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Minster Minstrels - York's youth early music ensemble

Minster Minstrels at YEMF 2019

Josie and Rosella receiving awards from the Sheriff at YEMF 2019

Exploring period instruments with Tim Bayley

Ruby Jones - 2018 John Marvin Achievement Award Winner
Minster Minstrels is York's youth early music ensemble for school-age musicians of any instrument, run in partnership between the NCEM and York Music Centre. Directed by Ailsa Batters, with support from Minster Minstrels Assistant Emma Risley, the ensemble learns how to interpret the wide variety of music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods with authentic character and style. They perform regularly, including appearances at York Early Music Festival and York Early Music Christmas Festival, as well as taking part in Music Hub events throughout the year. 

Workshops and Performance Opportunities 
The group enjoy opportunities to work with professional musicians in workshops and master-classes and attending early music concerts to hear them in action. The group recently took part in a workshop with South Asian Arts UK, with Bansuri player Nitin Amin who taught the group all about the Raag and the Bansuri itself. The group then performed their own Raag as part of the York Festival of Ideas - World of Wonder. The Senior group also really enjoyed performing to an Early music crowd at the beautiful Fairfax House in March this year, as part of the REEMA conference hosted by the NCEM. The whole group were also delighted to play to York residents at the York Music Hub Fest, alongside other ensembles from York Music Centre. 

Festival Involvement 
As part of their NCEM festival involvement this year, the whole group performed in the York Early Music Festival, where they explored 'The Shock of the New', performing exciting Italian repertoire and ornamentation that would have shocked audiences and musicians when premiered. Every year the group benefit from being able to take part in the Early Music festivals and are featured among an impressive line up of renowned Early musicians.

The group have often collaborated with other Early Music ensembles and music groups in the UK and internationally. In October 2018 they hosted a joint concert with The Early Music Group of Killi at the NCEM, who worked with the Minstrels during their tour of the UK from Estonia. Many of the musicians within The Early Music Group of Killi are award winning performers on instruments such as the harpsichord, guitar and voice. This collaboration has really inspired the Minstrels to try out some new instruments, using percussion and incorporating singing into their programme. Have a look at this short video of the performance below:

Other highlights of the Minster Minstrels' performing history have included: performing with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and premiering a new work by Anthony Bailey, as part of the York Early Music Festival Bassoon Extravaganza project; taking part in activities for European Day of Early Music alongside the European Union Baroque Orchestra ; and performing at historical venues such as Cawood Castle and the Treasurer's House, York. 

Join us!
Is your child a gifted musician looking to make progress within a small, friendly ensemble? We meet on Saturday mornings at York Music Centre, 9.30 - 13.00 every Saturday term time at Millthorpe School. 

For details about joining Minster Minstrels, please contact  

Participants say:
  • "I have learned lots of new things like the history behind the music and about how dances and dance steps affect how we play the music"
  • "I love that we learn about the context of the music - it helps with a real in-depth understanding"
  • "I have grown as a musician and been inspired to take my music further"
Parents say:
  • "I appreciate the superb standard of performance. Whatever level they have reached the standard is truly excellent due to parts being allocated depending on each musician's personal strengths and those of their instruments"
  • "Ailsa is a wonderful director - she's there each Saturday with a smile on her face, and is always so encouraging, enthusiastic and patient" 
  • "We as parents have loved our daughter's time with Minstrels, watching her grow in confidence and as a musician"
To see further clips of the ensemble at work, please see our short video clips here  and here
Minster Minstrels is run by the NCEM in partnership with York Music Centre, with support from Mayfield Valley Arts Trust.