Date of Next Meeting: Saturday 25th February, 2017

The 21st meeting will take place on Saturday 25th February, 2017.

Visitors are most welcome.

The venue is Chris Elmes’s place – 1F1, 25 Haddington Place, EH7 4AF (the left side of Leith Walk between Annandale St and MacDonald Rd). Parking is unrestricted off Leith Walk on weekends; MacDonald Road or Hopetoun Crescent is the best area.

Time: 1pm for a 1.30pm start. Two or three hours, depending on contributions from members.

There will be a charge of £1 a head for the use of the venue.

If anyone wishes to make a presentation, please contact Rob MacKillop: robmackillopATgmailDOTCOM

Report of 20th Meeting: 19th November, 2016

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A decent turnout for a visit by Jelma van Amersfoort (Holland) and Paul Sparks (England) playing duets for late 19th-century Italian mandolin and Spanish 19th-century guitar. This event also brought some new faces to the meeting, and it is hoped we see them return to future meetings.

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Rob MacKillop started proceedings, as he often does, this time on a guitar that arrived at his house two days before: An Aria copy of a Fleta classical guitar. The guitar was made in Spain under the José Antonio label, but administered from Japan. The result is a very Spanish-sounding instrument, with a big warm sound. Paul Sparks remarked how the treble reminded him of old Segovia recordings. Rob played a brief set of two short preludes by Ponce.

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Next, Stuart McLuckey played What If A Day from the Holmes manuscript, followed by Packington’s Pound. As ever, Stuart played well on his James Marriage 8c lute. It’s always good to hear Stuart play, and great to see his confidence growing with each meeting.

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Yasuhiro Nakashima played two pieces on his beautiful new Nico van der Waals 8c lute. He intended to play just one piece, Love Is Careless by Tobias Hume, but gave such a beautiful performance, an encore was demanded: a Fantasia by Luis de Narvaez. Yasuhiro is a shy performer, but easily wins over an audience with his beautiful tone production and intimate style.

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Next came the 13c lute of Philip Lord. Philip has lost the nerves battle a few times in the past, but this time played to the end of two pieces, a Gavotte and Double, by Weiss. For his efforts he received a deservedly resounding round of applause. Onwards and upwards, Philip.

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Bill Samson started his set with Mr Dowland’s Midnight, played on what used to be a 7c lute belonging to Rob MacKillop, but is now an 8c belonging to its maker, Bill himself. Next we heard another version of What If A Day, this time from the Pickering manuscript, with divisions written by the player. Very interesting, and well executed. Bill prefaced the performance with a reading from the original poem (printed HERE), expressing how much of a dot we are on a dot in infinite space…quite a suitable subject for astronomer Bill.

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Chris Jupp borrowed Yasuhiro’s new lute to perform an Allemande and Preamble On A French Courante by Terzi. I confess to not having listened to much Terzi before, but after this performance, I’m keen to hear more. Maybe next time. Well played, sir!

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Finally the special guests, Jelma van Amersfoort and Paul Sparks tuned up for a very interesting recital. Jelma was having her second visit, and brought with her an original, deep-bodied Spanish guitar of 1862, by Enrique Recio. It has a big, deep mellow sound, strong enough to be equal partner to the mandolin. Unusually, it has six fan braces.

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Paul Sparks is a very-highly respected researcher in mandolin and guitar history – his books are well worth reading, and are still in print. His knowledge of the mandolin seems second to none, and he talked at some length before and after the recital, eliciting many questions from interested members. He played a mandolin by the famous Raffaele Calace.

The Sonata for Mandolin and Guitar by Gian Francesco de Majo, started their set, and can best be described as charming. Not music to challenge the intellect, but certainly music to bring a smile to the face.

Then Jelma presented a Minuet and four variations of increasing difficulty, by Castro. I’d not heard Castro’s music before, and was mightily impressed. Equally impressive was the performer’s technique and musicianship.

Paul introduced us to the composer, Clara Ross, while detailing a little of the history of the female mandolin and guitar bands of 19th and early 20th-century Britain. Her Serenade For Mandolin And Guitar was a delight, and I hope the performers record it soon.

The set concluded with Calace’s Romanza For Mandolin And Guitar. How better to hear this than on a Calace-made mandolin? Paul gave a brilliant performance, showing complete command of the instrument, and although the mandolin took most of the attention, the guitar part was not without interest either. A fitting end to a good recital. Both performers can return anytime, and be assured of a warm reception.

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So, another excellent meeting. Thanks go to our visitors, and also to the members who turn up and contribute. It’s gratifying to see that we have reached our twentieth meeting – five years! It wouldn’t happen at all if not for the commitment of its membership, so: MANY THANKS to all those who take part. We have something quite unique here.

