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Liz Kenny

Lutes and guitars of all shapes and sizes

‘A bronze Liz Kenny should be on the empty plinth in Trafalgar square, in my opinion’ Early Music Review
I started playing guitar aged around 7. My parents thought it might be a not too expensive solution to my being restless and bored at school. Eventually it was. When I was about fifteen my guitar teacher suggested having a go at the lute. Too wierd, strange and ancient, I thought. Six years later I’d finally worked out the lute was where a lot of the music I liked came from, and even better it had a much larger repertoire for playing music with other people. If I’d thought to link the pop music I loved to sing and listen to with the classical music I played (but never listened to: I do now…) I might have gone a different way. So I changed my mind and started the lute, which I realised with a bit of horror was actually a family of instruments in different shapes, sizes and tunings. It opened up another way of playing which was to improvise over a bass line or chords.

That’s led me to play in all sorts of early music ensembles and lately to other collaborations such as with members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, of whom I’m a big fan. I’m keen too to work with children who like me didn’t start from a basis of music at home, but discovered it through primary school. I’ve devised projects from Blow’s
Venus and Adonis to Youths, Lutes and Ukes, and lately been involved in re-mixing sounds with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s education team. I still enjoy the solo playing that came from the guitar, but balance it out with the unpredictability of accompanying other people. I’m a Reader in Performance at Southampton University where I work with students across all types of music, and have just commissioned some new music for my strange and ancient theorbo.