THE festival made its closest approach to York with a two-part cabaret-style exploration of the most prolific of all Broadway songwriters, Richard Rodgers. In his introduction, compère Edward Seckerson compared his output to Schubert’s: more than 900 songs, a remarkable percentage of them hits.

Seckerson sustained linking conversation with pianist Joseph Carr, as they picked most of Rodgers’s outright plums, and uncovered a few that have been less often tasted. The afternoon’s singer, Anna Francolini, employed all the armory of an accomplished actress; arm and finger gestures, alongside expressive features and eye contact, lit up her lyrics.

A Ship Without A Sail (from Heads Up!) was neatly tied in with I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (Too Many Girls), to illustrate the success of Rodgers’s 24-year collaboration with lyricist Lorenz Hart. Two cleverly contrasted settings of Falling In Love With Love (The Boys from Syracuse) proved Rodgers’s (and Francolini’s) versatility. She peaked with a movingly pain-laden Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (Pal Joey).

The evening introduced two new singers. The little-girl tone of Charlotte Wakefield was well-suited to Glad To Be Unhappy (On Your Toes) and The Sound of Music. She and Tim Rogers duetted warmly in songs from Oklahoma! and South Pacific, as we moved into Rodgers & Hammerstein. He excelled himself with a fervent soliloquy from Carousel.

Carr had delivered a forceful Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and an equally vivid Flower Drum Song overture. It all made a happy day, engagingly relaxed.