We use a variety of renaissance and baroque recorders when we perform. During the fifteenth century instrument makers began producing choirs (or consorts) of recorders with cylindrical bores, in various sizes. These recorders have a range limited to about an octave and a minor seventh with a bold, rich timbre which is even in quality and dynamic level throughout their range. As the sixteenth century progressed, recorders were constructed with conical bores tapering gently towards the foot and by the late seventeenth century the recorder was completely redesigned for use as a solo instrument. Where previously it had been made in one or two pieces it was now made in three allowing for more accurate boring. It was given a more pronounced taper than ever before and had a fully chromatic range of two octaves and ultimately two octaves and a fifth. It was voiced to produce a more refined, focused and expressive sound. They are made from a variety of timbers such as European boxwood, palisander, plumwood, ebony and Australian mulga.
Violas da Gamba
The viola da gamba (viol) first appeared in Spain in the mid to late 15th century. These instruments are played upright, supported between the legs. They are fretted like a guitar and have 6 or 7 gut strings. They are bowed underhand. Like the recorder, viols were popular in the renaissance and baroque periods. Henry VIII, whose consort music gave our group its name, owned 76 recorders and a “chest” of viols at the time of his death.
Lutes, Theorbos & Guitars
The lute is set apart from other hand-plucked instruments by its pear shape, carved rose and several paired gut strings (“courses”). The lute occupied the highest place in Renaissance esteem for musical instruments, second only to the voice. The Renaissance lute came in many different sizes, from treble to bass. The number of strings varied, increasing with time. The theorbo is a later development of the lute with an extended neck and a second pegbox. Theorbos were developed during the late 16th century in Italy, inspired by the demand for extended bass range instruments for use in vocal accompaniment and continuo playing.