top of page

Medieval Music in the Dales 2023
Transitions: The Fifteenth Century

Top of Page
poster screenshot.jpg

Medieval Music in the Dales 2023 celebrates the music and the dancing of the fifteenth century. This was a period of transition in music. The modal styles of the medieval period were evolving and changing. The result was that the dominant of characteristic sounds of the sixteenth century were very different from those of, say, two hundred years earlier. New instruments came to the fore, consort music became a 'thing', and the balance between harmony and melody in musical creation tilted in favour of the former. It's also the time of the earliest surviving dance choreographies replete with both steps and music.

Our 2023 festival traces this evolution with a wonderful array of concerts, dance performances, talks, workshops - and of course loads of informal music-making.

What ticket to buy?

  • You can buy a Festival Pass for one, two or three days. A Festival Pass includes ALL daytime concerts and Queen Mary's Chamber concerts, and ALL workshops and talks (on the relevant days). Your Festival Pass also of course allows you to stay on site into the evening on any or all nights and enjoy the Tavern scene! A Festival Pass also allows you to get a Camping Pass to camp on site.

  • Festival Passes cost:

£125 for all three days

£90 for two days

£55 for one day

This page outlines the programme for Medieval Music in the Dales 2023.  Here are links to a print-friendly version of the programme, and also daily timetables. 

The following links will help you around this page...

Concerts in St Oswald's Church
St Oswald's Church was built at the same time as the Castle, at the end of the fourteenth century, and remains in use to this day. It's the venue for our six daytime concerts and our two evening concerts.  Seating is pews, so bring a cushion to be sure of your comfort!
Evening Concerts: Friday & Saturday 7.30pm, St Oswald's Church

The Medieval Music in the Dales evening concerts bring together most of our concert performers, spread over the two nights. Friday features sparkling vocalists Refekae, the amazing Becki Austen-Brown (quite possibly with a guest performer) and the harp and lute of In Cytharis, plus music and dance from Gaita. Saturday features wind virtuosos Blondel, the Rose Consort of Viols, and the wonderful Fount & Origin - plus more music and dance from Gaita.

In Cytharis: In Cytaris vel etiam in organis
Carolin and Ailen Final!-12_edited.jpg

In Cytharis is the harp and lute duo specialising in music of the fifteenth century. The clear articulation of the plectrum lute is juxtaposed to the hypnotic buzz of the gothic harp with its bray pins - a feature that was common for the construction of harps at this period. The resulting sound is one that to today’s audiences often appears to be reminiscent of instruments like the sitar and is one rarely associated with preconceived ideas of the sounds of late medieval and renaissance Europe.

Ailen Monti and Carolin Margraf met while studying at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and founded In 
Cytharis in 2020. "Absolutely marvellous” (Professor David Fallows)

Concert 1pm, Saturday 9th September - free with Festival Pass

Participation in evening concert, Friday 9th September: £20 

Blondel: Zephyrus his swete brethe

Blondel gives engaging and spirited performances of Medieval and Renaissance wind music, performin ceremonial fanfares and intimate chansons, dances and theatre music on shawms, bagpipes, recorders, curtals and a variety of percussion. It is easy to imagine how the bold tones of a shawm band cut across the hustle and bustle of dance and banquet halls, or even a city square. More surprising to modern ears is the joyful and sophisticated beauty that results from this uniquely blended sound.

Blondel are Emily Baines, Lizzie Gutteridge and Belinda Paul. "Brilliant time travel experience"!

Concert 3pm, Friday 8th September - free with Festival Pass.

Participation in evening concert, Saturday 9th September: £20

The Rose Consort of Viols: Songs Without Words

For nearly four decades the Rose Consort has been delighting audiences across the UK, Europe and further afield. By using instruments and playing techniques appropriate to the various pieces they perform, the Rose Consort bring the musical riches of the past to life again. For MMitD they will be playing some of the earliest viol music, using specially commissioned viols based on those in a 1497 painting by Lorenzo Costa, in Bologna.

"the Rose Consort of Viols have a blend that might have been passed through muslin" (The Independent on Sunday).

This event is supported with funding from Continuo Foundation.

Concert 1pm Sunday 10th September - free with Festival Pass

Participation in evening concert, Saturday 9th September: £20

Pellingmans' Saraband: The Swallow’s Nest 
Fifteenth-century vocal and organ transcriptions

Jacob Heringman and Susanna Pell have been musical colleagues for almost 25 years. As Pellingmans' Saraband, they explore the unique sonority of a bowed fretted instrument with a plucked and bring some of the greatest music of the Renaissance and Early Baroque period to life. For MMitD, they are focusing on the music of the late fifteenth century, and are joined by the wonderful Rebecca Austen-Brown (right). 

