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Report of 31st Meeting: September 14th, 2019

Well, this was a very interesting meeting! Sorry you missed it 😉 Though maybe you didn’t 🙂

Bill Samson got the ball rolling with music in Renaissance tuning on his self-made 12c lute, the first to be made since the 17th century. It’s getting quite old itself now, though not yet a museum piece! And that goes for the performer too!

Bill gave a short history of the 12c, and “for a warmup” played What If A Day. Although not Bill’s best-sounding lute, it sounded clear enough, warm in the treble and transparent in the bass. He played with some stylistic flair, which got proceedings off to a good start. Suitably warmed up, he launched into an Almayne by Robert Johnson – I believe this was Johnson’s premier hearing for SLEGS, and very refreshing it sounded. The imitative passages and deft ornamentation were well received.

Rob MacKillop gave his debut performance playing a 7-string Viola da Gamba. Little did he know that its maker, Anthony Edge, was going to turn up to a SLEGS meeting for the first time. Anthony just happened to pop in, not knowing Rob was going to play his viol…

Rob gave a very short history of the viol, then proceeded to perform three student pieces, one by cellist, Joseph Reinagle (1762-1825), and two short dances by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755). Judging by comments given to the performer later, the instrument was very well received, with many comments about the tone of the instrument, and a few encouraging comments for the performer too. I’m sure Rob will bring the viol again, hopefully in tandem with a lute player.

SLEGS stalwart, Stuart McLuckie gave further evidence of his progress with three pieces from The Lute Society’s publication, 70 easy to Intermediate Pieces for Renaissance Lute: Ballad, Españoleta, and a Balletto.

These were all tastefully played and interpreted. The Españoleta was intriguing, with an opening so like those from Gaspar Sanz, before heading off into unfamiliar territory. I’d like to hear that again sometime. And encore of a French chanson rounded off a fine performance.

Eric Renshaw introduced his new instrument: a mandolin copied from an Embergher original. Embergher is the Stradivari of the mandolin world, and Eric’s instrument was clearly in the top class. Learn more about Eric’s mandolin world HERE and Embergher HERE. It is hope we will one day hear Eric play his beautiful mandolin.

Pav Verity treated us to some melodically and rhythmically fascinating Greek music on his Cretan Laouto. There could hardly have been a starker contrast to the quiet and warm lute music either side of Pav’s performance, but it was a sound clearly enjoyed by the audience!

Chris Jupp was up next, playing an 8c lute by Dallas Sutherland. Chris sensitively performed a beautifully-searching prelude by Laurencini Romanus – a composer worth hearing more of at future meetings. This fine performance was followed by a sublime Pavane by Alfonso Ferrabosco from the Variety of Lute Lessons of 1610. The tone and phrasing were exemplary, and an encore was demanded and granted: Dowland’s sublime Solos Cum Sola. Beautiful stuff, well appreciated.

Proceedings were brought to a close in a fascinating and unexpected way, with the presentation of a keyed classical guitar, carefully and beautifully reconstructed by PhD organology student, Daniel Wheeldon.

The instrument looks like a regular 19th-century guitar, but with a hole cut out of the soundboard, as if for inserting a pickup. Hidden in the side of the body is a keyboard attachment. The player presses a “piano” key, and a hammer rises from inside the guitar, through the hole, and strikes a string. Daniel demonstrated with some arpeggios, before playing a typical guitar study from the early to mid 19th century.

The guitar Daniel presented was a copy of an instrument made in 1810 by Mattias Neüner in Mittenwald. He is also building a copy of a guitar from 1843 by Mattius Sprenger and Franz Fiala. These are the only two keyed guitars known to survive.

How did it sound? Well, a bit percussive. Dynamic variation is possible, but not tonal. It therefore seemed more suited to Giuliani song accompaniments or less emotional solo pieces. I can’t imagine it at all being useful for the Romantic repertoire. The forte-piano came to mind. It wasn’t unattractive, but the right repertoire would have to be found in order to present it in a very positive light.


So, a fascinating meeting, much appreciated by all in attendance, including a lovely couple from far off Devon, Sue and Graham Hodgson. You are both welcome back for future meetings! Likewise the sprightly Anthony Edge!

Colour photos from Bill Samson, B&W from Rob MacKillop:














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: Otherwise, just turn up at the address stated above. Any questions, ask Rob.

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:

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:

…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: 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:

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: 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: 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.