Digitally Reconstructing Manuscripts – an open weekend

Venue: Faculty of Music, St Aldates, Oxford, OX1 1DB

Date: Saturday 14th May, 10:30am to 1:00pm and Sunday 15th May, 1:30 to 4:30pm

Tickets: Free and open to all!

SadlerWhen the Elizabethan gentleman John Sadler sat down to copy his music partbooks – adorned with elaborate initials, colourful inscriptions and charming pictures of birds, animals and plants – little did he know that he had chosen an overly acidic ink. Over the centuries this ink would burn through the paper, leaving his once beautiful partbooks stained, difficult to read, and too fragile to be handled. With funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Tudor Partbooks team are digitally reconstructing Sadler’s manuscripts to return them to their former glory.

Join the team to discover more about John Sadler and the process of digitally reconstructing his partbooks. Drop in anytime during the times above to meet volunteer restorers, try your hand at digital reconstruction, hear performances by viol consorts and choirs of the music that Sadler copied, and even have a go at singing from our reconstructed manuscript pages. For a full schedule of talks and performances click here.

Virtuosic music for solo recorder

Venue: St Mary Magdalen Church, Magdalen Street, Oxford, OX1 3AE

Date: Saturday 14th May at 1.15pm

Tickets: £12 (U18 £5)

Laszlo‘Looking at the smaller picture’
Diminutions and variations from late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Italy

Virtuoso recorder player, László Rózsa and renowned harpsichordist Jan Waterfield combine in a programme exploring the enticing world of musical ornamentation. The practice of ‘diminutions’ (adding ornamented smaller notes) reached its peak in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, with performers demonstrating their facility and ingenuity in improvised works on popular madrigals, melodies and dance music.

Hungarian-born recorder player, László Rózsa, studied in Vienna, Hamburg and London, and is already marked out as one of the finest players of his generation. Accompanied by one of the UK’s most accomplished harpsichordists, this programme provides the perfect showcase for László’s exceptional talent.


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View programme here

‘Spem in alium’ – a workshop

Venue: St Peter's College Chapel, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, OX1 2DL

Date: Saturday 14th May, 2.30 - 5.30pm

Tickets: £15 (£5 students). Reserve your place at, stipulating voice part.

TallisJeremy Summerly, founder of Oxford Camerata and Director of Music at St Peter’s College, Oxford leads a workshop based around Thomas Tallis’ momentous forty-part motet Spem in alium. Aimed at experienced amateur choral singers, the workshop will explore the wide variety of works left to us by Thomas Tallis, a composer who worked under four different monarchs during a turbulent time in English history. An opportunity to sing in Tallis’ forty-part motet, justly considered one of the crowning glories of English Tudor music, is a thrilling and rewarding challenge for any choral singer!


This workshop is open to anyone with experience of choral singing. Tickets £15 (£5 students) to include tea/coffee and biscuits. Reserve your place at, stipulating voice part.

The Choir of Merton College

Venue: Merton College Chapel, Merton Street, OX1 4JD

Date: Saturday 14th May at 8pm

Tickets: £20 (concessions £15 and £10) from

Merton shotAlessandro Striggio’s great 40-part motet, Ecce beatam lucem, lost for four hundred years and rediscovered in 2007, is believed to have spurred Tallis to write his masterpiece, Spem in alium, when Striggio brought it to London in 1567. Merton College Choir’s success as a breeding-ground for young singers is celebrated with the return of some of its most outstanding alumni to bring Striggio’s great piece to life, alongside works by the Renaissance choral masters Gabrieli, Victoria, Praetorius and Schütz.

A pre-concert talk will be given by Professor Suzanne Aspden at 7pm, free for all ticket holders.


This concert is a co-promotion with Music at Oxford
View the programme here.


‘A Life of Love and Joy’ – Songs from Medieval Europe

Venue: New College Chapel, Holywell Street, OX1 3BN

Date: Saturday 14th May at 10pm

Tickets: £12 (U18 £5) from

Voice trioVoice, the unique a cappella trio, presents an atmospheric late-night concert of sacred and secular songs from medieval Europe.  Their programme features the devotional, soaring chant of the German medieval abbess, Hildegard of Bingen, whose music has long inspired the group, alongside heartfelt songs and florid motets by composers such as Guillaume de Machaut and Jacopo da Bologna.


