Scottish Lute Music

Scotland is currently part of the United Kingdom but in the sixteenth century it was a separate kingdom and even after 1603 when King James VI of Scotland came to the English throne as James I of England the two kingdoms remained administratively separate until the Act of Union in 1707. The majority of lutenists active in the UK during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were employed by the royal courts or members of the nobility. For this reason it seemed appropriate to create this page specifically for Scottish music - especially as most of this music is found in four manuscript sources;
1) Rowallan MS (c. 1612 - 28)
2) Straloch MS (1629)
3) Wemyss MS (1643 -48)
4) Balcarres MS (c. 1700)
The most extensive of these is the Balcarres MS. 

In addition the Skene MS (c.1630) contains music for the related instrument, the Mandore and the Pickering MS contains some Scottish music. There are also Scottish sources for the Cittern and the Lyra Viol. The history of Scottish lute music is dealt with in chapter 13 of Spring (2001).

Balcarres MS This MS is the most extensive source of Scottish lute music and also the largest British source of lute music after 1640. Its existence was unsuspected until it was discovered in the mid 20th century. The Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen have published a facsimile of the manuscript with a transcription into grand staff notation and an extensive introduction and commentary - Spring (2010). The music found in the MS can be characterised as a mixture of Scottish and English tunes together with music by French lute composers (reflecting the string links between Scotland and France at that time). Unusually for manuscript sources all the pieces are identified with the names of musicians composers or originators of a particular arrangement. Some of these are familiar French names (Gallot, Gautier, Mouton and, in one case, Mercure [for a version of this Saraband]) but many of the pieces are attributed to local musicians, Mr. Beck, Mr. Lesslie, John McLauchland, David Grieve and others. Spring (2010) traces the identity of some of these names. In some pieces I have added ornament signs; it should be borne in mind that this music can be decorated ad lib (following or ignoring my ornaments and/or adding them elsewhere.)

Buckingham’s Sarabande [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLMr. Lesslie/Mr. Beck Grade 06
This piece is based on a French tune
La Marion Pleure (Tears of Mary); my arrangement is based on two versions of the piece ascribed in the MS to Mr. Beck and Mr. Lesslie. 

The Canaries (the old way) [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLJohn McLauchland Grade 03
In the Balcarres MS this appears adjacent to a piece entitled ’The Canaries, the new way.'


Greensleeves (Beck) 
[PDF] [MIDI] [XMLMr. Beck Grade 04
Mr. Beck’s version of the popular tune.

I wish I were where Helen Lies  [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLDavid Grieve Grade 05
Wikipedia has the story behind this piece (Helen of Kirkconnel, Accessed 26/11/18); it concerns fair Helen who stood between two lovers, the one trying to kill the other. Instead Helen herself was killed and this is the lament of one of the lovers. Walter Scott’s poem relating this story begins thus:

I wish I were where Helen lies!
Night and day on me she cries;
O that I were where Helen lies,
On fair Kirconnell Lea!


Curst be the heart, that thought the thought,
And curst the hand, that fired the shot,
When in my arms burd Helen dropt,
And died to succour me!

Minuet Jean More, Mr Beck’s Way [PDF] [MIDI] [XML Grade 04
Jean More appears as one of the composers in the Balcarres MS, so presumably this is one of her tunes as arranged by Mr Beck.

Tarphicken [PDF] [MIDI] [XML Mr. Beck Grade 07 
According to 
Spring (2010) Tarphicken (modern form Torphichen) meaning ‘raven’s hill’ is a village near Linlithgow where, at various times in the Middle Ages, Knights Templar and later Knights of St. John of Jerusalem were based.

Tweedsyde [PDF] [MIDI] [XML Mr. Beck Grade 07 

When She Came in She Bobbed [PDF] [MIDI] [XMLMr. Beck Grade 07 
A song tune.





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