Concert 1pm, Friday 8th September - free with Festival Pass 

Rebecca Austen-Brown will be participating in the evening concert on Friday 8th September: £20

Images copyright: l: Simon Ryder, r: Guy Carpenter.

PS Simon Ryder 2 reduced.jpeg
Fount & Origin: The Sword and the Lily 
Transitions from this life to the next

Fount & Origin is an early music ensemble specialising in vocal music of the late Middle Ages, committed to reviving unknown works from the period and researching the rich history that underpins their composition and performance. 

Formed in Autumn 2018 by James Tomlinson, the ensemble delights in performing medieval music to the highest standards of choral performance, combining a conscientious approach to musical expression with historical insight and demonstrating ‘impressive control over challenging idioms’ (Edward Higginbottom, 2019).

Concert 3pm, Sunday 10th September - free with Festival Pass  

Participation in evening concert, Friday 9th September: £20

Refekae: A Century of Song

Refekae* have formed specifically for this festival, and consist of brothers Richard and David de Winter, and Catherine Backhouse, all of whom have been schooled in the UK choral tradition. The programme will show how vocal music develops in Europe throughout the 15th century, from lush monophony in the early part to the bewildering counterpoint of the 1490s, as found in the Eton Choirbook among other sources. 

Concert 3pm, Saturday 9th September - free with Festival Pass 

Participation in evening concert, Friday 9th September: £20

(* In case you are wondering, it's a Latin thing... Refekae: Ricardus, eius frater, et Katarina amica eorum - Richard, his brother, and their pal Catherine!) 

Mini-Concerts in Queen Mary's Chamber

Hugely successful last year, this is another chance to enjoy some beautiful music in the intimate setting of Queen Mary's Chamber. Each concert lasts around an hour, and places are strictly limited, so get there in good time. These Chamber Concerts are only open to Festival Pass holders and admission is free. 

Friday September 8th, 5.30pm

Jude Rees: an impressive range of wind instruments!

Leah Stuttard: Gothic harp and 'Top of the Pops - a selection of the most popular songs from the fifteenth century'

Saturday September 9th, 5.30pm

Bill Taylor: a programme of late-medieval music from England and the Continent, played on a medieval double harp.

Anna O'Connell: “Pfeif aus, lass raien!”: Fifteenth Century German Song, accompanied on the harp


All workshops are 90 minutes long unless otherwise stated.

Please note the level for each workshop - only go for intermediate or advanced if you are already genuinely comfortable with the instrument, voice or skill. Beginner is suitable for all who feel they need the basics.


Festival Choir

Get to grips with fifteenth-century polyphony with the members of Refekae, and work on a short performance for the Festival Finale on Sunday. 

Friday, Saturday and Sunday 9am-10am, St Oswald's. INT/ADV

Fifteenth-century vocal improvisation, with Leah Stuttard

Look at the rules for four part improvisation and apply them to music from the Bayeux manuscript. 

Saturday 11.15am-12.45pm, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV


Playing for Dancing

Develop your skills for working with dancers, with Lizzie Gutteridge of Blondel

Thursday, 5-6.30pm, St Oswald's. This workshop is open to Festival Passes for any day. INT

Recorders, with Emily Baines

Explore medieval recorder repertoire and technique with Emily Baines of Blondel

Friday 10.15-11.45am, St Oswald's.  INT/ADV

Beginner Harp

Get comfortable with your medieval harp, with Gill Page (Festival Director). This workshop is intended for those new to the medieval harp or just wanting to try it out. Harps will be available for loan from the Early Music Shop.

Friday 5.15-6.15, St Oswalds. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Drumming for Dancing, with Terry Mann

Another chance to explore techniques for working with dancers, with Terry Mann. 

Friday 9.30-11am, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV

Playing 15th Century English Songs on all Harps 

A workshop on 15th century English repertoire with Bill Taylor of Ardival Harps

Friday, 11.15am-12.45pm, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV

Vielle Workshop, with Rebecca Austen-Brown

Explore medieval bowed string techniques and repertoire. Suitable for all bowed strings - modern instruments welcome if you are looking to make your sound more medieval.

