From ska veterans to royal wedding gospel singers, cult psych stalwart to violin war story, Mozart’s maddest opera to Shakespeare’s festival frolics, CHARLES HUTCHINSON peruses a typically diverse diary for May 6 to12

Rude boys in rude health gig of the week

The Specials, York Barbican, Thursday

THE last time The Specials played York Barbican in November 2016, sullen singer Terry Hall apologised for being in a “sh***y” mood that night. Amazingly their first ever York gig, it was still a visceral thrill of an occasion.

Now the Coventry ska veterans return, buoyed by their first album in 29 years, the typically politically-charged Encore, charting at number one.

York Press:

Special occasion: The Skapones take up invitation to  support The Specials

Dream chance of the week for a son of York

The Skapones, supporting The Specials, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, Monday

PAUL “Willo” Williams, The Specials’ biographer and ska musicologist with York roots, will be living the dream on Monday.

“Things seem to have come full circle with me and the ska band I front, The Skapones,” he says. “Our album has sold out three times; we have an August USA tour coming up, and now we’ve been announced as support to my all-time heroes The Specials.

“We’ll be playing with them at Middlesbrough Town Hall this Sunday and Scarborough Spa on Monday. York Barbican on Thursday would have been lovely but, hey ho, not complaining!”

York Press:

“Paintings you can listen to”: Robyn Hitchcock goes all art-rock at The Crescent

Psychedelic vibe of the week

Robyn Hitchcock, The Crescent, York, Wednesday

SURREALIST poet, cult artist, musician’s musician and leader of The Egyptians, Robyn Hitchcock is a father figure of alternative rock. Now 66, the wry Paddington folk/psychedelia exponent founded the art-rock combo The Soft Boys in 1976 and released his self-titled 21st solo release in April 2017, calling it “an ecstatic work of negativity with nary a dreary groove”. His songs are “paintings you can listen to,” he says.

York Press:

Mystery and menace: Vienna Festival Ballet in Giselle

Classical ballet of the week

Vienna Festival Ballet in Giselle, Grand Opera House, York, Monday

RACHEL Victoria Hernon, raised in Greater Manchester and trained in Russia, has left behind solo roles in the Romanian National Ballet to join Vienna Festival Ballet.

She dances the title role in “the ultimate romantic ballet”, Giselle, the 1841 tale of innocence, love, betrayal and madness, performed to music by Adolphe Adam and choreography by the late Nicholas Beriosoff. This traditional staging moves from the sunny optimism of Giselle’s idyllic village life to an ethereal world of mystery and menace.

York Press:

Unfinished business: Sam Sweeney’s violin journey from The Great War to album and tour. Picture: Elly Lucas“

The Warhorse story of the violin world”

Sam Sweeney, The Unfinished Violin, National Centre for Early Music, York, Monday

INSPIRED by his violin, carved but never finished by West Riding Regiment conscript and Leeds music hall act Richard Howard in 1915, Bellowhead’s Sam Sweeney has created a live show and album of instrumental music inspired by The Great War. “I didn’t want to create a jingoistic, patriotic album, but after some research, it was clear that there would be loads of great tunes and great stories,” he says.

York Press:

One chaotic day of madness: Annabel van Griethuysen as Susanna in York Opera’s The Marriage Of Figaro

Mozart's day of madness...for three days

York Opera in Mozart’s The Marriage Of Figaro, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday to Saturday

YORK Opera revels in Mozart's day of chaotic madness, true love, deception and mistaken identities, brought to stage life in a modern translation by Jeremy Sams. Musical direction is by Alasdair Jamieson; stage direction, by James Wood, in his first full-scale opera with the society.

York Press:

Bard times: The Handlebards will be riding their way to York International Shakespeare Festival

Festival of the week and beyond

York International Shakespeare Festival, Thursday to May 19

YORK becomes a buzzing centre of Shakespearean play and thought as the third biennial York International Shakespeare Festival presents two weeks of Shakespeare from around the world. Visit for details.

York Press:

Glory be: The Kingdom Choir at York Barbican

Gospel singers of the week

The Kingdom Choir, York Barbican, Wednesday

BEST known for their angelic singing at last year's Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Kingdom Choir are on tour this spring with their combination of choral discipline and raw gospel spiritual sound.

York Press:

Infinite variety: Mark Watson in Pocklington

Re-arranged comedy gig of the week

Mark Watson, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday

MARK Watson's Pock gig carries his profuse apology on the PAC website for moving it from February after a "clash of projects". The Infinite Show definitely goes ahead this time.

York Press:

Battered acoustic guitar blues: Alabama 3 eschew the machinery

Acoustic show of the week

Alabama 3 Acoustic, Fibbers, York, Friday

HEEDING Woodie Guthrie’s message, Brixton's Alabama 3 have never feared the reduction of their technology, bravely hitting the road armed only with battered acoustic guitar and harmonica, preaching Guthrie’s infamous phrase, "This machine kills fascists".