The Viol da Gamba Society has generously extended our loan of 5 historical replica instruments! If every you’ve been interested, or thought you might be, in exploring the viola da gamba, now is your chance! If you don't have a viol of your own, you are welcome to use one of our loaned set FREE OF CHARGE! (See FAQs at the bottom of this page.)
If you participated in the ensemble last semester, we will continue onward, polishing our repertoire and improving our abilities on the instrument. We’ll continue to collaborate with Nick Jarret and the Metropolitan Conservatory Baroque Orchestra. If you’ve never played before, welcome! You will get to explore Ancient music and historical performance practices from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and learn a new (to you) way of playing stringed instruments that can have a positive effect on your modern playing. This semester runs from SEPTEMBER 14-NOVEMBER 9, and meets on Saturdays, 11:00am, and 12:00pm. All rehearsals and semesters-end concert and workshop will be held at 11806 Quivira Rd.
Renaissance and Baroque
Classes meet on Saturdays at 11am & 12pm at 11806 QuiviraRd
Limit: 5 students per class
Questions? Send us a message!
Notes from the director, Dr. Victor Penniman:
We’re really excited to begin another semester! If you were in the ensemble last time, we will continue onward, learning new repertoire and improving our abilities on the instrument. This semester, we’ll be continuing to collaborate with Nick Jarret and the Metropolitan Conservatory Baroque Orchestra. If you’ve never played before, welcome! You will get to explore Ancient music and historical performance practices from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, and learn a new (to you) way of playing stringed instruments that can have a positive effect on your modern playing. This semester runs through March 24, 2018, and meets on Saturdays, 11:00am, and 12:00pm. All rehearsals and semesters-end concert and workshop will be held at the Quivira Location. The viols are available to us from the Viola da Gamba Society of America for a limited time that is fast running out, so don’t hesitate!
Can I "check out" a viol da gamba for practice? Unfortunately we cannot allow students to take our gambas home due to the gamba society grant restrictions. A Gamba will be provided for your use during rehearsals. If you would like to practice during your own time (We encourage this!) you can check out a practice room and gamba and practice to your heart's content at our studio. There is no additional charge for studio practice time. Just click to book an open time slot here:
What is a viola da gamba?
The viola da gamba is a bowed string instrument with 6 (or sometimes 7) strings, held between the knees, and bowed underhand. While it looks like it might be some kind of early cello, it really is its own family of instruments, having come into being at roughly the same time as the violin family (1490s). The violin, however, was at first considered a lowly street instrument, while the viol (short for viola da gamba), having been developed in the Italian courts in Florence, was quickly adopted by aristocrats all over Europe, and later by the burgeoning English middle class. It’s this latter group of people for whom the majority of our ensemble (consort) music is written. The 7-string bass was the favorite solo instrument of Louis XIV, reserved for intimate entertainments in his private chambers.
Is it hard to play?
For the beginner, not particularly! Because of the frets, if you have any string experience at all, you will find that intonation is not an issue, and that once you get the hang of the bowing, the instrument is not all that difficult to play. It is immensely satisfying to play in consort (as any VdGSA member can tell you: it’s a favorite thing to do!), and the sound is light, airy, and very beautiful.
Why play viola da gamba? Will it help my (violin/viola/cello/bass) playing, or just become a distraction?
Studying Early Music on period instruments can do wonders for your “modern” playing. One of the first things you’ll notice about the bow grip, aside from the fact that your fingers are on the hair (!), is that it has a much different natural articulation, perfectly suited to Baroque and Renaissance music (the bow is, after all, the type that was used in the 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries). You can then flip the bow to the overhand grip and use it on your (violin/viola/cello/bass), and begin to get a sense of Baroque bowing on you modern instrument. Because of the frets, you’ll use no vibrato, and the clarity of the harmony when you’re playing in an ensemble is really beautiful. It focuses your ear in new ways that can carry over nicely to your “modern” playing as well.
I’ve never heard of this instrument before. Does anyone play it?
Yes! The are many expert players of the instrument here in the U.S. We have at least two of them right here in Kansas City - Dr. Penniman (of course) and Gerald Trimble, who will pay our class visits from time to time. In Europe, the viol is as common a thing to play as almost anything else. Jordi Savall, Paolo Pandolfo, Weiland Kuijken, and Hille Perle are some of the European virtuosi for whom you can find many recordings. Tina Chancey, a noted American violist da gamba, has performed on an electric version of the instrument with Ritchie Blackmore, one of the founding members of the Rock bands Deep Purple and Rainbow. Recordings are readily available from professional viol consorts such as Fretwork, Phantasm, and others.
Historical performance of music from the Middle Ages up through Bach’s lifetime are extremely important programs at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Oberlin, UCLA, USC, and more recently, Juliard, among many others. In the last decade, Historical Performance has found its place, enabling the best players to play Bach, for example, closer to the way Bach would have imagined his music played, which is quite a bit different from the way Brahms, for another example, would have imagined his played. When you know the difference, your interpretations of your recital pieces can take on new life!