Esoteric strings

Last week I talked about the Regency pianofortes I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Here are a few more intriguing items from their collection of musical instruments.

violadamoreMy daughters play violin, so they were wondering about this. It looks like a violin or viola but instead of the usual four strings, it has twelve! It turns out it’s a viola d’amore, which can have twelve or fourteen strings. The top set are played in similar fashion to a regular violin or viola; the lower set vibrates sympathetically.

The viola d’amore was popular in the Baroque period. It probably wasn’t played much during the Regency, except perhaps at Concerts of Ancient Music put on by the London Concert Society (1776-1848).

Here’s the Vivaldi Concerto for viola d’amore and lute with soloists Enrico Onofri and Luca Pianca. The viola d’amore comes in at about 1:10. I love this performance!

lyreguitarThis beautiful instrument is a lyre guitar, circa 1810, clearly showing the classical influence popular during the Regency. The plaque dismissively calls it a “fad” but a Regency heroine could definitely have played one. In this video, John Doan provides a history of the instrument, illustrated with some period portraits. At around 2:50 you can hear him play.

ditalharpThis instrument was labeled the dital harp, circa 1820. I’ve also seen it called a harp/lute. This is another instrument that could have been played by a Regency lady. I was able to find this charming video of Sarah Deere-Jones singing a popular Regency song, “The Last Rose of Summer”, in Regency garb, and accompanying herself with a Regency era harp/lute. Enjoy!

Did any of you know about these instruments before? Do you have any favorite unusual instruments?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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8 Responses to Esoteric strings

  1. Isobel Carr says:

    Since I grew up doing a lot of Medieval and Renaissance re-enacting, I’ve always wanted to play the lute (though clearly not enough to actually go buy one, LOL!).

  2. Given the Regency fascination with ancient times, these hybrid instruments make sense. And they are pretty fascinating themselves, not to mention inventive . Thanks so much for finding the videos so we can hear as well as see them, Elena. Great post!

    P.S. to Isobel –SCA? Me too.

  3. Lesley A. says:

    Beautiful post, Elena! I have always loved classical music and enjoy learning about music history as well. The videos were informative and inspiring! My heroine might one day pick up a lyre guitar! You’ve also given me some good writing music for NaNoWriMo!

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful music!

  4. Elena Greene says:

    I’m glad people are enjoying this post! It was fun to put together.

    My fantasy home would have a spacious music room with all sorts of instruments from all periods–and of course, I’d have the time to learn to play them all. A more realistic goal is to learn pennywhistle so I can play along with my daughters’ Scottish fiddling group.

  5. Fantastic post, Elena! And while the guitars may have been a fad during the Regency many young ladies learned to play and there were broadsheets published noting songs performed with guitar accompaniment.

    • Elena Greene says:

      Interesting, Louisa. What I wonder is why I haven’t seen mention of any of these instruments before. ;Might some of the harps we hear about ladies playing were the harp/lute? Of course I have seen images of ladies with conventional harps, too.

      • That is a distinct possibility, Elena. I will let you know as I am doing more research on the musical education of young ladies during the Regency in the hope I might be asked to give my workshop at the next Beau Monde Mini Conference.

  6. Pingback: The Elegant Regency » Risky Regencies

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