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Date Of Next Meeting: 19th April

The next meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will be Saturday, 19th April, St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh. Assemble from 1pm for a 1.30pm start. All welcome.

If you wish to make a presentation, please get in touch: robmackillop AT gmail dot com.

Review of 9th Meeting – 1st February 2014

A fine meeting indeed! Good to see more new faces and a few guests. Thanks go, as ever, to the staff at St Cecilia’s Hall.

Rob MacKillop started proceedings again, and acted as MC throughout. First he presented a Turkish tanbur, which was a new (one day-old!) eBay acquisition for him. He gave a short talk about Ottoman music, with its many microtones, then proceeded to give a searching doodle on the C Major scale – you have to start somewhere! Hopefully Rob will perform a complete piece at the next meeting.

Next, Rob got out a ukulele, and gave a short presentation about the 19th-century machete from Madeira, itself a very small 4-string guitar. More about this instrument and its music on Rob’s website HERE. He gave a performance of the delightful Clara Polka from the manuscript of Drummond de Vasconcelos, Madeira, 1846.

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Chris Jupp bravely used a borrowed lute (as one of his strings was at bursting point), but gave a fine performance of a really beautiful and interesting piece: a pavan, attributed in its manuscript to Anthony de Countie, who may have been one and the same as Anthony Holborne. I’d love to hear this piece again sometime, Chris.

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Next up was Stuart Mcluckie, who, playing a 7c lute, gave a good rendition of  ‘Rogero’ and ‘The Division of Rogero Before’ both from the
Dallis Manuscript (via The Lute Society’s ’58 very Easy Pieces’) and, by audience demand, Kemp’s Jig. Stuart plays well at every meeting, and I always look forward to hearing what he has been working on.

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Bill Samson just seems to grow in confidence with each performance, due in some part to playing pieces below his level of ability – something we should all think about. What we just get through at home on a good day, is likely to fall apart under the pressure of performing to other players. No problems here with Bill, who not only played Galliard Les Cinq Pas and an Allemande by Guillaume Morlaye (1552), but did so on his own home-made 4c guitar – and it sounded beautiful!

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Graham Wylie gave an interesting and thoughtful introduction to two pieces by Robert Ballard on his 10c lute, placing the instrument at the crossroads between the dying embers of the Renaissance, and the birth of the baroque. Graham then performed A Courante, originally published I think in 1618, and Ballet number 9 from Ballard’s “Premier Livre” of 1612.

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Eric Thomas was a new face to the society, but I’m sure he will become a familiar one. He got an exquisite, sweet tone from his Barber-Harris student lute. First he gave a ripping rendition of the Calata Ala Spagnola by Joan Ambrosio Dalza, then a thoughtful interpretation of Sir John Smith’s Almaine by someone called John Dowland…a fantastic piece!

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Gordon Ferries performed some really interesting and beautiful pieces on the 5c guitar: a suite in Bb Major by Francois Campion – written in an unusual scordatura. I’d love to hear it again, and hope it will form part of Gordon’s next recording.

After the playing, Bill Samson gave a very useful illustration of how to tie gut and nylon frets, using a dummy lute neck and a cigarette lighter – I was terrified the museum’s sprinkler system would burst into operation! Thankfully it didn’t. Thanks to Bill for making the effort. We are looking to the membership to put forward ideas for future talks. If you would like to make a presentation, contact Bill Samson or Philip Lord via the circular emails, or contact me – robmackillop AT gmail.com.

Much discussion in huddles followed, as ever, and continued long after this reviewer had time to stay.

The above photos were by Stuart Goldie. The ones below, by Bill Samson.

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Date of Next Meeting: 1st Feb, 2014

The next meeting will be in the usual place, St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh, on Saturday 1st February, gathering from 1pm for a 1.30 start. It usually lasts two hours or so. All welcome!

 

Review of 8th Meeting – 12th October 2013

A smaller turnout than usual, but with a few notes of absence from members who are away at the moment. Big welcomes, though, to two new members: Annie Pia and Reyyan Khawlah Özer!

