Category Archives: Uncategorized

Date of Next Meeting: 14th September, 2019

The 31st meeting of SLEGS will take place on Saturday 14th September, 2019.

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 with some details: robmackillop@gmail.com. Otherwise, just turn up at the address stated above. Any questions, ask Rob.

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Report of 30th Meeting: 8 June, 2019

Torrential rain doubtless encouraged a few absences, but there was enough of a quorum for some playing and discussion, making this a very enjoyable meeting indeed.

Rob MacKillop got the ball rolling, as he often does – this time on a borrowed lute – with a couple of beautiful Scottish pieces from the Straloch manuscript: A Port and I Long For Thy Virginitie. Rob played with great feeling, making the instrument sing sweetly.

Stewart Mcluckie introduced his new Busato 11c lute, and proceeded to play good renditions of three pieces for beginners from Miguel Serdoura’s Method: two minuets and Les Tricotine. The baroque lute is not an easy instrument to feel instantly at home on, but Stewart seemed unconcerned with that, bringing out a lovely tone. We look forward to the return of the instrument.

Chris showing his new technique…

Chris Jupp presented a mini recital, much to everyone’s pleasure. He started with a rarely-heard arrangement of Dowland’s famous Lachrimae, this one signed CK. A Fantasie and Fuga followed by Maffon, which I had never heard before. Likewise a Ballo Polaco dance. To finish off, Chris gave a beautiful rendering of Dowland’s setting of the folk song, Robin Is To Greenwood Gone. As Rob MacKillop mentioned, one of the pleasures of coming to SLEGS meetings these many years is to see the progression of Chris’s playing. Keep it up Chris, and we’ll be buying CDs from you afore long.

Bill showing his air-guitar technique…

Bill Samson played a self-made cedar-top Torres-style guitar, which sounded beautiful. The repertoire by Calatayud included a Bulerias, a Fandanguillo, and a Soleá. The composer had lessons when a young boy from Francisco Tárrega, and it was easy to discern the 19th-century approach to these flamenco titles. Bill gave a fine performance, with not a little fire and nuance.

Occasional SLEGS attendee, Pav Verity, brought an unusual instrument for our perusal: a Milanese mandolin, complete with six single strings and a scalloped fretboard. Very interesting, though we could have done with a performance – next time, Pav!

Rob MacKillop gave a short demonstration of right-hand technique for baroque lute, and the importance of having the bass fundamentals higher off the soundboard than the octave pairings.

Rob also mentioned his new album of 19th-century Spanish music between Sor and Tárrega, played on a 19th-century Spanish guitar. Details here: https://rmclassicalguitar.com/download-album/

Bill Samson made two announcements: a Lute Society stall promoting the lute should be staffed by SLEGS members for the visit of the BMG (Banjo Mandolin and Guitar) Federation Festival to Edinburgh in 2020. See this website for details: http://www.banjomandolinguitar.org/rally.htm

…and a Glasgow school is looking for lutes for their pupils’ Early Music ensemble.

Cheeky B&W photos by Rob, sensible colour photos by Bill.



 

 

Date of Next Meeting: 8th June, 2019

The 30th meeting of SLEGS will take place on Saturday 8th June, 2019.

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 with some details: robmackillop@gmail.com. Otherwise, just turn up at the address stated above. Any questions, ask Rob.

Report on 29th Meeting: 9th March, 2019

 

Not the lowest turnout we’ve had, but enough people managed along to make it an engaging event, with some good playing and chat, culminating in a presentation to Bill Samson – more on that later.

Bill Samson and Rob Mackillop kicked off proceedings with a rarely heard ensemble of two baroque lutes, with an Allemande and Courante by Logy. The Allemande hit the spot, allowing the melodic interplay to be heard to its fullest. However, the Courante was by their own admission a little scrappy – not bad, just not what it could have been. Considering the lads live in different towns, this coming together for some baroque pluckers was not bad at all.

Rob MacKillop the introduced the new love of his life: an all-original c.1880 Spanish guitar, complete with original tornavoz, a brass cone insert, purported to strengthen the bass register, giving a very sweet sound indeed. Rob related the surprising story of how he acquired the instrument: someone just knocked on his door, thinking he might be interested in it!

