National Centre for Early Music

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New National Platform for the NCEM

02 July 2008

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) will receive increased investment from Arts Council England, Yorkshire to develop a national remit promoting early music throughout the country. The NCEM will also continue to develop programmes of high quality early music at its home in York, alongside other exciting collaborations.

Andy Carver, Executive Director, Arts Council England, Yorkshire, said: "The National Centre for Early Music is going from strength to strength. Our increased investment over the next three years will support the Centre's national development role as an artistic hub and a centre of excellence for early music, exemplified by its flagship York Early Music Festival. With its visionary leadership and committed staff, the National Centre for Early Music can look forward to an exciting and productive time ahead."

The NCEM, which opened its doors in April 2000, has grown substantially during this time. It is now regarded as a 'Centre of Excellence' for all the music genres it programmes and promotes. Its flagship event - the York Early Music Festival - is recognised all over the world as one of the most prestigious festivals on the early music circuit. Its concert season programme attracts artists at the peak of their profession - as well as rising stars - creating an exciting and innovative blend of music, appropriate for the medieval church building and its natural acoustics.

Expansion plans are already underway for the NCEM who will now run the biennial York Early Music International Young Artists Competition (previously known as the Early Music Network competition). This is a worldwide competition for young talented musicians and the next event will be held during the 2009 York Early Music Festival. The competition, which will be compèred by early music specialist and singer Evelyn Tubb, offers the winning ensemble a major boost to their professional careers, including future bookings, recording and broadcast opportunities.

As part of the 2009 Festival there will also be a 'Call for Composition' (the first of which was held in this year's Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival) and musicians will be invited to write a piece for The Tallis Scholars to perform as part of the opening concert at the 2009 York Early Music Festival in York Minster (Friday 10 July, 7.30pm).

In its new role, the NCEM will support early music touring programmes (some of which may cross two music genres) and in 2009/10 is planning to work alongside The Orlando Consort and world music musicians Kuljit Bhamra tabla (currently Artistic Director for the Society of the Promotion of New Music), Jonathan Mayer sitar and Shahid Khan voice on a new project evoking the spirit of music-making that would have taken place in Goa in the first part of the 16th century. This will be the NCEM's first national tour which intends to visit 10 key venues across the country, with the opening night taking place at the NCEM next May. This tour will be supported by a strong educational schools programme.

Plans are also underway to celebrate the 350th birth date of one of the early music world's finest composers - Henry Purcell - and the NCEM intends to be at the heart of the national celebrations next year, working alongside the internationally acclaimed vocal ensemble The Sixteen on their annual Choral Pilgrimage and the national singing programme Sing Up, to bring Purcell's music to the attention of young choirs across the country.

The NCEM will also be launching a 'Historical Performance Course' aimed at higher education students, grade 8 and above, who wish to learn more about stylistic performance. This new venture will be organised in partnership with the University of York and will feature the University of York's Ensemble in Residence, Compagnia d'Istrumenti.

Other educational initiatives that remain important to the NCEM include the development of the Minster Minstrels, its young early music ensemble; Music4U - the Humber Region Action Zone ( by the NCEM since 2001 and providing music-making opportunities for young people up to the age of 18 living in the Humber Region; the Aimhigher programme which involves professional jazz musicians and music students from the University of York and is aimed at young people in cool progression areas of the country encouraging them to consider higher education and the annual Musical Play in a Week summer school.

The NCEM's commitment to its world and jazz programming remains strong. There will be an increased number of these concerts in the Spring and Autumn Seasons with artists programmed for the UK and overseas, reflecting cultural diversity as well as high quality musicianship. The NCEM's Jazz Weekends will remain a fundamental part of the programme and it is the intention to invite artistic curators to work with the NCEM to programme innovative jazz weekends/festivals, encouraging new commissions and crossover jazz and early music initiatives. The NCEM will also be working closely with other arts organisation and higher education establishments to develop a World Music Festival in 2009 which may become an annual event.

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM said she was delighted with the new remit and excited by the ambitious plans for the next few years. She added: "The NCEM has worked extremely hard over the past eight years to achieve this position and we intend to make sure that the high quality product that we programme and initiate reaches as wide an audience as possible."

Details about events and activities taking place or connected to the NCEM can be viewed on the website at


Press Contact: Melanie Paris
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