Thursday 17 November 2022

A Yorkshire Nativity: Ben Crick's new oratorio uses traditional local tunes to tell a contemporary story

Ben Crick (Photo  Lorne Campbell / Guzelian)
Ben Crick (Photo: Lorne Campbell / Guzelian)

Composer Ben Crick's A Yorkshire Nativity, which is premiered by Skipton Camerata at Skipton Town Hall on 10 December 2022, has a distinctly local connection. Not only is he a local boy (born in Huddersfield) and the artistic director of Skipton Camerata but his new oratorio tells the story of the nativity using traditional local carols. These old tunes are ones that never made it into the traditional canon of Christmas tunes. Many were created by local people in the 1700s and first written down by an 18th-century blacksmith, and they are still sung in some pubs around Sheffield and Barnsley.

The 45-minute oratorio has a libretto by Sally Edwards and tells the story of the nativity but is set in contemporary times. Ben Crick comments, "The carols talk about austerity, poverty, migration and hope all things that abounded in the 18th century and we’re not exactly short of now either, it’s a Christmas story for today."

The work will be performed by the Clothworkers Consort of Leeds choir and the Skipton Building Society Camerata.  Skipton Camerata is supported by the local building society, Crick explains, "In the past, big local employers offered philanthropically supported brass bands and choirs amongst the workers. Today, the Skipton Building Society is helping us deliver national-level art in a rural area, it’s a similar financial model". Arts Council England's controversial recent funding announcement has left the country’s biggest county, North Yorkshire, with only seven regularly funded groups and Crick sees the Skipton model as one that is a way forward.

Further details from the Skipton Camerata website.

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