Afternoon of Baroque music, held at The Congregation Beth Israel on Feb. 2

Press release

Afternoon of Baroque music, held at The Congregation Beth Israel on Feb. 2

EVENT: A Glimpse of Baroque: An Afternoon of Music on Authentic Instruments
February 2, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
Congregation Beth Israel, 229 Murdock Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804
Tickets: $18 reserved; $22 at door; Students: $12
Phone: 828-252-8660; Email:

When music demands extended bass range, interesting things happen. In the baroque era, bass range was all the rage in opera, and so new instruments were brought into being, the theorbo and the archlute among them.

A theorbo is a plucked string instrument with a long neck. The archlute is a plucked instrument developed around 1600 as a compromise between the large theorbo and the tenor renaissance lute. With bass strings over four feet long extending from the neck, the archlute has an extended bass range. Both were popular into the 18th century in opera and concert music. The lute’s popularity waned during the baroque period because musicians found it was quite difficult to play the new music on, and because it had stiff competition from the popular harpsichord. By the time of J.S. Bach, the lute was likely played only by a handful of virtuosi.

The baroque lute on which musician Will Tocaben will be playing solo pieces has 13 courses or pairs of strings with the top two strings being single: 24 strings!

“The sound of a lute is complex yet pure, the richness of wood chiming like bells,” says Will Tocaben, an Asheville-area lutenist who recently appeared on the CD, “Dead, I sing sweetly” performing on the bass theorbo lute.

Two families of instruments violin came into being at the same time: on, the viola da braccio, or “viol of the arm,” has remained mainstream and more popular; the other, the viol or viola da gamba, still exists but is not as well known. The violin family is what we see today; the viol died out due to the demands of dynamic range as orchestra and opera became more popular. The viol was used in smaller chamber ensembles and only sometimes as a continuo or concertante instrument in orchestras.

In the upcoming Sunday afternoon program, Muses Delight will perform works by Rossi, Marais and Byrd.

Muses Delight is a Baroque Trio composed of Gail Ann Schroeder, viola da gamba; Webster Williams, viola da gamba; and Barbara Weiss, harpsichord. Vocalist Amanda Horton Silverman and Lutenist Will Tocaben will also perform.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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