Review of 14th Meeting: 9 May, 2015

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:

Menuet (anon)
Menuet (Weiss)
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:

Scherzo, and

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.

Bill Samson

The above photos by Bill Samson. Those below by Philip Lord:





Date of Next Meeting: Saturday 9th May, 2015

The date of the next SLEGS meeting is Saturday 9th May, 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 make a comment below, or email robmackillop at gmail dot com.

Review of 13th Meeting: 24th January, 2015

A special meeting this time, with a visit from the Dutch guitarist, Jelma van Amersfoort, playing an 18th-century “guittar” – duets with Rob MacKillop, and some solos. Another guest was the Edinburgh-based soprano singer, Ginny Wilson – more about Ginny later. Quite a few members expressed the thought that this was the best meeting yet.

There was a fine turnout for this meeting, which was held at Chris Elmes‘ house – a particularly fine venue for our meetings, and we’d like to thank Chris for not only hosting us, but joining in as well – more later.

Rob introduced Jelma, and talked a little about the 18th-century cittern, know variously as a “guittar”, English guitar, German cittern, cetra, cistre, and guitar. Whatever it was called, the aesthetic is more cittern than guitar, with its brass strings and open-chord tuning. [Various photos by Stuart Goldie, Kevin Macleod, Philip Lord and Bill Samson. Click photos to enlarge.)


Together, Jelma and Rob gave a fine rendition of two of James Oswald‘s “Eighteen Divertimentis for Two Guitars or Mandelins”, published c.1759/60. Oswald was born in Crail, Fife. After a few years in Edinburgh, he moved to London, becoming a leading publisher and Chamber Composer to George III. Robert Burn’s described him as his favourite composer.

Rob and Jelma a

So, the two divertimenti showed traces of early classical and traditional-music elements, with plenty of interplay between the two instruments. It is hoped the performers can work together to bring out a CD of “the 18”.

In between the two Oswald items, they played two pieces from Dutch sources which Jelma had discovered. A few of the audience said how much they liked the piece in Cm, an “Air” from the opera Lucille. 

Jelma then played three solo items from two Dutch sources:

1. Durandarte & Belerma, a pathetic Scottish Ballad by François-Hippolyte Barthélémon (1741-1808)
2. Menuet by David Leonard van Dijk (c.1737 – after 1794)
3. Contre Dans by David Leonard van Dijk (c.1737 – after 1794)

The first was a curious mixture of Scots air to a Spanish story. Stripped of its voice part, the melody sounded very Scottish, and very beautiful in Jelma’s hands.

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Next up was Eric Thomas, who played a Rececare by Francesco Spinacino, Spagna Primo by Vincenzo Capirola, O Bone Jesu by Francesco da Milano/ Loyset Compere, and a Fantasia del Divino Francesco da Milano by Francesco da Milano. All pieces were beautifully played, with good warm tone, and convincing phrasing.

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Bill Samson teamed up with Rob MacKillop to perform the sixth lesson for two guitars from Carulli’s Method of c.1811. The performers should not have informed the audience that they hadn’t had time to rehearse the piece, as they gave a convincing performance. Awa the lads! More next time.


Rob was then joined by soprano, Ginny Wilson, for two of Giuliani’s Sechs Leider. Rob used an 8-string Viennese guitar (by Scot Tremblay), inserting one or two octave transpositions into the accompaniment. Ginny has a very beautiful voice, and an engaging stage manner. Her interpretation of an Italian’s take on German song was utterly convincing. This was the duo’s first public performance, and bode’s well for the future.


Stuart Mcluckie played the Recercare no. 4 by Marco d’Aquila, and
‘Zucht, Ehr und Lob’ by Judenkoenig (from the Lute Society’s 40 Easy to
Early Intermediate Pieces). Stuart played within his technique this time, and gave a very convincing interpretation of these simple but beautiful pieces. Good work.

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Venue host, Chris Elmes, played Lucente Stella (Anon 14th C Italian) and De’ poni amor (Gherardello da Firenza, 14th C Italian) on his two-week old medieval gittern. I particularly enjoyed Chris’s improvised preludes to these rhythmically very interesting pieces, and hope to hear more from him at future meetings.

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To round the afternoon off, Chriss Jupp played Elslein liebstes Elslein mein  from the lute society edition of Das erst Buch (1544) by Hans Newsidler. It was very sweet, and woefully short – more next time, Chris!

There followed a good blether, with groups huddling round various instruments, some trying out instruments they had never played before – which is one of the advantages of these meetings.

Looking forward to the next one!

Rob Jelma Chris Bill and Chris P1070885 (Medium) P1070876-Edit (Medium) P1070874 (Medium) IMG_1088 IMG_1087 IMG_1086 IMG_1084 IMG_1083 IMG_1074 IMG_1077 IMG_1079 IMG_1069 IMG_1068 IMG_1066 IMG_1065 IMG_1062

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Next Meeting: Saturday 24th January, 2015

The date of the next meeting is 24th January 2015 from 1pm until 4pm.

We are in for a rare treat – The distinguished Dutch early guitarist Jelma van Amersfoort will be attending and playing for us.  I understand that a guittar duet with Rob is a strong possiblity.  It’s also possible that a singer will be attending and performing 19th century works with early guitar accompaniment.  More details when this is firmed up.

