Leah Stuttard

Leah Stuttard is a medieval harpist, singer, composer, arranger and musicologist. She works globally with well known ensembles such as Hesperion XXI and Micrologus. In October 2018, she will record a new solo CD, 'Sacred Fragments' with podcasts to follow in 2019.

Research trip with fun attached! Medieval Music in the Dales

Posted by on 9 Sep 2018

Research trip with fun attached! Medieval Music in the Dales

I’m ostensibly here to gather data for use in my doctoral thesis about the practice of improvisation – well, that’s a loaded word – or more broadly creativity in the medieval music revival. And I am in fact doing that, interviewing people and asking for medieval music enthusiasts of all stripes to fill in an online survey. But I have to say, this is a brilliant place! The venue is just astonishingly perfect – from smoke filled tavern (ok, maybe the smoke filled bit is a bit less than perfect!) to open air ruined chapel; from intimate church to fabulous great hall full of instrument makers. The view of the valley is amazing and the building, still in the hands of the descendants of the original builders, is a wonderful mix of ruined and reclaimed. The garden is also a marvel with its walled vineyard and ‘Mary garden’ full of flowers with a medieval symbolism for the Virgin Mary, and a gorgeously pruned labyrinth as just some of its attractions for me.   I played here a couple of years ago, having been really impressed by the gutsy verve behind what is a complex venture – Gill and Paul from the group Trouvere are just astonishing in their ability to make this happen, bringing people together, planning great themed weekends which appeal to a whole load of different sorts of medieval lovers – lots of reenactors, Waits groups, medieval music makers and professionals. The variety is huge, with an emphasis on workshops and participation. The tavern is full of informal music making with one or two clear leaders, as well as a series of mini concerts which are a bit more planned. But there’s also music in bedrooms and marquees and village halls….   The Friday and Saturday evening concerts are a great way to get to know who’s out there playing medieval music as they mix a selection of groups and musicians together in short sets, people who are doing longer concerts at other times during the festival. The York Waits are a long established group who this year explored the theme of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII’s elder brother, being connected mythographically to King Arthur (the theme of the festival is ‘The Matter of Britain’). Their loud shawming was truly wonderful but a few issues with instrument tuning precluded me from enjoying quite so fully some of their...

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Secret Life of Lutheran Chorales CD – SEPTEMBER 2018 final date for posting

Posted by on 11 May 2018

Secret Life of Lutheran Chorales CD – SEPTEMBER 2018 final date for posting

STOP PRESS – CD POSTING IN SEPTEMBER CD to be completed and sent out in early June NEXT WEEK, September 2018 Stymied again by the Danish Government summer holidays! They sponsored the actual production of the disc and sleeve and have been a cause of constant frustration for us. We are both really so very sorry that you’ve all been waiting so long…… If you ordered and prepaid for a CD last November, you will have your CD in early June. We underestimated the amount of time it would take us to pick, edit, typeset and produce it and then were stymied by the threat of a Danish strike (as it will be printed and produced by Danish government workers). We’re looking forward to putting it in the post to you very soon,...

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Kirchenpelz – Transylvanian Saxons – Luther – Communal singing

Posted by on 3 Nov 2017

Next week my tour with Agnethe Christensen begins at St Mary at Hill, part of their beautifully named series of concerts ‘The Yes of the Heart’, celebrating the musical heritage of Martin Luther in this anniversary year. Because of the anniversary of course there are all sorts of exhibitions, books, newspaper articles – you name it. This morning I listened by chance to one of Radio 4’s programmes in the series Living with the Gods, which is in collaboration with the British Museum, so looks at artefacts in their collections each week and the ways in which they express human relationships to Gods.   It was a bit serendipitous. The item they talked about is a coat from Transylvania, an area now in Romania where I went on holiday in 2016 specifically to visit Saxon fortified churches (and to try to watch bears in the unspoilt forest wildernesses).      Here is the church in a tiny place called Mālâncrav (Malmkrog in German), full, and I mean absolutely FULL, of frescoes (which were a bit difficult to capture with my phone camera….) There was also a gorgeous altarpiece from 1520. Look- there’s a harpist! Here’s Copsa Mare (Grosskopisch in German) where we climbed up the tower of the 14th century church on proper rickety ladder type stairs through the dim dustiness to be greeted by bells, and an amazing view!        It was an unforgettable trip.   The artefact the radio programme used as inspiration was a sheepskin coat, dyed and embroidered, and known as a Kirchenpelz. The Saxon inhabitants from the 19th century wore them (I’m guessing just the men) on Sundays to go to their Lutheran church services (where they sang chorales together in German). They were not just practical (super furry and warm) but also a badge of belonging to a community, a special outsider community which had been invited by the Hungarian King Geza II in 1123 to settle in the region in an attempt to thwart the threat of Turkish attacks from the east. The churches are designed to be well defendable and multi-purpose – that bell tower I visited probably served very well as a lookout post!   So knowing about this coat (you can see it here) has given me a whole new vision of the churches I visited. It’s also made me wonder if there are any Lutheran chorale tunes...

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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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