Another surprise was the absence of any lutes or guitars in the museum’s collection. They had all been put into storage to make way for a wonderful bagpipe exhibition.

We started with an hour of playing. There then followed a discussion about the future of the society.

Philip Lord got the performance part of the afternoon underway, with three pieces on his Paul Thomson vihuela, only one of which was a Spanish piece. I for one don’t mind hearing 6c lute repertoire on its Spanish cousin.

First we had Sellinger’s Round  [from a manuscript in Trinity College, Dublin (MS 408/2) published by the Lute Society 1999] which was well played, the vihuela’s round, warm voice providing a welcome and soothing antidote to the Edinburgh traffic outside.

There followed two versions of the so-called Toy –  from the Jane Pickering Lute Book – one slow, and one fast.

Philip signed off with a performance of Fantasia No. 1 – from Luis Milan’s El Maestro, 1536. Although one of Milan’s easier pieces, it is far from easy, but Philip coped reasonably well with its intricacies. It would be nice to hear more vihuela music from him in the future.

Bill Samson played next, the difficult Pavana a la Ferrarese by Joanambrosio Dalza. It’s not easy on a 6c lute, and less so on a 10c, although this one was Bill’s home made (in the best sense) 10c lute, which despite being new revealed some beautiful, sparkling trebles. Well done, Bill, both for the lute and the performance.

Another Bill Samson lute was next heard in the hands of Rob MacKillop, who prefaced his performace with a little information on the Scottish “port”, pronounced porscht, which is attached to a number of pieces in the Straloch manuscript. Port refers to an air or tune which is not a dance. Rob then gave a committed performance of A Port and Port Jean Linsay, from Straloch. Everyone was in agreement that the lute sounded lovely.

Graham Wylie was up next, playing music by Nicolas Vallet and Robert Ballard on a 10c/11c lute by Martin Shepherd. Graham gave an interesting foreword, before playing a piece which to this reviewer’s lugs sounded very much like a piece in the Rowallan manuscript. This should be no surprise, as trade was rich between the two countries at this time, and a couple of Dutch pieces can be found in Scottish manuscripts. It was nice to hear Graham perform  this – not easy – music.

Then we had a short but very beautiful performance on Baglama Saz by Reyyan Khawlah Özer, a student at the university, who had just had her second lesson in saz playing from another university student. It was wonderful to see Reyyan, and everyone seemed very interested in the saz and Turkish music in general. The saz is very much a minority instrument in Scotland (!) so it is only right that the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society should provide support to Reyann in her studies, and I hope we can hear from her again at the next meeting – which should be in January: watch this space.

The discussion which followed touched on many subjects, not least the character of the society, and would that change if we opened up to other instruments in order to build up a membership. There seemed to be a general feeling that the present membership valued the small scale, intimate and supportive meetings, and feared that that might be compromised in a drive to attract other musicians. There was no great plan of action decided upon, so business will be as usual. We are, however, on the hunt for speakers. If you have a topic you’d like to present at a future meeting, please contact Bill Samson [billsamson at hotmail.co.uk] or Philip Lord [Philip at philiplord.net].

Photos by Bill Samson, other than the photos of Bill Samson, which are by Rob MacKillop, as is the photo of Philip Lord  :-)

Philip Lord:

Philip LordBill Samson:

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Rob MacKillop:

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Graham Wylie:

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Reyyan Khawlah Özer:

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Rob MacKillop:

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Next Meeting – 12th October, 2013

There have been a few changes to SLEGS over the summer. Rob MacKillop decided running the whole show was too much for one person, so stepped down to see who might step up. A small committee has now formed itself, and will be discussing the new version of SLEGS at this next meeting.

Date: 12th October 2013

Venue as before: St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh. Gather from 1pm for playing from 1.30. The venue will be open to the public from 2pm – so if you don’t like playing to a potential audience of the general public, play early!

Looking forward to seeing everyone again.

Review of 7th Meeting – 11 May, 2013

The earlier start of 1pm, to avoid the hoards of the Great British Public, seemed a bit over-protective, as only one person came through the doors after 2pm. Still, one never knows how many people will visit, so – if we can – it might be worthwhile making 1pm the regular time.

