Two players one lute

The 1597 piece My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard is a lute duet. The piece is played by two people, but they must only use one lute.

Frans Hals [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve noticed that my posts have been getting longer and longer, so today’s is a short one. My Lord Chamberlain, His Galliard, by the English composer John Dowland, was first published in 1597. It’s a duet, but the manuscript notes “for two to playe upon one lute.”

Now, the lute is not exactly a large instrument. For two people to play it at the same time, they need to be close. Very close. Like, hugging close. One sitting on the other’s lap close. This makes me wonder whether Dowland composed it as a scheme to get closer to some fellow lutenist. It’s pretty suspicious.

Dowland is apparently a big deal among lutenists, although I hadn’t heard of him before today. The sci-fi novel Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is named for one of his pieces. In any case, there are numerous videos of lutenists playing this piece. The one below is my favourite, because of the humour and yet solemn dignity of the players.

[Thanks to for introducing me to this topic.]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s