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Royal Academy of music - Colin Heuhns

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Royal Academy of Music Instrumental teacher and Academic Dr Colin Heuhns commissioned me to make 2 Virtuoso Hammered Dulcimers, one for the academy and one for himself. This instrument is essentially a 15 + 15 Dulcimer with 8 wound bass strings.

The bass strings mimic the tuning of the lowest 8 notes of a 15 + 15 but 1 octave lower. They can of course be tuned to different notes.

Tim Manning Hammered DulcimerMaestro Classic +

Playing the instrumentDr Colin Huehns

26 Nov 20013 British Library

Last night we celebrated the 400th anniversary of Parthenia's publication with a lecture-recital at the British Library, hosted in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Music. It was a sell-out event, and featured performances on three instruments from the time of Parthenia: the virginals (a delicate-toned keyboard instrument, pictured on Parthenia's title-page, above), the dulcimer and the Renaissance fiddle or lira da braccio.
Oliver Neighbour, leading scholar of the music of William Byrd and former head of music at the British Library, talked about the background to Parthenia's publication and the music it contains. He also shed light on some of the social niceties of the time. While the virginals would have been played at court and in high-ranking households, the dulcimer was considered a lower-class instrument.


The music in Parthenia was written by three of the greatest English composers then living: William Byrd, John Bull and Orlando Gibbons.  Each was from a different generation, Byrd having been born in about 1540, Bull in about 1562 and Gibbons in 1583.  Colin Huehns, lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music, selected music by all three composers for yesterday's recital, in which the principal role was taken by Royal Academy of Music student Martyna Kazmierczak, playing the virginals. 
Although all the music in Parthenia was composed for solo virginals, Colin experimented with adding a Renaissance fiddle to the texture in some of the pieces.  It may not have been what the composers originally intended, but adapting music to suit all kinds of instruments was a very common practice in the 17th century, and the effect was certainly interesting.

 Virtuoso Dulcimer
Martyna Kazmierczak (virginals) and Colin Huehns (Renaissance fiddle) with the dulcimer (Tim Manning) in the foreground.


The final two pieces, played by Colin Huehns and Elsa Bradley respectively, were performed on the dulcimer.  Colin reprised Byrd's 'Preludium no. 1' from earlier in the evening, and it was interesting to hear how the work sounded on an instrument with a quite different sonority from the virginals.
The virginals used in the recital was an original Renaissance instrument kindly loaned by the Royal Academy of Music from their collection of historic instruments, while the fiddle and dulcimers were modern replicas of early instruments. On display were a copy of Parthenia and several related items and, at the end of the evening, the audience had a chance to have a close look at these and at the musical instruments.
Why is Parthenia important?
Printers in Italy, Germany, France and England became highly proficient at printing music from moveable type during the 16th century.  But this kind of printing, in which each note - with its own staff lines  - sits on a separate piece of type, was not suitable for the fast notes and chordal writing found frequently in keyboard music.  Music for keyboard therefore continued to be transmitted in manuscript. The most magnificent example of these manuscripts is 'My Ladye Nevells Booke' (MS Mus. 1591), compiled by the scribe John Baldwin in 1591, which contains music by a single composer, William Byrd. 

This text and photo copied from British Library web site in case the link fails.

 

 

 

In another project Dr Heuhns commissioned me to make a copy of an instrument that was depicted in a painting by the Italian Artist Zoppo 1433-1478 The Virgin and Child surrounded by Angels

rctangular instrument

Ancient rectangular Hammered Dulcimer

The instrument was designed by us both and made using timber that could have been obtained in italy at the period. The tuning method was designed by Colin.

We imagined that it would be difficult to achieve the tuning especially when you consider how difficult it can be to get the precise position of just one bridge. In practice though it seemed to come relatively easily. This may of course been beginners luck. It is thought likely that this is the first instrument of its type made for perhaps 500 years.

The sides are of Plain the top Spruce and the bottom Maple. The bridges are of Padouk.

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