John Jenkins was born in Maidstone, Kent in 1592 and died in Kimberly, Norfolk in 1678 aged eighty six. He played and composed music for viols and for theorbo, although only his viol music survives today. He served as royal musician to Charles I and after the Commonwealth period, to Charles II having been appointed court theorbo player in 1660.
These pieces are taken from a seventeenth century manuscript in the Henry Watson Collection in Manchester Public Library (BRm 832 Vu 51). The music is for the lyra-viol an instrument popular in England during this period. In essence it was a small bass viol and despite being a bowed instrument, had similarities to the guitar with its six strings and fretted fingerboard. In the book no less than twenty two different tunings are given. These emphasized the resonance and chordal nature of this instrument. Consequently many of the pieces are suitable for transcription onto the guitar.
During his lifetime Jenkins lived in the households of noble families in East Anglia. By all accounts he was a popular man and his pieces were much in demand in the mid seventeenth century. In this selection no alterations have been made to the music apart from the correction of an obvious error in the tablature for the Coranto.
I am grateful to the Manchester Public Library for their permission to study this unique manuscript.
- THE WAGGE
Level of difficulty: grade 3 to grade 5
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