YORK's CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL

Article excerpt

Phillip Sommerich anticipates

As winter arrives, the tide of tourists washing round York's historic churches and other buildings recedes and the City is reclaimed by its residents. In recognition of that, the National Centre for Early Music has since 1997 run the York Early Music Christmas Festival.

While the York Early Music Festival attracts about 6,000 people to the City with 10 days of events featuring an international array of artists, its winter counterpart is a less ambitious affair, spanning a weekend, this year between 10 and 13 December, which has tended to attract a third of that number with mainly British performers, well known to local music lovers. However, the Christmas Festival is now gaining a wider audience because of its unusually intimate atmosphere.

Delia Tomlin, the Director of the NCEM, says: "Soon after the National Centre for Early Music was created in 1997, with the aid of a Lottery Grant, I became aware that we needed to get an audience for something other than the Summer Festival. The Christmas Festival has become part and parcel of the City at that time of year; along with the shopping there the chance to go to pretty places to listen to nice music in a calm and gentle atmosphere. The celebration of Early Music is not regimented around a theme and the mood is less academic, more accessible."

This year's Christmas Festival certainly has events to enlighten and delight the most discerning Early Music enthusiast. The opening concert on the Friday features violist Richard Boothby and harpsichordist Sophie Yates performing Antoine Forqueray's French Suites at the NCEM's headquarters in St Margaret's Church at Walmgate.

The following day sees the Classic Buskers, including Michael Copley performing on more than 30 woodwind instruments, at the Union Chapel in St Saviourgate, followed by the Minster Minstrels, the local Early Music ensemble for young people, at St Margaret's, mapping early developments in orchestral composition, including excerpts from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Handel's Water Music. …