Date of Next Meeting: 19th November, 2016

The 20th meeting will take place on 19th November, and will be a special one. Jelma van Amersfoort, guitar, will be joined by Paul Sparks, mandolin, for some historical mandolin and guitar duets. Many members will remember Jelma’s previous visit to SLEGS, and will be delighted to see her again. Paul Sparks has written the two most important books on the history of the mandolin, and will answer any questions you have on its development and repertoire.

The venue is Chris Elmes’s place – 1F1, 25 Haddington Place, EH7 4AF (the left side of Leith Walk between Annandale St and MacDonald Rd). Parking is unrestricted off Leith Walk on weekends; MacDonald Road or Hopetoun Crescent is the best area.

Time: 1pm for a 1.30pm start. Two or three hours, depending on contributions from members.

There will be a charge of £1 a head for the use of the venue.

If anyone wishes to make a presentation, please contact Rob MacKillop: robmackillopATgmailDOTCOM

Report of 19th Meeting: August 13th, 2016.

This was a well-attended meeting with several new faces.  It started, as ever, with a good chinwag.  Rob eventually succeeded in getting everyone to sit down so that playing could begin

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Rob Mackillop was up first, with his very recently delivered early flamenco guitar by the American luthier Stephen Faulk.

The pieces all came from a method for guitar dating from 1902, by Rafael Marin.  The first piece was a Peteneras and this was followed by a tremolo study which uses a two note tremolo rather than the more common three or four note tremolo.

Next came a beautiful Solea by Julian Arcas, the teacher of Tárrega. This Solea is much shorter than the one published in Arcas’s Collected Works, and possibly the better for it.

Clearly, flamenco guitar is very different today than it was at the end of the 19th century and it is exactly this early flamenco guitar music that Rob is keen to explore.

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Next up was Bill Samson, playing a Torres replica of his own construction.  He chose to play two easy studies by Ferdinando Carulli, a waltz and an andantino.  Despite their simplicity, both of these pieces have great musical possibilities for the performer. Bill played very sensitively, making it a pleasure to hear these old, possibly worn-out pieces afresh.

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Then Philip Lord played a G-major prelude by Sylvius Leopold Weiss, on his beautiful Michael Lowe baroque lute.

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Mario Papini, who is studying with  Tiziano Bagnati in Italy, and medieval lute with Peppe Frana, is visiting Scotland to learn more about Scottish lute music.  He entertained us by playing two estampitas from the London Codex as well as a well-known 14th century frotto.  Chris Elmes lent him his 5c mediaeval lute by Bill Samson. Mario played with confidence and virtuosity, giving shape to music which can often sound rambling.

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Stuart Mcluckie turned in his best performance so far, in four pieces from Playfair including Jenny Plucks Pears, Newcastle, and Parson’s Farewell, on his 8c James Marriage lute.  His playing was confident and his performance was engaging and entertaining.

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Eric Thomas brought his Italian-style theorbo, by James Marriage with subsequent work by Klaus Jacobson.  This is the first time that a theorbo has been heard at a SLEGS meeting.  He played pieces by Kapsberger – a passacaglia, a toccata, and a gagliarda.  These were very well-received indeed and it is to be hoped that Eric can be persuaded to entertain us with more theorbo music at a future meeting.

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Jamie Akers attended his first SLEGS meeting and played some of the best-loved, but technically demanding music from the Elizabethan era on his beautiful eight course lute by Stephen Gottlieb.  The first three pieces were from Robert Dowland’s Varietie of Lute Lessons –  a Pavin by Alfonso Ferrabosco, The King of Denmark’s Galliard by John Dowland, and the Fantasia by Gregorio Huwet.  He completed the set with a heartfelt performance of his favourite piece of lute music – the Farewell fantasia by John Dowland.  Members were stunned not only by Jamie’s beautiful interpretations of these pieces, but also by with the speed with which he achieved his p-i runs.  This led to a discussion of how to practice these.

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Gordon Ferries made a welcome return and played music by Mertz on his 1853 Panormo guitar.   These were Nocturnal, Liebeslied and Romance.  It is wonderful to hear this very romantic music played so well on a guitar of this age. Be sure to attend Gordon’s forthcoming concert of Mostly Mertz during the Edinburgh Festivals: https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/590867-guitars-for-st-cecilias/

After the performances the group continued to discuss the music and the instruments, having the opportunity to try out each other’s instruments.

Thanks go to Chris Elmes for welcoming us to his flat, which is perfect for performances of this scale.


