“probably the finest living exponent of his instrument” ~The Times Colonist, Victoria, B.C.
Ronn's professional discography spans nearly 20 years on the Dorian recording label. In addition to his many CDs, Ronn has also produced books and videos related to the lute and its music. To learn more about this wide library of content, select from one of the following categories:
Historically the lute player and the composer of lute music were one and the same. Ronn McFarlane has returned to that time, with this dazzling and beautiful recording of his own compositions for the lute. He has made a recording of very accessible music as his stays true to the title song, Indigo Road, which signifies a spiritual path we all take through life. The pieces take the listener down aural roads from one composition to the next. We are transported to the future through dreams and left feeling wistful and nostalgic as if remembering the distant past.
"The first time I picked up a lute was at a local music store," says Ronn McFarlane. "I'd been studying guitar, and I'd already learned a lot about the lute, so I was surprised to discover how awkward it was to hold and how disappointing and difficult it was to try to play. Very frustrating, like a foreign thing. "But I wasn't dissuaded. I found a way to buy one and worked with it and gradually it became comfortable, comfortable to the point where it became like an extension of my body. And that's the ideal with any instrument." "At the time I switched to lute, my guitar repertory was loading up more and more with Renaissance pieces, which I loved. Also, there was something about the lute itself that had a magnetic pull. It seemed to be a natural instrument for me."
Little is known of the earliest history of the Lute in Scotland, though it was clearly an important instrument for centuries before the first lute manuscripts appeared. Crusaders, for example, returned from the East with lutes, among other musical instruments. As early as the thirteenth century, and for centuries thereafter, there were frequent references to the "tinkling" and the "melodious sound" of the "jolie lute" in Scottish poetry, and poets always included it in inventories of then fashionable instruments. Joyful, doleful, even diabolical - all of the many moods of the lute inspired Scottish poets over the years, suggesting it was an instrument with which the educated classes were intimately familiar - Kevin Bazzana
The revival of the lute and its repertoire in the later twentieth century has been so thorough that it is difficult now to remember how much a "distant shore" the instrument seemed to musicians even a few generations ago. Like the cornett or the viola da gamba or the harpsichord, it was an instrument - and a repertoire, and a set of performance practices - that was all but dead for many years, that needed to be revived more or less from scratch. As for the lute music of the later Baroque period, it represents an instrument long past its heyday: even late-Baroque musicians themselves considered the lute a distant shore - an anachronism - Kevin Bazzana
The title Between Two Hearts symbolizes the magnetic pull between the hearts of a pair of dancers, and especially the music connecting these hearts. Many of the peices in this collection were probably intended to accompany dancing. Others may have been written more for the ear than the feet but still remain close to their dance roots.
When first conceiving this recording, I imagined myself as a first time listener to the lute. I have tried to bring together a collection of pieces that capture some of the variety and range of styles of the Renaissance lute The lute was the favorite solo instrument of the Renaissance, valued for its portability and its expressiveness. The lute's shadings of dynamics and tone color were literally at the tip of one's fingers I hope that these varying colors and textures of sound will help communicate the spirit and character of these pieces more clearly, as well as keeping the ear refreshed. For any variety of sounds will be meaningless unless tied to the emotional or structural content of the music -Ronn McFarlane
John Dowland stands out as the most tuneful Elizabethan lute composer. Whether creating tunes for dances, variatons on popular ballads or weaving a contrapuntal fantasia, his melodies lodge in the memory and resound there long after the music has stopped. Over half of Dowland's compostitions are written in dance forms - mostly pavans, galliards and almains. These pieces are written as art music, not intended to accompany dancing, though they embody the character of the physical movements of the dance. - Ronn McFarlane
"They are animated, chaste and simple in their style and expression, and though 'old and plain,' and more remarkable for spirit and originality than for elegance, it may be said of them, as of the poetical relics of ancient minstrelsy, 'With rough majestic force they move the heart, And strength and nature make amends for art." Thus wrote William Dauney in 1838 about the music found in the Skene Mandora Book (c.1625). His words could just as aptly describe all the music contained in this recording. - Ronn McFarlane
The works on this program take in a century and a half of Italian solo song, from the beginning of the era of music printing in the late Renaissance through the musical revolution of the early Baroque. - Kevin Bazzana
Julianne Baird and I first met in the fall of 1981 at her home near Philadelphia. We had arranged to meet and read through a number of English lute songs in preparation for a concert of music from Shakespeare's plays with the Baltimore Consort. During that first meeting, we read through several of the songs we have since recorded and continue to perform today, and we slipped easily into an unspoken agreement about phrasing and movement in music. My initial impression, aside from the beauty of her voice, was that Julianne is a particularly natural singer to follow, with a spontaneous musical sense that draws out my best playing. - Ronn McFarlane
The lute songs of earlier Elizabethan times, such as those by Campion, Dowland and Morley are distinguished by directness, relative simplicity of vocal line, and musical fidelity to the rhythm of the text. Furthermore, throughout the Renaissance and early Baroque, in England as in no other country, song was shaped by the firm authority of poets, who took a dim view of the singer who might "hide the light of sense with divisions." - Julianne Baird
Fascinated by the variety of timbres that instruments can produce, renaissance musicians developed a wide variety of sound colors, ranging from the almost vocal sound of the bowed strings to the chirpy, bird-like sound of the high winds, the twang of the wire-strung cittern, and the buzz of the crumhorns. The sixteenth century musician's love of variety can be seen in the vast array of instruments imitated by organ stops of the period, by surviving instruments and pictures of instruments, and also by eyewitness accounts of the cornucopia of the insturments used to provide music for the lavish banquets of royalty. In true English Consort style, the Baltimore Consort, America's most popular early music ensemble, mixes instruments from different families. The Baltimore Consort was founded to perform instrumental music of Shakespeare's time. Although later joined by a singer, the group's experience of rehearsing purely instrumentallly forged its identity as an ensemble dedicated to exploiting the diverse sound colors offered by gut- and wire- strung plucked and bowed strings and transverse and end-blown recorders and flutes, capped reeds and percussion.
