Calling all Lutenists

First Set
Liz Kenny & Jacob Heringman (lutes)

Second Set
Pavlo Beznosiuk (violin), Sean Hunter (jazz bass) & Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo)

Reviewed by: Ying Chang

Reviewed: 13 December, 2001
Venue: The October Gallery, London

These days when the most fashionable cuisine goes under the name of ’fusion,’ a market exists for something called ’crossover music’, and when multiculturalism is daily debated, it seems entirely reasonable that something focusing on lutes in a jazz-club setting should exist. The Lute Club presents itself as a movable feast (literally so, with copious catering), which combined two sets of lute-based music, the second with a jazz bassist, and straightforward socialising.

The close-knit world of Early Music is one its inhabitants are often self-deprecating about. They speak of what they do themselves, and then of “real music,” but are clearly devoted and passionate too. I was very much an outsider and, in this sense, part of Liz Kenny’s target-audience; however, when it came to understanding the sometimes recherché nature of what was going on, I needed – and benefited greatly from – the explanations of those already in the know.

Pavlo Beznosiuk, brother of flautist Lisa, is half-Ukrainian, half-Irish. His jazz/folk improvisations are apparently legendary. For half the second set, his violin was amplified. I am not, however, convinced that, say, jazzed-up versions of Biber would transfer him to a wider audience. Liz Kenny herself – most people’s first choice lute-player I was told – played a more conventional set with Jacob Heringman, whose high- (or low-) light was a piece, again notorious in the Early Music world, where both performers play the same lute.

As a tribute to the popularity of the organiser, the inaugural audience was predominantly composed of early-music specialists. “If a bomb went off in this room now, there would be a major dent in London concert life,” somebody suggested. The audience seemed happy enough by this novel twist to the repertoire, and by the concert-with-refreshments format.

If Liz Kenny is to succeed in her other objective – apart from entertaining the cognoscenti in a lighter vein while providing a sympathetic environment for in-jokes – which is to proselytise Early Music, a more informal atmosphere is essential. There have to be chairs at tables, not seats in rows, more subdued lighting, and a venue where the caretaker does not arrive at 10.30pm to shoo away the guests.

This though is an initiative to be commended. At a time when classical music is under threat (this was, indeed, a subject for a number of conversations), any innovations in presentation are admirable. I look forward to the next occasion.

  • Details of The Lute Club, which initially plans to convene three times a year, can be obtained from Elizabeth Kenny –
  • Elizabeth Kenny has made a number of recordings, including the recent “English Lute Songs”, in which she plays for Robin Blaze [HYPERION CDA67126]; she also contributes to a CD of Vivaldi concertos [LINN CKD151]
  • The ticket price for the first evening was £10, which included unlimited food and drink (including wine and beer)

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