A song on the breeze

We are hugely excited that the 2019 New Paths spring festival is now fewer than two months away.  In this newsletter we take in some of the sights of this vibrant event and of its motherland, the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Ancient & Modern

Let us begin with the oldest piece of music on the entire programme, Hildegard of Bingen’s 12th century sequence, Columba aspexit, which soprano Rowan Pierce and recorder player Ian Wilson perform in our opening concert, ‘Dawn Chorus’.  Hildegard was one of the most remarkable creative personalities of the Middle Ages.   Her mystical poem, Columba aspexit, captures a single moment in which a dove hovers by a window lattice whilst St Maximinus celebrates the Mass. Don’t miss the chance to hear this extraordinary work in Beverley this April.

Another 12th century depiction of a dove can be seen on the magnificent font in St Mary’s Church Kirkburn (twelve miles north of Beverley), considered to be one of the most interesting pieces of Norman sculpture in the country.  The scenes on Kirkburn’s cylindrical font also include St Peter receiving the keys of Heaven and Hell.  But in the morning around mid-summer, a narrow beam of white light from the church’s wheel window perfectly spotlights the dove!

One of the glories of the Yorkshire Wolds is its village churches.  Whilst in the area for the festival take a drive in this rolling chalk landscape and discover some of them for yourself.  Here we pick out just a couple and also mention the neighbouring pub.

1. St Mary, South Dalton.  A sumptuous Victorian church in a picturesque estate village, the stunning 200ft spire is a landmark in the southern Wolds.  The award-winning Pipe & Glass, a former coaching inn, boasts one Michelin star.

2. St Margaret, Millington.  This delightful small church preserves its original 12th-century plan, and its 19th century painted panelling is unspoilt.  The rustic Gait Inn is a great place from which to walk in the breathtaking beauty of Millington Dale.

At present, the churchyards are carpeted with snowdrops but come the spring they will be covered with daffodils.  Stay until May and see the bluebells!  That would also give you just about enough time to visit all of the wonderful pubs and churches of the Wolds, a few more of which are listed at the foot of this bulletin*.  If you do take a drive in the Wolds during the festival then visit the studio of Robert E. Fuller in the steep-sided valley of Thixendale and see some of his lovely bird paintings.

‘Dawn Chorus’, also features Hans-Martin Linde’s Music for a Bird, a classic of the 20th century recorder literature.  Written in 1968 the piece deploys avant-garde playing techniques to create bird-like sounds.  Hearing this stunning piece live is a mind-boggling experience!  Buy your tickets today.

We’re proud that contemporary music has always made a special contribution to our programme and this year is no exception.  Two highlightsin 2019 include:

1. Howard Skempton’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner in ‘By the Waters’.  We are thrilled that Marcus Farnsworth returns to the festival to sing this atmospheric setting of one of the most influential and best loved poems in the English language.

2. The world premiere of Stephen McNeff’s new work for oboe and piano, The Pilgrim Rabbit Walks the Westwood, in which the composer imagines that the famous Pilgrim Rabbit of St Mary’s has the magical properties to transform from cold Medieval stone to warm fur and whisker, going exploring at night to take advantage of the rich pickings available on the Westwood.  Libby is joined by champion of modern oboe music, James Turnbull, for the performance of this piece in our Friday night concert, ‘Notes from Afar’.

A Good Year

We are delighted to welcome four exceptional female singers to the festival at what is a very exciting time in each of their careers.

Later this year, Northern Irish soprano Aoife Miskelly sings the title role in Welsh National Opera’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen.  Aoife gives four performances at the festival: in ‘Clara’s World’, ‘Night at the Movies’, ‘A Golden Era on Prince Consort Rd’, and in ‘Eternal Source’ where she sings what is for many one of the most ravishing 3½ minutes in all music, Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine.

Mezzo-soprano Katie Bray is currently playing the part of Varvara in Opera North’s highly acclaimed production of Katya Kabanova.  It was announced this week that she will sing the title role in Irish National Opera’s new production of Vivaldi’s Griselda.  Katie appears at the festival in ‘Notes from Afar’, ‘Night at the Movies’ and ‘Clara’s World’.

It will be a joy to hear Aoife and Katie singing together in our closing concert, Clara’s World, the full programme for which we have great pleasure in revealing here today.  Do not miss this extravagant finale to the festival.

Mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston won the 2018 Handel Singing Competition and is a Rising Star of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.  Her consort, Amici Voices, releases its first recording on the Hyperion label next month, an all-Bach disc including the sublime Actus tragicus.  Hear this outstanding young singer in ‘Stabat Mater’, ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and ‘Night at the Movies’, where she performs two of Handel’s most cherished arias (which is fitting in this the 250th anniversary year of Beverley’s massive Handel festival of 1769).

Around the time of the festival, Yorkshire born soprano Rowan Pierce will be singing the role of Papagena in English National Opera’s production of The Magic Flute.  Call into London on your way to / from Beverley to see Rowan (alongside festival artist Jonathan Lemalu) on the vast stage of the Coliseum.  In addition to the Hildegard in ‘Dawn Chorus’, Rowan will also be singing songs by Lili Boulanger and Poulenc in ‘Inspirations’.

Rowan’s performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater alongside Helen is sure to be a highlight of the festival for many: buy your tickets and passes today as the intimate venue for this special event, St John of Beverley RC Church, has limited capacity.

Lights, camera, action!

Our big Saturday night event in the East Riding Theatre this year is a star-studded gala concert, ‘Night at the Movies’, which celebrates some of the most famous and popular classical music to have been used in film.  It is our great pleasure to announce the luxurious programme (apart from one mystery item) here.   We leave you with this clip from The Shawshank Redemption featuring Mozart’s Sull’aria which Aoife and Katie will sing for us in Beverley.

Gird up your loins

‘Night at the Movies’ and a number of other events are very likely to sell-out in advance.  Don’t delay: buy your tickets and passes today.  A warm welcome awaits you in Beverley this spring.

We hope that you have been transported to the East Riding by this newsletter, and that some zephyr blows you towards the festival in April.

The Pipe and Glass in South Dalton


Three other Wolds villages with notable churches and/or pubs worth a visit include:

1. All Saints, Sancton. “The great attraction is the 15th-century tower which is unique in the East Riding. It is octagonal from the ground up.”  The Star Inn serves excellent food.

2. St Nicholas, North Newbald.  “A magnificent Norman church, the finest in the East Riding.” The large village green is home to two pubs: The Gnu and The Tiger.

3. All Hallows, Goodmanham.  “The church almost certainly stands on the site of the pagan temple destroyed after the conversion to Christianity of King Edwin in 627.”  The Goodmanham Arms is a superb country pub with a fantastic selection of local ales.

The above quotations about the churches are taken from Yorkshire Wolds Churches: A Gazetteer published by the East Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust which can be downloaded here.  The words about the pubs are Roland’s own.