First up was Bill Samson, who played a 6c lute he made in the early 1970s, complete with fluorocarbon fishing line strings, and it sounded beautiful. He played Dowland’s Fortune My Foe, which was greatly appreciated – its original use as a gallows song reminding present players that they were up next… [photos by Stuart Goldie - click on image for larger version]

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Stuart Mcluckie played Judenkunig’s version of the famous Calata al la Spagnola, and took it at quite a lick, which then got faster. The performer did say afterwards that that was not his intention! But, actually, he pretty much got it. Good performance, Stuart.

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Philip Lord performed on his stupendously beautiful Paul Thomson 7c lute – possibly the best 7c I’ve ever had the fortune to play, alas all too briefly. Philip played The Lady Rich’s Galliard by Dowland, with some really beautiful moments.

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Then we had another visitor from foreign climes – my old cyber friend from Finland, Timo Peedu, who was visting Scotland with his wife, to see their daughter who is studying at Aberdeen University. Timo played a borrowed baroque guitar, and gave a wonderful performance of some Swedish and Norwegian 5c guitar music. What a fine player Timo is! Really deft playing of some interesting repertoire. Thanks, Timo. I hope it’s not the last time you play for us.

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At a previous meeting I asked if performers could tell us more about the music they were playing, or the instrument. Well, Chris Jupp gave us a very interesting illustrative prelude to the Prelude by Dowland, from the Margaret Board lute book. Chris’s prelude last much longer than Dowland’s, but it was full of interesting titbits about technique and musical choices – whether to arpeggiate or not at cadences, decoration, rubato, etc. Very interesting, Chris, and nicely played. For this performance, Chris played the 8c by Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, which sounded very nice in Chris’s hands.

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Next up was the rare sighting of two 8-string Viennese classical guitars, both made after Stauffer by the Canadian luthier, Scot Tremblay. Rob MacKillop and Malcolm Cooper played four waltzes from Giuliani’s Opus 116, The Adventures Of Love. This was the first time Malcolm has played to the Society, and he acquitted himself really well. Looking forward to more from Malcolm!

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Rob MacKillop improvised a prelude to a Caprice in Cm by Legnani. Paganini’s duet partner is often seen as a mere show off, but every now and then he writes a beautiful piece, worthy of repeated listening.

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Rob then performed three short pieces on an Edward Light harp-lute. The instrument gives a soft, delicate and quite charming sound.

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Gordon Ferries brought the performances to an end with the famous Prelude and Chaconne by Corbetta. Gordon recently changed from nail to nail-less playing. He seems to have adapted to the new technique very quickly, giving an assured performance. Excellent playing, as ever, from Gordon. [This image by Bill Samson]

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When the playing stopped, the socialising began. Bill Samson put out a display of his lutherie tools,

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and a small but animated huddle gathered around that table, while elsewhere playing of various instruments could be heard.

A good meeting, with about an hour of performances followed by two hours of socialising, with opportunities to try out the instruments brought by members. Looking forward to the next one.

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The following images by Rob MacKillop:

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7th Meeting – 11th May, 2013

The date of the next meeting is Saturday 11th May, 2013, from 1pm to whenever.

Note the hour earlier start – the hall opens to the general public at 2pm. Please only attend between 1pm and 2pm if you are a member. If you are not a member, please attend from 2pm.

Usual venue – St Cecilia’s Hall, Cowgate, Edinburgh.

6th Meeting – 2 Feb, 2013

Wow – our biggest turnout, about 20 people, not all of whom came to play. Double-edged sword this one. On the one hand, it was a great event, with lots of smiles all round. On the other, there were some regulars who shied away from playing in front of a ‘crowd’. I know 20 is not a lot, but it did feel a bit more like a concert situation. I’d be interested in reading comments from regulars about this. I enjoyed it myself, but it is how the regular members feel that is of greater importance. Let me know.

The playing lasted for an hour, but the socialising afterwards went on almost twice as long, and seemed to be a wonderful experience for many of us.

