Leah Stuttard

Leah Stuttard is a medieval harpist, singer, composer and arranger. She works globally with well known ensembles such as Hesperion XXI and Micrologus. Her current solo show 'Sacred Fragments' will be recorded in early 2018. Meanwhile, she's busy researching new programmes with her favourite Danish/Swedish singer, Agnethe.

Some things you might not know about Luther – II

Posted by on 31 Aug 2017

Some things you might not know about Luther – II

He was bilingual in the two different sorts of German spoken in the 16th century, low and high German. It seems as if they were practically mutually unintelligible. If you’ve ever spent any time with German speakers who come from different regions, it doesn’t take long to realise that most of their conversation is about how they have different words for stuff – tricky when you’re busy trying to learn just one, official word for things… Anyway, when Luther translated the bible, he managed to bring the two languages together enough that his version of German, intended to be understood by as many people as possible, essentially ended up being the one which is considered official today.   You can hear more about this in this BBC radio...

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Some things you might not know about Luther – I

Posted by on 29 Aug 2017

Some things you might not know about Luther – I

This is the first of a short series!   His name was originally Luder, a bit unfortunate as it means “bait”, a slang word for scoundrel or lout. He changed it just before publishing his 95 theses in 1517, becoming a classy sounding latinised “Eleutherius”, suggesting his freedom in God through Christ.

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1517 was an important year….. a new programme of Lutheran hymns

Posted by on 7 Aug 2017

1517 was an important year….. a new programme of Lutheran hymns

This year is the 500th anniversary of what lots of people consider to be the opening act of the Reformation – Martin Luther’s 95 theses. I became aware of this fact rather by accident to be honest – my sister was training at theological college and they got invited to Wittenberg last October for the opening celebrations of this anniversary year. She had a lovely time, there was a medieval market, beautiful music and great beer apparently. She also brought back this marvellous trinket – a Playmobil Martin Luther, complete with a copy of his theses and a cute hat.         And then the lovely Agnethe said that she’d been approached by a Danish church to come up with a Reformation themed programme, so we started to think about what that might be like… in the end this gig fell through, but I made up for it by calling on all my contacts to help me find concerts in the UK. Lots of emails later, and we had a mini tour!...

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Journées du patrimoine – Heritage open days

Posted by on 18 Sep 2016

Journées du patrimoine – Heritage open days

This weekend across France all sorts of history and heritage flavoured events have been taking place. Lots of my musician friends are always involved – for people who play early music, it’s a way to get gigs because the people with the culture budget are looking for ways to liven up their offerings with performances as well as visits. In fact, I was seen in costume a year ago in the eastern suburb of Paris, Vincennes – there’s a 14th century castle, but to be honest the amazing art deco Hotel de Ville was a totally stunning venue (so I didn’t mind so much that I was too busy to visit the medieval bit).   Anyway, for the first time since living here, I got to experience this special weekend in my home town. It was totally cool. First of all, my own house was on the itinerary! A “Hôtel particulier” of the 17th and 18th century, usually all you get to see is this massive ‘front door’:   But today you could come through and see the courtyard, the arches sheltering wood for fires this winter, and the posh front door to the main building (not where I live of course, I’m in what was probably the stables!) There were various other super interesting places that I could nosy around in. It’s not that I just like to see how the other half live – it also really helps me feel connected to this town in a different way. Usually all you see are great big doors and walls, so getting to look behind them really makes this place feel more real, more inhabited, more full of people and lives being lived…   Here’s the Hotellerie de l’Ange – The Angel Hotel (there’s a little sculpture of angels on either side of one of the first floor windows)   Past this big door there was a massive back garden – there must be 4 or 5 families living in apartments/houses. And get a load of these gorgeous balconies reached by climbing the stair in a beautiful tower. Seems kind of Rapunzel somehow…..         The Prieuré St Maurice is part of the complex of buildings / ruins / walls that make up the medieval castle (including plenty of bits of the original ancient Roman fort) and it is gorgeous inside:   A very unprepossessing garage covers...

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Unexpectedly solo in Horbelev

Posted by on 27 Feb 2016

Unexpectedly solo in Horbelev

My duo partner Agnethe Christensen had been working on a brilliantly inspired concert concept for quite some time, and it came to fruition last weekend in Greenland during a solo performance she gave in a lovely venue in the icy wastes of Nuuk.   When there was too much snow to leave Nuuk on Monday as planned, I wasn’t too worried. I thought, well, there’s still several more days before our gig together on Thursday. So I travelled as planned to Copenhagen on Tuesday and was confident she’d arrive that night, just one day late. Alas, Wednesday arrived and there was no Agnethe. And she soon had to let me know that I would be appearing on my own in this lovely church in Horbelev on the island of Falster to the South of Copenhagen Now, I have been playing solo concerts since 2012, but I’ve never had to pull one out of the hat quite so quickly. I spent a good part of Wednesday morning procrastinating before I got my act together and printed off music (which I’d left at home, not thinking I’d be needing it), and making sure I had enough to play for a whole hour long concert. It was a bit of a mixed bag of solos from concerts I play with Agnethe, music from my Wool Merchant programme and a little bit even from Sacred Fragments (though I feel a bit strange playing that music on my bray harp).   The amazing pulpit which I performed next to.             Just by the door into the nave, a welcoming angel.     The outer doors of a sculpted triptych, which is closed for Lent, dating from the late 15th century if I understood correctly.   The church really was a little house of treasures and the welcome I received was really lovely. Importantly, it was even warm, which makes playing a lot easier and much more pleasant!    ...

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Sacred fragments – new programme of readings and meditative music

Posted by on 8 Dec 2015

Sacred fragments – new programme of readings and meditative music

Recently, I was privileged enough to be invited to create a new solo harp programme for the Copenhagen Renaissance Music Festival, thanks to my lovely friend Björn Ross. Making something totally new is quite a daunting prospect. With no composer’s names to rely on for giving an easy context to an audience, a programme needs to have some kind of theme, a background idea or concept which can pull lots of short medieval pieces together in a coherent way. In addition, the theme should be easily comprehensible – in some way ‘catchy’ – if you ever want to be able to play the concert again and get paid for it! At the same time, I’ve learnt that the best way to make a success of a concert programme is not to try to second guess promoters or audiences by creating just a ‘saleable product’, but rather to feel able to put 100% of my commitment behind what I’ve made because it just feels so right. This sense of innate authenticity, true to me rather than to some commercial ideal, is part of my creative responsibility to myself, to balance what I feel is artistically fulfilling with what is potentially of interest to other people.   This was totally not of any concern whatsoever to medieval musicians, artisans who did not rely on the market but on patronage. Different constraints of course for them. Sometimes I’m maybe a bit jealous until I remember that I’d have been mostly unable to see, married with 15 children and a very old lady by now.   Anyway, mixing some readings with the music, singing 4 or 5 of the pieces and using one or two as bases for freer more improvisatory interpretations was the experimental side of the show that I really enjoyed. The feedback was good, but as the audience was mostly made up of people I already knew, that’s kind of to be expected! The acoustic was particularly important to the whole experience – feeling able to go very very quiet changes my whole physical attitude to playing in a very positive way I think.   I’ll be playing the concert again as a lunchtime at Huddersfield in April. Other dates I hope will follow.   Here’s a taster:     and there’s more information and other pieces to listen to if you’re...

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