St. Margaret’s Church, on Walmgate, is a pretty building, and one that, from the outside does not hint at what lies within. The 12th century, Norman-built church was used as a store for the York Theatre Royal from 1974 to 2000, after it fell into disrepair, and is now home to The National Centre for Early Music, after receiving a £1.5 million grant from the Arts Council Lottery Fund to transform the church.
The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) is a support hub for three of the UK’s finest early music festivals, and offers a range of tours, competitions and initiatives. St. Margaret’s Church is also the venue for many live events, taking place throughout the year. From the NCEM website;
“The National Centre for Early Music is dedicated to promoting an understanding of the music of the past through historically informed performances, workshops, illustrated talks and lectures, an ever-increasing education programme and learning resources.”
2012 is an exciting year for NCEM, and a host of events and performances lie ahead. York Early Music Festival takes place between Friday 6thand Saturday 14th July, offering a massive range of choral, orchestral, jazz, world, folk and early music events, talks, lectures and performances, as well as the Beverly Early Music Festival and a full calendar of performances throughout the year.
The year’s performances would give you a taster of what the festivals have to offer, and are inexpensive to attend. However, the NCEM have introduced a £10 ticket offer for seven of the Spring and Summer performances, which cover a huge range of early music, for the veteran and the uninitiated. These include; the SambaSunda Quintet, Double Duo, Get The Blessing, and Joe Stilgoe. Get The Blessing were the BBC Jazz Award winners in 2008, and have Portishead drummer Clive Deamer in the band.
Booking information for all these events and more can be found on the NCEM website here.
St. Margaret’s Church is a wonderful venue for live music, and artists such as York’s own Benjamin Francis Leftwich have performed in the space, continuing a recent trend for contemporary music being staged in historic, and religious, buildings. Even more recently, there was a performance by the sublime Laura Marling at York Minster in October last year, as she took full advantage of the excellent acoustics allowed by the cavernous cathedral space.
The NCEM is a great resource, sometimes unjustly overlooked by the general public. The passion and drive the York Early Music Foundation display for the music they champion is infectious and inspiring, and serve as another example of the tireless and eclectic support York has to offer for ‘the road less travelled.’