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.



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