National Centre for Early Music

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About Us

The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) is an educational music charity based in St Margaret's, a medieval converted church in the heart of York. The church was converted in 2000, winning a variety of major conservation awards.

The NCEM's aim is to be the national advocate of early music in England providing early music experiences and opportunities of the highest quality to an ever widening and diversified community and to develop and promote St Margaret's Church as a significant venue for music and creative learning in York.   The term "early music" refers to both a repertory (European music written between 1250 and 1750 embracing Medieval, Renaissance and the Baroque)  - and an historically informed approach to the performance of that music.

The NCEM runs an ambitious national programme of early music including the prestigious York Early Music Festival, the Beverley and East Riding Early Music Festival and the York Early Music Christmas Festival and is increasingly renowned for early music with links across the world. In 2006, the NCEM established a Lifetime Achievement Award formally acknowledging the international excellence of musicians including Emma Kirkby, Jordi Savall, James Bowman and Sigiswald Kuijken.

Education is at the heart of the organisation and since its inception, it has offered learning opportunities to a wide range of individuals from a variety of different backgrounds. Some of these opportunities have been focused on early music young musicians. The NCEM is also involved in partnership programme called Music4U working in association with York, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Hull, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire Councils to provide music-making opportunities for young people living in challenging circumstances and to date has worked with over 30,000 young people. 

The NCEM boasts two major competitions designed to encourage talented young composers and gifted early music specialists. They are the NCEM Composers Award and the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition. These major events attract national and international interest and are supported by BBC Radio 3 and some of the finest musicians in the world. Working in York with early music musicians, the NCEM runs the highly successful Minster Minstrels allowing young musicians to engage professionally with early music and perform as part of the above-mentioned Festivals.

The NCEM also hosts a successful year-round concert series of classical, world, jazz and folk concerts attracting world-class musicians to York and associated events. 

The NCEM is an ambitious organisation with a clear vision for its future.  Over 1,000,000 listeners tune in to early music concerts presented by the NCEM and broadcast through BBC Radio 3 each year.  Partners include the Universities of York and Huddersfield and Leeds College of Music, Arts Council England; Youth Music and 5 regional councils.  We present over 100 concerts a year and sell tickets for The Sixteen's hugely successful national Choral Pilgrimage Tour.  With your support we will continue to inspire interest in, and nurture curiosity about, early music - "music in its time".  To find out more about the NCEM Patron's Scheme and how you can get involved, click here.