The York Spring Festival is here finally! After much work and preparation, the entire committee are so excited to see it happen in the next five days. Having been to some of the rehearsals, it looks to be an excellent festival! If you haven’t already, check out our website for all details of events and get your tickets!

Our first performance today is ‘Swimming Between Shores & The Flood’. This performance will combines a wonderful range of cultural influence s of Western music, Syriac / Aramiac chants and Mesopotamian poetry. It will be presenting the reconstructed Gold Lyre of Ur, which has the most amazing timbre colours. Don’t miss out on this wonderful collaboration with University of York students, the Lyre Ensemble, Merit Ariane Stephanos and Nilufar Habibian!


I first became interested in the theatricality of percussion performance when I took the undergraduate project ‘The Body in Musical Performance.’ We talked about the idea of gesture and how we catergorised them, including into the category of ‘sound-producing gestures’. These are the movements we physically have to make to produce a sound from our instruments, e.g. plucking the string of the guitar. I then began to think about how these gestures have to be bigger when playing percussion, due to several things: the instruments are often much bigger, and the nature of the basic stroke to produce sound from a percussion instrument. To play the lowest note followed by the highest on a marimba, the player will have to take at least one step to be able to reach the bottom then top end of the instrument.

To play a note on the marimba, the player must strike the bar with the mallet, and must not keep the mallet in contact with bar, as this damps the note. The mallet therefore strikes the bar and moves upwards into the space above the keyboard. To play louder, more force is required and the mallet should ride even higher. This principle applies to all struck percussion instruments.

When I first spoke to Morag Galloway about apiece for solo marimba, I mentioned my interest in this subject. Morag had some clear ideas about how she wanted to explore theatre within the piece. Although not overly a piece of music theatre, the final product incorporates some subtle choreographed movements with the inherent theatricality of percussion performance.

Ana and Zoë

The Assembled

The Assembled are now rehearsing in St Martin-cum-Gregory, exploring the full extent of the space available and the resonance of this wonderful church we will be performing in. However, sound is not always an essential part of our works. Come and find out why we’re racing each other to find our instruments left somewhere in the space…
The Assmbled - stained glassAssmbled - cello


Last night we had our York Spring Festival of New Music Fundraiser: the Acoustic Night at the Drama Barn. We had an excellent turnout – thank you to the Drama Barn, all those who came, and especially those who played!

Opening the night we had our very own Dom Matthews, cracking out some fabulous guitar skills! We next had a lovely surprise: songs in Catalan from Fran Rubert Castro and in French by Simon Baron. The audience had a great time joining in the chorus of another song (check out the video on facebook!). We also had the simply superb Sur – who very kindly wrote a new song especially for the evening. What babes. Matthews returned to the stage, dazzling us with a great rendition of the Best Song in the World (that is the title, though it also was a great song…). He also played the Archer theme tune – something which our wonderful chair of the YSFNM very much appreciated (she loves that show, as do I!). The night finished with the upbeat and fun folk-band Rambler’s Gate. The crowd cheered for an encore, and a few even got up to dance to their closing piece. What an excellent evening!


Roger Marsh and York Spring Festival of New Music!

It’s always exciting when the Spring Festival programme is announced, and this year’s offering looks brilliant.  Of course, I may be a bit biased – two pieces of mine, including a premiere, and a big new piece (Swimming between shores) by two of my PhD students, Morag Galloway and Merit Ariane Stephanos.  And of course visits from two brilliantly successful ex-students, Anna Meredith and Stef Conner.   I can’t wait for it all to begin.

My new piece is for soprano and marimba, and I offered to write it for Zoe and Ana when they told me they were forming the duo PercuSSing.   I already had a short piece (Lullaby) for the combination, and thought this would be a good chance to create a little set of pieces, including that one.  So far there are three: Lullaby, A Flower for my Daughter and Walking Away.  The common theme here is children.  Walking Away is the title of a poem I found in a book of work by local (East Yorkshire) poets.  I liked this one because it’s quite dramatic but in a quiet understated way: two children walking out towards the sea hand in hand, watched by their mother as they go perhaps a little too far out for comfort.    I managed to contact the poet, Norah Hanson, who turns out to be in her seventies and living in Hull.  Fortunately she was very happy with the idea of a musical setting of her poem, which she published many years ago.  But in fact I have not ‘set’ the poem.  It’s so perfect as a little monologue that I felt singing it would only detract from its impact.  Instead I have set a musical tapestry around it; the marimba plays ebbing and flowing waves of harmony which allow the drama of the poem to remain unspoiled.


In two weeks, our fabulous Spring Festival begins! There has been so much hard work and organisation behind the scenes and we are really excited for it to all come together in the next fortnight! Here are some updates in our preparations…

Our YuStart page is up and running! Remember, our Spring Festival is non-profit and student-run – all profits go towards thee Festival for next year. Any support is greatly appreciated and will help support fantastic talents and events –  please give as generally as you can!


This Saturday 18th April we have our ACOUSTIC NIGHT @ DRAMA BARN. Located right by the Music Department on the University of York campus, we have an excellent line up of York based talent – looks to be an excellent chilled evening! For more info, check out the event on Facebook:

Acoustic Photo 1

We are also proud to announce confirmed more acts for our final event of the Festival: ANNA MEREDITH @ MANSION. Check out our Facebook event for more details!

Hope to see you in 2 weeks 😀 😀

The Chimera Ensemble: Thursday 30th April

I’m very excited that the York Spring Festival of New Music has chosen to directly integrate The Chimera Ensemble’s Rymer concert into its programme this year. The inclusion will make it an especially interesting event in the midst of our regular concerts in the Jack Lyons: it provides an excellent opportunity to focus on music which demands the utmost detail in listening, as well as the chance to make use of the Rymer’s wonderful acoustics and speaker setup. YSFNM itself promises a fantastically diverse range of events, and I’m confident that Chimera’s Rymer concert (on April 30th) will be a valuable and inspiring addition. Repertoire to look forward to includes Salvatore Sciarrino’sInfinito Nero: a work of vast dramatic scope that emulates the manic outbursts, heartbeats and breathing of 17th-century mystic Maria Maddalena de Pazzi; the premiere of a new work devised specifically for Chimera by the renowned composer and improviser Richard Barrett, and Rebecca Saunders’ Molly’s Song 3: Shades of Crimson, on top of some great new works by students.

In its activities this year, The Chimera Ensemble has continued to strengthen its reputation as the department’s foremost resource for emerging student composers, as well as one of the most ambitious student-managed contemporary music groups in the UK. In November, the ensemble was particularly pleased to participate in Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival for the first time. As chair of the ensemble, I am personally extremely proud to work alongside all the students and staff who have devoted their extensive talents to tackling some challenging but hugely rewarding works by Kaija Saariaho, Philip Venables, Clara Iannotta, Giacinto Scelsi, Hans Werner Henze, Luis Tinoco and Liza Lim.

Please come to support and enjoy the whole of YSFNM. There’ll be more from Chimera in June!

Ben Clark

York Spring Festival of New Music 2015 – Welcome!

Welcome to our York Spring Festival of New Music blog of 2015! We’re really excited that this is now less than two months away, beginning on Wednesday 29th April with events until Sunday 3rd May!

We have already had a successful fundraising event in Mansion, where we will have our final event of the festival with Anna Meredith. Our committee has been baking and selling cakes in the Music Department, and we are currently waiting for our lovely new leaflets too arrive!

Watch this space for more blog posts (coming soon!) about preparations and rehearsal from different members of our wonderful committee, lecturers from University of York as well as performers and composers of ensembles such as PercusSing and Chimera.

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