Online Group-Tuition Programmes

Academy Programmes

Beginning - 14 Oct 2023

A garden of earthly delights: medieval music from around Europe


This course is designed to open a door for you into a medieval world of single-line dance melodies and multi-voiced compositions for you to play on any kind of harp. Your tutors will introduce you to the original MS pages in which this music survives—from very unknown English sources to the most famous of late-medieval Italian codices—helping you to decipher old sources so that you develop the skills to explore this repertory yourself. You will begin by learning very simple medieval English dances, perhaps adding plausible accompaniment as you go. By the final two weeks, you will be exploring how to 'intabulate' music originally composed for several voices so that you can play it yourself. This is an important skill that makes a great deal of medieval—and later—repertory available to you to enjoy playing. You will often have a week to work on pieces between sessions, coming together the following week to recap. and play to each other, ask questions of your tutor, and get all-important individual feedback, to grow your skills and confidence in performing medieval music. 

Course Duration

6 Sessions



Class Time

3:45–5:00 pm (Irish time)




Saturday | 3:45–5:00 pm (Irish time)

14 Oct

Session 1

La duches: A dance from medieval England

This easy dance is notated in the Gresley Manuscript (Derbyshire Record Office, D77 box 38: Gresley of Drakelow Papers). This is the earliest surviving source of medieval dances in England. Our piece survives as a single-line melody. We will learn it, and explore what we can do with it to flesh it out for a plausible, musical performance. [Leah Stuttard]

28 Oct

Session 2

Bayonn & Ly bens distonys

In this session, we will explore two further easy dances from the Gresley Manuscript, again trying out what possibilities are available to us for reconstructing these dances, within plausible historical parameters, to play on our harps. [Leah Stuttard]

04 Nov

Session 3

Bel fiore dança: Dancing the night away in 15th-century Italy (1 of 2)

We will get to know Bel fiore dança, an Italian courtly dance from the 15th century. You will receive a short introduction to the Faenza Codex (I-FZc 117), an important source for early keyboard music, as well as the genre known as bassadanza. In this session we will learn to play the tenor: the lower of the two voices. We will also discuss different performance approaches for playing two-part compositions on the harp: solo or in a small ensemble setting. [Carolin Margraf]

11 Nov

Session 4

Bel fiore dança: Dancing the night away in 15th-century Italy (2 of 2)

The focus of this session will be on the upper voice: the cantus. We will explore how the tenor and cantus relate to each other; we will address ways to play a florid cantus line, which features some chromatic notes, on diatonic harps. Finally, we may get as far as putting the cantus and tenor together to hear a 15th-century Italian dance! [Carolin Margraf]

18 Nov

Session 5

Ach Lieb mit Leid: The joys and challenges of intabulating for the harp (1 of 2)

We will learn to play an intabulation of Ach Lieb mit Leid ['oh love with sorrow'], a tenorlied by Austrian composer, Paul Hofhaimer, surviving in a 16th-century manuscript recently identified as a rare harp 'tablature'. You will understand what a tablature is, together with key facts about this one: the Leipzig Harp Tablature (D-LEm I. 8° 191). We will place this music in context within wider Renaissance music culture, and discover the tenorlied genre as a source of medieval music for our harps. We will also explore the art of 'intabulation', an important historical instrumental arrangement technique based on vocal compositions, and what to consider when making idiomatic intabulations for our harps. [Carolin Margraf]

02 Dec

Session 6

Ach Lieb mit Leid: The joys and challenges of intabulating for the harp (2 of 2)

Over the course of this, and the previous, session we will work towards playing the A and B parts of the piece, finding easy, approachable solutions for challenges relating to playing polyphony, i.e. several voices sounding simultaneously, on diatonic harps. [Carolin Margraf]

What to Expect

In this course, students will

  • have demonstrated plausible playing techniques for medieval-European, gut-strung harps
  • learn dance melodies from the oldest surviving notated source of medieval dances in England, and a two-voice Italian bass dance from the 1400s, from the famous Faenza Codex.
  • explore a source of late-medieval harp music from Germany, captured in a rare harp tablature
  • be shown how to turn single-line medieval melodies into fully fleshed-out performable pieces
  • use historical models to inspire and develop practical skills for intabulation, i.e. to make music for several polyphonic voices playable on a harp.

Technical Requirements

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet computer; we do not recommend using a phone to participate
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Access to a printer for downloadable course materials
  • Access to the Zoom platform; further information to help you get set up for participating over Zoom will be sent after you have registered

Enrollment is now closed

You can no longer join this course