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.

Jimmy 12 course 2

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.


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’.

Chris Dispicablus 2

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!


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?


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…

Next Meeting – 6th October, 2012

The next SLEGS meeting  will be Saturday 6th October at 2pm to 4pm in the Laigh Room of St Cecilia’s Hall – that is, the usual room.

Just turn up.

4th Meeting – 14 July, 2012

A very good meeting again, with a good turnout, good presentations and performances. Well done to all. We have no shortage of photographs, with three snap-happy photographers – Bill Samson, Rob MacKillop and Stuart Goldie.

Thanks to Elly Smith for booking the Laigh Room of St Cecilia’s Hall – the perfect venue for our happy gang.

Rob MacKillop began proceedings  with two studies by Fernando Sor on a Lacote copy by Michael Nalysnyk of www.historicalguitars.co.uk – everyone agreed it was a superb-sounding instrument, gut strung and played with the fingerstips. Rob discussed Sor’s technique as outlined in his Method, before applying that technique to the studies.

Rob then surprised everyone by introducing a gut-strung fretless banjo, a copy of one by Boucher from the 1850s. We heard music by Tom Briggs, allegedly culled from his time on Southern plantations; and two items by James Buckley from the 1860s which used the higher positions of the fretless fingerboard extensively. Rob was clearly enjoying the challenge of playing fretless. A few listeners described the experience as a ‘revelation’.

Chris Jupp played Preludes 9 and 78 by Elias Mertel from Stefan Lundberg’s Lute Calendar – a different piece for every day of the year. Both pieces used high position shifts, which Chris managed without looking at his hands – not an easy task. The music was very interesting. Chris gets a rich sound out of his Early Music Shop 8c lute.

Newcomer, James Jackson, who made the trip all the way from Durham, played the beautiful, ‘I wish I were where Helen lies’ from the Balcarres manuscript. James played a 12c made by students of David Van Edwards’ school, and rented from the Lute Society. His playing was deft and sensitive, while easily negotiating some very awkward shifts. We look forward to his next contribution!

Bill Samson summoned some exquisite tones from his self-made 7c Venere-Hieber lute, playing Dowland’s ‘Mrs Winter’s Jump’, a Ferrabosco Pavan, and Kemps Jig. This was decidely Bill’s most accomplished performance to date. The tempos seemed perfect, and the phrasing in the pavan was very beautiful indeed. Encore!

Graham Wylie played his Martin de Witte swan-necked 13c (sounding magnificent in all registers). We heard an anonymous Fantasia, and two preludes, in Dm and F, by Weiss. There were many excellent moments, and it is gratifying to see Graham grow in confidence and accomplishment with every performance.

Stuart Mcluckie gave a sprightly performance of two passamezze, one by Le Roy, and one from the Dallis lute book – good, rhythmical performances, on a very good sounding James Marriage lute. Looking forward to more from Stuart next time!

David Bateman gave a presentation about extended-range guitars, showing a couple of modern 10 and 11-stringers from Spain, but also a beautiful Schrammel guitar picked up on a recent trip to Vienna. We hope to hear him play some Viennese classics next time :-)

To draw the performances to a close, Gordon Ferries played an astonishing performance of Robert de Visee’s suite in Dm for guitar – the famous one – but with a change of Allemende. Look out for Gordon’s next CD which will contain this suite. His Martin Haycock 5c sounded absolutely magnificent.

The date for the next meeting will appear on this site soon…

Now, a million photos…

From Stuart Goldie:

From Rob MacKillop:

From Bill Samson:

Next Meeting – 14th July

The Scottish Lute and early Guitar Society will meet again on Saturday 14th July, 2012, at the usual place – St Cecilia’s Hall – at the usual time, 2pm. 

Hope to see you there!