Summer Seminar, 2002

As seen from the inside, by Betsy Small

'Twas once in Cleveland Town

'Twas once in Cleveland town there came a jolly band of Minstrels
Led by good Sir Garald of New York and Caroline our Queen;
There were voices, lutes, vihuelas, chittarones and theorbos
For to pluck and stroke and sing and string and strum the week away!

I went to master classes for to learn to pluck more tunefully
And sharpen my technique to play as fast as Paul O'Dette;
I prepared some lovely music that would melt the hearts that heard it;
As I set the lute to warblin' like a gentil alouette!

But when I played for Paul I was a-twitchin' and a-trembling;
The fingerboard got slippery as I began to sweat,
And a nasty voice within me chided, "You're not much of a lutenist
If you cannot even play in master class for Paul O'Dette!"

And then the voice commanded me, "Relax, there's nothin' to it!"
So I stopped and dropped my hands down by my sides like Paul had said;
The lute began to slip and fall, but fortunately I grabbed it;
Then just like a fool I rushed back in where angels fear to tread!

I plunged myself into my tune, but half the notes were missing;
The chanterelle was whimp'ring and the bass began to roar;
When all was done I hung my head...but they clapped instead of hissing,
'Cause they knew just how I felt, since they had all been there before!

I played some Chilesotti for Andrea Damiani;
He said my tone was mooshy and my tactus imprecise;
My right hand felt incompetently clumsy, weak and clammy,
But Andrea saved the day with exercises and advice!

Andrea, Nigel, Ellen, Bob, Paul, Ronn and Julianne
And the venerable Venere Quartet of Gail, Chris, Doug and Phil
Have served as masters, muses, friends, fine teachers and tormenters (!)
Who've transformed our lives with music that can soothe and heal and thrill!

As seen from the outside, by Wilma Salisbury, music critic for The Plain Dealer

Excerpts from her review:

In nine concerts presented this week by the Lute Society of America as part of its biennial summer seminar at Case Western Reserve University, world-renowned faculty artists plucked dulcet tones from the gut strings of treble, tenor and bass lutes. They played counterpoint on baroque lutes, accompanied early music singers, strummed baroque guitars and manipulated the awkward-looking theorbo, the largest member of the lute family.

Though the lutenists took their art seriously, they showed a sense of humor. Robert Barto capped his concert of 18th-century German lute music by turning into a lounge lizard and playing baroque guitar to accompany soprano Ellen Hargis' sultry singing of "The Girl from Ipanema." Paul O'Dette, the superlative lutenist who was a rock musician during his youth in Columbus, played jazz lute in "My Funny Valentine," the surprise encore he and Hargis performed following their dramatic recital of 17th-century Italian music.

Highlights from the seminar concerts were offered to a larger audience in a "Lute Extravaganza" hosted by CWRU music professor Ross Duffin Wednesday night at the Cleveland Museum of Art. O'Dette launched the evening by strolling down the aisle like a Renaissance street musician and playing a Venetian pavane with winks and smiles at the listeners. He was joined by elegant Italian lutenist Andrea Damiani in contrapuntal pieces by Vincenzo Galilei. The ensemble grew to three, then four lutenists as Venere Quartet members Gail Gillispie, Phil Rukavina, Chris Morongiello and Doug Freundlich presented some of their new arrangements — regrettably without the aid of the between-pieces tuning device.

After intermission, McFarlane won hearts with fresh original compositions that explored a fascinating variety of colors and techniques. Lutenists Barto and Nigel North represented the baroque era with solo performances of pieces by Bach and S.L. Weiss and a melodious duet by B.J. Hagen, the last of the 18th-century lutenist composers.

The evening climaxed with the unparalleled artistry of soprano Julianne Baird. Her extraordinary interpretations of a lute song by John Dowland and a sacred work by Monteverdi plumbed the depths of emotion and scaled the heights of expression. Lutenist McFarlane was the perfect partner, sympathetic to the singer's every nuance. The grand finale [was] a marvelous Monteverdi madrigal sung by the stellar sopranos with the accompaniment of three baroque guitars, seven Renaissance lutes and theorbo.

As seen through the lens of Kenneth Be's digital camera.




Lute Tasting.


  Chris Morrongiello, The Strings of Affection, Thursday afternoon.

  Michael Schreiner, The Paris Vihuela, Friday afternoon.

Radio Interview.

  Paul O'Dette and Caroline Usher, President of the LSA, were interviewed on the local Public Radio station.

Book Reception.

  A twilight wine and cheese reception was held in celebration of the publication of the book, A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance, by the Lute Society of America earlier in the Spring.


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Last updated 11 January AD 2004 – DFH.