Q&A with Eirian Lewis, Classical Guitarist
Ahead of our first concert for Omnibus Theatre, Shakespearean Summers - the Poet and the Lover in Clapham (you can read more about the concert here) we chat to classical guitarist Eirian Lewis about why the music of the Renaissance still fascinates him today.
Our Q&A with Eirian
So, let's start with the basics..
What is the difference between a lute and a classical guitar?
The Lute and the Guitar share many characteristics in the way they play. They are both suited to playing counterpoint and can play melody and harmony at the same time. They sound very different. The Lute has a much lighter construction that the Guitar. The woods use are less dense making the sound much thinner. A Lute player will usually play with the flesh of the fingers to compliment this sound, whereas a guitarist will play with the nails to try and project in solo concerts.
Do you have to adjust your playing for this type of music?
To play the music of the Elizabethan era some adjustments have to me made in the angle of attack on the string. A guitarist might play near the bridge of the Guitar (Ponticello) and play with the right hand more vertically to give a brighter/lighter sound. It is also imperative that the left hand works to keep long note values sustained whilst playing counterpoint.
A classical guitarist usually puts the guitar on the left leg whereas a Lute player on the right leg with a strap around the shoulders.
What do you love about playing it?
Lute music works so well on the guitar as composers like Dowland really knew the ergonomic feel of a fretboard. Usually it fits under the fingers really well on a guitar as many of the chord shapes and melodic lines are designed for a fretted instrument.
How do you discover new repertoire?
When looking for new repertoire I try to imagine what I would enjoy listening to in a concert. On many occasions I have picked up inspiration to learn a piece by hearing a pier play it, or in concert. I am open to all musical styles. If it’s good music it’s good music. Lots of guitar repertoire is made up of transcriptions from other polyphonic instruments such as the piano, organ, harpsichord etc. The only difficulty this brings is trying to emulate the sustain of larger stringed instruments on the guitar as it is very quiet and the volume of the note quickly reduces after its attack with the fingers.
Are there any modern pieces you’d love to hear on a lute?
I don’t think any other music would suit the sonority of the Lute so well. After the renaissance and baroque period when the harmonic palette changed, music relied more on colour than counterpoint. The guitar can express these colours much more effectively.