Welcome to the 16th biennial Berkeley Festival and Exhibition (BFX)! Founded in 1990, and alternating with the Boston Early Music Festival in even-numbered years, BFX has become one of the world’s largest and most important early music conclaves, deemed “a remarkable institution on the American musical scene” by The New York Times.

For the first time, the Festival will expand into San Francisco, bringing two days of main stage performances to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in addition to eight music-filled days in Berkeley.

Rachel Podger

Sample the great wealth and power of our musical heritage through our 20 main stage concerts, from works written in the Middle Ages all the way through the mid-19th century. Enjoy passionate and powerful performances by the leading exponents of early music, ranging from world-class ensembles based in the Bay Area to national and international touring ensembles. This year, we welcome the Festival debuts of several artists and groups, including Cappella Pratensis and Sollazzo Ensemble in their American debut, as well as the return of BFX favorites Vox Luminis and Rachel Podger.

We celebrate the return of Early Music America (EMA) to BFX. As the premier service organization for historically informed performance in North America, EMA will not only present its Young Performers Festival, but also its Emerging Artists Showcase competition and the inaugural Community Early Music Play Day, funded in part by an National Endowment for the Arts grant. We also celebrate our continued collaboration with the UC Berkeley Department of Music for a “celebration” of Beethoven’s 250 birthday.

One of the unique aspects of BFX is the continued strength of the Fringe, a series of independently-produced concerts by soloists and ensembles from around the world. In 2018, over 70 Fringe concerts took place, and a similar number will keep music flowing in between main stage events.

Be sure to check out this year’s Exhibition and Marketplace, a three-day bazaar featuring dozens of national and international makers and sellers of historical instruments, music scores, books, and paraphernalia, as well as abundant information for all early music lovers.

This year marks an important milestone in the history of the Festival, marking a decade since BFX came under the aegis of the San Francisco Early Music Society (SFEMS), itself a pioneer in the early music revival in the United States. It also marks the first BFX without co-founder Robert Cole, who stepped down in 2018 as the Festival’s artistic director. Since last year, SFEMS Executive Director Derek Tam has stepped into the role.

The Festival was conceived by then-Director of Cal Performances Robert Cole and the late Joseph Spencer, proprietor of The Musical Offering and a former SFEMS president. Over the years, the Festival has presented unique and amazing events: Mark Morris Dance Group’s interpretation of Rameau’s Platée; “Le Carousel du Roi,” featuring dressage horses and riders executing elaborate ballets from seventeenth-century France accompanied by shawms and sackbuts in their natural setting (outdoors); and the North American premiere of a long-lost Mass by Alessandro Striggio for 40 and 60 voices.