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The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments champions rare and exotic instruments from past centuries. Its original and imaginative projects have been performed in major festivals and venues throughout the UK and abroad, recorded on three acclaimed CDs and featured on national radio. The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments is a registered charity.
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‘The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments has forged a reputation for being one of our finest exponents of early music. They enchant and amaze in equal measure.' The Musician

'Anyone who has experienced an SSAI performance can testify as to the impressive visual and aural spectacle that they produce, and their vibrant, carefree virtuosity was as enthralling as ever.' Early Music Today

'There can be no more satisfying and diverting performers of early music than the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments.' The Arts Diary

'What the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments have concocted in ‘Sound House’ is a wondrous journey through a realm of unimaginable sonic possibilities; travel with them, and I guarantee that you will never think of sound in the same way again.' Early Music Today



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The trumpet marine has a fascinating history stretching back to the middle ages. For hundreds of years it was played in convents across Europe. This tall, stately instrument was especially associated with nuns, perhaps because trumpets were off-limits for women. By the 17th century it began to appear in public concerts. The great trumpet marine virtuoso, Jean-Baptiste Prin and his father made a career of entertaining English audiences including Samuel Pepys who wrote on 24th October 1667:  

‘it doth so far out-do a Trumpet as nothing more, and he doth play anything very true and it is most remarkable; and at first was a mystery to me that I should hear a whole concert of chords together at the end of the pause… [this was the effect of the sympathetic strings] And [these instruments] would make an excellent consort, two or three of them, better than trumpets can ever do because of their want of compass.’ 
But by the 18th century the trumpet marine had fallen out of favour and had become obsolete.   Until now...    

Reviving this spectacular and beautiful instrument is an important piece in the jigsaw of the work that the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments has done in celebrating the more eccentric instruments of years gone by - the viola bastarda, keyed fiddle, bray harp and hurdy gurdy to name but a few.  Our first trumpet marine was made by master luthier Shem Mackey, a copy of a mid-18th century instrument in the V&A. It has a string made from 70 to 80 sheep gut strands, a buzzing bridge, 42 sympathetic strings and is nearly two metres tall. Since then, three more newly-made trumpets marine have joined it, and now we are performing on them in a re-imagining of the ‘rare concert of four trumpets marine' given in 1674 and advertised in the London Gazette as: 

‘A Rare Concert of four Trumpets Marine, never heard before in England! If any persons desire to come and hear it, they may repair to the Fleece Tavern, near St James’s about two of the clock in the afternoon, every day in the week, except Sundays. Every concert shall continue an hour and so begin again.’  




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The Longest Night explores the Scandinavian traditions around mid-winter and Lussinatten (The Longest Night) and the light and the dark of this special time of year. Our new CD includes traditional Norwegian songs associated with Lussinatten, St Lucia's day and Christmas, Hardanger fiddle tunes, Irish jigs and reels, Playford dances and an ancient troubadour Alba or dawn song. The performers are award-winning Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player and singer, Benedicte Maurseth, SSAI’s director, Clare Salaman, and harpist, Jean Kelly, playing an array of beautiful and unusual instruments - Hardanger fiddles, Swedish nyckelharpa, and clàrsach (celtic harp). 

Subtle and atmospheric at times; forceful, merry and energetic at others.
A spellbinding performance .... truly original.


Although Francis Bacon, 17th century philosopher, statesman and visionary, is widely regarded as the father of modern science, his investigations into the nature of sound are little known.  Sound House explores some of the seemingly magical and musical phenomena that Bacon sought to explain. Playing some extraordinary instruments, including the bray harp and the little known viola bastarda, The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments will present music of the 17th century alongside newly composed pieces, exploring astonishing aural effects and illusions that so intrigued our 17th century forbears. READ MORE

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We think of the publicity stunt as peculiar to our age but the antics of Will Kemp, a shameless self-publicist and one of the leading actors in Shakespeare’s company, prove otherwise. In 1600 he danced his way from London to Norwich in nine days, entertaining an adoring public en route. The Society of Strange and Ancient instruments, with dancer, Steven Player, celebrate Will Kemp’s account of the journey, ‘Nine Daies Wonder’, with raucous dance tunes and more refined music of the Elizabethan age.

They breathe new life into this celebrated event, which remains awe-inspiring 400 years on, and still has the power to delight, baffle and amuse.

Nine Daies Wonder TRAILER
Player’s dancing was sublime as he switched from serene galliard or graceful pavane to kickabout jig. The Times 4 stars

‘The incredible joy in the room was palpable.’ Nick Wells, Director of The Bury Festival

The best sort of early music concert: a strong thematic concept with a splendid mix of less and more well-known music on an interesting array of instruments – and there was something for everyone.
Early Music Review

The musical backing for his journey was provided by four musicians, masters in their field of ancient music, with beautiful vocals from Jeremy Avis and harmonious sounds from the ancient instruments.
Bury Free Press



More reviews...

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The Ministry of Angels
In this programme we explore music associated with angels, the maverick and fallen as well as the divine and perfect. Playing some of the instruments that appear in descriptions and depictions of angels through the ages, as well as other strange and ethereal sounding instruments, we present traditional tunes, dances, songs and carols in a celebration of these heavenly creatures.
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La Société des Instruments Anciens
A recreation of a concert given by our predecessors, La Société des Instruments Anciens, who gave a series of historical performances in the Salon Pleyel in Paris in the years around 1900. We play the instruments used in the original programme - hurdy gurdy, viola d'amore, viola da gamba and harpsichord - in a programme of old favourites and fascinating oddities from the 18th century.
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