Two musical traditions - one as old as the other is new - characterize this ensemble. The old one is the broken consort, a name given to the ensemble of instruments that entertained the Queen of England at the end of the 16th century. . . . What's new is the fire and punch of a jazz band or rock group. In fact, two of the Baltimore Consort members have played in rock bands, and the group, writes Mary Anne Ballard, "now capitalizes on the similarities in compositional process between modern pop music and Renaissance 'broken consort' music." The essentials are one or two melody instruments, something to play a bass line, and instruments that add harmony and enhance the texture and rhythm. "It's a basic ensemble you find in many different kinds of popular music," says Ballard, "beginning with the Elizabethan period. You would have found our kind of ensemble in the pit, so to speak, at a Shakespeare performance. Others who have the same outline are a bluegrass band and a Mexican mariachi band. There's something universal about it." Ballard, who plays viols and rebec in the Consort, is a musicologist and guiding force who has been with the group since its beginnings. - Byron A. Nilsson
The lure of Scottish melody with its gapped scales and "scotch snaps" (short-long rhythms) motivated the English to set new words to Scottish tunes or to write new tunes in imitation of Scottish style. The popularity of "Scotch" style reached its zenith after the Restoration, culminating in the publications of the Playfords and Thomas Dâ€™Urfey, the latter of whom is represented here by the two selections from Wit and Mirth: or, Pills to Purge Melancholy of 1719: The Scotch Cuckold and Catherine Logy. -Mary Anne Ballard
The initial spark for this program was a landmark publication called A Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes, published in Dublin in 1724 by John & William Neal. One of the earliest documents of the rich and thriving Irish musical tradition, it was the very first collection of exclusively Irish music to emerge in print or manuscript. The father and son team of John & William Neal were pioneers in the musical life of early eighteenth-century Dublin. Together their work as instrument makers, publishers, and concert promoters practically monopolized the music trade from the 1720's until William's death in 1769. -Chris Norman
The Fairy Queen and her maides daunced about the garden, singing a Song of six parts, with the musick of an exquisite consort; wherin was the lute, bandora, base-violl, citterne, treble viol and flute. The Honourable Entertainment at Elvetham, anon. 1591
Tunes from the Attic returns to the central repertory of the Baltimore Consort: popular and courtly music from Elizabethan England and Renaissance Scotland, with ballads, airs, and country dances which grew from those traditions over the following centuries. All these excellent tunes stimulate our collective musical imagination and continue to inhabit our brains long after we have packed up our instruments and gone home. Like our predecessors four hundred years ago, we are inspired to make "art" of these infectious melodies. Every family has an attic - a place to re-discover items no longer in use but treasured nonetheless. - Mary Anne Ballard
The English Dancing Master, first published by John Playford in 1651, is an anthology of top tunes from the 17th century. Used for country dancing, but also for ballad settings and artful concert pieces, these are melodies that set a-tapping the toes of Charles II, Henry Purcell and Samuel Pepys. - Mary Anne Ballard
"One of the finest Christmas recordings ever made..." David Vernier, Classics Today One cannot step into an elevator, fast-food restaurant, or airport between Thanksgiving and New Year's without hearing most of the tunes recorded here. This traditional music, with roots going back many centuries, revives our spirits and evokes a festive mood. They have been part of our cultural subconscious for centuries. They have not been lost and then unearthed in recent times, like so much early music. They have been with us all along. - Mary Anne Ballard
All of the song and dance arrangements on this CD are the creation of the members of the Baltimore Consort, who sometimes have only an unharmonized melody to start with. Two of the early printed sources from which we have drawn our material were collections of unadorned popular tunes with texts. Others were originally guitar intabulations with voice; a solo lute print by Robert Ballard was the starting point for the Branles de village; while other dances and chansons were originally found in four-part arrangements which the Baltimore Consort has further elaborated. - Mary Anne Ballard
Through these bawdy catches and ballads we journey to the taverns and other social gathering-places of the real Merry Old England. We may be shocked by the directness of these mostly 300 year old texts (especially those on a scatological theme), but we must remember that in the days before indoor plumbing and pooper-scooper laws, everyday life was of an earthier flavor than it is today. - Mary Anne Ballard
The English mixed consort is fascinating for several reasons, not the least of which is its multi-colored sound. Combining the sultry viols, the ethereal flute, the "sprightly and cheerful" cittern, the "deep" bandora and the "noble" lute, the ensemble is capable of many humours, from the wrenching pathos of Dowland's "Lachrimae Pavin" to the foot-stomping hoe-down of John Johnson's "Green Garters." It also provides a continual challenge to the performers, who must find just the right balance among such disparate instruments. - Mary Anne Ballard
Most of the Scottish music on this disc is over 400 years old, and yet it strikes our ears as contemporary in its freshness and originality. The Scots composers had a gift for expressive melody. Although French and English influence was strong in courtly circles, the imported genres of dance, chanson and accompanied song were transformed into a product uniquely Scottish.