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More about 13th August Meeting

Jamie Akers will pay us a much welcome visit, performing some lute music. Jamie is one of the leading younger lute players on the scene today. His recent album of 19th-century guitar music associated with Scotland is a “must have”. See his website for more information: http://jamieakers.com

Gordon Ferries has also promised us a mini recital, extracted from his “mostly Mertz” program. Mertz was one of the greatest of the post-Sor/Giuliani period guitarists. This should be a fascinating recital.

And Rob MacKillop will be playing some Romantic guitar music which was recently found in a flea market in Valencia!

Plus there will be the contribution of regular members – always worth hearing.

Visitors and guests are most welcome. £1 fee to cover heating.

time: 1pm to around 4pm

The venue is Chris Elmes’s place – 1F1, 25 Haddington Place, EH7 4AF (the left side of Leith Walk between Annandale St and MacDonald Rd). Parking is unrestricted off Leith Walk on weekends; MacDonald Road or Hopetoun Crescent is the best area.

Dates of Next Two Meetings

The 19th meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will take place on Saturday 13th August, 2016, from 1pm (usually the meetings last two to three hours). All are welcome.

The 20th meeting will take place on 19th November, and will be a special one. Jelma van Amersfoort, guitar, will be joined by Paul Sparks, mandolin, for some historical mandolin and guitar duets. Many members will remember Jelma’s previous visit to SLEGS, and will be delighted to see her again. Paul Sparks has written the two most important books on the history of the mandolin, and will answer any questions you have on its development and repertoire.

The venue is Chris Elmes’s place – 1F1, 25 Haddington Place, EH7 4AF (the left side of Leith Walk between Annandale St and MacDonald Rd). Parking is unrestricted off Leith Walk on weekends; MacDonald Road or Hopetoun Crescent is the best area.

There will be a charge of £1 a head for the use of the venue.

If anyone wishes to make a presentation, please contact Rob MacKillop: robmackillopATgmailDOTCOM

Report of 18th Meeting: 7 May, 2016

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A very interesting meeting today, covering flamenco to braying donkeys!

Rob MacKillop explained how the classical guitar can be used very effectively for playing the music of the vihuela – a guitar-shaped instrument strung like a lute, and played in Spain.  Vihuela tuning can be achieved by simply lowering the guitar’s third string by a semitone.  He then went on to play several vihuela pieces – first was ‘Ardé, çorazon, ardé’ by Narvaez; a fine contemplative piece.  Next came the complex ‘Fantasia del Quarto Tono’, also by Narvaez.  Then he played Narvaez’s beautiful intabulation of Josquin’s ‘Mille Regrez’, which suits the instrument very well indeed.  Finally Rob pointed out that Narvaez’s variations on ‘Guardame las Vacas’ came in two sets.  One of them taking pasacaglia form – a variation of ‘The Andalusian Cadence’ – and the other being based on the Romanesca ground.  This version was also playable in the 33222 rhythm that is characteristic of many flamenco forms, raising the question of whether there is a direct relationship between Spanish renaissance music and the flamenco music with which we are familiar.  To emphasize the point, he tapped out the rhythm several times, then played rasgueado chords before starting to play the piece as Narvaez wrote it down, making the rhythm clear to all of us, as well as taking the piece at a breakneck speed!

Then Bill Samson joined Rob for a duet, Cubano, a traditional tune arranged by Len Williams. It was interesting to hear two guitars based on a Manuel Ramirez model, one by Simon Ambridge, the other by Bill Samson himself. Considering they had no time to rehearse, the performance went well.

Bill went on to perform two pieces on his guitar: the anonymous ‘Corrido‘, straight out of a 1950s cowboy movie, and a famous Minuet in C by Fernando Sor. Bill gave a decent performance of each.

Stuart McLuckie played two versions of ‘What If A Day’, interspersed with ‘Il me suffit’ by Claudin de Sermisy. His lute contrasted quite dramatically with the soft-toned guitar, proving that polyphony benefits from a more transparent sound.

Philip Lord entertained us with two pieces on his magnificent Michael Lowe 13c lute, the first a Fantasia in F by Kellner, the second a Sonata in F by Weiss. It’s good to hear that, despite a bad fall some months ago, Philip has managed to improve on the 13c. Keep it up, sir!

Chris Elmes was joined by his partner, Cait Webb, for some wonderful improvisations and arrangements of medieval music, on 5c lute, gittern and bray harp (said to bray like a donkey!). They started with three 15th-century Italian dances, followed with more basse dances, and a pre-ornamented tenor line from a Burgundian manuscript. All the instruments had great projection, providing a rousing finale to the afternoon’s music.

The usual chatting and trying of unfamiliar instruments followed. New visitor, Glo Lo, was seen trying gittern and bray harp. It was wonderful catch up with Reyyan xewlâ özer before she heads off to Sweden. Best of luck for the future, Reyyan!

Thanks again to Chris Elmes for use of his apartment.