Lute Society of America


2016 LSA Festival at Case Western University

Class Listings:

Ronn McFarlane :

The Mechanics of Renaissance Lute Playing

This class will be a detailed exploration of all aspects of a player’s physical relationship with the lute.   From the basics of holding the lute, through posture, right and left hand & arm movements, touching the strings, to subtle angling of the fingers and advanced “dirty tricks” ~ this class offers something for everyone.

Renaissance Lute Master Class

Each Master Class will be prefaced with a brief talk about expressive playing. What does it mean to play expressively?  And what are we expressing?  What comes across to a listener when we play, and how can we shape a listener’s experience of the music?  What does it take to be an effective performer?  This class explores all those questions and aspires to make everyone in the class a better, more aware performer by the end of the week.  For all levels.

Nigel North :


11 course lute music in France and Germany reflected in the music of 4 lutenists – Vieux Gaultier, Easias Reusner, Charles Mouton, Jacques Bittner. A broad look at their styles and repertoire with emphasis on performance practice in general, including ornamentation, tempo, right and left hand technique and dance forms. A mixture of lecture demonstration and masterclass.

Baroque lute masterclass

Paul O’Dette :

The Music of Albert de Rippe and Marco dall’Aquila

Francesco da Milano, Albert de Rippe and Marco dall’Aquila were called “the three Orpheuses” during their lifetimes. While Francesco’s music is well-known to lutenists today, that of his illustrious contemporaries has been left in the shadow for a variety of reasons. But the quality of their music is unquestionable and their contributions to the lute repertoire are of great importance. This class will go through their works discussing style, technique and performance challenges. Understanding the background of these two masters is critical in approaching their music. We will play and analyze a lot of their music in class.

Renaissance Lute Master Class

Open to all levels, this class will address technical, musical, and stylistic issues. We will take apart the music in detail to find out what makes it tick, exploring all aspects of interpretation, sources, and technical impediments.

Jakob Lindberg :

Elizabethan and Jacobean Lute Music. 

English and Scottish lute music from around 1600 belongs to the most attractive repertoire for our instrument and beautiful pieces at all technical levels can be found. Focus will be on interpretation, technique, grace notes etc but we will also discuss the most important sources and, when possible, compare and evaluate different versions of the same piece.

“Play me what you like”

Students who are interested in my views relating to the performance of any piece from the 16th to the 18th centuries for lute, theorbo or baroque guitar are welcome to play in this class.

Ellen Hargis :

Master class for singers and lute players

(same description as last time, but no Phil, and you can list Hsuan-Wen Chen, harpsichord)


Composers and poets were fascinated and inspired by our vocal counterparts in the natural world.  We’ll study works about nightingales, ravens, larks, cuckoos and more to learn what they symbolize, how they sound to the human ear, and how to best emulate them in song.  Student may propose their own repertory or contact Ellen Hargis for a repertoire list.

Christopher Morrongiello :

Chi Kung & Tai Chi for Musicians

An early-morning class (just stop by) in which participants will perform together an easy-to-learn, forty-minute exercise routine that helps relieve stress, improve posture and breathing, strengthen the legs, realign the back, and loosen the neck, shoulders, wrists, arms, and fingers.

More Grounds in Context

A great number of instrumental and vocal works from the Renaissance and Baroque periods make extensive use of grounds, repeating melodic patterns in the bass. One need only think of the basso ostinato of the Pachelbel Canon (c. 1695) or the repeated descending chromatic bass line of “Dido’s Lament” at the end of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1689). Students of early music should understand the historical and cultural significance of individual grounds and how composers used them to good effect in their works.

Carrying on from this highly engaging course at the last Seminar, Chris will introduce more of the most common grounds of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, such as the passamezzo antico, passamezzo moderno, bergamasca, ruggiero, romanesca, passacaglia, chaconne, folia, and so forth. Participants are expected to memorize the grounds (in various keys), identify their individual melodic characteristics (and associated harmonic progressions), and create simple counterpoints to them. Later, they will improvise passages above them in fun, relaxed jam sessions.

By doing these exercises, participants will learn not only the common grounds of early music, but also how to improvise extended passages, or “divisions on a ground,” as was commonly practiced by 16th- and 17th-century instrumentalists and singers. Indeed, grounds were often studied as a prerequisite for learning how to realize a bass line (play continuo), transpose, and improvise. Throughout the course, the instructor will examine and distribute many choice examples of compositions based on grounds from the lute, guitar, and chitarrone repertoires, as well as from lute songs, monodies, and early dramatic works.

