Selby Abbey Celebrates the Arrival of Spring

The breath-taking Selby Abbey is celebrating its unique friendship with China. Selby Abbey is on the 'must-see' list for Chinese tourists after Jay Chou – one of the biggest pop…

Ke Ma

The breath-taking Selby Abbey is celebrating its unique friendship with China.

Selby Abbey is on the ‘must-see’ list for Chinese tourists after Jay Chou – one of the biggest pop stars in the Far East – got married in the medieval Abbey. It put Selby, a small north Yorkshire town, on the international map.

To mark the start of spring in the UK, the Abbey hosted a performance from world-class pianist, Ke Ma.

Working with film-maker Gary Lawson, we captured stunning drone footage in the spectacular setting.

Besbrode Pianos, Yorkshire’s leading piano dealer and wholesaler, loaned a £100,000 William Steinberg piano for the occasion.

Besbrode Pianos regularly exports antique and art cased pianos to mainland China, where the piano is the national instrument, and there are an estimated 40 million children studying the piano.

Melvin Besbrode said: “We wanted to celebrate our friendship with China in what has been one of the most fractious years in recent global history. Music has the power to bring people together, in healing and celebration. What better way to celebrate the onset of spring and new beginnings than with a concert in this beautiful Abbey, loved by UK and Chinese visitors alike.”

Selby, a market town in North Yorkshire just 14 miles from York, has captured the hearts of Chinese tourists.

A graduate from the Royal Academy, Ke Ma has toured the world, performing with the New York Philharmonic and at iconic venues including London’s Wigmore Hall, where she made her debut in 2017. At the concert in the Abbey, Ke Ma played traditional Chinese music, as well as tracks by the musician who put the Abbey on the musical map, Jay Chou.

Jay Chou, one of the best-selling artists in mainline China, had his wedding blessing at Selby Abbey in January 2015, which had over 1 billion views world-wide. Since then, the Abbey welcomes an estimated 10,000 Chinese visitors per year in normal times, as well as performing wedding blessings for Chinese couples.

John Weetman, Vicar at Selby Abbey, said: “Chinese visitors started coming because of Jay Chou’s wedding service in January 2015, we had virtually none before that. It helped us to be discovered by tour operators working with the Chinese market. Many now bring Chinese visitors here because of their love of historic attractions, and we’re very accessible and close to another tourist hotspot – York.”

John added: “Bookings for Chinese wedding blessings also sky-rocketed ever since Jay Chou’s service, either from couples themselves or from Chinese photography or tour operators on their behalf. Sometimes the demand is so great that we have to unfortunately turn people away.”

About Besbrode Pianos

Besbrode Pianos is one of the last remaining piano dealers in the UK and is a specialist Steinway piano dealer. It is a key exporter of antique pianos to China.

About Ke Ma 

About Selby Abbey

Selby Abbey was founded in 1069 as a Christian monastery by a French monk named Benedict, with the assistance of a royal charter from King William. The Abbey Church and other buildings date from 1100 but only the Abbey Church survives following King Henry 8th’s destruction of the Abbeys and monasteries throughout England in the 16th century.

By that time the town of Selby had grown up around the Abbey and decided to keep the church for its own Christian prayer and worship which has continued here to the present day. The story goes that Benedict was inspired to come to England and found an Abbey here by a vision of St Germain (who was buried in the French Abbey where he came from) and the vision included seeing three swans swimming around a bend in a river as a sign that this was the place for his new Abbey.

This is why the symbol of Selby Abbey and Selby Town (which is sited on a bend in the River Ouse) is a shield with three swans.

Credit: Gary Lawson Media for the drone footage.

Photo credit: Lorne Campbell – Guzelian Photo Agency.