Renaissance Workshops

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Welcome to our Workshops and Summer School 2024!

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! The repertoire we are preparing right now has been performed in large settings of mixed vocal and instrumental groups, so everybody can be with us. These workshops and the woodwind weekends are conducted by Michael Dollendorf.

Amanda Markwick - Renaissance flute

Ibrahim Aziz - Viol

Lee Santana - Lute, Cister, Bandora, Renaissance Gitarre

Michael Dollendorf - Recorder, Cornetto & Sackbut, other woodwinds, Lirone

Sven Schwannberger - Voice

Always in the second week of August we have the Renaissance Workshop Summer School in Wolfenbüttel. A unique chance to study a special repertoire with the masters. The next one will take place 3-10 August 2024 with 'Musiche fatte nelle nozze - Firenze 1539 '.


We try to provide the music in facsimile and modern transcription 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 458 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 of 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.

For the Summer School we'll use two pitch standards. 458 Hz for the recorders, cornettos, sackbuts, crumhorns etc. and a whole step lower 408 Hz for flutes, viols and lutes. We have matched consorts of woodwinds for the partisipants to use in the ensemble sessions. For individual lessons you can play your instruments at whatever pitch.


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. 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 458 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 to 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. They were built as consort instruments 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 and who also made our set.

We do have a large set of 17 Renaissance instruments in: F, c, c, f, g, g, g, c', c', c',d',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 just that.

Renaissance flutes are very special instruments with the largest range of any woodwind from this period. The most interesting music is writen for consorts of 3 tenors and one bass. But also a tenor flute and lute or a bass flute and a singer were popular combinations. We have 2 consorts available at 458 Hz and at 408 Hz.

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 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 voices 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. Valentin 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.

Renaissance Workshops | Michael Dollendorf - Early Music


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