The Lute Society: Matthew Holmes Consorts

The Matthew Holmes Consorts

The Cambridge Consort Books c.1588 - ?1597

It is my hope that by making my arrangements of the Matthew Holmes Consorts freely available on the Lute Society web site, it will encourage more people to play music from the repertoire of ‘consort-of-six’ music. There are very few commercial publications available that have parts that can be played from.

All of my work may be freely used by anybody, commercially or otherwise, in whole or in part providing acknowledgment is made of that use. If people feel inspired to improve upon my efforts and provide viable alternatives I shall be delighted and would be grateful to receive copies of their versions. I would also be grateful to receive notification of any mistakes so that I can make corrections.

Some of the pieces have been reconstructed from as few as two original parts, so there will be numerous possible reconstructions within the essential structure of the pieces. The above comment about free use does not apply to the treble parts of The Jewes Daunce and Dowlands round Battell galliarde and for further use of those you should apply to Dr Warwick Edwards and Ian Harwood respectively. They very generously allowed me to use their versions.

I originally printed a few sets of the book on my home system, and because of limitations in the size of books that I could produce I limited the score in that set to the three melody instruments. However, with the individual consorts I have provided a complete score.

- Ian Gaskell 2009

Matthew Holmes and the "consort-of-six"

Matthew Holmes was responsible for compiling the largest body of surviving English lute, bandora and cittern music, together with music for ‘consort-of-six’. His interest in consort music seems to have begun around 1588 when he became precentor and a singing man at Christ Church, Oxford, and associated with another singing man, Richard Reade, whose interest in the form led him to compose numerous pieces. (Lyle Nordstrom, Journal of the Lute Society of America, 1972 )

The expression ‘consort-of-six’ as used here refers to that special grouping of instruments (treble viol or violin, flute or recorder, bass viol, lute, cittern and bandora) which was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and is represented by four major sources: printed publications by Thomas Morley (The First Booke of Consort Lessons, 1599 & 1611) and Philip Rosseter (Lessons for Consort, 1609) and manuscript sources: The Walsingham Consorts c.1588 and The Matthew Holmes Consorts c.1588 – ?1597 (The Cambridge Consort Books).

The term ‘Consort’ originally denoted any music whereby different families of instruments come together in a group, but in the 20th century a non-historical distinction was made between ‘whole’ consorts of like instruments and ‘broken’ consorts of different families.

Holmes’ consort music was written out in the following manuscripts which are in the possession of Cambridge University Library:

  • Dd.3.18 Mainly lute duet trebles and consort lute parts.
  • Dd.14.24 Cittern solos and consort parts.
  • Dd.5.20 Bass consort parts and an inserted section of lyra viol tablature and music for division viol, including a number of divisions on consort lesson bass parts, including ‘James’s Galliard’ and Dowland’s ‘Lachrimae’)
  • Dd.5.21 Mainly recorder consort parts but with two pages of parts for ‘treble violan’. (the smallest size of violin used at the time), mistakenly copied by Holmes into his recorder book.
  • The main ‘treble violan’ book and the bandora book, which we can assume would have originally existed, are not extant.

The Matthew Holmes consort books are, nevertheless, one of the richest sources of Elizabethan consort music, particularly by virtue of having the largest number of fine lute parts to accompany consorts in this and other collections, such as Thomas Morley’s The First Booke of Consort Lessons (1599 & 1611) for which the lute book is missing. The set is also interesting in that treble violin and recorder are specified rather than the more usual treble viol and flute.

Further information about these consorts can be found in the Introduction to the Consort Music Downloads (pdf)

Download - a selection of consorts

This selection of consorts have been compiled into a single score with individual parts, covering the following consorts:

1 The French kings maske - Anon
2 Alfonsoes paven - ?Augustine Bassano or Alfonso Ferrabosco II
3 La Bergera galliarde - Anon
4 Nightingale - Anon
5 Complainte or Fortune (Fortune my foe) - Trad. Hanging ballad tune
6 Primiero - Anon
7 Duncombs galliarde - Anon
8 Tarletons jigg - Anon
9 Long paven - John Johnson
10 Dowlands round Battell galliarde - John Dowland
11 Katherine Darcies galliarde - John Dowland
12 The Jewes Daunce - Richard Nicholson
13 De la Tromba paven - ?Richard Allison
14 James Galliarde - ?James Harding
15 The Sprytes songe - Anon
16 Reades first paven - Richard Reade
17 Reades second paven - Richard Reade
18 Reades galliarde - Richard Reade
19 Dowlands first galliarde - John Dowland
20 Nutmigs and ginger - Anon

Sources and additional information can be found in the introduction to the score. The downloadable PDFs for each instrument are as follows:

Download - additional individual consorts

Additionally, the following consorts are also available. These are compiled such that each consort is presented on its own, containing all the relevant instrument parts.