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Youths, Lutes & Ukes: Music from Shakespeare to the Blues

Photocall: 27 pupils from St Barnabas Primary School will begin rehearsals with their ukuleles, guided by lutenist Ellizabeth Kenny and ukulele player, Nick Browning from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at 3pm on Thursday 2 May at St Barnabas School, Jubilee Terrace,  Leeman Road, York, YO26 4YZ

Up to 200 young ukulele players from York schools will have the exciting opportunity to work with members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and the Theatre of the Ayre in a unique collaboration organised by the National Centre for Early Music. 

The project starts in May with workshops for pupils from Yearsley Grove, Clifton Green, St. Barnabas, St. Aeldred's and Elvington primary schools and will be led by local ukulele teachers and members of both ensembles.

These initial workshops will be followed up with regular visits throughout the summer term supported by ukulele players from the University of York's Music Education Group, who will help the young people to learn and practise the music in preparation for a summer performance.

The project explores music by two musicians called Robert Johnson -  one a Shakespeare's lute player, the second a bluesman. Children will be introduced to the chord patterns of early seventeenth century England and will experience how they are related to similar patterns in blues songs. 

They will compose their own Bergamesca and blues song, and learn to accompany themselves for dancing along the way. The project will culminate in a performance as part of the 2013 York Early Music Festival, celebrating the sound of massed plucked instruments across the centuries. The concert will be given by the schoolchildren who will play alongside members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and the Theatre of the Ayre at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York on Tuesday 9 July from 1.30pm - 2.30pm. Tickets are £5 and are available  on-line at or by ringing the NCEM Box Office on 01904 658338.

Delma Tomlin, Director at the National Centre for Early Music, was delighted to be able to offer so many young people in York tuition from  world-class musicians. She commented: "The ukulele is a brilliant instrument to get young musicians playing relatively complex music quite early on - and performing with such a large group will be inspiring as well as a great deal of fun!"

The Youths, Lutes & Ukes project is a Music4U project, which is being run in conjunction with the National Centre of Early Music as part of the York Early Music Festival. For more information about this project go to


Press Contact

Delma Tomlin - National Centre for Early Music
T:01904 632220

Editor's Notes

Music4U is an initiative funded by Youth Music and supported by York, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire Councils. For more information visit