SOPRANO Elin Manahan Thomas and lutenist and theorbo player Elizabeth Kenny open the 2017 York Early Music Christmas Festival tomorrow (December 8) at the National Centre for Early Music.

At 7.30pm, in the heavenly acoustic of St Margaret's Church, Walmgate, they present Now Winter Comes Slowly, a festive programme of wintry favourites, wherein they "sprinkle some musical magic on a dark winter’s night ".

They will be performing scenes from Purcell's Fairy Queen and King Arthur, hymns to the Virgin and celebratory Christmas songs by Bach and Scarlatti, topped off with traditional carols and Noels.

Elin and Elizabeth are re-uniting on Yorkshire soil this winter, having performed together at the Beverley Early Music Festival last year. "We did a very dramatic programme, The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation," recalls the Welsh soprano.

"For tomorrow, I really went with all my favourites and I'm very lucky to be able to do that at Christmas, as there are loads of pieces to choose from. I started as a chapel girl, then sang at Clare College, Cambridge, so there are English pieces in the programme. There's a Scarlatti piece, which I've done before, and really is magical; very pastoral, you can hear the shepherd calling his flock.

"I wanted to do Marian pieces too, so the first half is more religious, and the second half will start off more secular, less religious, more festive, a teeny bit pagan. My whole idea for the concert is that it should have the feel of music and mulled wine, warmth, festivities and mince pies!"

Away from her York engagement, Elin will be "doing five Messiahs" this Christmas, including Cambridge, London and Swansea, before finishing her season with the Hallé Orchestra at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, singing Frosty The Snowman and White Christmas. "It all gets me in the mood for Christmas," she says.

Tickets for all but a handful of concerts at this Christmas festival have sold out. Seats can still be booked for tomorrow's 7.30pm concert; BarrocoTout's Bach: A Musical Offering, NCEM, tomorrow at 1pm; Chiaroscuro Quartet at the NCEM on Saturday at 11.30am and 5pm and Sunday at 11.30am; The Ebor Singers and Chelys Consort of Viols, NCEM, Tuesday, 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 658338 or at