Cathedral opens its doors to music, arts and comedy

Emmy The Great - credit Alex Lake
Emmy The Great - credit Alex Lake

FOR several years Sheffield Cathedral has collaborated with the University of Sheffield to present a Summer Music and Arts Festival.

But this year’s event, running for the first two weeks of June, demonstrates what a broad church the cathedral has become in the scope of entertainment that is now staged within the building.

It embraces the spoken word, film, a host of different musical genres - pop, folk, world, jazz, classical, choral - and its first-ever comedy evening.

That’s a first too for Sheffield’s Last Laugh Comedy Club which started in a pub and has since expanded to various venues around Yorkshire including sports centres, cinemas, hotels and football grounds but never in a place of worship before.

The Last Laugh promoter and resident host, local comedian and radio presenter Toby Foster said: “ We can’t wait for this. It’s so different for us to be working in the Cathedral, and such an honour. It’s the most stunning building in Sheffield, and that does bring with it some challenges with its high ceilings and stained glass windows, but we’re confident that we can bring a Last Laugh atmosphere to the evening”.

Performing on Wednesday are Jamie Sutherland, Jo Enright and Steve Royle, regular headliners at the Last Laugh at the Memorial Hall. Royle is an actor, writer, comedian and juggler who presents a show on BBC Radio Lancashire and Enright is one of the top female stand-ups comedy and has been seen on TV in I’m Alan Partridge and Phoenix Nights and written and performed for Radio 4 and Radio 5.

On the music front the festival has performances from contemporary acoustic singer-songwriters Teddy Thompson and Emmy the Great.

Thompson, famously the son of singer-songwriters Richard and Linda Thompson, retains definite strong influences of the folk genre in his own musical work. His latest album is called Bella - Italian shorthand for “beautiful” - a concept he hopes runs throughout. “I like the word, the meaning of it,” he says. “It spoke to the lushness and beauty I was going for.” Bella combines lean rock and roll with lush string arrangements on material that is both catchy and sometimes profound.

Up and coming star Emmy the Great, here on Saturday, was initially a member of the indie folk group, Lightspeed Champion, before going solo and adopting her modest nickname. With a backing band which included Euan Hinshelwood, Glenn Kerrigan, Tom Rogerson and Ric Hollingbery she recorded album First Love on the Lancashire moors above Manchester and has as second album, Virtue, coming out this year.

General manager Carl Hutton said: “Over the last year we have successfully hosted a number of folk concerts to sell out audiences and are now keen to extend our musical horizons to include contemporary acoustic acts.  We anticipate that over the coming months several more acoustic nights will take place at the Cathedral”.

Friday Night is Clare Teal Night as the leading jazz vocalist and presenter of Radio 2’s Big Band Special and Friday Night is Music Night sings at the festival.

The cathedral makes an atmospheric setting for an after-dark screening of the 1925 silent film horror masterpiece, Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney in the title role, with improvised organ accompaniment by Darius Battiwalla on Thursday, June 9.