Early Music Festival Utrecht 2015 part 16: Boughton House

Utrecht Early Music Festival 2015: the small exhibition on Boughton House

Last year, there was an exhibition in Tivoli-Vredenburg during the Utrecht Early Music Festival 2014. The theme of the 2014 festival was Vienna and the music of the Habsburg Empire. Throughout the modern building, there were images, slide-shows or short films of the Austrian Crown Jewels.

This year, the festival’s theme is “England, my England”. There are no replicas of crown jewels to be seen. There is a small exhibition and film about Boughton House and its musical owners on show in Tivoli-Vredenburg. It seems the sheep grazing around the country house, inspired the picture which has become this year’s festival banner. So I decided to have a look. Unfortunately, the headsets necessary to follow the running comentary of the documentary were unavailable. The reason might be – so volunteers told me – the festival’s “Music Market” is in progress.

The “Music Market” always starts the last Friday of the festival and runs on till its last day, Sunday 6th of September 2015. Since 2014, it takes place in the modern Tivoli-Vredenburg building. One can try out various early music instruments at stands. Or one can order and buy them from various music instrument builders who flock to this market from all over Europe. So it is well worth a visit.

There are other items for sale as well, including sheet music and CDs. Especially interesting are of course CDs or DVDs of musicians and ensembles which have performed during the festival. Nothing nicer than having a memento of this festival at home, which can be played ad infinitum. Though the music market closes Saturday late afternoon, the CD and DVD shop on Tivoli-Vredenburg’s ground floor remains open till the end of the festival.

Sunday is also the day during which Utrecht’s “Uit Festival” takes place in town. It is the day to buy subscriptions to concert series, theatre performances, sign up for cultural courses in dancing and other performing arts which will see you through this winter, as well as much, much more.

It is difficult to spend a day at the festival without hearing Music by English composers, the festival’s organisation claims. True: even during fringe and fabulous fringe concerts pieces composed by English musicians are often played. These include works by Blow, Bull, Byrd, Dowland, Eccles, Farnaby, Gibbons, Jenkins, Lawes, Purcell, Sheppard, Tallis, Taverner, Tomkins, Tye and many others. The scope encompasses music from the Middle Ages right up to the Romantic period and after..

It seems Boughton House has a large collection of sheet music. Many members of the family who still own it, were very musical or collected manuscripts and instruments. These are apparently part of the Montagu Collection.

The original Boughton House seems to have been a monastery. One of the results of Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine and his marriage to Ann Boleyn was the abolishment of all things catholic. These included nunneries, monasteries, and all possessions of the Catholic church in England. Just before this so-called Dissolution of the Monasteries, a member of the Montagu family managed to buy Boughton House in 1528.

Over a century later, another member of the family started to embellish the house. As he had been an ambassador to the court of Louis XIV, French architectural influences can now be seen throughout the building. A generation later, the garden and grounds were embellished, after which the family stopped improvements and concentrated on maintenance. In the 18th century, the house was inherited by a Duke of Buccleuch. It is still owned by the family and since 2014, Boughton House hosts its own music festival.

The small festival exhibition closes late afternoon, Sunday 6th of September 2015.
But if you are in England, why not visit this stately home and its grounds, or attend one of the many events organised there: Boughton House.

Youtube Official Early Music Festival website: introductory film on Boughton House

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