Sunday, December 17, 2006

If it ain't Baroque...

Tonight our family was invited to a Christmas service held in a convent where the girls go to school. A good friend of ours, Betty, was singing in a group that sang and played baroque music. There were two vocalists and one string player. He had two different instruments that looked liked tricked out acoustic guitars and had and amazing sound. Afterward I went up and talked to him and he let me see them.
The first one was small and resembled a classical guitar. The sound whole had amazing craftsmanship. It was so delicate that the carving looked like it was made out of paper. He said the decorative sound hole was simply for decoration and that it did nothing for the sound. Typical Baroque I guess. It had five strings that were doubled up similar to a mandolin or a twelve string and the machines were tuning pegs similar to what you might find on a violin. The frets totally intrigued me. They made out of nylon strings that were wrapped around the neck. You can slide them up and down the neck for fine tuning purposes. He let me hold it and I was blown away by how light it was. It felt like it was made out of paper.

The larger instrument it was lighter and brighter in sound than a guitar, but not quite quite as full as a harp. It sound was definitely unique as it immediately felt like it was transporting one back to the middle ages. It had a ton of strings and it looked like someone did a mash-up between a medieval acoustic and a medieval bass. The base notes were plucked and made a droning sound under the melody of the higher notes. Again the craftsmanship of the instrument was amazing. I took a close up photo of the sound hole (click photo to enlarge) to demonstrate the intricacy. Both these instruments were handmade by a luthier in Germany who specialized in medieval instruments and surely cost a pretty penny since they are pretty rare.