I’ve just got back from Scotland, where I had the most fantastic time playing an all-Hume programme with Concerto Caledonia at the Edinburgh Festival. It wasn’t Hume as you know it. It was so much cooler than any Hume I’d heard or played before. Between seven of us we played four viols (two original 17c. basses, a tenor and a brand new sympathetically strung lyra), two orpharions, a cittern, flutes, nyckelharpa, theorbo and virginals. Instead of just playing the actual notes Hume wrote–which, tbh are mostly not very good–we played his tunes. There was also some virtuosic and characterful singing from Thomas Walker.
Taking this music outside the realm of the viol’s physicality, or kinaesthetic identity or whatever, and into the context of a folk band shed some really quite flattering light on the old fellow’s work. Although, it was sometimes a rather emotionally difficult experience for a viol player! I ended up mostly playing things that weren’t written, readjusting the role of the tenor viol to suit this new, quirky, magical ensemble. I’d re-voice Hume’s chords to avoid doubling the nyckelharpa in a weird register, or surrender the melody entirely and improvise a twiddly contratenor. Hume himself says there are any number of possible ensemble permutations with which one can play his music. Well, we ran with that idea. The combination of tenor viol and nyckelharpa is really quite a wondrous thing. And don’t they look so cute together?
And what’s even more exciting is that the day after our concert, we recorded an album! It felt very alive and fresh when we were doing it, and I can’t wait to hear the final result. For now, here’s a little sneak peek of the rough take of A Merry Conceit.