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Liam Byrne

Thursday 11th November 2021, 12.00pm

St. Michael & All Angels, Pond Road, Blackheath SE3 9JL

Concert: “Lessons for Lyra Viol”

Liam Byrne divides his time between making very old and very new music on the viola da gamba. He's played with many leading European early music ensembles including the Huelgas Ensembe, Dunedin Consort, Academy of Ancient Music, and Fretwork to name a very few. Liam also works frequently with composers, folk musicians, and electronic musicians making new music with his 17th-century instrument, such as Nico Muhly, Donnacha Dennehy, David Lang, Shara Nova, Efterklang, Martin Hayes, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Greg Saunier, and many others. He has three duo projects that are particularly close to his heart: with lutenist Jonas Nordberg, with fiddler and composer Cleek Schrey, and with singer and songwriter Mara Carlyle. Liam has also created original sound installations for the Victoria & Albert museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery. He is a member of the Icelandic artist collective and record label Bedroom Community, with whom he released his debut solo album Concrete in 2019.

Programme - Thursday 11th November 2021, 12.00pm

“Lessons for Lyra Viol”


Liam Byrne viola de gamba

At around the same time John Dowland was writing his famously beautiful music for solo lute, his contemporary Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger was composing a collection of equally gorgeous, subtle, and elegant music for solo viol. Heard all too rarely today, the repertoire is highly complex, chordal and contrapuntal, with Ferrabosco asking the player to tune his instrument in a variety of non-standard ways to achieve special resonances. We often describe the viol as a bowed lute, and it is particularly in this style of writing, called playing lyra way or playing the lyra viol, where this close relationship between the lute and viol is most apparent.

The lyra viol's bow is light and flexible and it does something halfway between plucking and singing, like filling in the ink drawing of lute playing with strokes of delicate watercolour. In this program, Liam Byrne intersperses selections from Ferrabosco's 1609 collection of lyra viol lessons with some anonymous gems from unpublished manuscript sources, as well as works by William Lawes, Daniel Farrant, and others.

The lyra viol is the ultimate unaccompanied repertoire for the viol. Introspective, intimate, and delicate, it flourished in Britain throughout the 17th century. One of its more well-known proponents was the diarist Samuel Pepys, who often writes of playing alone on his lyra viol before bed.

Approx. finish time 1.00pm.