The Lute Society: Benslow Lutefest 2021

Benslow LuteFest 2021

An online celebration of three concerts streamed from the Peter Morrison Hall at Benslow Music Trust, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

‘Sweet, stay awhile’ - Music by John Dowland and John Daniel
Monday 19 April 2021, 20.00 BST

Sara Stowe: soprano
Lewis Spring: counter-tenor
Lynda Sayce: lute, viol
Matthew Spring: lute, viol

This concert explores the music of two of the leading lutenist composers of the English Golden Age. Both men became royal employees and were regarded as leading musicians of the Jacobean Court. Songs from John Daniel’s exquisite and highly poetic book of 1606 is contrasted with the more directly emotional airs of John Dowland. Though Daniel’s single publication as a song composer is small by comparison to the four books of Dowland, Daniel’s songs are of no lesser quality. Likewise, Dowland’s large repertoire of instrumental music (much of it for the lute) dwarfs that of Daniel. Yet Daniel’s few pieces have an inventiveness and beauty that makes them justly famous.

Matthew Spring will present a post-concert Zoom talk at 13.00 BST on Tuesday 20 April 2021 (FREE entry)
Register here

Alison Crum (viols) and Roy Marks (lute)
Monday 26 April 2021, 20.00 BST

A Spagna in the Works:
Ethereal, enigmatic and exhilarating Renaissance miniature masterpieces for viol and lute

Alison Crum and Roy Marks play dances, divisions and instrumental settings from the 16th century. The modestly gentle sonority of domestic music-making in the Renaissance quietly belies compositions of unsurpassed musical skill. Featuring music that centres upon the Italian Renaissance, both pleasantly light and seriously profound, this programme draws the listener into worlds that are almost unimaginable, and certainly almost forgotten.

Lynda Sayce (lutes)
Thursday 29 April 2021, 20.00 BST

The Beginning of the World
: music from the Marsh lute book (c1590)

Much of what we consider to be ‘Elizabethan’ lute music actually comes from Jacobean sources, but the Marsh lute book, named for its current home in Archbishop Marsh’s library, Dublin, is a true Elizabethan manuscript, and a curiously neglected one. A huge book of over 400 pages and more than 160 pieces, it contains an unusually cosmopolitan repertory, including fantasias by Francesco da Milano and exquisite intabulations by Albert de Rippe, alongside popular tunes and works by Tudor court musicians. Beautifully written, in an astonishingly modern-looking round hand, its contents span genres, decades and countries, and invite us into an Elizabethan colleague’s world.

Virtual tickets £10 for each performance
Book online at

Dr Christopher Roberts (Head of Music)
Box Office:
Twitter: [create @Benslow_Music

Notes to Editors:

Benslow Music is a registered charity, No 408404, which promotes lifelong learning through residential, day and online music courses, and a series of chamber concerts at its beautiful purpose-built campus in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

High-resolution photos are available on request from

Sara Stowe grew up in Harlow New Town where studies with Virginia Black led her to win a Piano Foundation Scholarship to the RCM. She won further prizes for her harpsichord performance but decided on leaving to pursue a singing career. With the aid of a British Council Bursary Sara studied in Italy, then in London and Portugal with Peter Harrison. As a singer, Sara’s many and varied performances in Britain and abroad span some 20 years. Her wide repertoire has included performances of Purcell at the Barbican with the Academy of Ancient Music, the medieval songs of Hildegard of Bingen with Sinfonye at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Luciano Berio’s music throughout Italy and Stockhausen’s Stimmung as part of Joanna MacGregor’s Meltdown Festival. She has toured and given workshops on early music for Wigmore Hall Education and for venues and schools throughout Britain. Prior to its refurbishment she co-ran the Purcell Room’s Dance and Drone Festival with dancer Barbara Segal. She has a repertoire of early and contemporary music programmes she can offer with separately lutenist/hurdy-gurdy player Matthew Spring and ensemble Sirinu, artists with whom she regularly collaborates.

Born in London, Lewis Spring trained as a boy chorister under Edward Higginbottom at New College Oxford. He went on to win a Sawbridge Scholarship to Abingdon School and won lay and academic clerical awards as male alto under Daniel Hyde at Magdalen College, Oxford. His first CD of his own compositions ‘The Spider Tree’, shows influences of folk and early music.

Matthew Spring was Reader in Music at Bath Spa University and editor of the Lute Society Journal. He is the author of ‘The Lute in Britain’ (OUP 2001) and Editor of the Balcarres Manuscript (Glasgow and Edinburgh University Press). His CDs include ‘Mr. Beck’s Way’ (music from the Balcarres Manuscript c1700), ‘Echoes of a Cornish Past’ and ‘The Man Hurdy-gurdy & Me’ (Métier 28580).

One of Britain's leading lutenists with over 100 recordings to her name, Lynda Sayce read Music at St Hugh's College, Oxford, then studied lute with Jakob Lindberg at the Royal College of Music. She performs regularly as soloist and continuo player with leading period instrument ensembles worldwide, is principal lutenist with The King's Consort, Ex Cathedra and the Musicians of the Globe, and has broadcast extensively on radio and TV. She is also director of the lute ensemble Chordophony, whose repertory and instrumentarium is based exclusively on her research. Equally at home working with modern instruments, Lynda has performed with many leading orchestras and opera companies including English and Welsh National Operas, Opera North, the CBSO and the Berlin Philharmonic. Her repertory spans many centuries, and her discography ranges from some of the earliest surviving lute works to the jazz theorbo part in Harvey Brough's 'Requiem in Blue'.

Alison Crum is well-known throughout the Western World both as a player and teacher of the viol. She is a moving spirit behind several renowned early music groups, and has travelled all over the world giving recitals and lectures, and teaching on summer schools and workshops. Originally a French Horn player, she started playing the viol while at university, and later went on to study it with Wieland Kuijken in Brussels and Jordi Savall in Basle. Since then she has made well over one hundred recordings with some of Britain's finest ensembles—including many with the Rose Consort of Viols—and, as a soloist, on discs of Marais, Bach, and virtuoso Italian divisions. Alison is President of the Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain, Professor of Viol at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London, and a visiting teacher at several colleges and universities in both Europe and the USA. She has produced a series of graded music books centred around her highly acclaimed textbooks Play the Viol and The Viol Rules, and has been called the doyenne of British viol teachers.

Roy Marks learned to play the piano as a child and, in his teenage years, played lead guitar in a rhythm and blues band. Rather than going on to study music however, he chose art—studies that culminated at the Royal Academy in London where he was awarded the prestigious David Murray scholarship for landscape painting. From there he went on to teach painting and drawing in adult education. In his late thirties however Roy turned his attention almost exclusively to Early Music—to the recorder, the viol, and the lute. Roy performs regularly with his wife, Alison Crum, as a duo, and is a member of the Rose Consort of Viols; he teaches on workshops in England, in the U.S.A., and in Europe, and he also edits, arranges, and composes music for friends to play. Recently, however, he bought himself a Fender Stratocaster...