This is the music of the Old-Time Religion - the expression of country folk and poor yoemen who fled to America primarily from the British Isles, and who fought and won the Revolution so that they could practice political and religious freedom. Religious freedom brought musical freedom, and after establishing themselves in New England, the various dissenting religious groups (most notably Baptist) spread south and west, following the frontier and taking the music with them. - Mary Anne Ballard
The majority of pieces on this disc come from the 1932 publication of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, collected by Cecil J. Sharp, edited by Maud Karpeles, and published in two volumes by Oxford University Press in London; four songs are from the collection of Fletcher Collins, Staunton, Virginia; three were drawn from sources in Bertrand H. Bronson's Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, published in four volumes by Princeton University Press, 1959-1973. The song that I call Turtledove, was collected by Alan Lomax. - Custer LaRue
Deep at the root there is no essential difference between folk music and art music; they are varied blossoms from the same stock, grown to serve a similar purpose, if destined for different tables. Originally they spring from the same area of man's mind; their divergence is a matter of history, of social and cultural stratification. Traditionally, art music is a diversion for the educated classes, while folk music is one of the most intimate, reassuring and embellishing possessions of the poor. - A. L. Lloyd, Folk Song in England
Mignarda Editions is delighted to announce the release of Indigo Road, offering lutenists a chance to both hear and play Ronn McFarlane's haunting and imaginative original music. Released simultaneously with the Dorian/Sono Luminus CD of the same name, our edition contains exactly the same pieces that are recorded on the CD. Through a special arrangement with Dorian/Sono Luminus, Mignarda Editions is able to offer the book containing tablature scores separately or together as a package with the CD. The compositions are conceived for a 10-course lute in Renaissance tuning, but may also be played on an 8-course lute. This edition contains only the lute solos (without added instrumental parts) as they were originally conceived.
This collection presents carefully crafted guitar arrangements of 44 lute pieces in standard notation together with a pull-out supplement of the original lute notation in French tablature. The music in this book was drawn from three important lute manuscripts: The Rowallan Lute Book (c. 1620) for 10-course lute, The Wemyss Lute Book (c. 1644-1648) for 10-course lute, and The Balcarres Lute Book (c. 1700) for 11-course lute in d minor tuning. Original spelling is retained in the titles with the often-fanciful end result still legible. Even with the sixth string frequently tuned to D, players at the intermediate level should find these pieces rewarding sight-reading material. Those who wish to add the suggested ornamentation will be duly challenged.
In this DVD performance, Ronn McFarlane plays a number of his own lute compositions a well as music of the 16th and 17th centuries. From the Middle Ages through the Age of Enlightenment, lutenists wrote and performed their own music along with the popular music of their time. By the end of the 18th century, this tradition was broken as the lute gradually fell out of favor. Reviving the centuries-old tradition of lutenist-composers, Ronn's work points the way to the lute's future. While treasuring the lute music of the past, he also creates new music for the 10-course lute, blending ancient and modern styles. Like many ancient works for the lute, his music treads the borderline between classical and popular music.
This landmark book constitutes Mel Bay's first anthology of Renaissance lute and mandora literature in its original tablature form. It also offers the same 56 tunes tastefully transcribed in standard modern guitar notation and tab. For the academically inclined or those who simply want to examine the original scores, this edition includes a downloadable folio of the original lute and mandora tablature plus a thorough explanation of the lute tablature system. Audio is available online as a download with purchase of the book.