Due to other commitments, I couldn’t make it to this meeting. I’m thankful to Bill Samson for writing the following report. Looks like I missed a good one!
A small turnout at this meeting due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances, but thoroughly enjoyed by the four participants and allowed room for in-depth discussion of technique, interpretation, lutes, guitars, stringing and newsy gossip.
There were two brand new lutes at the meeting – Philip Lord’s 13-course baroque lute by Michael Lowe – arguably the greatest lute maker in the world at the present time. It was based on an 18th century Hofmann lute (I can’t remember which of the Hofmanns it was) and had a birds-eye maple back and pegbox. The detailing is exquisite. Its playing properties too are wonderful – an excellent action and fine sound.
The other new lute was Dorothee O’Sullivan Burchard’s 7-course renaissance lute by the Dutch luthier Martin de Witte. This is a Venere model with scale of 59cm. The multi-ribbed yew back is breathtaking and the craftsmanship throughout is superb. The playability is first class and the sound is all you could hope for. One notable feature is the haselfichte (‘bearclaw’) spruce soundboard indicating that it was cut perfectly on the quarter.
At the other end of the age scale there was Gordon Ferries’ 1853 Panormo guitar, with rosewood back and, in Gordon’s hands, a tone to die for.
Bill Samson brought his 6-course lute in A, which has had a few outings at past SLEGS meetings. This time he had replaced the wound 6th string with a Savarez KF string that shares many of the properties of high-twist gut and has a very convincing sound.
After chatting for a while and making introductions, we decided that nobody else was coming and it was time to perform our party pieces.
Dorothee kicked off with a lively Almain by John Johnson, from the Lundgren lute tutor. This was followed by the haunting “Herr Christ ist erstanden” by Hans Judenkuenig. It was a revelation at how Dorothee’s playing has progressed since we last heard her perform. Her tone production was excellent. We’re looking forward to future performances from her as her technique continues to develop.
Philip played his new baroque lute. He performed the following pieces:
Sarabande (anon), and
an arrangement by Wilfred Fox of Brian Boru’s March.
Philip has been playing baroque lute for only a few months but we were impressed by the security of his right-hand thumb technique – one of the most difficult aspects of baroque lute playing. His tone production was excellent, too. More please!
Gordon Ferries played 19th century guitar music by Johann Kaspar Mertz. The three pieces were from Mertz’s Opus 13 and were:
I think these pieces were new to the rest of us and they revealed the enormous amount of very high quality music for guitar that has yet to be thoroughly explored and performed. Gordon’s Panormo seemed to me to be just right for this music. He is now playing without nails and the sound he made brought tears to my eyes (good ones!).
Bill Samson played two ballad tunes on his 6-course lute from the Dutch Thysius Lute Book (1590s). The first was a common-time version of Greensleeves, with some divisions. The second was “Brande Soet Oliver” which is a bransle (country dance) based on the song “O Sweet Oliver”, as sung by Touchstone in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”.
It was my strong impression that we were all more relaxed playing for a smaller group of friends and nerves weren’t as evident as they sometimes are.
We enjoyed trying out each others’ instruments – a good way of evaluating them before taking the plunge and ordering one.
After we had all performed we enjoyed tea and coffee and a chat. Dorothee told us about the Lute Society’s Benslow Weekend, which she attended. She was surprised to see how many people there were who have been playing lutes since the 1960s.
The attendees agreed that this had been a most enjoyable and inspirational get-together. Thanks are due to Chris Elmes for, once again, making his house available for the meeting.
The above photos by Bill Samson. Those below by Philip Lord: