Pittsburgh Recorder Society: discovering the beauty of Alonso Lobo

We had another great turnout for the monthly meeting of the Pittsburgh Recorder Society. We got another new member, Joanna. I counted fifteen of us, total.

Today, the highlight for me was discovering some music I don’t remember encountering before, by Alonso Lobo, who lived roughly 1555-1617. Fred passed out parts for his “Versa est in luctum”, a sacred motet for voice (which we are playing as a recorder ensemble instead).

This music is beautiful and new to me, and Fred provided instructive interpretive guidance I will discuss.

I’d never heard of Lobo before (outside of recorder playing, I simply have very little knowledge of early pre-Baroque music) and had to look up Lobo after the meeting.

“Versa est in luctum” by Alonso Lobo

This is passionate funeral music, written for a Spanish king’s funeral. I found an interesting musicologist’s blog post about the work.

English translation printed on our recorder arrangement parts:

My harp is turned to mourning and my music into the voice of those that weep.

Fred put me on the alto 1 part. After some work on the piece, he called for those of us on alto 1 (there was at least one other person, but possibly no more, of us fifteen) to play louder, with more emotion, to really ring out. I had held back in part because I was afraid of going sharp if I blowed harder, but also in part because for other music we’ve been playing, I’ve been focusing on blending in playing tenor parts. I sometimes somehow get into a rut and “forget” the importance or impact of carrying the top line.

Fred was actually singing along quite expressively as he conducted us. It’s inspirational to me that we have a leader who so believes in the music he has us play, and seeks to help us bring out its essence. The interesting thing about this piece is that there are phrases of longer notes as well as those that are more agitated, with faster movement. So there is a lot of beautiful interplay and contrast among the voices as well as within their own span throughout the piece. Fred advised on providing separation at the end of phrases so that they can be heard better in contrast against other voices as they enter and leave in different places.

Anyway, the other first alto(s) and I did play more confidently and louder, as did the rest of the ensemble, and when we did that, it was an amazing feeling, the sense of filling the air and resonating. I live for experiences like this! Let’s keep it up.

A performance for choir you should check out

For reference, here is a fine performance by the Gabrieli Consort I discovered:

Group recording from before

Fred brought in a little boombox so we could hear the recording he had made earlier of us playing two months ago. We didn’t sound terrible, actually!


I ate three cookies.

In retrospect, I should not have eaten three cookies. Maybe two, or maybe one. I know, I made this observation last month. This time, I’m serious. Next meeting, I will eat no more than two cookies.


I enjoyed being shown yet another beautiful piece of music and getting the opportunity to play it with others.

How often do you discover beautiful music you have never heard before, through being given it to play? Is this experience different than just hearing it without playing it?

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