“I would defy anyone to listen and not be moved” The Oxford Times


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Dowland Songs at Magdalen Library

Venue: Old Library, Magdalen College, High Street, OX1 4AU

Date: Sunday 15th May at 1pm

Tickets: Free to attend


Drop-in performances at 1pm, 1.20pm and 1.40pm.

In a late addition to the Festival programme, Emma Kirkby will join the musicians of Dowland Works for a series of short lunchtime recitals in advance of their evening concert.

Magdalen College Library recently purchased a rare surviving copy of the original publication of the songs of John Dowland, and this beautiful volume will be on display. This is a unique opportunity to hear some of the finest music of the seventeenth century in the intimate and stunning setting of Magdalen’s Old Library. This event is generously supported by Arts Council England and is free to attend. Capacity is limited so please arrive early to guarantee a seat.





Singing from facsimile – a workshop

Venue: Holy Rood Church, Folly Bridge, Oxford, OX1 4LD

Date: Sunday 15th May, 4 - 6.30pm

Tickets: £15 (students £5), including tea/coffee and biscuits. To reserve a place, email, stating your voice part.

Dow 2Following the success of a similar workshop in 2015, John Milsom will lead a workshop introducing singers to reading from original Renaissance notation.  The session will give participants the chance to try their hand at singing from facsimiles of Tudor partbooks, and is aimed at experienced amateur singers. John Milsom is one of the world’s leading editors of and experts on Renaissance music. This workshop is held in conjunction with the exhibition, curated by Milsom, of musical treasures from Christ Church Library.


Tickets £15 (£5 students) to include tea/coffee and biscuits. To reserve a place, email, stating your voice part.

Emma Kirkby and Dowland Works

Venue: Holywell Music Room, Holywell Street, Oxford

Date: Sunday 15th May at 7pm

Tickets: £18 (U18 £5)

Lute“That sweet melodious sound” - Music by John Dowland and his contemporaries


Early-music superstar, Emma Kirkby, one of the leading lights of the Early Music revival, brings the next generation of performers to Oxford in a celebration of the music of John Dowland and his contemporaries.  In the near-perfect acoustic of Europe’s oldest purpose-built concert hall, Emma Kirkby and the talented young musicians explore the rich tradition of domestic music-making in seventeenth-century England.


Emma Kirkby (soprano) with: Angela Hicks, Roberta Diamond (soprano), Clemmie Franks (alto), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor), Richard Moore (bass)

Toby Carr, Wezi Elliott (lute)


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Exhibition – Musical Treasures from Christ Church Library

Venue: Christ Church Upper Library, St Aldate's, Oxford, OX4 1DP

Date: Monday - Friday 10am - 1pm, 2 - 4.30pm from Friday 13th May

Tickets: free

Ch Ch libraryDuring the Festival a selection of Oxford’s early music treasures will be displayed in the spectacular Upper Library at Christ Church. This special exhibition showcases the music-books used by singers in the age of Queen Elizabeth I, with special emphasis placed on partbooks – matching sets of volumes in which each singer views only her or his own voice-part, not the whole composition in score. Pride of place goes to John Baldwin’s manuscript partbooks, copied largely in the 1580s, which are the sole source of many of John Sheppard’s works, as well as of pieces by Thomas Tallis, Robert White, William Byrd and their contemporaries. Also on display are Robert Dow’s partbooks, dating from the same decade, and prized as much for their superb calligraphy as for their musical contents. Complementing the partbooks is a display of musical tablebooks, which require the singers to cluster round all four sides of the opened volume, reading in each direction; Thomas Morley and John Dowland are the composers featured here. There will be a chance to see a massive printed choirbook, Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Motecta of 1585, which is legible to a whole choir when placed on a lectern – and, in total contrast, a pioneering example of a printed study score, in the form of Claudio Monteverdi’s earliest opera, Orfeo.