On Thursday, March 16 at 6:15pm, audiences in Annapolis will once again have the chance to hear one of America’s premier virtuosos on the lute when Grammy-nominated Ronn McFarlane performs at St. Anne’s Parish on the St. Anne’s Concert Series. McFarlane will perform rollicking traditional Scottish and Irish tunes, as well as his own eclectic, Celtic-inspired original music.
McFarlane says of the lute, “It really has its own personality that’s different from the guitar, or the mandolin, or the banjo, or the harp, but it has elements of all of those instruments in its sound.” McFarlane’s goal is to bring the lute into today’s musical mainstream and make it accessible to a wider audience.
McFarlane says “I became passionately interested in music at age 13, when I heard a group of classmates who had formed a rock band playing ‘Wipeout’ by the Surfaris. I played electric guitar in rock bands and went on to study classical guitar in conservatories. Of the classical guitar music that I studied, my favorites were the Renaissance and Baroque pieces that had originally been lute pieces – later arranged for the guitar. I gravitated toward the lute and wanted to hear what this music might have sounded like on the instrument for which it was originally composed. There’s a strong connection between the rock music I played as a teenager and the Renaissance and Celtic music I now perform. Strong rhythms and improvisation are there in both styles, and the blues scale is the same as old Scottish modes that were used 400 years ago.”
Not only is McFarlane an expert in lute music for the distant past, he’s continually working to expand the repertoire for the instrument. McFarlane’s own compositions for the lute incorporate diverse influences, from classical and Celtic to rock, folk, and bluegrass. “I hear the lute as a naturally expressive and articulate instrument, capable of playing modern musical styles compellingly as well as playing Renaissance and Baroque music. After playing only historical music for more than 20 years, I found it freeing and fun to let in all the modern musical influences and to compose in a way that reflects all my favorite kinds of music.” McFarlane is also the founding member of both The Baltimore Consort and Ayreheart – a quartet of lutes, percussion, and vocals – which performs both Renaissance and original music.
GRAMMY-nominated lutenist and composer Ronn McFarlane strives to bring the lute – the most popular instrument of the Renaissance – into today’s musical mainstream and make it accessible to a wider audience. At thirteen, upon hearing “Wipeout” by the Surfaris, he fell wildly in love with music and taught himself to play on a “cranky sixteen-dollar steel-string guitar.” Ronn kept at it, playing blues and rock music on the electric guitar while studying classical guitar. He graduated with honors from Shenandoah Conservatory and continued guitar studies at Peabody Conservatory before turning his full attention and energy to the lute in 1978. He has over 35 recordings on the Dorian/Sono Luminus label, including solo albums, lute duets, flute & lute duets, lute songs, recordings with the Baltimore Consort, the complete lute music of Vivaldi, and a collection of Elizabethan lute music and poetry, with spoken word by Robert Aubry Davis. In recent years Ronn has been engaged in composing new music for the lute, building on the tradition of the lutenist/composers of past centuries. His original compositions are the focus of his solo CD, Indigo Road, which received a GRAMMY Award Nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album.