Antwerp and Utrecht: “Mors” and “La Serenissima”

Last year’s Festival of Early Music with its theme “England my England” was a great success. Over 64,500 visitors, nearly 100 volunteers and 1000 musicians helped create a lasting memory for all who visited one or more concerts. At the end of the 2015 festival, the 35th festival’s theme was announced: “La Serenissima”!

So far, so good: I have no problems with music from “La Serenissima”! So I am looking forward to this year’s Early Music Festival in Utrecht. In about two-and-a-half weeks, the now world-renowned festival will start.  But just in case you can’t wait: Antwerp’s Laus Polyphoniae will start on the 19th of August. It’s theme is not as serene as Utrecht’s: Mors!

Antwerp’s Laus Festival 2016: Mors – Death

Antwerp Laus 2016 1This year, Antwerp’s Laus Festival focusses on the century of the Black Death. The festival runs from the 19th till the 28th of August. Europe’s  14th century is the era the festival concentrates on, but it was not just the Black Death pandemic causing people to die. There were wars, failed harvests, extreme poverty and hunger.

In fact, many European countries changed their laws as the population suffered so much. Stealing bread out of poverty was no longer a crime. There simply was not enough food – throughout the continent. On top of epidemics and war, Europe was also experiencing a minor ice age.

The 14th century was one of the eras during which Hansel and Gretel and related stories, later collected by the Brothers Grimm, could be the harsh reality. The Jewish population was of course the scapegoat.

Yet this age full of horrors also witnessed a flourishing in the arts. Writers like Christine de Pisan, Dante, Petrarca, Chaucer and many others wrote works still available and read. As for music, it was the age of Guillaume de Machaut, Landini and many other famous or lesser-known composers.

Interested in their music, now performed by say alla Francesca, Leones, La Fonte Musica, Huelgas Ensemble and others? Or curious about music from Iceland, Cyprus, and other European corners from the same era? Antwerp’s Laud programme can be found on, which is also the site to reserve concert tickets.

Utrecht’s Early Music Festival 2016: La Serenissima – Venice

Early Music Festival Utrecht 1Where Antwerp’s festival concentrates on Death and Music, Utrecht‘s theme is Venice and its music. As usual, the festival continues for over a week with the last concert taking place on Sunday the 4th of September.

The official programme, the artists in residence, workshops, lectures, summer school, it can all be found on the Festival Oude Muziek website. As usual, plenty workshops, lectures, concerts are already sold out.

As usual, one schedule is still unavailable. Of course, it is the part which is most eagerly anticipated by me and man others. It is the fringe concerts programme.

It’s late publication is nerve-wrecking, nail-biting, hair-raising – and I’m not even a musician performing at any of the fringe concerts! But with various cultural commitments claiming space in my diary … Like last year, cramming as many fringe concerts per day into my now already full diary is going to be a headache.

What did not help me remain serene was receiving a mail from the festival’s organisation. It was intended as a kind of  warm-up, or appetizer – but totally unwelcome and unwanted.

For last year, the message was that Utrecht’s Early Music Festival might well be totally scrapped. Financial problems and cultural budget cuts threatened to obliterate this brilliant festival which has been organised for 35 years. Yet there was apparently enough money to waste it on a silly “La Serenissima” documentary.

Wise up guys! Get that fringe programme online and stop wasting money on supposedly appetising documentaries if this festival is under treat! If you absolutely need to fritter away money, spend it on your volunteers and musicians!

History of “La Serenissima”
Youtube Utrecht Early Music Festival 

Youtube Alla Francesca
Youtube Ensemble Leones
Youtube La Fonte Musica
Youtube Huelgas Ensemble

Antwerp Laus Polyphoniae 2016
Utrecht Early Music Festival 2016


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