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  • Writer's pictureSteve Crowther

Concert review: Yorkshire Baroque Soloists, Rose Consort of Viols, July, 2023

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

I have prefaced the review with three windows into the Rose Consort of Viols, Peter Seymour and ...Sir Geoffrey Boycott.

In praise of: the Rose Consort of Viols

‘The Rose Consort of Viols takes its name from a famous family of sixteenth-century viol makers, whose instruments coincided with the growth of English consort music. With its unique blend of intimacy, intricacy, passion and flamboyance, this music ranges from Taverner and Byrd, to Lawes, Locke, and Purcell, and forms the nucleus of the Rose Consort’s programmes.

By using instruments and playing techniques appropriate to the various pieces we perform, we bring the musical riches of the past to life again. For the earliest viol music, from c. 1500, we use specially commissioned viols based on those in a 1497 painting by Lorenzo Costa in Bologna. We also have a set of instruments copied from originals from mid-sixteenth century Venice, and for later English music, viols based on Tudor and Stuart originals.

We have received awards for research and performance of specially devised programmes and have also commissioned and performed new pieces for voices and viols by Judith Bingham, John Woolrich, and Ivan Moody. For many years the Consort appeared at Dartington International Summer School, giving concerts and coaching ensembles, activities it continues at Benslow Music in Hitchin’ (full concert in July 2021).

This text (above) has been lifted from the ensemble’s slightly surreal and wacky website. The italics are mine. They articulate and reinforce my first impressions of hearing this remarkable group of musicians in 2004 and since.

I first heard the Rose Consort of Viols in July 2004 when I was asked to review a concert for a thriving local newspaper, the York Press. The concert was called Chansons et Fantaisies and used a selection of French Renaissance sixteenth-century manuscript stored in York Minster Library as a programme blueprint.

‘The concert opened with Thomas Crecquillon’s Un gay bergier…One was immediately struck by the gentle, civilised sound world generated [by the ensemble]– delicate musical ideas being politely exchanged, inviting mezzo-soprano Catherine King to join them, which she duly did, blending in beautifully. Crecquillon’s second chanson had a deliciously resonant translation of ‘Things can’t possibly get worse’. As the title suggests, the viol playing projected a chanson with a mild hangover, though the playing was entirely thoughtful and sober…

The best was saved until last: after an all-too-short glimpse of Tallis’ thematic tapestry, juicy ‘false relations’ et al, was the most compelling, deeply moving performance of Byrd’s tribute to the old man. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop before the applause kicked in.’

In praise of: Peter Seymour

The only time I have worked with Peter and Yvonne Seymour was when Late Music invited them to perform a song recital in March 2002 at the NCEM. The programme celebrated ‘…the rich seam of early 20th century English song with music by Warlock, Gurney, Quilter and Vaughan Williams. The concert will also include a performance of Haydn's Arianna a Naxos and a first performance of David Power's Two Songs'. The recital was excellent and they were a pleasure to work with.

Here is a snip-ette of a review of a Yorkshire Bach Choir and Yorkshire Baroque Soloist concerts:

‘The concert opened with the loveliest of florid organ toccatas by the great Andrea Gabrieli, followed by the Monastic Cantors from Ampleforth Abbey, seemingly stepping out of history, beautifully shaping the timeless lines of the plainchant melody… Biagio Marini’s Trio Sonata brought out a virtuoso performance from violinist Lucy Russell, with exquisite phrasing and touch, drawing simply beautiful, almost ‘other-worldly’ violin responses. The perfectly structured hymn, Ave Maria Stella, featured a gorgeous, velvety alto solo from Caroline Sartin. The performance of the seven-part Magnificat was simply sensational. Monteverdi’s jaw-dropping inventive exploitation of both instrumental and vocal resources, brilliantly delivered by these terrific performers, guided by their inspirational conductor, Peter Seymour…’

Here is a video recording of the Yorkshire Baroque Soloists' 50th anniversary concert (January 2023).

This is from the University of York website:

Peter Seymour studied at Huddersfield School of Music and at University of York, including postgraduate work researching into the performance of baroque music. In July 1994 he was awarded the degree of DMus at the University of York for research into performing style. He is director of Yorkshire Baroque Soloists and of Yorkshire Bach Choir and has worked and recorded in most European countries. He is also an artistic adviser to York Early Music Festival, Professor Emeritus in Music and Organist at the University of York. He records regularly both as conductor and keyboard player for WDR-Köln, BBC and other radio stations.

The Yorkshire Baroque Soloist link takes us to a Q&A with Peter Seymour. All as one might expect until asked: What living person do you admire the most? And the answer is…

In praise of: Geoffrey Boycott…or not.

Geoffrey Boycott is the classic Mr Marmite, or to give him his due, Sir Marmite. Knighted by his Yorkshire fans long before the Queen’s sword graced his shoulders. As a professional cricketer he is admired throughout Yorkshire and beyond. Except, of course, by any professional cricketer who actually played with him. They thought him arrogant and self-serving which would be a perfect accolade if his teammates were Australian. I think that the only captain that could, well, captain him was the wily-old-fox Ray Illingworth. He had to manage Boycott and John Snow in the same England team. Now that was something. I am from Yorkshire; I like Yorkshire Tea but not proud of it (the Yorkshire bit). I can remember (just) the 1966-67 Yorkshire team, a remarkable blend (not the tea) of top-notch talent and charm... Brian Close (captain), Fred Trueman (arguably the greatest fast bowler England ever had), Ray Illingworth and Sir Geoff. There was a young Jack Hampshire and the greatest English slip fielder ever, Phil Sharpe. I was at Headingly when he scored his 100th 100. Ok it took him about three weeks to do it, but it did seem like destiny was also calling the shots.

It is not surprising therefore, to reference Bob Dylan’s Handy Dandy…‘controversy surrounds him’.

Between 1974 – 1977 he made himself unavailable for selection for Test cricket. This was probably due to the appointments of Mike Denness (Scottish) and then Tony Greig (South African) to the captaincy rather than Boycott himself. It was also claimed that he was avoiding the likes of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Andy Roberts, and Michael Holding in their prime. This is crap. Following the 1979 World Cup Boycott again faced the West Indies' feared pace attack. He succeeded in scoring centuries off Holding, Roberts, Colin Croft and Joel Garner.

In 1998, he was convicted in France of assaulting his former girlfriend, Margaret Moore; he was fined and given a suspended sentence. Then there was his outrageous claim that he would be more likely to be given a knighthood if he ‘blacked up.’

Cricket commentator and statistician Simon Hughes states that Boycott is… always immaculately dressed, and never socialises with the other commentators or production staff. Yet, like the wonderful football pundit Jimmy Armfield, I always find Boycott’s commentary informed and insightful. He coined the phrase ‘the corridor of uncertainty’, the area outside the off stump where a batsman is unsure whether he should leave or hit the ball. Gower, who overtook Boycott as the highest run scorer in the history of English cricket, knew all about that.

Back to his early teammate Phil Sharpe. This rather likeable player was ‘despised by Geoff Boycott because of…his social, rather weak and insipid attitude towards cricket’ (Daily Telegraph obituary). ‘Social’ and ‘weakness’ are not Boycott’s strengths. Boycott was a huge admirer of, you guessed it, Margaret Thatcher. The ‘iron lady’ whose right-wing politics still dictates today’s political agenda. He was also in favour of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. I couldn’t believe it either.

I’ll leave you with a moment of cricketing history: the fastest, most aggressive over ever bowled to one of the greatest opening batsmen; Holding to Boycott in 1981. Here…

The review is published at

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