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.

 

 

Date of Next Meeting – 7th May

The 18th meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will take place on Saturday 7th May, 2016, from 1pm (usually the meetings last two to three hours). All are 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.

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 17th Meeting: 13th February, 2016

The foul weather nearly scuppered the meeting yesterday, but six hardy souls braved the blizzard, and were rewarded with some excellent playing and a good blether.

Dorothee O’Sullivan Burchard fought through nerves to play her first full-length piece at a SLEGS meeting. What a triumph for her! La Roque by Pierre Attaingnant is not a very easy piece, so congratulations to Dorothee for getting to the finish line unharmed, and with the crowd yelping their approval. There’s no holding you back now, Dorothee. We’re already looking forward to your next performance.

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Another beginner lute player is David Bateman, testing the waters after years of guitar playing. He performed his own intabulation of the Coventry Carol, followed by a version of The King of Denmark’s Galliard. David employs the clever ploy of first informing his audience of how awful his playing is, leaving us highly impressed with what does transpire. Being an “Early” dancer, his rhythm is always good (a rare thing among lute players) and he gets most of the notes! With a little more thought towards tone production and position shifts, all the parts will start coming together, the stars will align, and all will be well with the universe. Keep it up, David!

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Stuart McLuckie always entertains, this time with two of the Tunes Of Old London, a Lynda Sayce edition: Lost is my Liberty, and Lincoln’s Inn. These are excellent pieces, and Stuart performed them very well indeed.

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Chris Jupp gave his first performance on an 11c lute (made by Bill Samson). We are used to hearing Chris on an 8c student lute, but this was quite different. Bill’s thirty-year old gut-strung lute sounded magnificent, and although Chris has yet to feel at home on the instrument, he is certainly on the way to doing so. A prelude from the Bohush manuscript (a new one to me) was short but sweet, as preludes often are. It was followed by a sarabande, La Mignone, from the Saizenay manuscript, which was very beautiful. His encore was the rhythmically delightful, Sweet Willie from the Balcarres manuscript. My feeling is that Chris sounds more himself on the 11c, and I definitely look forward to hearing more from him on it.

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Onto guitars…

Bill Samson played the Caprice Op.60 No.4 by Carcassi on his 28-year old guitar, after Manuel Ramirez. This guitar makes a beautiful sound, and has a good range of dynamics. Bill was playing brilliantly until unintentionally skipping a line towards the end, which almost derailed his dashing train. Much applause followed as he hirpled into the station

Rob MacKillop played his beautiful Simon Ambridge guitar, after Torres and Manuel Ramirez. The gut and silk-strung guitar was the perfect mach for the arrangement of El Noi de la Mare, a Catalan Christmas Carol, arranged for once not by Miguel Llobet, but by one of his students, Graciano Tarragó.

Both guitarists put their Manuel Ramirez-inspired guitars together for two duets, arranged by Len Williams from his Spanish And South American collection: De Blanca Tierra (one could almost hear the pan pipes) and El Paño Moruno. Encore lads!

Gruesom Twosome

Stuart McLuckie took the duo photograph. All others above were by Bill Samson. All the photos below are by Rob MacKillop.

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David

Speed Page Turner

Trio

Stuart

 

Date of Next Meeting: Saturday, 13th February, 2016

The 17th meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will take place on Saturday 13th February, 2016, from 1pm (usually the meetings last two to three hours). All are 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.

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

Review of 16th Meeting: 7 November, 2015

A new departure for SLEGS, in that we had two performers with Torres-related classical guitars. More later…

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Chris Jupp rose to the occasion, quite literally, by performing standing up, playing a 4c guitar made by Bill Samson. A Branle and Tourdion by Adrian Le Roy were despatched within seconds, leaving the audience wishing he had played repeats, perhaps even adding a variation or two. The playing was excellent, and we hope Chris gives us more next time. He finished with his own arrangement of My Mistress Blush Is Bonnie, from the Skene manuscript, which sounded lovely on the small guitar.

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Yasuhiro Nakashima flew in from Japan to perform with his 7c lute: Rujero (from the Samson manuscript) and Cassandra by Raimundo. Yasuhiro has a very disciplined right-hand, thumb-in technique, which brought out great clarity to the chordal and contrapuntal passages. The faster runs were despatched with ease. Excellent playing.

