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Alison McGillivray

Violone, Viola Bastarda or Lyra Viol

'superbly expressive and imaginative playing' Early Music today

I’m a bass-line player. I wasn’t interested in playing the violin when I was very small; instead I agreed I’d wait until I was big enough for the cello. I remember playing 8-part Venetian double choral pieces on recorders at school (my mother, a recorder teacher, at the helm), and I also remember hearing lute song records on my parents’ turntable. But I was pretty sceptical about Early Music throughout music college. 

I remained unconvinced until I experienced playing Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Britten-Pears Summer Course. I sat with my college baroque cello next to an exotic viola da gamba player, hearing sackbutts, baroque harps, theorbos and a brilliantly disgusting sounding regal for the first time, playing in a weird tuning system (quarter comma meantone). I discovered how to play artfully simple music differently every time.

I found a bunch of people who were interested in playing old music on weird instruments, but who were also interested in all sorts of other things too. This was the place to be.

In the meantime, I’ve gathered a 5-string cello to add to my 4 string ones, viols of all shapes and sizes, and my current favourite: a lyra d’amore, with its sympathetic strings and ancient Scandinavian sounding overtones. And the society is still good.