My lute

In August 1974 I went to the Lute Society Summer School in Cheltenham. I ordered a lute from a luthier I met there: the label says “A Lute for the Consort of St Sepulchres, Dublin, by John Gorrett, September 1974”.

my lute

I started using it in St Sepulchres straight away.

It is based on the instrument in “The Ambassadors” by Holbein. I wanted to have a mid-16th century lute and John wanted to make one, so I got it in quick time. John pretty soon gave up instrument making after that and became a model-maker for the plastics industry. It came as a surprise to me to learn that all plastic things like bottles and their screwcaps were moulded from originals hand-sculpted in wood.


St Sepulchres continued at its height for a few years more, making our two albums for EMI Ireland (IEMC 6005 & 6008) and doing our Renaissance dance shows with Iain Montague; the group went into mothballs in 1977 when Barra left to do his PhD in Holland. Since then my lute has had sporadic use. I can be seen playing it in a few scenes of “The Tudors”: episodes of courtship with Anne Boleyn.

9 Responses to “My lute”

  1. malo Says:

    The sound of your lute is one of my favourite sounds in the whole world. It takes me back to falling asleep as a small boy, tucked up in bed while Daddy did his lute practice downstairs. Drifting off to sleep and back in time – I was always aware that the music came from long ago and that was certainly part of it’s magic.

  2. Fergus Says:

    Hi Mr Recumbentman,
    I saw you playing yer lute on the Tudors! Very good to see musicians in soaps actually playing their instruments, instead of actors badly miming! Nice comment from Malo too.

  3. samwell Says:

    i remember falling asleep to the tudors

  4. recumbentman Says:

    Hello Fergus! Thanks for your comment!

    I was in fact miming on The Tudors, but they sent me both a sound file and a pdf of the tablature in good time, so I could finger exactly what was being played. The camera crew were terrific and appreciated what I was doing. The script and direction were another matter.

    The first time I turned up I brought my lute, and offered to use it instead of the stage prop lute they provided. The director looked askance and said “It looks too new” and the cameraman and I chorussed “It would have been new at the time!”

    The director said something about going with viewer expectations.

    The second scene I did was months later, with a different director. He let me use my own lute. The sound guys tricked me and recorded me playing the first phrase, but I refused to play the whole tune live, not being in training.

    I did a third scene too, on tenor viol, with a jazz guitar player called Tom Harte doing the lute. I spent a few hours in advance teaching him the fingering. I also taught Jonathan Rhys Meyers to play Greensleeves, but I never found out whether he used it on screen. He is an incredibly quick learner.

  5. conor Says:

    recumbentman taught me the lute….. and a very talented teacher at that…

  6. St Sepulchres « Recumbentman’s Blog Says:

    […] and beside Iain David Carmody, who played cornetto and recorder; Lucienne Purcell, alto; Me, with lute; Barra, my […]

  7. Howard Gray Says:

    I just had my John Gorrett lute repaired here in New England, a very fine instrument it is. Good to hear and see your John Gorrett Lute.

    • recumbentman Says:

      Yes, John was a wonderful luthier. We met him later several times, when I lived in Southern England for six months in 1977. The strange thing is how much he reminded us of a Dublin friend with a wicked sense of humour, but John didn’t seem to get our jokes much at all.

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