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Liam Byrne

Lirone, Viols

‘Liam Byrne gave a glittering performance to match what he was wearing’ The Guardian
I started playing the viol in its various shapes and sizes when I was 18 and fell deeply in love with it pretty much instantly. I was especially drawn to the malleability of its sound and the way it blended so easily with other instruments. Over the course of my studies, I got really into some of the more esoteric historical viol repertoire, like the late 15th-century Flemish counterpoint of Agricola and Ockeghem, the zaniest English consort music of William Lawes, and the mind-meltingly beautiful duos of Sainte Colombe. 
Nowadays about half the work I do involves playing the weirdest old music I can get away with for pretty much anyone who will listen to it, and the rest of my time is spent making new music, either by commissioning composers like Edmund Finnis, Nico Muhly, and Donnacha Denehy to write things for me, or through collaboration with a wide variety of other music-makers. Sometimes I play warm, simple chords with singer-songwriters or folk musicians, and other times I work closely with electronic musicians making raspy crystal crunches. I really enjoy experimenting with the sound of the viol, trying to see how many different colours and textures I can get out of it and pushing its limits, while fully embracing an almost obsessively geekily historically accurate instrument setup. 
The past few years I have also been part of quite a lot of staged works and sound installations, many of which link old and new ideas and sounds. In 2015 I was Artist in Residence at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and I’m also professor of viola da gamba at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.