Lute. Plucked-string instrument with a body in the shape of a halved pear, a flat finger-board usually with 12 frets, and a pegbox set almost perpendicular to the neck. The 16th-century lute had at least six courses, (or pairs) of strings normally tuned G, C, F, A, D, G.
There are few early instances of lute playing in Canada. It is known that Maisonneuve (1612-76), the founder of Montreal, had studied the instrument while still in Europe; his musical activities, if any, in Canada have not been traced. The Sulpician missionary François Vachon de Belmont, who arrived in Montreal in 1680, found a lute there. He played it following the recommendations of his superior from Paris, "not to excite the passions, but to incite devotion." It is unlikely, as some have suggested, that the lute he found was that of de Maisonneuve, who had returned to France 15 years earlier (La Vie musicale, p. 328). As the lute is an extremely fragile instrument, its maintenance in the Canadian climate is difficult and would have been almost impossible in an age when temperature and humidity controls were unknown. However, the officer Jacques Bizard, named in 1678 seigneur of the island near Montreal that would bear his name, possessed a lute or guitar (La Vie musicale, p. 328).
In the 1950s the lute experienced a world-wide renaissance, due in part to the rise in popularity of guitars and in part to the increase of interest in early music. Evidence of this resurgence in Canada was found later in the activities of the Vancouver Society for Early Music, the Toronto Consort, the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, Tafelmusik, Musica Secreta, and other early music groups, many formed after 1980.
The increase in Canada of the number of amateur and professional lute players, and of lute makers, has been rapid. Among the players have been Miles Dempster, an English-born guitarist; the German-Canadian Hans Kohlund (also a harpsichordist), who has made many CBC appearances, beginning in Toronto ca 1956; the US-born Richard Kolb, who studied guitar with Eli Kassner and has been a recitalist throughout Ontario and on the CBC; Guy Marchand; Terry McKenna; the Hungarian-Canadian Abel Nagytothy-Toth, a guitarist, who has performed throughout Quebec; Alan Rinehart, a guitarist; and Michael Strutt.
Among the lute builders are Michael Dunn and Ray Nurse of Vancouver, Colin Everett of Ottawa, Edward Rusnac of Montreal, Terry Philpot of Bethany (near Peterborough, Ont), Edgar Moench of Scarborough), and Michael Shriner of Toronto.
Most lutenists have had experience as guitarists, and so the teaching of the two instruments often is combined. Among guitar/lute teachers in the early 1990's were Richard Kolb, Ernest Hills, Richard Burleson, Paul Gerrits, Bartholemew-James Crago, and Michael Strutt. A lute performance competition, which drew 30 entrants from six countries, was a component of the Guitar Society of Toronto's Guitar '84 international festival.
See also Instruments: medieval, renaissance, baroque; Guitar; Early music ensembles