Beginning Lute Class

A hands-on course covering the basic physiological mechanics involved in playing the Renaissance lute well. Chris will deal with the fundamentals of right-hand thumb-under technique, the principles of left-hand finger placement (with special emphasis given to the thumb and little finger), and the “order,” or method, of choosing felicitous fingerings. He will also provide a checklist of problems to avoid, while offering insights into various ways of holding the lute, practicing, producing good tone, and playing in a relaxed, focused manner.

Robert Barto :

Dedillo for everyman”

One area of lute playing which has been largely neglected in the lute revival of the last half century is the dedillo technique used in the Spanish vihuela repertoire. In this class I’ll be presenting a practical approach to learning this technique as presented in El Maestro by Luis Milan. We’ll look at the historical information regarding dedillo and spend a part of each class with instruments in hand doing a series of exercises introducing this seldom used technique.

Baroque lute Master Class

Xavier Diaz-Latorre :

The concept of this lecture series is to give a thoughtful and thorough representation of the monumental changes that occurred during the 17th century in Europe, especially in the introduction and practice of basso continuo. The series will gravitate around the great changes that were occurring in accompaniment and other musical practice during that time. Each day will present a new topic including discussions on Monteverdi’s “Orpheo,” a discussion on Caccini, Viadana, Agazzari, Frescabaldi and eventually touch upon the second half of the century including some of the treatises by the composers Bismantova, Penna, Anonimo di Roma and Gasparini. Historical improvisation on the Spanish guitar based on the book of Sanz and its Laberintos Ingeniosos will also be discussed during the week.

Spanish polyphony of the Golden Century. Mateo Flecha the Old

The concept of this class will be based upon a study of the ‘Golden Age’ of Spanish polyphonic pieces from the 16th century in a broken consort style. This class will run as a topic class as well as giving students an opportunity to play in an ensemble setting. Plucked instruments, flutes, viols, drummers and singers are invited to join.

Andy Rutherford :

Resurrection and Redemption; Making an unplayable lute playable

The class will work on a couple of cheap student lutes (from Pat O’Brien’s collection) that have a lot of problems: high action; low action; bridge holes in all the wrong places; badly fitting pegs; bad sound; ugliness; etc.  The idea will be to make the instruments playable and donate them to the LSA lute rental program. Participants should come away with some strategies and techniques for upgrading less-than-perfect instruments.

Charlie Weaver :

Late 16th-century Intabulations

This class will look at the genre of intabulations in later collections of Renaissance Lute music. We will study the process of making intabulations, using examples from Terzi and Besard’s Thesaurus. How should we learn these pieces? How can we play them? How can we make our own settings? Participants are also invited to play intabulations of their choice in a genre-specific masterclass format.

The Brits Abroad (with Grant)

In the age of Will Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, English actors and musicians were popular on the continent, especially in Germany, and much English dance music was printed in German sources. This class explores the courtly dance repertoire of the English masque and theater found in continental sources, arranged for lute ensemble in tablature, score and figured bass. Lutes of all sizes, cittern, bandora, and other instruments welcome.

Grant Herreid :

The Brits Abroad (with Charlie)

In the age of Will Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, English actors and musicians were popular on the continent, especially in Germany, and much English dance music was printed in German sources. This class explores the courtly dance repertoire of the English masque and theater found in continental sources, arranged for lute ensemble in tablature, score and figured bass. Lutes of all sizes, cittern, bandora, and other instruments welcome.

Making It Up: Improvising on the Lute

Using lute sources such as Dalza and Borono, as well as early keyboard and viol sources, we’ll explore techniques for adding preludes and ritornelli, embellishing melodies, applying alternate harmonies, and extemporizing over basse dance and other dance forms. Tab and notation provided, but also bring in pieces you play that you would like to embellish and develop.

Emma Kirkby :

Master Class

The Life of Angelo Notari 

The Italian composer Angelo Notari, born 450 years ago, came to Britain in 1611 to work for the Crown Prince Henry, a keen patron of music who recast his court musicians more in the Italian manner . Notari dedicated his book “Prime Musiche Nuove”,  of 1613, to  Henry, who unfortunately died in that year;  but Notari stayed on as part of Prince Charles’s musical household, and would die in Britain at the age of 97, two years after the Restoration of Charles II.


Notari’s  book consists mostly of duets and trios, with just a handful of solo songs, mostly for bass, and one of those with splendid diminutions. This class will focus on that book and its probable impact on  British audiences. This, combined with one or two duets/dialogues by others from the Caroline court, will help to give a perspective of musical life in early 17th Century England. Students will be encouraged to perform pieces from Notari’s book for the class.

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