First up was a new ensemble, jokingly called Los Trois Diabellis: Marte Raymond, voice flute, Elly Smith, voice, and Rob MacKillop, Viennese Guitar – formed to perform one of Diabelli’s fine ensemble pieces: An die Ruhe, Op.101.

Los Trois Diabellis

[All photos, either Bill Samson or Rob MacKillop]

Rob was playing a guitar by the Canadian luthier, Scot Tremblay, based on a Stauffer in the Edinburgh University collection, which Rob later pointed out to the audience. The guitar arrived 24 hours earlier, so the (rather handsome) performer had little time to get used to it. Nor did the ensemble have more than five minutes to meet, greet and rehearse, before coming out to play. The ensemble balance was apparently good, and the performers seemed to enjoy the moment. We hope to hear more from them at a future SLEGS meeting, hopefully with more rehearsal time under their belts. The song by Diabelli certainly deserves to be heard again.

Rob MacKillop then talked about this new guitar, and played two studies by Coste [Opus 38, 3 in Dm and 4 in D] utilising the 7th string. Although the guitar was being played for pretty much the first time, it gave a good impression of what is to come, once it and its player become better acquainted.

James Jackson played his own arrangement of ‘It’s A Wonder To See’ from the Straloch manuscript, followed by (Balcarres 83) a Sarabande by Mercure. Both sounded beautiful on the large 12c, on loan from The Lute Society. Good to see James performing confidently in front of an audience.

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Bill Samson and Stuart Mcluckie, a new and unrehearsed lute duo, gave a very good rendition of variations on Greensleeves from the Folger manuscript. They both produced glowing tones from their 7c and 8c lutes – a Bill Samson home-mader, and a James Marriage. No one would guess they had not rehearsed this piece for hours on end. Really, it was very good, and I hope we can hear more from them at a future meeting.

Bill and Stu

Chris Jupp played three pieces by Newsidler,  from Ein neugeordnet kuenstlich Lautenbuch (roughly translatable as ‘ An artful, newly ordered lute book’ (1536) 1. Wol kumpt der Mai (may is on its way), Ein guts Hoffententzlein (a good little courtly dance) paired with Der Hupf auf (which means hop on or perhaps hop along). Chris seems to have adopted a more relaxed playing posture than on previous occasions, as well as playing closer to the bridge with his right hand. He got a good tone from his Early Music Shop lute, but his playing is now demanding a professional instrument. Start saving, Chris. You deserve it.

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Chris Despopoulos flew all the way from the West Coast of the USA just to be with us (not 100 per cent true). Chris was in good cheer, seemed to be in his element, and treated us to some wonderful mandore playing from the Chancy manuscript, using a feather quill. I always love hearing the mandore, and watching the audience’s delight and wonder that such a small instrument could fill a room with sweet music. Chris should still be around for the next meeting, so we look forward to hearing some more from his ‘travel lute’.

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Another duo, David Bateman and friend (whose name I didn’t catch – sorry) played an Anon-Matelart Recercata, ‘La Terza’, with David on a modern 11-string guitar, and his partner on a 7c (?) lute. It is hoped that David will soon find a lute or historical guitar – that is what SLEGS is all about, after all. Sadly his guitar was almost twice as loud as the lute. Still, they gave a pleasant two minutes. In the absence of a Classical Guitar Society in Edinburgh, David is welcome. He is at least reading lute tablature and also learning to read from a figured bass. I look forward to the day when he performs some Austrian music on his 13-string Schrammel guitar…

String Em Up

Next up was PhD student, Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet, who gave a short presentation of his self-made Rauwolf lute. Jonathan will making a series of lutes based on the Fugger inventory. His first lute looked well made, and a queue of potential borrowers appeared in his wake! Rob MacKillop played a beautiful Scottish air on it. Now, Jonathan, you have three months to make another for the next meeting!

Jonathan

Rob MacKillop rounded of the playing hour with a presentation on the 18th-century wire-strung ‘guittar‘. The instrument collection in St Cecilia’s Hall includes some fine specimens of guittar, and Rob’s certainly looks the most beat-up, but oft-played of them all. The sound is magnificent, the warm glow of the rose-brass strings surrounding each note. Why these guittars are scarcely played today is a mystery. Rob talked about Robert Bremner and James Oswald, both big names in the guittar world, and who both used to perform in the very same room of the talk.

Then the talking, socialising, breaking off into huddles, started. This seems to be an important part of these meetings, and long may it continue to be so.

Before we get to the photos, how about a little Caption Competition?

Caption

Answers on a postcard…or Comment…or email.

And the rest…

The lads s The Boy Jupp table Schrammell RobEllyc Rob Rob Elly Jimmy 12c again Hey Chris Chris Breakout 12c plus

Many thanks to St Cecilia’s Hall for allowing us access to the magnificent Laigh Room. A more suitable venue could not be imagined!

NEXT MEETING – Date to be confirmed…watch this space.

Next Meeting – 2nd February, 2013

The next meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will be on Saturday 2nd February, 2pm to 4pm, St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh – the usual ground-floor room.

Rob MacKillop will give a short talk on the guitar in Edinburgh, circa 1750-1770.

5th Meeting – 1st Anniversary!

Saturday, 6th October, 2012

A good turnout for the first anniversary meeting, with some excellent performances, and a thought-provoking illustrated talk by luthier, Bill Samson.

Rob MacKillop started proceedings with three studies by Fernando Sor, played on a Lacote copy by Michael Nalysnyk, Opus 31, nos 18 in Bm, 23 in E, and 14 in G. The first two in particular are among the most beautiful studies by Sor, yet rarely heard. The gut-strung guitar sounded very full and mellow, unperturbed that behind it, in glass cases, there lurked a couple of original Lacote guitars…

Chris Jupp performed a difficult Ground from the Marsh lute book, a beautiful “Scots Tune” from the Rowallan manuscript, and finally, Port Jean Lindsay from the Straloch manuscript. It is wonderful to hear Chris’ confidence grow with each passing meeting. He certainly gets the most out of his Early Music Shop lute.

Philip Lord is in the process of moving house, with various instruments and scores in storage. Therefore we had the rare treat of hearing Dowland played on a 6c vihuela! Philip performed three versions of Orlando Sleepeth, from three different sources. There were a few nerves on show at the outset, but he quickly focussed mind, body and soul on the job in hand, and there were some very nice moments indeed, with his Paul Thomson vihuela sounding very clear. Some vihuela music next time, Philip?

Bill Samson brought out his self-made mandour, which is always an excuse for a few jokes, and amusing comments. Once that had settled down, Bill played three delightful pieces from the Skene manuscript: What If A Day, Ostende and I Long For Your Virginity. The tunes could have done with at least one repeat, seemingly over within seconds of starting, but short and sweet describes not only the music, but the instrument as well. One is tempted to stretch the description to the player also!

Stuart Mcluckie got a big sound out of his James Marriage lute, playing arrangements with decidedly questionable harmonies in Alan Alexander’s arrangements of tunes from the Skene manuscript. Stuart played well, but for this listener at least, the harmonies sounded more suitable to modern steel-strung guitar arrangements, and lost much of the uniqueness of the originals. As Robert Burns once said: “Whatever Mr Pleyel does, let him not alter one iota of the original Scots air…but let our National Music preserve its native features – They are, I believe, frequently wild & uneducable to the more modern rules; but on that very eccentricity, perhaps, depends a great deal of their effect”. Stuart might want to seek out copies of the original manuscripts…That aside, he played them beautifully!

Finally, Bill Samson gave us an illustrated walk through a number of images from paintings of lutes which have not survived into the present day. These lutes have not only not physically survived, but have been largely overlooked by today’s luthiers and players. Each image seemed to provoke lively debate, with the overall conclusion that we have narrowed our compass too greatly, as players and makers, and it would be to the greater benefit to try to recreate some of these forgotten lute models.

Next meeting: I will create a new Post here, once a date has been agreed. Do return to this website in a month or so.

Photos by Stuart Goldie…