The viola da gamba in Seattle

The viola da gamba family of instruments developed parallel to the violin family of instruments for many years. It is a bowed string instrument played between the legs. These instruments differ from the violin family in several ways. They have six strings instead of four, frets, and are tuned in fourths instead of fifths. From the middle of the 18th century on the emergence of public concerts in larger halls, and a sound ideal that favored louder, higher strung instruments, changed the role of the viola da gamba into an instrument for amateurs rather than for professional use.

After more then a century of being relatively unknown, the viola da gamba emerged again in the 20th century. Today there is a national viola da gamba society in the United States, as well as societies in England, France, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Australia, and others. Professionals, scholars, amateurs and others who love the instrument are represented in the membership of today's viol societies.

The Viola da Gamba Society of America will have their 45th annual conclave at the University of Puget Sound from July 22 to 29. Beginning classes on the viola da gamba are offered free to local residents. Information on the local viola da gamba chapter can be found at Pacific Northwest Viols.

The first Pan Pacific Gamba Gathering will take place during the summer of 2007 with the theme "The Viola da Gamba as a World Instrument".

The history of the viola da gamba in Seattle begins with Eva Heinitz (1907-2001). Eva Heinitz was Professor of Cello and Viola da Gamba at the University of Washington from 1948 until her retirement in 1976. She had taught herself to play the viola da gamba, traveling to England to research the instrument and technique. She was one of the first gamba soloists of modern times. She would solo on both cello and viola da gamba. Recruited by then music school director Stanley Chapple, she founded and directed the Collegium at the University.

Margriet Tindemans came to Seattle in the mid 1980s. She has performed, recorded, and taught early music on four continents. A 2005 Grammy Nominee, she was named Best Asset to Seattle's Classical Music scene in the Seattle Weekly's 2004 Best of Seattle issue.She has been called a rare combination of charismatic performing and inspiring teaching, a scholar with a profound knowledge of music, poetry, and art of the Middle Ages. She was a founding member of the German ensemble Sequentia and the Huelgas Ensemble of Belgium. She currently directs the Medieval Women's Choir in Seattle. As a player of early stringed instruments, such as medieval fiddle, rebec, and harp, she performs and records with Medieval Strings and is a frequently invited guest with the Folger Consort, the Newberry Consort, and other leading early music ensembles in North America and Europe. This season she played viol in the Seattle Opera's production of Giulio Cesare. Next fall she will participate in productions of Monteverdi's Poppea and Orfeo with the Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. For the Seattle Early Music Guild she has directed biannual medieval workshops since 1990, including the 1998 Hildegard von Bingen Festival, which attract students from all over North America and Europe. In addition to maintaining a busy private studio, she is a much sought after director and teacher at many workshops, including the Port Towsend Early Music Workshop, the Pacific Northwest Viols workshop, the Medieval Workshop for the Seattle Early Music Guild, The Accademia d'Amore, Viols West, and the Seattle Academy of Baroque Opera.

Ms. Tindemans works closely with the Northwest Puppet Center, for whom she has arranged and directed The Dragon of Wantley, the Magic Flute, and Francesca Caccini's La Liberazione di Ruggiero. Next season she will direct a production of Don Giovanni for the Puppet Center.


Selected Bibliography

Bacher, Joseph - The viola da gamba - (microfilm) 1972

Campbell, Margaret - Dolmetch: the man and his work. Seattle: University of Washington Press 1975

Crum, Alison - Play the viol: the complete guide to playing the treble, tenor, and bass viol. Oxford University Press 1989

Danoville - A'art de toucher le dessus et basse de viol - Geneve, Minkoff Reprint 1972

Dolmetsch, Arnold - The Interpretation of the music of the XVII and XVIII centuries revealed by contemporary evidence.

Dolmetsch, Mabel - Personal recollections of Arnold Dolmetsch. London, Routledge

Dolmetch, Nathalie - The viola da gamba; its origin and history, its technique and musical resources. New York, Hinrichsen Edition c 1962

Gerard, Yves - Notes sur la fabrication de la viole de gambe/ translated from the French (Microfilm).1977

Hayes, Gerald R.- The viols and other bowed instruments. New York, Broude Bros 1969

Lindley, Mark - Lutes, Viols, and Temperaments.Cambridge.Cambridge University Press. 1984.

Otterstedt, Annette - The viol: history of an instrument.? Kassel, Barenreiter 2002

?Woodfield, Ian - The early history of the viol. New York, Cambridge University Press 1975

Web Pages

Web page about Eva Heinitz - by the present owner of her viola da gamba.

Interview with Eva Heinitz - by Tim Janof, a former student of hers.

Interview with Margriet Tindemans -