Rob furnished it with Aquila gut and silk strings, but three of the bass strings broke within ten days. The tension between nut and tuning machine hole causes the string to stretch. Modern synthetic silk can accommodate that pull, but real silk cannot. But a solution is to be found in the first volume of Emilio Pujol’s four-volume Guitar School, based on the principles of Tárrega. See diagram and Rob’s wife’s handiwork.

 

Problem solved!

Rob played three Catalan arrangements by Miguel Llobet, and the audience marvelled at how sweet the instrument sounded. It is Rob’s intention to record a download album of suitably-associated music for the guitar. Although the label mentions one Antonio Carlos Garcia, it is not thought that such a luthier existed, and that the instrument was constructed in a Valencian workshop, for sale in Madrid.

More about the guitar can be found on Rob’s website: https://rmclassicalguitar.com/antonio-carlos-garcia/

Stuart McLuckie played three of the 70 Easy Pieces for Renaissance Lute (a Lute Society publication), numbers 15 (God Protect You, Sire) 13 (Corrente) and 9 (Balleto). As ever, Stuart played stylishly, with the rhythm of the courante clearly articulated. All three pieces were well received.

Chris Jupp borrowed Stuart’s lute for two pieces from Robert Dowland’s Variety of Lute Lessons: a Holborne Pavan, and Queen Elizabeth Galliard. Chris’s performance initially suffered from not being totally familiar with Stuart’s lute, but he warmed up afore lang in the Pavane, and turned in a nice performance. The galliard was particularly jaunty.

Chris Elmes treated us to a performance on a Bill Samson lute, once of six courses, now “medievalised” into a 5c, plucked with quill made from an old string. The strident sound of the quill-struck lute contrasted strongly with the preceding mellow-toned quiet lutes and guitars, as Chris improvised a prelude before launching into a semi-improvised rendition of Lucente Stella, a balleta from the Rossi manuscript of circa 1340. It’s always a treat to hear Chris play, and the lute sounded magnificent.

Finally, Bill Samson gave us his reminiscences – postponed from the last meeting. He made his first lute in 1960 – a very poor effort, by his own estimation – but made a much better one in time for the first Lute Society Summer School in 1967. He showed us a number photographs from a variety of summer schools over the years, with an increasing number of participants (echoing the rise in popularity of the instrument), and also the variety of hair lengths and bell-bottomed breeks of the participants!

Bill received tuition from Diana Poulton, but the big change in technique – the discovery of thumb-inside playing – was dropped like a bombshell by Michael Schäffer. The lute world was split asunder, and arguments raged, almost registering on the Richter magnitude scale. Unfortunately, proponents of the “new” technique used it for everything from Renaissance to Baroque-period music. As Philomena Cunk might say, we are all so much clevererer now!

As Bill’s talk drew to a close, Rob MacKillop rose to present a gift to Bill: a signed, cloth-bound edition of The Vihuela de Mano and the Spanish Guitar: A Dictionary of the Makers of Plucked and Bowed Musical Instruments of Spain, 1200-2002, by José Romanillos Vega and Marian Harris Winspear. This was to mark Bill’s 75th birthday, and his contributions to the lute in and furth of Scotland. He has always shown a willingness to help would-be lute makers or players, and was the first luthier in modern times to make a Dutch double-headed 12c lute, and an English theorbo. Such pioneering work should not be overlooked when the history of the 20th-century lute is written. Thanks for all your contributions, Bill – unlike some, you are always far too self effacing to promote your own considerable achievements. The cost of the book was met with contributions from the membership.

Colour photos by Bill Samson, B&W by Rob MacKillop.

 

 

 

 

Date of Next Meeting: 9th March, 2019

The 29th meeting of SLEGS will take place on Saturday 9th March, 2019.

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 with some details: robmackillop@gmail.com. Otherwise, just turn up at the address stated above. Any questions, ask Rob.

Bill Samson will be talking about his memories of the early music revival in the 1960s and 70s, including the earth-shattering ( – well, it was at the time! -) rediscovery of thumb-under, nail-less technique. (Postponed from the 28th meeting).

