Haringey on the Danube!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The Budapest Café Orchestra play a wonderful mix of Eastern European dance tunes, gypsy music, Kletzmer, even variations on classical tunes. None of the band are actually from Budapest but how they explain this and their general banter is great fun.

As I have said before, the National Centre for Early Music needs a decent sized band, ideally above three, to really fill the place with sound and the four incredibly accomplished and versatile members of this group certainly managed to do that with their double bass, accordion, violin and guitar (or sometimes balalaika) plus percussion.

I read somewhere that the NCEM had been given some funding to increase accessibility, so I was interested to see if there had been any changes. The only one I could see was that the gaps between the paving slabs up to the entrance (from Percy’s Lane) had been filled in, making it much smoother. I was disappointed that the thresholds hadn’t been changed, they still give you rather a jolt but in general the place is very accessible.

We had joined their Access Scheme and had booked a Blue Badge parking space but unfortunately when we arrived both the accessible spaces had a car in them, with no Blue Badge on so we just pulled up and decanted me then Pete parked up in the one remaining ordinary space.

I went inside and explained the situation to the person on reception who was most apologetic and made a note so we shall just have to see what happens next time. At the end of the concert, one of the accessible spaces came free so Pete moved to that so I could get in the car. By the time we left, even though we were amongst the last people there the car park was still almost full so I think they probably weren’t concertgoers but people sneakily using a convenient parking place.

Not an ideal situation but at least they are trying to have a good system in place. It’s good to support somewhere accessible and we have never had a disappointing evening at the NCEM.

I thoroughly recommend The Budapest Cafe Orchestra if they have a gig in your area, you are sure to have a fun evening!

More music reviews at the NCEM.


Did you know Celtic Gypsy Klezmer is a thing?

NCEM entrance

The Dodo Street Band perform it in spades! Skilful and versatile, they gave us toe-tapping jolly tunes and daft banter to warm us up on the day we had been threatened with freezing rain and blizzards. Fortunately those didn’t materialise, just heavy rain.

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The NCEM has been granted £144,200 some of which will be used to improve access and seating. I remember from when I used to use their seats that they are not the most comfortable so that’s welcome news and as the place is really accessible already, I can only imagine how fabulous it will be with even better access – less bumpy thresholds and more Blue Badge spaces, perhaps?

When we arrived, the only remaining Blue Badge space in the carpark was reserved – we didn’t realise you could reserve them but now we know! We parked in the street which wasn’t really a greater distance – just as well as it was chucking it down! It did mean setting up my chair in the road which was only busy because of the concertgoers and really not a problem. I will remember to book a space next time though as it means not having to go up and down the dropped kerb.

We used a space for wheelchair users on the front row so had a great view of the band and their amazing range of instruments: violin, accordion, double base, clarinet and bodhran mainly but also recorder, mandolin and plenty of others.

There was mulled wine and mince pies on offer as well as a couple of CDs by the band. We bought both the CDs – maybe we should have gone entirely digital by now but I like buying a CD!

I’m looking forward to future trips the NCEM to see how they develop it further.

See my other reviews of trips to the NCEM.

Goday, My Lord Sire Christemas

York Waits

Definitely feeling Christmassy now, thanks to The York Waits! There is somehow something very festive about crumhorns, shawms, sackbuts and rebecs!

York Waits
York Waits

Yes, we’ve been to the National Centre for Early Music and actually seen some early music for once – usually we see what I suppose you’d call World Music and occasionally the two coincide, but this was very definitely English Early Music, from the 15th to 17th century. The programme included some familiar pieces, such as Past 3 o’clock, God rest you, merry gentlemen, The Coventry Carol and an encore that was a storming rendition of Gaudete – who knew mediaeval music could be so funky? – and some lovely songs and tunes that were new to me, all with a Christmas or Wintery theme.

The five versatile musicians each play a number of instruments that also included harp, recorder, tabor pipe and bagpipes – nothing like Scottish pipes, but more like the Spanish gaita or Breton pipes. They were accompanied by the splendid Deborah Catterall on vocals and sometimes recorder.

The NCEM was packed and extra-atmospheric as they had lots of candles going, plus there were mince pies on offer along with the other refreshments. (I heroically resisted!)