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 Rd or Hopetoun Cres is the best area.

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

Looking forward to seeing you then!

Review of 12th Meeting: 25th October, 2014

A new venue this time, due to the old one being closed for the next two years. It is likely that this had an effect on turn out, with only four members in attendance. The venue was the arts apartment belonging to Chris Elmes, who is a medieval lute specialist.

Rob MacKillop started with some 19th-century gut-strung banjo music by Frank Converse. Rob gave a spoken introduction to set the scene, then played three delightful pieces, two of which would not have been out of place in a program of 19th-century guitar music: The Dell Schottische, and The Blue Bells of Scotland.

Bill Samson SLEGS

Bill Samson played his own-made 4c guitar: Les Buffons (Morlaye, 1552) and Bransle Simple (Le Roy, 1551). I am always pleased to note that Bill just gets better and better in his SLEGS performances. Very-well played, maestro!

Philip Lord SLEGS

Philip Lord had not prepared anything, but sight-read three pieces from Lute Society publications, and did a pretty good job, including Galliard “Roch el fuss” and Gagliarda di Santino.

Los Trois Diminutions

Stuart McLuckie played two pieces by Carolan, arranged by Alan Alexander: Captain Kain and Eleanor Plunkett. It was good to also hear some lute music, in the form of a Canaries from the Straloch Lute ms.

Chris Elmes SLEGS

Chris Elmes improvised some pieces on a 5c lute by Bill Samson, then refused to let Bill take it home with him! I don’t think the luthier was at all displeased:-)

Solo Trio

Black and white photos by Rob MacKillop. Colour photos by Bill Samson.

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Next Meeting: 25th October 2014

There is a new venue for our next meeting:

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 Rd or Hopetoun Cres is the best area.

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

The date of the next meeting is 25th October 2014 at a time to be arranged, but probably the same as usual.  We’ll let you know details nearer the time.

Review of 11th Meeting: 12 July, 2014

The best meeting yet? Some are claiming that, and it’s hard to disagree. We were graced by a visit from the American lute maestro, Ed Martin. Ed is very self-effacing, but is definitely a high-quality player with a lot of experience and knowledge. More about Ed later…

Dorothee O’Sullivan Burchard kicked off proceedings by playing a beginner piece from Diane Poulton’s tutor. Dorothee has been playing but a short time, but makes a beautiful tone, which some seasoned players fail to match. Well done, Dorothee, and keep at it!

Eric Thomas is another player with exquisite tone, and is our Resident Thumb Inside player. He played three pieces from the Rowallan manuscript, including “I never knew I loved thee”, eliciting a strong round of applause.

Bill Samson played two pieces by Attaignent on his self-made 6c lute: ‘Tant que vivray’ and the base danse, ‘La Roque’. Bill’s last few performances have been growing in strength and confidence, this one continuing the trend. Great stuff, Bill.

Rob MacKillop gave us a four-movement suite in Dm by Robert de Visee. Rob seemed relaxed, and drew forth some beautiful tones from his Bill Samson 11c lute, kitted out in all-gut strings by Damian Dlugolecki. There were a few remarks about how even the lute sounded from treble to bass.

James Jackson played a 12c hire-lute from The Lute Society, made in David van Edwards’ lute-making workshop within one week. It’s a fine, strong instrument. James played two pieces from the Balcarres manuscript. Nice to hear more Scottish lute music. James will soon be moving to Scotland permanently, so we hope to see and hear more from him.

Stuart McLuckie always entertains, and today gave two confident performances: Ricercha (Ness 84) – Francesco da Milano, and
Cessez mortels de souspirer – Pierre Guedron, arr. David van Ooijen. Great stuff, Stuart.

Philip Lord read Wilson’s Wild from Poulton’s book, and gave his best performance to date – a lesson for us all in not preparing, just turn up and read something! Sometimes we prepare too much, and worry about what we will play like. It was refreshing to see someone completely unprepared read something perfectly. Well done, Philip.

Chris Jupp continues to sound more proficient every time he plays, and today he was relaxed enough to allow some beautiful moments of sensitivity in Francesco’s no.40, to float around the room.

Chris Jupp and Eric Thomas then gave a wonderful duet performance of La Rossignol and a Canon by Milano. It is really wonderful to see members get together for small ensembles. Another couple next time, lads!

Ed Martin – What can we say about Ed Martin? He gave an excellent performance of a group of pieces in D Major by Kellner, on a lute he hadn’t seen before that morning. He also gave an interesting introduction to the music, full of fascinating insights into Kellner’s life. Thanks, Ed, and feel free to pop by any time!

Philip Lord and Bill Samson chaired a discussion about a future venue, as St Cecilia’s Hall will be closing for over a year. No decision was made, but it is a matter of urgency, which will hopefully be resolved soon.

Finally, the entire membership worked on our first ensemble piece: Awake Sweet Love by John Dowland, arranged by Rob MacKillop. After a shaky first read-through, we managed to make a fairly musical sound! I was impressed, and encouraged to arrange more pieces. Well done everybody. Watch this space for more ensemble music.

Also in attendance was Angus Robertson, a one-time lute and harpsichord maker. It was great to see Angus, and maybe one day he could give us a talk about his exploits.

All photos by Bill Samson, save for the one of Bill Samson, which was by Rob MacKillop: