo CD of Bach’s Obbligato Violin Sonatas
with John Butt can be found on the Linn Records website.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Artist Spotlight - Trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins

Crispian Steele-Perkins
Crispian Steele-Perkins is unquestionably one of the worlds most renowned trumpeters. His biography reads like the resume of several musicians as opposed to a singular trumpeter. The list of singers, classical and popular, that he has appeared with is remarkable including Kiri te Kanawa, Emma Kirkby, John Tomlinson, Bryn Terfel, Led Zeppelin, Kate Bush, Cliff Richard, Bob Geldof and Harry Secombe.  This list reflects an eclectic career that includes performing repertoire from Handel to Glenn Miller; Crispian can, for instance, be heard playing on the soundtracks of over 80 films from Jaws to The Life of Brian. He is treasured by fans of early music for his appearances with groups such as The Academy of Ancient Music, The Kings Consort and The English Baroque Soloists. Ahead of his appearance playing Bach with the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists and Yorkshire Bach Choir on Saturday 12 March we caught up with Crispian to ask him some questions about his music making and life. 

I’m guessing you’ve performed the Easter and Ascension Oratorios before, tell us more about how Bach writes for the trumpet in these particular pieces.
Bach never writes for the trumpet in the same way twice unless re-using material.  These two are amongst my favorites and I never cease to be amazed at the technical virtuosity that his players must have achieved at the time.

As a trumpeter, what are your 'Desert Island' pieces?
Maybe Hummel's Concerto in the correct key of E (not Eb) but I don't think there is yet a 100% satisfactory version on record.

What do you enjoy most about performing in York?
I like working with Peter Seymour and enjoy working with a fairly set team of excellent musicians. Nice audiences too !
Eddie Calvert 'Oh My Papa'

Is there any piece of music or repertoire that you haven’t had the opportunity to perform?
No. I love Handel's 'Occasional Oratorio' which rarely gets performed though.

As a youngster, did you ever have a eureka moment listening to or performing a certain piece of music?
As a 69 year old youngster I heard a Rumanian Gypsy Band - Eureka indeed !

What was the first ever record you bought?
'Oh My Papa' Eddie Calvert - 'The man with the golden trumpet'-

Who is the composer (dead or alive) that you’d most like to meet? 

What do you sing in the shower? 
I HATE showers and I can't sing for toffees.

What is your most treasured possession? 
An Antique Trumpet (several)

[Here is a gallery of Crispian's instruments on his personal website]

Crispian and one of his motorbikes
You're in a karaoke bar and (voluntarily or non-voluntarily) you have to sing or perform, what would you sing? 
I would have pity on the public and keep silent.

When you’re not practising or performing, how else do you like to
spend your time? 


We look forward to hearing Crispian in the exhilarating trumpet-led choruses of JS Bach Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) and Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11).  The concert will also include Bach Mass in G minor (BWV 235).  

The concert will take place in St Michael le Belfrey, York on Saturday 12 March and further details on the concert and how to buy tickets can be found at:

Further details on Crispian can be found on his website: 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Victoria: Psalms and Motets

YBC rehearsing in December 2015 for Haydn: Creation
A very happy new year to all our followers! Following our ‘sensational’ performance of Haydn Creation in December 2015, we return to the beautiful acoustics of St Michael le Belfrey in the heart of York. The magnificent sonorities and mystical fervour of the Spanish Renaissance unite in a diverse programme of psalm and motet settings by the extraordinary composer Tomás Luis de Victoria. The performance includes a range of musical settings from the joy of his Laetatus sum in 12 parts to the contemplative intensity of his 8-part Salve Regina. 

The range of colours in Victoria’s music is amazing from the tranquil rivers of Babylon in his psalm setting ‘Super flumina Babylonis’ to the lively antiphonal conversations of ‘Nisi Dominus’. To give you a flavour of what you can expect at the concert, here is a YBC recording of the setting of the beautiful, poignant Psalm 136 (By the waters of Babylon):

Victoria: Super Flumina Babylonis
Super flumina Babylonis,
Illic sedimus, et flevimus
dum recordaremur tui Sion.
(By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept
when we remembered thee, O Zion.)
Illic interrogaverunt nos,
qui captivos abduxerunt nos,
verba cantionum.
(For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song.)
Quomodo cantabimus
canticum Domini in terra aliena?
(How shall we sing the Lord’s song 
in a strange land?)

For this concert we perform music specially edited for the choir from part books in the British Library for a recording of Victoria which was released in 2002. The recording is available via our website. Underpinned by an organ continuo the concert offers an insight into the life of a fascinating man who was scholar, mystic, priest, singer, organist and composer.