 

Report of 28th Meeting: 8th December, 2018

A well-attended meeting, save for the first ever absence of Bill Samson, who was scheduled to present a talk about his memories of the early days of the Lute Society in the UK. That talk has been postponed until the next meeting. In the meantime, we wish Bill a quick recovery from the flu bug that has him in its grip!

New face to the society, Joanna Allsop performed from 58 Easy Pieces (a Lute Society publication) “The Old Man” and a Buffins, on a lute made by her old man, with the CD-Rom by David Van Edwards. It was immediately clear that, although a beginner lute player, Joanna is an experienced musician – violin and school teaching. Once she gets her lute kitted out with the correct strings, I’m sure she’ll be giving us all a run for our money before long. I look forward to her subsequent visits. Welcome aboard, Joanna!

Chris Jupp followed with his Bill Samson-made 4c guitar, which has a very projecting quality. Chris stood with a strap, and played selections from Christopher Page’s “Guitar In Tudor England” book: 2 variations on a Passey Measure (originally from the Osborne Commonplace Book); “To my pains and boredom”, and a branle de poictou, both by Le Roy from mid-16th-century France. I’m happy to report that the rhythmical articulation by Chris was excellent, just how these pieces should be performed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the guitar at all, as it was completely obscured by a rather large music stand. Let’s see the instrument next time, Chris!

SLEGS stalwart, Stuart McLuckie, came an other good rhythmical interpretation of some French music, this time a tourdion on his 8c lute. This was an unusual piece, which I for one wouldn’t mind hearing again. Good stuff, Stuart!

Another new face, this one going by the name of Andrew Atkinson, made the trip from Newcastle, to share his 1930s and 40s Gibson archtop guitars. It was fascinating to hear and play these historical instruments, one with parallel bracing, the other with X bracing, and the sound difference was appreciated.

Rob MacKillop, who rarely seems to play the same instrument twice in a row at SLEGS, entertained with some 19th-century Russian guitar music, on a decidedly 21st-century guitar by local Russian luthier, Roman Kuznetsov. The Russian guitar is tuned DGBdgbd’, and Rob’s enthusiasm for it has resulted in a dedicated website, constructed within three weeks of getting hold of a 7-string Russian guitar:  https://sarenkoandco.com Rob played “As from Beyond a Forest” by Andrei Sychra, the patriarch of the Russian guitar. It’s a beautiful piece, which the audience appreciated. Roman pulled out a six-string guitar in Russian style, but tuned with EADGBE strings, upon which Rob played Tárrega’s “Lagrima”.

Here is a video Rob made a week before, of the same piece by Sychra:


Guest of honour (for the third time) was Jelma van Amersfoort from Amsterdam, who brought with her a beautiful reconstruction of a rare six-course guitar by Pages, made by Sebastian Nunez of Utrecht. Such guitars form the link between the five-course baroque guitar and the six single strings of the classical guitar. There is not exactly a mountain of surviving repertoire, but what does survive is often worth hearing, and Jelma played …..

It is always great to hear Jelma perform, and we are so pleased she travels from the Netherlands to play for us. The repertoire was fascinating, especially the “El Laberinto ó Circulo Armonico (Harmonic Labyrinth) by Fernando Ferandiere, which almost defies analysis. There followed the Fandango by Mathias Jose Maestro, a semi-improvised dance piece from Peru, and the Folias by Salvador Castro – friend, compatriot and publisher of Fernando Sor – which was brilliantly played by Jelma.

Jelma was joined by Rob for the final two pieces, Duo 3 by Ferandiere, which was played with aplomb. Great stuff!

There followed a scrum, as people got their hands on various instruments. At one point Rob was seen singing Saint James’ Infirmary Blues, while strumming on a 1930s Gibson archtop, while Chris wailed a few blues licks. Guitarists!

Thanks to Glo for the foties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date of Next Meeting: 8th December, 2018

The 28th meeting of SLEGS will take place on Saturday 8th December, 2018.

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 with some details: robmackillop@gmail.com. Otherwise, just turn up at the address stated above. Any questions, ask Rob.