Saturday, 10.15-11.45am, St Oswald's. INT/ADV

Beginner Bagpipe, with Paul Leigh

First steps on a bagpipe, focussing on control of the bag and making a consistent sound. With bagpipes available to borrow, courtesy of The Bagpipe Society.

Saturday 9.00-10.00am, Castle Hearth. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Stepping up your Ensemble Arrangements, with Jude Rees

Work on arranging your medieval music in ensemble. Suitable for all instruments. 

Saturday 9.30-11.00am, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV

Family Ensemble Workshop with Jude Rees

Work on some splendid processional music - with the (optional!) chance to star in the Festival Finale!

Saturday 1.30-3.00pm, Great Chamber. BEG/INT/ADV

Beginner Vielle

Have you played violin or other bowed strings and want to take it medieval? Join the brilliant Juliette Primrose to have a go on a vielle and get the basics of this core medieval instrument. 

Sunday 10.15-11.45am, St Oswald's. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Beginner Shawm

Make a loud parp! have a go on a shawm, perfect for fifteenth-century music

Sunday 9.00-10.00am, Castle Hearth. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Fifteenth-Century Ensemble with the Rose Consort

Explore the ’songs without words’ from late 15th century Italian manuscripts. Suitable for bowed strings, recorders and similar. This event is supported with funding from Continuo Foundation. 

Sunday 9.30-11.00am, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV

Arrangement and Intabulations with In Cytharis

Explore the earliest manuscript sources of intabulations for lute, harp and keyboard and play fifteenth-century arrangements. Suitable for bowed strings, recorder, harps, gittern and similar; some knowledge of sight-reading (of modern notation) required.

Sunday 11.15am-12.45pm, Queen Mary's Chamber. INT/ADV


We are grateful for the support of The Historical Dance Society and the Early Dance Circle for our Dance Workshops.

Introduction to 15th century English dance, with Gaita

This workshop, suitable for beginners, will teach a selection of dances from the “Gresley” manuscript, written in England in the last quarter of the 15th century. It will focus on those dance descriptions for which there is also music in the manuscript, and which are relatively straightforward and fun to learn.

Friday, 9.30am-12.30pm (with a break), Great Chamber. BEG FULLY BOOKED


Work on this stylish and wonderful Italian dance - and find out about its Yorkshire links!
Please note: this workshop will now be led by Helen Young of Herts Early Dance

Friday, 1.30-3.00pm, Great Chamber. INT/ADV

Dancing Angels and Shepherds, with Hazel Dennison: CANCELLED

A workshop based on the four musical mesures and basic steps of fifteenth-century Italian dance, linked to the Shepherds' Play in the Wakefield Cycle of mystery plays.

Saturday 9.30-11am, Great Chamber. BEG/INT

This workshop has had to be cancelled but has been replaced with:
Voltati in ca Rosina - a chance to explore this dance from Ambrosio, with Helen Young and Herts Early Dance. Same time, same place. Intermediate.

Workshop with Herts Early Dance

A practical workshop, suitable for beginners, this is an opportunity to try some Italian dances. You will learn the steps and patterns you need to dance Petit Riens – a fun dance for three, Amoroso – a chance to express yourself in a simple couple dance, and to try the noble form of Bassadanze. If possible, wear soft soled, flexible shoes.
Herts Early Dance are a social dance group made up of musicians “The Presence” and of course dancers, just a few of whom are with us this weekend. They meet regularly in St Albans to enjoy dances of (mainly) the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Saturday 11.15am-12.45pm. Great Chamber. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Gresley dances using “new” (old) music, with Gaita 

The Gresley” manuscript, written in England in the last quarter of the 15th century, contains 26 dance descriptions but only 13 tunes, only 8 of which clearly share a name with the descriptions. In this workshop we will look at several of the remaining dances which we have speculatively reconstructed to fit surviving 15th century English (and in one case Italian) songs. Some previous experience of early dance will be assumed.

Sunday 9.30am-12.30pm, Great Chamber. ADV

Beginner Fifteenth-Century Dance, with Grantham Danserye

Another chance for beginners to get to grips with the Gresley repertoire - perfect if you want to include dance in your history displays.

Sunday 1.30-3.00pm, Great Chamber. BEG FULLY BOOKED

Talks & Presentations

All talks are 45-50 minutes long and take place in Queen Mary's Chamber (upstairs from the Solar)

‘Hidden in Plain Sight: Is this a Doucaine I see before me?’, with Eric Moulder

A musical instrumental mystery...

Friday 4.15pm, Queen Mary's Chamber

The Earliest Italian Dance Manuals, with Juliette Primrose.

Find out about the fascinating 15th century world of Guiglelmo Ebreo de Pesaro and Domenico of Piacenza.

Saturday 2pm, Queen Mary's Chamber

The Harp in the Fifteenth Century, with Bill Taylor 

An illustrated talk with music

Saturday 3.15pm, Queen Mary's Chamber

Vocal Polyphonic Improvisation, with Fount & Origin

A demonstration of improvised polyphony, exploring the building blocks of medieval improvisation techniques, with off-the-cuff improvised performances.

Saturday 4.15pm, Queen Mary's Chamber

Medieval Music in the Fifteenth Century: Transitions, with Gill Page

The fifteenth century broadly covers a transition from medieval styles to renaissance styles. What makes the difference? A few thoughts! 

Sunday 3.15pm, Queen Mary's Chamber

One-to-One Tuition

Why not take advantage of the amazing musicians present at Medieval Music in the Dales and snap up a bit of one-to-one tuition? Our One-to-Ones are based on a 50-55 minute session, costing £40, and take place a short walk away from the hustle and bustle of the festival...

This year, One-to-Ones are available with:

  • Emily Baines (recorder) FULLY BOOKED

  • Alison Crum (viol) (NB Sunday afternoon only) FULLY BOOKED

  • Terry Mann (pipe & tabor / frame drum) FULLY BOOKED

  • Carolin Margraf (gothic harp)

  • Ailen Monti (lute) FULLY BOOKED

  • Juliette Primrose (vielle)

  • Jude Rees (bagpipe, shawm) FULLY BOOKED

  • Bill Taylor (medieval harp)

  • Steve Tyler (hurdy gurdy). Steve will have a gurdy available for those without an instrument.

  • Richard de Winter (voice)

Please note that spaces are limited, so if you are keen it's a good idea to book early. 

Castle Stages
Castle Stages

We expect as ever a wonderful range of musicians performing on the Castle Stages. You might see some of our professional musicians unable to resist the opportunity to join in, or one of the many other bands who attend each year to add their music to the scene. The line-up will be confirmed in the month before the Festival.

There's more information here about being a Castle Stage Performer - if you are interested in taking part in future years just get in touch.

This year, we have two musical Castle Stages, plus a special Dance Stage in the Great Chamber:

The Tavern Stage

This is in our magnificent decorated Marquee, transformed into The Whole Gamut Tavern for the weekend. Expect lively sounds and even a bit of dancing!

The Hearth Stage

MMitD stalwarts will remember the old Tavern space inside the Castle. This year, it is the Hearth Stage: the fire and candles will be lit for a cosy and atmospheric space suitable for more gentle sounds. There'll be a small bar in operation too, during the afternoons.

PLUS... The Great Chamber

This year, the Great Chamber is home to loads and loads of dancing, with performances from Herts Early Dance, Grantham Danserye and Colchester Historical Dance. Performances will showcase dances from the dancing masters of the 15th century ducal courts in Italy: Domenico da Ferrara and Guglielmo Ebreo/Ambrosio, plus a few other favourites from manuscripts of that time and place plus dances and music from the English Gresley manuscript.


Instrument Makers Exhibition

Simply the best place to browse and try out gorgeous replica medieval instruments (plus a few later ones as well). This year the Instrument Makers Exhibition will be in the Solar and Nursery, and runs 1-5pm Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday and 10am-4pm Sunday.

The line up of instrument makers will be confirmed in April.

The Whole Gamut Tavern

The Whole Gamut Tavern stays open into the evening on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for Festival Pass holders only, and this is the place to come for a bit of a session, informal playing and dancing, and of course a bit of a drink. 

Terry and Jude in the Tavern

Want to learn a few medieval tunes in a relaxed slow session? Join Terry Mann on Friday evening and Jude Rees on Saturday evening - 6.30-7.30pm each night. A great way to get your evening underway!

Festival Finale

This year's finale will be in the Great Chamber at 4pm on Sunday- join us for performances, the all-important RAFFLE! and the traditional group photo. 

Sunday Night in the Great Chamber

On Sunday evening, we have an informal get-together in the Great Chamber of Bolton Castle. The fires are lit and the candles too, and there's a bar on hand - and the music and dancing just seem to happen! Admission is free, but places are strictly limited, so you need to REGISTER at the Festival Desk to get your name on the admission list. First come first served!

bottom of page