Weeton, Yorkshire

I am presently on a world tour of Yorkshire, courtesy of Ryedale Festival. But first to Wharfedale. Driving further and further through sunlit empty fields and lowish hills we became aware of a giant black gothic church looming somewhere above. This was St Barnabas, Weeton, which we learned had been the estate church for Harewood House; and was an early design by George Gilbert Scott no less, he of St Pancras Station and Glasgow University (another hilltop loomer).

Inside were Yorkshire Late Starters Strings, about to give an important performance, the world premiere of Pange Lingua by Mark Browse. This has been the 2018 winner of a biennial competition for a new work organised by YLSS for over a decade now. The orchestra make an extreme effort over their search for new string repertoire which is ‘starter-friendly’, and then of course make a further effort to learn to play the winning item. Listening to beginner ensembles can demand a different mindset, but Mark’s piece soon drew me in completely, in particular with its substantial, dark conclusion. Having been listening to Trump/Brexit news all weekend, the strong music and sincere playing had an intense effect on me. I hope other groups will play this fine, performable piece.

Exiting the church at 4pm in warm sunshine, we reflected that the nearest coffee chain must be miles away, and we’d better get driving further into Yorkshire. Whereupon the orchestra, having laid down their instruments, instantly conjured up a fantastic tea, cakes, homemade scones and the like. Miles from anywhere, with no prior hope of refreshment, it was like the feeding of the five thousand. A magical start to our trip.

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020