Final preparations are underway Swaledale Festival which starts on Saturday, May 27, with more than 50 music, arts and walking events taking place across the northern Dales over a fortnight.
The 2023 programme brings major international names to Dales stages along with numerous talented performers from Yorkshire.
Visitors can enjoy a mix of world-class concerts, films, puppet shows, workshops, comedy, guided walks and talks in venues ranging from beautiful village churches to the historic Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond.
Comedian Andy Hamilton, who will be performing at Tennants in Leyburn on 3 June, said: “I’m very excited about coming to perform at Swaledale Festival.
“I have never been to Swaledale before, but several of my friends have told me how beautiful it is.
“And these were sober, reliable friends.
“So I’m looking forward to a day of landscape and an evening of laughter.”
Festival goer and volunteer Adam Nichols sad: “The festival is now the highlight of my year.
“Holidays, travel, DIY etc are planned around it. I feel as if I don’t want to miss anything. Each year I am blown away by the astonishing diversity of musicianship that can open doorways into new musical genres.”
For under 25s, tickets are available to nearly all events for £3, and there are free events such as art exhibitions and late-night astronomy sessions.
For tickets and information please visit www.swalefest.org or read on for a round-up.
Wallace and Gromit with a top Brass Band!
The opening weekend features a family-friendly screening of the ground-breaking animation Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, but with a twist: to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary, the movie will be accompanied by live brass band music from one of the most successful competition bands in history, WFEL Fairey Band. The film will show at 13:30 on 28 May at Tennants in Wensleydale – the home of Wallace’s favourite cheese. Afterwards, some of the band members will be on hand in the foyer to demonstrate and talk about their instruments.
At 7.30pm on the same day, WFEL Fairey Band will perform a full evening concert at Tennants with the Dales trombonist Rebecca Lundberg as one of the featured soloists. The programme will feature favourites such as marches, hymns and film themes.
Four classical music concerts will take place in the ideal acoustic of St Andrew’s Church in Grinton:
Soprano supremo Julia Doyle will guest with the world class Baroque ensemble The Herschel Players on 9 June in a programme of delightful French pieces by Couperin, Rameau and Marais. Doyle has performed all over the world and has been described as “a shining champion of the soprano arias” by Gramophone Magazine.
Star cellist and former BBC Young Musician of the Year Natalie Clein will play some of JS Bach’s ever popular solo suites on 30 May, as well as gems by Britten, Tavener and Deborah Pritchard. Clein is in international demand as a recitalist and in 2021 she was awarded an OBE for her services to music.
TheClassic FM chart-topping guitarist Craig Ogden will return to the festival for a performance of music by Dowland, Rodrigo and others on 7 June.
The Doric Quartet will perform works by Haydn and Berg in the festival finale on 10 June. After the interval, the eminent composer and former Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra viola player Brett Dean will join them for a performance of Beethoven’s glorious String Quintet in C major.
Jazz, folk and blues
For jazz fans, the multi-award-winning vocalist Claire Martin OBE, who was named “our finest jazz singer” by The Times, will perform with Scottish guitar legend Jim Mullen, bassist Jeremy Brown and saxophonist Alex Garnett on 1 June in Grinton Church. The programme will celebrate the Great American Songbook and the Quartet’s shared love of the great jazz singers of the past.
Welsh trio VRï has won a host of awards including Best Album at this year’s Wales Folk Awards and will be showcasing their vibrant folk songs on 5 June in Spennithorne and on 6 June in Muker. Their three-part vocal harmonies and stunning fiddle and cello playing result in an evocative and joyful sound.
Michael Messer’s Mitra will bring together a blues guitar legend, a Hindustani slide guitar maestro, and a master tabla player on 4 June in Grinton. They have created an exciting and highly accessible fusion of blues and Indian classical music which is a treat for the ears.
Comedy, talks, puppetry and more
The award-winning writer and comedian Andy Hamilton will come to The Garden Rooms at Tennants in Leyburn for an entertaining evening of comic reflection, reminiscence and revelation on 3 June.
The popular expert from the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow Ronnie Archer-Morgan will talk about some of his favourite objects, his extraordinary life, and his new book in the Reeth Lecture on 1 June at Reeth Congregational Church.
Lempen Puppet Theatre will bring their magical show Cardboard Carnival to Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal on 31 May, in which a series of ingeniously created animals will unfurl to Camille Saint-Saëns’ evocative Carnival of the Animals music.
Also at Georgian Theatre Royal, the actor Christopher Kent is joined by the award-winning pianist Gamal Khamis on 30 May for a special performance of Tennyson’s deeply touching narrative poem Enoch Arden set to music by Richard Strauss.
The festival’s Young Artist’s Platform showcases young people early in their careers, many of whom go on to become major stars.
The upbeat young brass ensemble Connaught Brass is taking the chamber world by storm, and will play Handel, Fauré & Rossini on 6 June in Richmond.
The Australian mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean is well on the way to being a superstar. Her intimate duo with her virtuoso viola-playing father Brett Dean is sure to be a Swaledale Festival highlight. Their programme of songs by Vaughan Williams, Bliss and others is on 9 June in the lovely church of St. Mary, Arkengarthdale.
The violinist Mathilde Milwidsky has recently been named as one of Classic FM’s Rising Stars. On 10 June she will perform music by Telemann, Ravel, Elgar and Arvo Pärt in Aysgarth with the young pianist Annie Yim.
Locally-based performers this year include Swale Singers on 1 June in Aysgarth; harpsichord player David Francis performing with Manchester Baroque on 2 June in Richmond; Jervaulx Singers on 5 June in Aysgarth; the world-renowned lute virtuoso Jacob Heringman on 7 June in Low Row; Reeth Brass Band on 7 June in Arkengarthdale and Muker Silver Band on 9 June in Muker Public Hall.
There are also poetry walks and workshops in the landscape with Dales poet Mary-Jane Holmes, late-night astronomy on Reeth Green with Reeth Informal Astronomy Group and exhibitions by talented local artists including the exceptional painter from Gunnerside, Rachel Antill
Swaledale Festival, which is supported by Arts Council England, runs from Saturday 27 May to Saturday 10 June 2023 and includes an extensive community and education programme which takes top musicians into numerous care homes and schools.
For tickets and information please visit www.swalefest.org.