What is it, and where does it come from?
The lute is a pear shaped, stringed instrument, originating some time during the Renaissance Era where it was known as the instrument of Kings and Queens. The symbol of magic and the power of music, the lute could be heard in the theatre in the music of Shakespeare’s plays, and was also popular amongst common people, playing the popular tunes of the day in pubs and on street corners.
Coming to Europe in the Middle Ages, the lute, which then had only five ‘courses’ or pairs of strings, was played with a quill plectrum, very similar to the Arabic ‘ud, from which is derives it name and distinctive shape.
It wasn’t until the late 15th century that the lute really came into its own, when it was realised that it could be played with finger instead of the quill. With the addition of a sixth course, and the slight changes to its shape making its body more elongated, the lute attained a more elegant status, setting itself up for over 150 years of musical acknowledgement.
By the end of the seventeenth century though, the lutes popularity had decreased. The quiet and sultry lute simple could not complete with the rise of the orchestra and opera.
Here at the Abbey Museum we are very lucky to have a special lady who loves to come and play her beautiful lutes for the entertainment of our visitors and guests. Gillian Nicholson will once again be playing her lutes in the Museum during the Festival Weekend, so if you would like some quiet time out from the hustle and bustle that is the Medieval Festival, be sure to come and visit Gillian in the Museum to be swept away by her ravishing tones and beautiful music.