Eight hundred years ago this coming Monday, on 9 July 1212 (give or take a few days lost to calendar changes), the City of York was awarded its own Charter by King John. John was anxious to calm the powerful northern barons, and to raise a bit of cash: but the Charter bestowed York with several rights, including self-governance, the independence to select a Lord Mayor, establish guilds, and collect taxes directly for the Crown.
The more famous Magna Carta, squeezed out of King John a few years later, has impacted all of Western society if not much of the globe, setting out rights to fair trials, judgement by one’s peers, and other benefits that are the basis for Constitutions and laws in many countries.
And so, modern York has been filling this anniversary year with many celebrations that will continue to the end of December. But this weekend, Charter Weekend, celebrates the actual signing. And Ebor Vox, a massive choral event comprised of about 400 local singers, will literally sing in the weekend. Ebor is short for our city’s Roman name Eboracum; and Vox is voices: York Voices.
To start the Ebor Vox project, York Council announced a poetry competition this past February, calling for short poems of 400 words or less that answered the question: “What is special about York?” Gary Toal, a former student at York St John University, took the top honour, and his poem was then set to music in a piece especially composed for York 800 by noted composer and director Benjamin Till. Toal’s poem explores our lives in modern York. The composition, ‘This York’ will be performed by the full assembly of twenty choruses at the Eye of York (near Clifford’s Tower and Castle Museum) sometime after 6 pm Monday evening, 9 July.
The full work was originally to be offered at 1 pm on Saturday 7 July at King Staithes, as part of the York 800 flotilla, a formation comprised of hundreds of boats of all shapes and sizes. Sadly, the incredible rain on Friday 6 July raised the level of The Ouse above the landing stage for boat crews to use, and increased the speed of the river, thus necessitating cancelling both the flotilla and Sunday’s Dragon Boat races. The location was changed, and about 12 choral groups converged in Dean’s Gardens and performed ‘This York.’
After that, choral groups from the community chorus headed off to pop up as Flash Choruses throughout the city for the remainder of Saturday, appearing in cafes and shops, and along the famous streets of York. One group filled the make-up counter areas of Brown’s Department store at 2 pm, singing Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? to the delight of shoppers, locals and tourists alike, as camcorders whirred away and still cameras captured images. Afterwards, singer Lynn Morris enthused about the project, confirming that 20 choral groups were involved, “plus school children! I love York, don’t you?” she continued. “I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life.”
For those who cannot catch the grand procession of 400 plus singers from York Minster on Monday, starting at 6 pm, or who can’t get to the green oval near Castle Museum known as The Eye of York, the delightful (and moving) composition, created by so many hundreds of voices, will be broadcast by Look North. But do try and enjoy the Ebor Vox live. The rich sounds, sense of community, and sheer size of the daring project fits the title of ‘This York’: this really is the sort of magic event done so well here in York.
One&Other will be at the event, and we will post our favourite scenes from the evening entertainment later this week.