Renaissance Workshops

Welcome !

The Renaissance Workshop aims to provide a place for advanced amateur and professional singers and players to study glorious Renaissance Music. Our past students were mostly interested in unusual repertoire and playing in mixed consorts. We'll try to provide exactly that in 2016! The repertoire we are preparing right now has been performed in big settings of mixed vocal and instrumental groups, so that everybody can be with us. But also we'll keep having Renaissance Viol Consort workshops with Richard Sutcliffe.


Summer School 2017 - Ferrara 1400 - 1600

22-29 July 2017

This year's Summer School will focus on Renaissance Ferrara, one of the most fascinating musical environments ever!

The teachers this year will be:

String players can play on Renaissance viols, lira da braccios and lirones by Marco Ternovec and Josef Huber.



We try to provide the music in facsimile and modern transcriptoin whenever possible, mostly using the editions of Clemens Goldberg. Those can be downloaded from the Goldberg-Stifung website. You can print  it  in the original or in modern clefs. Please bring the music you can read best – printed, prepared, bound in a way to avoid page turns, pages and bars counted and numbered etc. Be prepaired !!! If the music is not available in print, we send it around some weeks before the workshop. Also we'll be using the editions of Bernhard Thomas, LondonProMusica. In our Summer and Winter School we'll find more time to work with original notation.


We'll sing and play at a pitch of 460 Hz. This was the most common pitch standard for organs, woodwinds and brass instruments in the 15th and 16th century. For the singers it makes things easier, as many parts are rather low and the viol players might just have to put on two thinner top strings, but that is not too much an expense we hope. Sackbuts can continue on their instruments but have to read it as an instrument in A, which is how it was done anyway – trombones in Bb are an 18th century invention. And for the recorders, we do have a large set of perfectly matched instruments.


Sackbuts are the instruments that changed the least over the centuries. What is today a tenor sackbut in Bb a=440 Hz is exactly the same instrument as the tenor sackbut in A a=460 Hz with a sliding first position, two fingers wide, as Praetorius describes it. So please bring your instruments and all the extra plumbing you might have gotten with it and be prepared to read them as instruments in A, G, F, E, D.....

Still very good, even though almost 30 years old, is the little pamphlet by Henry George Fischer, who describes his struggle to find an instrument close to an historic original. At least the instrument builders who make acceptable historical copies are still the same two makers in the Netherlands and in northern Germany, with a third one in Switzerland coming close. The little book you find downloadable online.

For cornett players there will be another solution. Our teacher Sam Goble is a maker of mouthpieces. If you have an instrument at the higher pitch of 466 Hz he can sell you a transposing mouthpiece to get you down to our standard pitch of 460 Hz. Or to bring a 440 instrument down to 408 and you transpose up a whole step. We also have some  instruments at the right pitch available.

Bass curtal players with high pitch instruments are welcome to join in at these weekends. Just make sure your reeds are big enough and your bocals are long enough to match our pitch.

Singers A consort is not a choir! You should be able to carry a line, one on a part, in a rich texture. We will begin with a very different way of voice building than you might be used to. Volume is not a concern. Instead we are looking for overtones that can go into resonance and that carry a voice through a cathedral!

Renaissance recorders are mostly cylindrical instruments with a strong lower octave and a range of one octave and a sixth. It was built as a consort instrument in matched sets. Most instruments were built in one piece, at least down to the bass size. The first modern makers to take these instruments serious were Bob Marvin from Canada, who made the instruments for the Vienna Recorder Ensemble in the 1970s and who still makes sets most players dream of, and Klaus Scheele, who worked for the Loeki Stardust Quartet.

We do have a large set of 15 Renaissance instruments in: F, C, C, f, g, g, c', c', c',f', f', g', g', c'', d''. With this we can play all music up to seven or nine parts without ever running into problems.

If you have a matched set of Renaissance recorders, please bring them, even if they are at a different pitch. It is always nice to compare and to get another group started in a second or third room. Ganassi recorders are not Renaissance consort instruments. They have been developed for solo playing and will do fine for j.ust that.

Renaissance Viols we are still pretty much at the beginning to re-discovering, since there are very few reliable sources. There are no known instruments dating pre 1530, so we have to base everything on iconographical evidence. Most interesting is Laura Moretti's research project 'In Gamba!' at the University of St Andrews. Also Joëlle Morton, who will teach at our Summer School, has a large collection on her website.

If we take Ganassi and the instruments from museums and paintings that represent the so called Venetian school, we can state two things: By 1540 we do have a very high level of playing and instrument building, that is well beyond an experimental stage; and most of the instruments we see are rather big - great basses, basses and tenors. These viols were the perfect answer to the need of lower pitches in a musical world, that was going to perform Masses for 40-60 solo voices just one generation later.

It would be nice to have as many early (pre-Jaye) viols strung in plain gut as possible. Wound strings don't belong to this musical world. Valtenin Oelmüller will be around with his moroccan gut strings ready to re-string instruments Saturday evening.

The Goldberg-Stiftung lends us their 15th Century Viols by Richard Earle.
Josef Huber will also bring Renaissance viols from his workshop.