Yasuhiro was then asked to perform the Rujero again, this time on a lute built by Stuart Goldie. This was Stuart’s first attempt at making a lute, and his only other self-made instrument is a violin. Although there was a problem with the finish on the soundboard, the sound of the instrument was lovely. It is hoped that Stuart, a fine guitar player, will now devote some time to playing the lute, and play for us at a future meeting.

Philip Lord started well with a Prelude in F by Weiss from the British Library ms 30387. Sighs of appreciation greeted the first entry of the low range of his magnificent Michael Lowe 13c lute. Unfortunately, Philip went on to suffer a problem we are all familiar with, lack of concentration, and the piece went adrift. Next time, Philip!

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Bill Samson is one of our Society’s treasures. He is not only more knowledgeable than any of us about the history of the lute, he was also responsible for the creation of three of the instruments played today. His latest is a Torres-style guitar, based on Torres FE18 of 1865, though with rosewood for the back and sides, and 64cms string length. The sound was beautifully rounded, as one might expect a Torres guitar to be.

Bill played the famous Bm study by Catalan guitarist/composer, Feran Sors, aka Fernando Sor. It was a good performance, but one felt Bill was warming up. The second piece, a Rondoletto by Napoleon Coste, was performed with much more confidence, the guitar showing its full dynamic range. This was an excellent performance of a very good composition.

Well done, Bill. That guitar is a beaut.

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Chris Elmes is our resident medievalist, today playing a Bill Samson 5c lute, plucked with a quill. An improvised prelude heralded the 14th-century composition, Chetizova Nascondere. The prelude was captivating – I could have listened to Chris’s meandering for much longer. The composed piece was very interesting, apparently subject to improvised decoration in an appropriately stylised manner.
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Chris then surprised, nay, terrorised, the audience by asking for someone to sight-read a tenor line. Rob MacKillop stepped up rather hesitantly, as he had left his reading glasses at home. Chris Jupp wouldn’t let him off, offering Rob his own reading glasses!

After a brief lesson from Chris on what he expected Rob to do, Chris then improvised beautiful lines around the original 14th-century tenor part, as was the custom in those days. It’s great to hear and see such a forgotten and neglected art come alive in an Edinburgh flat, in 2015. Chris Elmes must be one of the finest medieval lute practitioners in Europe, certainly on this island.

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David Bateman played a lute which was part-made from a kit some thirty years ago, and which lay abandoned until its owner recently gave it to David, who completed the construction. Although a guitar player, David hadn’t played a lute until recently, and entertained us with six pieces from the student repertoire. The lute, plucked with a guitarist’s nails, was very loud and strident, and one could tell that David has studied Renaissance dance. Keep at it, David. You are off to a great start.
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Rob MacKillop delighted us with his playing on his new guitar by master luthier, Simon Ambridge.  The guitar is not a specific replica of any one guitar, but is based mainly on surviving guitars by Antonio de Torres – the greatest maker in the second half of the 19th century.  There are also elements of Manuel Ramirez and Santos Hernandez in the design of the guitar.  The guitar is strung in gut; just as it would have been a century or more ago.

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Rob drew a sweet sound from the instrument – a more personal, intimate sound than we are used to hearing from the current generation of guitarists – largely due to his right hand technique that uses the fingertips, rather than nails, to pluck the strings.

The  pieces he chose to play us were mostly from composers who played original guitars of this type – masterly interpretations of ‘Pavana’  by Francisco Tarrega,  ‘Valse in E’ by Dionysio Aguado, ‘El Mestre’ – an arrangement of a Catalan folk song by Miguel Llobet, ‘Bolero’ by Julian Arcas – as well as a lovely piece newly composed for him by the French composer Christian Vasseur, entitled ‘Rob’s Dream’.  This was a premier – hardly surprising since the final score only arrived nine hours before the performance! If any of us doubted the quality of the music that comes from a gut-strung guitar played without nails, these doubts were rapidly dispelled by Rob’s spellbinding performance.

We look forward to hearing more of this repertoire at future meetings.

The attendees then split off into group huddles and discussions, and the playing continued… photos by Bill Samson.

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Date of Next Meeting: 7th November, 2015

The 16th meeting of the Scottish Lute and Early Guitar Society will take place on Saturday 7th November, 2015, from 1pm (usually the meetings last two to three hours).

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