Tony Carruthers is one of our Visitor Service Assistants at Cliffe Castle, and agreed to write a blog talking about his involvement the ‘Music at the Museum’ events we run there.
What springs to mind when you think of Cliffe Castle Museum? The Pholiderpeton? The observational beehive? The stunning fireplace made from malachite and the suite of reception rooms preserved to show how the house would have looked in the 1800s? How about music concerts?
Well, from 2pm on Sunday 10th September 2017 we will be beginning our 3rd season of monthly concerts, known as “Music at the Museum”, here at Cliffe Castle, held in the Bracewell Smith Hall. The season will be kicking off with a performance from The Haworth Band, and will continue throughout the year.
It may seem odd at first to have music concerts in the museum, but when you consider the history of Cliffe Castle it begins to make sense. The Butterfield Family were keen entertainers, holding regular balls in the Ball Room (where we now house the natural history collection), and inviting composers and musicians from across Europe to stay at Cliffe Castle. In fact, as you enter into the Working Landscapes Gallery in the museum, there is an enlarged photograph of Henry Isaac Butterfield and some guests, one of whom is named as Ricardo Vines, a Spanish pianist and composer. Henry Isaac regularly commissioned works from well-known composers of the time, such as Emile Waldteufel, who taught Empress Eugenie of France to play piano. At one point Henry Isaac even had a piece of music written especially for Cliffe Castle, known as the Cliffe Castle Gavotte, composed by Francois Behr.
The Butterfield’s were also keen musicians themselves, as evidenced in one of the first rooms you see on entering the museum – in the first of the reception rooms, known as the music room, there can be seen a Cello, Harp, Piano and an interesting instrument known as a Harp-Lute. Another Grand Piano can be seen in the Grand Drawing Room, opposite the Malachite fireplace.
In keeping with the musical heritage of Cliffe Castle, it was decided in late 2015 that we would begin holding a series of concerts, offering local community musicians and groups the opportunity to perform in the grand setting of the Bracewell Smith Hall. We began in December, with a carol concert from a local school choir. This seemed to be well received, and so from January 2016 we continued in earnest, initially staging concerts every two weeks. Some of the groups who performed in the first season included the Skipton Community Orchestra, the Haworth Ukulele Group (also known as H.U.G.) and Bingley based female voice choir Opus 44. We also had solo artists such as multi-instrumentalist Den Miller, and worked with local youth arts group Small World Keighley.
Overall the first season was deemed to be a success, with audience numbers growing steadily over the season and lovely comments being received
“Sheer delight at witnessing live talent” ,
“Listening to live music In a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting”
“It lifts the heart on a cold day”
Performers enjoyed it too, with many asking to return to Cliffe Castle at a later date.
With such fantastic feedback and keen audiences, the go ahead was given for a second season, and so after a summer break we began again, this time on a monthly basis running from September until July.
We had learnt some lessons from the first season too, making sure to use the P.A. system to introduce acts and songs, as we found that single vocals can sometimes become lost in the space.
The second season continued to be a success, with increasing audience numbers. We had a few returning acts such as Haworth Ukulele Group, and others new to Music at the Museum such as vocal harmony group Voicemail Harmony and the Steeton Male Voice Choir, Windstruments, a 25-piece flute orchestra, and the Trans-Pennine Harp Group among the acts who performed.
We did however have a bit of a blip during the second season, with one act cancelling at quite short notice, leaving us hastily trying to find a replacement. Unfortunately this left some people disappointed, as some had travelled quite a distance to see the act. But from this, we have learnt a lesson, and with the popularity of groups wishing to perform at the museum, we now have a good list of people to contact who would be willing to fill in at short notice should something like this happen again.
The second season was once again deemed a success, with increasing audience numbers, great feedback and request to return from performers. The go ahead was given for a third season, and we actually began to take bookings around halfway through the second season. In fact, by the time the second season had finished in July, we had completed the bookings for the whole of the third season.
Looking forward to another season of concerts kicking off on the 10th September, we have some exciting acts booked. Some will be returning to the museum, such as the Haworth Band, who will be starting the season off for us with a Brass band concert.
In November, exactly a year since they last performed for us, Voicemail Harmony will be giving us another vocal harmony concert. We also have some big bands coming up, and by big I mean that there are a lot of them – we have the return of Skipton Community Orchestra in April, the 2 Rivers Swing and Concert Bands (each band has 25 members, plus a full range of instruments) in December and March, and finishing the season in July will see the return of Steeton Male Voice Choir, with a whopping 50 singers involved!
We’re also having some smaller groups with folk duo Otra in February, and singer and pianist combo Adare in June.
Below is the full list of dates for the third season, starting on 10th of September at 2pm in the Bracewell Smith Hall at Cliffe Castle Museum. Have a look and we hope to see you at some if not all of the performances for “Music at the Museum”.
10th September – The Haworth Band
8th October – Bradford Voices
5th November – Voicemail Harmony
3rd December – 2 Rivers Swing Band
28th January – Bradford Concert Band
25th February – Otra (Folk Duo)
25th March – 2 Rivers Concert Band
22nd April – Skipton Community Orchestra
20th May – Noteability Concert Band
17th June – Adare
15th July – Steeton Male Voice Choir