The concert takes place on Saturday 6 February 2016 at St Michael le Belfrey York starting at 7.30pm and tickets priced at £14 (£12 concessions) are available either in advance at the National Centre for Early Music, online here:, or, on the door. Student stand-by tickets - priced at £5 - are available at the door 10 minutes before the start of the concert.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

In Memoriam: Mrs Celia Burgan

Yorkshire Bach Choir is deeply saddened to learn that Mrs Celia Burgan passed away last week. Celia was a familiar face at concerts attending performances right up to October of this year. She was also an incredibly loyal and supportive patron of the choir. It was her gift that enabled the recording of Bach Mass in B minor with Signum Classics during April 2010.  This recording stands as a permanent legacy of both her generosity and Celia's love of the music we perform.  Last year in honour of everything she has done for the choir we renamed our annual award to young singers as the Celia Burgan Award (she is pictured below with the first recipients of the new award).  She will be greatly missed by us all.  

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Artist spotlight - Soprano Bethany Seymour

Our soprano soloist for our upcoming December performance of Haydn Creation is Bethany Seymour.  Bethany pursues a successful career as a solo and consort singer throughout Northern Europe. Bethany sings regularly with Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloists with whom she has sung soprano solo on three recordings for Signum Records: Bach St John Passion, Bach B minor Mass and Bach St Matthew Passion.  Recent concert engagements include Mozart Requiem and Exulatate Jubilate, Purcell Dido and Aeneas and CPE Bach Du Göttlicher.


I began by asking Bethany about The Creation. There is a huge part for the soprano soloist and I wanted to know some more about her thoughts on the piece:

For the soprano soloist the music of Creation is a gift which above all gives you the wonderful opportunity to soar vocally.  I love the expansive musical lines and all the expressive things that Haydn asks you to do, for instance, the imitation of birdsong when ‘cooing’. I also get to be two different characters (Gabriel and Eve) which is great.  With both characters you get to interact not only with other soloists but with the choir too.  I particularly love the moment in ‘The Lord is great’ where I weave my voice around the choir ornamenting what they have just sung.  That kind of moment is really exhilarating.  

You performed as a soloist with Yorkshire Baroque soloists in concerts and recordings tell us a bit more about what it is like to sing with them.

When performing with other orchestras it is difficult know what to expect. Performing with YBS is like coming home from a long journey because I know all the players and I feel supported and part of the team.  If I choose to react to the music 'in the moment' and do an extra ornament or change my speed they will come with me. This means I can take more risks as a performer.  

Is there any piece of music or repertoire that haven’t had the opportunity to perform yet but would like to?

I’ve always wanted to sing in a staged Handel opera. The arias are so exciting and there are lots of arias for impassioned and strong female characters. A role that I’m particularly drawn to is Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare as you get the opportunity to be a truly three dimensional operatic character.  Cleopatra has a huge range of emotions.  She is angry and empowered for all the right reasons.  It is clear from the music that Handel understood the singers and voices that he wrote for.

Which living musician do you most admire?

I’ve always admired Emma Kirkby.  First and foremost because she created her own sound. When she began to make recordings and sing in the public eye she had the strength and foresight to sing in a way that she saw as correct for the music whether it was Mozart or Hildegard. I’ve grown up listening to her sing in a variety of repertoire and she
Bethany pictured with Emma Kirkby and Stephen Varcoe
always captures people’s attention. Audiences want to hear the ‘Emma Kirby’ sound. If you talk to Emma about singing she always encourages you to sing with what you have been given naturally.

What was your worst musical experience?

When asked to do some newly composed music at university I was asked to stand in a bucket of leaves and improvise random notes with no assistance in terms of finding pitches or ideas. Whilst I’m always up for a challenge, I couldn't see how this created a musical experience and with nothing to grasp on to there was no meaning.  Worst of all there was no opportunity to connect with other musical performers which is something I enjoy. Having said all that I still enjoy performing modern music, most especially music that reworks old ideas (such as Steve Reich or Max Richter) or other composers who are more original (such as Eric Whitacre). 

What is your musical guilty pleasure?
From mid-November essential listening for me is Christmas with the Rat Pack.  I love the individual singers and the sheer warmth that comes across in their singing. 

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for young singers / musicians?

You can never stop learning.  No matter how much perform or who you’ve performed with there is always more to learn from each musical experience.

When you’re not practising or performing, how else do you like to spend your time?

I love cooking especially as this gives an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. I have a huge library of cookbooks.  Friends and family might describe it as a slight obsession. But despite that, I’m not a slave to the cookery book as I enjoy to add my own flavours and love growing my own herbs. 

What would your superpower be?

I think JS Bach seemed to think that all singers had a third lung so that would useful for all those long phrases…..

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Frank Sinatra, French & Saunders (do I get pick a comedy duo?), Benedict Cumberbatch and J.S. Bach.

We look forward to hearing Bethany singing  in what will certainly be a popular performance of Haydn’s great masterpiece with Yorkshire Bach Choir, Yorkshire Baroque Soloists alongside a stellar lineup of soloists.

Tickets are selling fast and are available in advance at the National Centre for Early Music by clicking here: 

The York Early Music Festival runs from 4-12 December 2015 and further details can be found here:

Further details on Bethany Seymour can be found on her website: