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March 28, 2008

Live music in the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg entertains guests as they view 18th-century decorative arts

During the new program, Music in the Museums, the Governor’s Musick offers an elegant evening of live performance chamber music in the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg 3-4:30 p.m. Thursdays through June 12. During this drop-in music experience, guests can stroll through the galleries while listening to 18th-century music.

Colonial Williamsburg's resident early music ensemble performs on period instruments, including the 1762 Jacob Kirckman harpsichord, the viola da gamba, the English flute, the English guitar and the 1816 John Broadwood and Sons grand piano forte.

The harpsichord and the grand piano forte are originals. For much of the 18th century the harpsichord was the leading stringed instrument in Europe and America. Its clarity of melodic line and crispness of attack made it especially suitable for use as a solo instrument or as an accompaniment, or continuo, for small vocal or orchestral groups. At home and abroad the harpsichords of the London makers Burkhat Shudi and Jacob Kirckman were particularly admired. Frederick the Great of Prussia, Maria Theresa of Austria and composer Franz Joseph Haydn were among the foreign notables who owned English instruments. The case decoration of these harpsichords was usually figured walnut or, later, mahogany veneers with flamboyant brass hardware.

The grand piano forte is on loan from the College of William and Mary. A year before making a grand piano for Ludwig van Beethoven, the London firm of John Broadwood and Sons made and shipped this one to Mecklenburg County, Virginia. The recipient was Lady Skipwith of Prestwould Plantation in Clarksville. The piano remained in her family until it was given to the College of William and Mary in 1946.

The award-winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum houses the Foundation’s renowned collection of British and American decorative arts dating from 1600 through 1830. These include the world’s largest collection of Virginia furniture; one of the largest collections of Southern, British and American furniture; and the largest collection of English pottery outside England. Masterworks and period pieces acquired for Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area exhibition buildings bolster the museum’s holdings in furniture, metals, ceramics, glass, paintings, prints, maps and textiles.

The program is included in museum admission. For more information, call 1-800-HISTORY.

The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Entrance to The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg is through the Public Hospital of 1773 on Francis Street between Nassau and South Henry Streets. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For information and reservations call (757) 220-7724.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” -- a daily dramatic live street theater presentation -- is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121