The York Waits have been going since the 1970s, playing around the UK and abroad on period instruments, including at the Sheriff’s Riding, when the company the Sheriff of York around the city while he reads a proclamation at various locations allowing “whores, thieves, dice players and other unthrifty folk” into the city for the 12 days of Christmas.

As ever, the NCEM is wonderfully accessible, in fact there were two other wheelchair users there apart from myself. Word has obviously got around!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

Around this time last year, we went to see Joglaresa at the NCEM. They were there again this year but on a day when we couldn’t go and, having seen them before, we thought we’d give this a go instead and I’m so glad we did!


Moishe’s Bagel are always fabulous!

NCEM entrance

We had a lovely evening yesterday at the wonderful NCEM listening to Moishe’s Bagel and their superb mix of klezmer music with jazz and Latin influences – toe-tapping one moment, break-your-heart plaintive the next. They even played a really stomping rumba – I suspect they could play anything and it would sound terrific. The line-up includes piano, double bass, accordion, violin and percussion but sometimes mandolin and occasionally two accordions – a really rich sound which filled the place, especially in the tunes where they really gave it some welly!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The chat between songs was sometimes jolly sometimes touching and the atmosphere was great: the audience loved it and there was even some dancing!

I’ve reviewed the NCEM plenty of times so suffice to say: it is completely accessible, has an accessible loo and at least one Blue Badge parking space. The staff are helpful and for the first time, they had a couple of spaces (we were on the front row!) specially reserved for wheelchair-users which removed the small amount of hassle we had before where a member of staff struggled to disconnected a chair from the row to create space.

We’ve never seen a show here that was anything less than good, they are usually absolutely brilliant and this was no exception. Moishe’s Bagel have more dates coming up in the New Year. If you went to see them, I can’t imagine you would be disappointed.

Can’t get enough kletzmer!

NCEM entrance

We knew She’ Koyokh were good having seen them before and having seen them again we still don’t know how to pronounce their name but I really recommend them! I can’t remember the line up from the previous occasion but it didn’t include Çiğdem Aslan the singer, although she did feature on the album we bought, Wild Goats and Unmarried Women in rather a lot of somewhat plaintive songs. She was in much jollier form at this concert and there was lots of jolly banter between band members and with the audience.

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The music is fabulous and with four musicians, it filled out the NCEM which itself was pretty full – maybe their fame has gone before them or maybe it was because it wasn’t midweek like the last band we saw, Sklamberg and the Shepherds.

This was the second time visiting with my powerchair and again a member of staff removed a seat from the end of a row for us and I had a fabulous view and it’s so much comfier than their chairs!

As ever, it’s great to have this venue in York for the amazing variety of bands they book, its accessibility and the lovely atmosphere – the dancing ladies were there again and I’m sure everyone’s toes were tapping! We bought their latest CD First Dance on Second Avenue which is a good reflection of what this concert was like – joyous, celebratory stuff.

Sklamberg and the Shepherds

NCEM entrance

Sklamberg and the Shepherds are a trio who play Eastern European Klezmer with such infectious jollity that not only were the audience clapping along, but a group of ladies started dancing – a sprightly, circular dance we have seen them perform at concerts of a variety of different bands at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM).

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

We’ve seen a lot of bands playing Klezmer music, with influences from various parts of Europe. Some are wilder, some more heartbreaking than Sklamberg and the Shepherds but I’m not sure we’ve seen any who seemed to enjoy their performance so much! Their album Aheym reflects what the performance was like as much as a recording can – they never have quite the same energy but it is very jolly.

This is the first time I have been to the NCEM with my powerchair and it was a great experience – a member of staff helped us find a good place and removed a seat for us so I could be on the end of a row and still have a good view. It was mid-week and the venue not that full, but there’s always plenty of space. Another member of staff was a wheelchair user, so they must be even more aware than ever of access issues. If ever they have a refurb, they could maybe make the thresholds a bit smoother, otherwise, it is a very accessible venue, with reserved Blue Badge holders’ spaces in the carpark, an accessible loo and leaflets displayed at easily-reached height.

I think it makes for a better sound if there are at least four musicians but Sklamberg and the Shepherds with their piano, accordion and clarinet and  sometimes guitar pretty well filled this lovely venue.

Other reviews of bands at the NCEM.

