Ryedale Festival 2023: Artistic director Christopher Glynn on the 'special people' who organise showcase at Hovingham Hall, Duncombe Park, Birdsall House, Ampleforth Abbey and Scarborough Spa

Christopher Glynn has performed as a pianist around the globe, but when summer comes around, North Yorkshire is the centre of his world.

As artistic director of the Ryedale Festival, he is responsible for bringing internationally acclaimed classical musicians to the region, showcasing their gifts at atmospheric venues, including stately homes and lesser known churches.

This year’s festival begins today, and will continue until July 30 at locations including Hovingham Hall, Duncombe Park, Birdsall House, Ampleforth Abbey and Scarborough Spa, as well as numerous picturesque churches.

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But Christopher, who is from Leceister and lives in London, says: “There's no sense that the audience and the artists are into two separate worlds. It can feel like that in a big concert hall but I think somewhere like the Ryedale Festival, everything mingles in together. That's a really nice thing.”

The King's Singers, pictured by Frances Marshall.The King's Singers, pictured by Frances Marshall.
The King's Singers, pictured by Frances Marshall.

This year, artists in residence include Anna Lapwood, who gives two programmed recitals, conducts her choir, and invites all to join her in open-access Come and Sing and Discover the Organ events.

Also in residence is BBC Music Magazine’s Personality of the Year, Nicky Spence, the Korean superstar violinist Bomsori Kim, and pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen, who recently won The Times Classical Breakthrough Artist Award.

The King’s Singers and top actors lead celebrations of the 400th anniversaries of William Byrd and the First Folio of Shakespeare, while Boris Giltburg is among performers marking Rachmaninov’s 150th birthday, and the Dudok Quartet presents a complete cycle of Tchaikovsky’s string quartets, as well as bringing audiences their arrangements of jazz and folk legends.

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Groundbreaking musicians like Jess Gillam and the joyful Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective mingle with young artists, such as guitarist Plínio Fernandes, trumpeter Aaron Akugbo, pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu and the voices of the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

Anna Lapwood, pictured by Tom Arber.Anna Lapwood, pictured by Tom Arber.
Anna Lapwood, pictured by Tom Arber.

Jazz legend Clare Teal performs with an all-star band and there’s a folk night from the Young’Uns, as well as A Light Music Afternoon celebrating the music of Max Jaffa – fondly remembered in Yorkshire for his many seasons performing in Scarborough - and a party at Birdsall House celebrating the music of Noel Coward with singers including Mary Bevan.

Other highlights include the Orchestra of Opera North with Jonathan Bloxham, Royal Northern Sinfonia with violinist Maria Włoszczowska, a Triple Concert at Castle Howard, a pop-up production of John Blow’s mini-opera Venus and Adonis that tours to ancient and atmospheric churches across the region, and four world premieres - including an innovative new take on Schumann’s song cycle Myrthen, sung in English and interwoven with poems by Kate Wakeling.

Young audiences can enjoy a vibrant reimaging of Mixed by Arree Chung with narrator Polly Ives and harpist Rosanna Rolton in Concerteenies, while babies and their grown-ups are invited to a magical musical experience across classical, folk, world and popular music.

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Fifty-five concerts will take place over 17 days, with three tailored to audiences with babies and one – Relaxed Concerts: Tea and Tunes at Amotherby Village Hall on Thursday, July 27 – created for people with dementia.

Christopher Glynn, artistic director of Ryedale Festival. Picture: Bejamin Ealovega.Christopher Glynn, artistic director of Ryedale Festival. Picture: Bejamin Ealovega.
Christopher Glynn, artistic director of Ryedale Festival. Picture: Bejamin Ealovega.

The festival began in 1981 when four musician friends, Geoffrey and June Emerson, and Peter and Alex White, launched a small series concerts becoming the Helmsley Festival. Eventually, Ryedale District Council stepped in with support and it became a bigger event.

Christopher says: “If you live in somewhere like Malton or Scarborough, to hear a top level international orchestra you'd often have to drive really quite a way to Manchester or wherever it might be. We’re bringing all those orchestras to the area, we’re also bringing international level artists and performers to people's doorsteps. I think there’s something really powerful about that, just having top notch international performance in a very local context.”

“It's a massive jigsaw puzzle,” to organise a festival in an area such as Ryedale, says Christopher, but adds that “we want to go to all these different market towns and the two cities, the small villages - we want to try and get to as many of them as possible”.

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Christopher, who played piano on Eric Whitacre’s Grammy-winning Light & Gold record, first encountered the festival when he was on the line-up playing, and put himself forward when there was an opening to run the festival, taking over 12 years ago.

St Mary's Church, Thirsk.St Mary's Church, Thirsk.
St Mary's Church, Thirsk.

“It was very obvious to me there is a really special group of people in Ryedale, who are really committed to having an international level festival in a local and regional context,” he says.

“We always talk about the three Ps: places, people and programme. Two of them were already in place. These incredible people, whatever we tried to do, have always had support and people always got behind it.”

For full performance dates and times, and to book, visit ryedalefestival.com