Visiting Haddon may feel like stepping back in time whenever you come, but the historical atmosphere of the Hall will be enhanced this bank holiday by unique performances from de Mowbray’s Musicke.
The group pride themselves on the historical accuracy of the music, instruments and costumes presented in their performances, aiming to authentically represent musicians who would have played in a rural Tudor (or Medieval) court.
We caught up with the group before their recitals on Monday 28th May to find out more about the inspiration behind their style, what we can expect and what they’re looking forward to the most about performing at Haddon Hall:
Haddon Hall: Who are de Mowbray’s Musicke?
de Mowbray’s Musicke: We are a costumed band who play music, sing songs and showcase dances from the Tudor period, as well as from the earlier 15th century when required. We play a wide range of instruments from the period, which have been faithfully made according to records of the time. We’ve been playing together since 2011, although there have been some changes in personnel in that time.
HH: What do you think are the main differences between the historical instruments you use and more modern ones?
dMM: The main differences between our instruments and modern ones are in the tuning of the instruments and their reliability. Modern instruments are more complex – for example, having keys to get chromatic notes – and often play across a wider range of notes. Our crumhorns, for instance, only play across 9 notes.
Because there was no electric amplification at the time, instruments needed to be loud! Across the Tudor period we see shawms becoming confined to outdoor music, along with bagpipes and crumhorns remaining in fashion, but going out of favour by 1600. We also saw the ‘broken consort’ of instruments becoming the favoured means of playing indoor music rather than the family of instruments of the same type, but in different pitches – eg recorders, shawms.
Instruments were made of the materials available at the time, and this mostly meant wood, leather, gut and metal. There was no plastic!
HH: What was the significance of music in Tudor times?
dMM: Music was a very important element of Tudor life at court and in other fine houses. It was also a feature of life outside the manor’s walls.
Young men and women at court were taught to play music, sing and dance – at this period we were known as ’the dancing English’! Without music, there could be no dancing or singing. Travelling musicians worked at court, often also teaching dances.
We tend to think that music forms a backdrop to modern life, but it would also have been a regular feature of 16th-century life, marking such daily occurrences as the evening curfew.
HH: How do you make the music you play as authentic as possible?
dMM: We work hard to ensure that the instruments we play are representative of the period we represent. We play instruments which have been faithfully made according to records – pictures, books, carvings – of the time. Many of our instruments are made in England.
The way we play them is also close to the sound that would have been heard at the time, in the harmonies and combinations of instruments. Our costumes and singing similarly reflect the accuracy of our instruments, music and dances.
HH: You also perform and teach period dances. What can your audience expect from these demonstrations?
dMM: We showcase dances which were danced at English manors and halls in the 16th century. The dances may also have been danced away from these centres, but our records are from the higher echelons of society.
We work hard to be historically well-informed in our dances, using techniques of the period – but not of later times. There are 3 main types of dance: the stately pavans and almains, combined with the energetic couple dances such as galliards; the French branles; and the newly arriving English country dances. We can show all 3 types. We will be showing a galliard and a pavan in our show at Haddon Hall.
One of our specialities is providing the music and teaching at an event for a group of people, such as you might get at a folk dance. We can also provide all the entertainment for Revels and Banquets.
HH: What about performing at Haddon Hall are you particularly looking forward to?
dMM: We like playing at venues which would have had music, song and dance in the 16th century. We also like playing in houses which are more than empty shells. Haddon Hall is a fine house with many important features of the period we represent. We’re very excited about playing in such a prestigious venue. It is especially significant since we are based in the Midlands and the North.
We enjoy talking to people about what we do, our instruments – how they are made and how they work – and other features of life in 16th century England. We expect to do this at Haddon Hall since we will be on show from 11am to 3.30pm, outside the times of our concerts at noon and 2pm.
Performances from de Mowbray’s Musicke will take place at 12pm and 2pm on Monday 28th May and are included in your ticket price, alongside free archery and guided tours of the Hall throughout the day.