Russian musicians play faster when it’s cold!

NCEM entrance

Koshka are a trio, Lev Atlas and Oleg Ponomarev on violin and Nigel Clark on guitar, playing Russian gypsy folk, sometimes sinuous and haunting, sometimes jazzy and foot-tapping, always excellent, at least going by last night’s concert at the National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) in York. We also had a listen to them on youtube in advance.

They were joined for a few numbers by Lev’s daughter (didn’t catch her name!) – Russian folk songs in the first half and a couple of night-club numbers in the second.

We have tended to avoid smaller groups at the NCEM as it needs a bigger sound to fill the place but with music of this quality, it wasn’t a problem, there was so much variety – and some amusing anecdotes in between.

I would definitely recommend catching Koshka if they are appearing near you – I’m sure no one could resist their folky, jazzy sound!

NCEM entrance
NCEM entrance

The NCEM is a wonderful venue I have reviewed before as we often go. It is accessible and spacious, has two Blue Badge spaces in the carpark on Percy’s Lane and you can park in the street outside. There is an accessible loo and the staff are very helpful – offering to move chairs if need be for example. They serve drinks beforehand and at the interval and there are leaflets and fliers for other events displayed at an accessible height.

We’ve never been to an event there that wasn’t great, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on their events calendar if you are in the vicinity!

The sun is a pancake…

Otava Yo

…or it is according to Otava Yö, the really rather bonkers St Petersburg group we saw last night at the NCEM. I suppose you would call them folk – their songs involved the aforementioned pancakes and also street cleaners and your girlfriend washing her white legs in the river, so definitely an eclectic mix and their range of instruments were too, including electric guitars, violins, whistles, a kazoo, mandolin and scythe!

Otava Yo
Otava Yo

Having seen them on youtube, they seemed in the first half as if they had gone a bit more traditional, but they just got wackier and wackier, coming out for the second half in their trade mark vests and fur hats but the music continued to be a fabulous mix of jolly danceable tunes, love songs  and sweeping, epic stuff. As ever, the venue is completely accessible and has parking available. Definitely worth catching if they come back!


See my other reviews of groups at the NCEM: Joglaresa  Söndörgő


Another great concert at the wonderfully accessible NCEM. We’ve seen Joglaresa before playing medieval Spanish/Jewish songs – this time it was medieval Christmas music from France, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia as well as English, using traditional instruments and it was utterly gorgeous! They are sold out for their other concerts in the north but if you are in the south, they still have tickets left for their concerts there – I totally recommend it! You can get a flavour on their Facebook page and on their website which has details of their upcoming concerts. We bought their album ‘Nuns and Roses’ – it made more use of electric music than the concert but it did not disappoint!


See also my review of Sondorgo at the NCEM.

Fabulous music venue!

NCEM entrance

Söndörgő are a Hungarian group, comprising three brothers, their cousin and a school friend who play folk tunes from Hungary and other countries on various sized tambura – a mandolin-like instrument  – and also on the flute, clarinet, drum, double-base and various other exotic instruments as well as vocals now and then too. Sometimes quiet and melodic at other times fast and furious, they are versatile and well worth catching if they tour the UK again! Have a taster! CDs were on sale on the night.

NCEM interior (with a different band!)

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) is a brilliantly accessible venue with a ramp and then heaps of space inside. OK, the thresholds meant a bit of a bump but nothing drastic and it was easy to find a place to sit then put my Luggie scooter to one side or if you were in a wheelchair you could easily site it at the end of a row or move a chair out of the way. As we entered the auditorium, staff offered to help should we need it. In fact, the evening we were there for Söndörgő, there were three people using wheels of various kinds. There is an accessible loo and leaflets are displayed at a reachable height. They also do refreshments: beer, wine, soft drinks etc before the show and during the interval.

NCEMWe have been to the NCEM many times and have never had a duff experience although we always choose bands with at least four musicians as there was one occasion when there were only three and though lovely, the music did sound a little thin. We have seen some groups which you could describe as ‘early’ music (medieval Spanish) but mostly we’ve see what I guess you would call world music: Indian, Jewish, Eastern European – they have a huge variety! It’s a wonderful venue, being a converted church and with the friendly staff and great music there is always a lovely atmosphere.