GUITAR music will be to the fore in the Spring 2019 season at the National Centre for Early Music, York.

"We are delighted to welcome such an amazing array of guitarists, especially as the NCEM acoustic is extraordinarily supportive for the guitar," says director Delma Tomlin. "Alongside NCEM favourites Martin Simpson and Martin Taylor, we are thrilled to host Swedish jazz specialist Ulf Wakenius; Xuefei Yang, drawing together the traditions of China and Western Europe; and the extraordinary guitar maestros from India and South Africa, Debashish Bhattacharya and Derek Gripper."

On April 5, Xuefei Yang will present Of Cord And Cassia-Wood as she returns to the NCEM for the first time since a Chinese Festival in the early 2000s, this time with a programme inspired by the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Celebrating the ancient musical traditions of China, contrasted with the European traditions of Spain and the German Baroque, Xuefei will explore this repertoire from the Orient on the plucked strings of the classical guitar, undertaking a musical journey that covers more than 2,000 years and a myriad of instruments from the Chinese zither to the pipa.

Should you be wondering, the concert title comes from a quote from Benjamin Britten's Songs From The Chinese cycle: "Of cord and cassia-wood is the lute compounded; Within it lie ancient melodies".

On March 8, two of the greatest jazz guitarists in the world, Martin Taylor and Ulf Wakenius, join forces, bringing with them a legacy in European jazz from years of touring and recording with Stephane Grappelli and Oscar Peterson.

Martin Simpson will be joined by Chris While & Julie Matthews for a charity concert in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association on March 26. Roland Walls and the Black Swan Folk Club have organised more than 140 folk concerts at the NCEM since 2001 in a fruitful programming partnership, but Roland is now seriously ill with motor neurone disease and has been receiving considerable practical and financial support from the aforementioned association.

His many friends in the folk world have rallied around him to offer their assistance and this fundraiser for the MNDA will feature two leading acts that Roland has booked many times over his long career.

Chris While & Julie Matthews are two of England’s finest acoustic songwriters and singers, while Martin Simpson is consistently named among the best folk guitarists in the world, with a repertoire of original songs, traditional ballads and choice covers. He is, incidentally, the most nominated artist in the history of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, most recently as Musician of the Year in 2018.

York Press:

Debashish Bhattacharya: touring with Derek Gripper in Britain for the first time

Debashish Bhattacharya and Derek Gripper will unite for an NCEM concert on June 6, when they will each perform from their solo repertoires before their collaboration. Although they have played together in India and the United States, this tour will be their first together in Britain.

Bhattacharya has long been recognised as the slide guitar master of India, as he re-works an instrument born in Hawaii with South Asian sounds. He has recorded eight international albums, had a Grammy nomination and won several awards, and such is his skill that he has created three guitars to bring tonal variety to his musical compositions.

South African guitarist Derek Gripper is best known for transcriptions of West African kora music on to six-string classical guitar, as featured on his albums One Night On Earth and Libraries On Fire. What is less known is that he studied Indian music and has arranged the solo violin works of Bach for guitar.

Meanwhile, the new NCEM season will kick off this weekend with two contributions to Visit York's York Residents Festival, starting with Come & Play York's Gamelan Gongs on Saturday, when there will be two sessions, one for young people aged seven plus from 11am to 12.30pm; the other for adults from 2pm to 3.30pm. Admission is free but booking is advised at or on 01904 658338.

Gamelan music, from Indonesia, is played on an array of handcrafted bronze gongs and chimes and York is home to one of Britain's oldest gamelan sets, Gamelan Sekar Petak (White Flower), named in honour of the city's white rose symbol.

The Residents Festival offers the chance to try out these instruments: no previous experience is necessary, but be aware that playing gamelan usually involves removing your shoes and sitting on the floor.

On Sunday, at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, the musicians of the Yorkshire-based South Asian arts group Manasamitra will set up their Lullaby Booth at the NCEM, where participants are invited to remember and share songs and stories from their own childhoods and to learn new ones derived from other cultures.

Manasamitra will record many of the tunes and memories shared to create a soundscape that will form part of the Lullaby Sonic Cradle performance at the NCEM on May 16.

Admission is free but booking is advised. Participants are free to come and go as they wish throughout the sessions, sharing a relaxed and soothing environment suitable for all ages and experience. As with the Gamelan Gongs day, this session will be carried out sitting on the floor.