Professor John Bryan Professor John Bryan

Early English Viols: Instruments, Makers and Music, co-authored by Professor John Bryan, takes the Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize

AN international organisation dedicated to the study of musical instruments has declared that a University of Huddersfield professor’s book is the best in its field to have been published during the past year.

Early English Viols: Instruments, Makers and Music, co-authored by Professor John Bryan, has been named as 2018 winner of the Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize, awarded by the American Musical Instrument Society.  The book was praised for its “exceptional in-depth scholarship”.

It was written in tandem with instrument maker and researcher Dr Michael Fleming and deals with the viol, a bowed instrument that was highly-prized in renaissance Europe.  The authors investigate how the instrument was made and played in 16th-17th century England, where it acquired an important repertoire.

In addition to his research and lecturing, Professor Bryan – who has been Head of Music and Drama at the University of Huddersfield – is also a leading performer in the field of early music.  His instruments include the viol and he has made a sequence of critically-acclaimed recordings with the Rose Consort of Viols.

Research that culminated in the publication of Early English Viols: Instruments, Makers and Music began when Professor Bryan was awarded £286,596 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize is awarded annually for the most distinguished book-length work in English which best furthers the American Musical Instrument Society’s Goal “to promote study of the history, design, and use of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods”.

The Society, founded in 1971, is an international organisation with a membership that includes collectors, historians, curators, performers, instrument makers, restorers, dealers, conservators, teachers and students.

Announcing the 2018 award, the Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize committee stated that Early English Viols “stands out for its exceptional in-depth scholarship that presents extensive primary source materials and new research, and brings fresh perspectives to our understanding and appreciation of early English viols”.

The judges also commented that “the authors’ well-written narrative conveys the history and development of the English viol, set in the cultural and social contexts of the 16th and early 17th centuries, in ways that engage and enlighten the reader.  In addition, this excellent and deluxe publication is also notable for its high-quality photographs of instruments and documents printed on fine glossy paper.  Congratulations go to the authors, Michael Fleming and John Bryan”.