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The University of Southampton

Ms Erin Headley 

Turner Sims Fellow

Ms Erin Headley's photo

Ms Erin Headley is a Turner Sims Fellow in Music at the University of Southampton.

Erin Headley joined Music at Southampton in October 2007 as an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts. She is an internationally acclaimed viola da gamba player and the world's leading exponent of that rare and hauntingly beautiful bowed instrument, the lirone. Her revival of the instrument began 30 years ago, and now, with the AHRC's support, her work has culminated in a number of important projects - concert performances, recordings, masterclasses, lectures and published articles - to ensure that the lirone and its Italian repertoire will flourish again as it did in the 17th century.

In 1987 Erin Headley and Stephen Stubbs founded the ensemble Tragicomedia to perform continuo-based music of the 17th century. Their recordings with Teldec, EMI, Hyperion and Harmonia Mundi USA have won numerous prizes, including a Gramophone award in 1991. Erin works with many of Europe's finest ensembles, most often with Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie, and she is a regular guest artist at the Boston Early Music Festival.

The lirone is a remarkable multi-string bowed instrument which had from nine to 20 strings. A nearly flat bridge made it possible to play four or more strings together, which according to Atalante Migliorotti afforded 'pure and consummate harmony'. When Migliorotti announced his marvellous invention to Isabella d'Este in 1505, he could have had no idea that it would survive for another 200 years and enjoy such a rich and magnificent career. The instrument was particularly associated with laments and 17th-century Rome. Erin Headley has already recorded much of its repertoire for Harmonia Mundi France, Erato, Virgin, Hyperion, ECM, CPO, Teldec and other labels; she is the author of the 'Lirone' articles in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Intruments, and has recorded programmes on the instrument for The Today Programme and twice on Woman's Hour for the BBC.

In 2007 Erin formed the ensemble Atalante to promote the repertoire of the lirone. To date Atalante have made four recordings in their series Reliquie di Roma of Roman laments - by Giacomo Carissimi, Luigi Rossi, Domenico Mazzocchi, Marco Marazzoli, Bernardo Pasquini and Alessandro Stradella - two of which have already been released by Destino Classics (Nimbus Alliance) and received with the highest critical acclaim. Filmed video clips of staged versions of the works with subtitles can be seen on YouTube and in HD on Vimeo.

Erin recently received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Arts and Architecture at the Pennsylvania State University, and she will be musician in residence in the spring of 2013 at Villa I Tatti, Harvard University's Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. She is currently developing a documentary website on the lirone and Italian culture which will be an exciting tool for classroom teachers as well as amateur and professional musicians, researchers in the arts and humanities and members of the general public.

Research interests

Erin's main interests are viol and lirone performance.

Affiliate research group

Music Performance Research

Since 1991 Erin Headley has conducted Baroque performance classes, coached chamber music with singers and instrumentalists and directed fully staged operas at the undergraduate and graduate level at the Malmö Academy of Music in Sweden.

Other teaching has included masterclasses, residencies and opera courses around the world, most notably for Amherst Early Music, the Longy School of Music, UNC at Chapel Hill, Indiana University, Rutgers, the University of California at Berkeley, The Hilliard Summer School at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Mannes College of Music, the Hochschule für Kunst, Bremen, and courses in most other European countries and in Australia and New Zealand.

Ms Erin Headley
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton. SO17 1BF United Kingdom
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