In the next online master class from the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society, lutenist Ronn McFarlane will present the “History and Literature of the Lute from Medieval Times through the Baroque,” a lecture about and demonstration of the instrument and its music. The class will air on Sunday, February 28, from 2:00 PM until 3:30 PM, Eastern Standard Time.
If reading the word “lute” makes you want to take flight, fearing the likes of Ignatius J. Reilly, I urge you to pause and give it a chance. This is McFarlane’s second master class for the BCGS this season, and the first was excellent. I almost didn’t register for it, but then I thought, Well, wait, a lot of the classical guitar’s repertoire was originally for the lute. Hell, I play that one Bach lute prelude. My interest was also piqued by the fact that the class would focus on the notation and ornamentation used in Baroque lute tablature manuscripts, discussing how to interpret them for the guitar. It’s true: I love a good historical manuscript.
Skipping that class would have been a huge mistake. Five minutes in, I was thankful I’d decided to attend. McFarlane’s discussion was like a historical detective story. It included manuscript samples of lute compositions and explored their significance for performers in various historical periods, tying them to the ways the lute itself, as an instrument, developed over time. The class was a combination of several things to love, such as music, history, and the semi-secret codes employed in both.
Given the title of his upcoming presentation, I’m guessing that McFarlane, as both scholar and performer, will focus even more on the historical elements that were so interesting in his fall lecture. I will certainly be joining his class on February 28, notebook at the ready.