Note: This list of individuals who have been named Honorary Life Members of the
Viola da Gamba Society over the years is as complete as the editors are able to
make it at the present time. As with Wikipedia, we request additions and
corrections and will introduce them as received. Please send your input to
Honorary Life Members of the VdGSA
Carl Dolmetsch (1963)
The very first honorary member of the Viola da Gamba Society of America,
Carl Dolmetsch (1911-1997) had been an active performer on recorder since his
childhood as a son of early music revival pioneer Arnold Dolmetsch, and was a
performer and supporter of the viol as well. As a well-wisher to the nascent
VdGSA and a frequent visitor to the U.S. on his tours with harpsichordist
Joseph Saxby (q.v.), Carl Dolmetsch was immediately awarded honorary membership
in the new organization, and remained a good friend to the Society thenceforward.
He was Musical Director of the Haslemere Festivals and the Dolmetsch Foundation
and Chairman/Managing Director of Arnold Dolmetsch, Ltd. from 1963 to 1978.
He was founder (1937) and first Director of the Society of Recorder Players
(GB) and author of articles about and editor of music for the recorder.
Carleen Hutchins (1963)
Carleen Hutchins 1911-2009) deepened the understanding of viola da gamba construction.
She was featured in Life
magazine and Scientific American
for her contributions to
violin-making, and received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation to further her research
in acoustics, founding the Catgut Acoustical Society in 1963 to share and encourage research.
She developed free-plate tuning techniques for testing and refining the front and back
plates of an unassembled instrument to ensure that best possible sound from the finished
product—techniques that are widely used today—and generously shared her approach with other
makers of violin-family instruments and viols. She also developed the "new violin family" of
eight instruments from treble violin to contrabass.
Joseph Saxby (1963)
Joseph Saxby (1910-1997) was Carl Dolmetsch's duo collaborator in 49 international
tours and 42 Wigmore Hall recitals in London. He first performed at the Haslemere
Festival in 1938 playing harpsichord in the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and
appeared in every subsequent concert there until he retired at the age of 80.
Prior to the partnership with Dolmetsch, Saxby had success as a (piano) soloist
and accompanist, and accompanied the famous Irish tenor John McCormack on his
farewell tour. When Carl Dolmetsch became a life member of the VdGSA in 1963,
Saxby was also honored.
Cécile Dolmetsch (c. 1964?)
Cécile Dolmetsch (1904-1997), Carl's elder sister, was instrumental in the
revival of the pardessus de viole. She diligently researched its literature and
history in French libraries and archives, recovering solo music by Thomas Marc,
Jean Barriere, Louis de Caix d'Hervelois, and others, and she became its champion
on the concert stage. In later years, after the death of her sister Nathalie in
1989, she became the President of the Viola da Gamba Society (Great Britain).
Her obituary in The Independent
notes that she "was optimistic by nature and
possessed considerable charm of personality."
Nathalie Dolmetsch (1964)
Nathalie Dolmetsch (1905-1989) was a co-founder and long-time president of the
Viola da Gamba Society (Great Britain), and the author of a tutor, Twelve Lessons
on the Viola da Gamba (1950), and an important monograph, The Viola da Gamba,
Its Origins and History, Its Technique and Musical Resources (1962), among
other works. She was a noted performer on the viol in Britain both as a
soloist and a member of Dolmetsch family ensembles, as well as a composer and
editor of music for viols and for teaching viols.
Dietrich Kessler (1966)
Dietrich Kessler (1929-2006) was pivotal in the rediscovery and reimplementation
of traditional viol construction techniques as well making highly sought-after
viols. His interests in cello playing and woodworking led him to study
violin-making, first in his native Switzerland and later in England, where he
was introduced to viol construction in the Dolmetsch workshop. As his skill
developed, he generously shared his expertise and knowledge, as in his
groundbreaking article on the construction of bent-front viol construction,
"Viol Construction in 17th Century England: An Alternative Way of Making Fronts,"
published in Early Music
in 1982. His viols are among the most prized of
20th-century viols made on historic principles.
Sydney Beck (1960s)
Sidney Beck (1906-2001) was a musicologist and violinist who headed the Rare Book and Manuscript Collections of the
Music Division of the New York Public Library, then served as Director of Libraries and a faculty member at the New
England Conservatory from 1968 on. He was a performing gambist on treble and tenor viols in the 1940s, adding the bass in
1952. He wrote numerous articles and edited works for viols and other early strings. One of the first members of the
VdGSA, he served as a Board member for several years starting in 1963. See interview with Allison Fowle in JVdGSA Vol.
Nicholas Bessaraboff Bodley (c. 1970?)
Nicholas Bessaraboff (Bodley) (1894-1973) was born in Russia and became a
naturalized American citizen in 1927. His interest in the mechanics and acoustics
of musical instruments led him to Boston in 1931, where he began cataloguing the
instrument collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, publishing it in 1941
as Ancient European Musical Instruments, An Organological Study of the Musical
Instruments in the Leslie Lindsey Mason Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston. In 1945 he officially changed his name to Nicholas Bessaraboff Bodley,
adopting the maiden name of his American wife, Virginia Bodley.
August Wenzinger (c. 1972)
August Wenzinger (1905-1996) was a beacon of the first generation of historically
informed performers on the viol, one of the original faculty (of cello and viola
da gamba) at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. A teacher of Jordi Savall and many
other distinguished professionals, he also taught at Harvard and Brandeis in the
U.S. He had a special interest in early opera, and in 1955 led the Capella
Coloniensis in the first recording of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo
on the Archiv
label. Perhaps his greatest influence on American players came from his more
than two decades of masterclasses at the summer Oberlin Baroque Performance
Institute, which he directed. He published Gambenübung, a two-volume method
book (1935, 1938) as well as the primer Gambenfibel (1943) and editions of
Other early Honorary Members, according to information in the VdGSA Archives:
Jon and Joanna Bates
Kenneth Skeaping (1970s)
English performer, professor (1897-1977)
Rudolf Eras (c. 1977)
instrument maker in Erlbach, Germany (1904-1998)
Günther Hellweg (c. 1977)
instrument maker (1903-1985)
Eugen Sprenger (c. 1978)
instrument maker in Frankfurt, Germany
Michael Meech (c.1978)
VdGS (GB) Secretary (d. 1988)
Eloise Glenn (1980)
Co-founder with her husband, George Glenn, of the Viola da Gamba Society of America,
Eloise Glenn (1917-1981) was a mainstay of the first 20 years of the Society.
She had a career in public education, mainly as a principal in elementary schools
in the Anne Arundel County School System in Maryland, retiring in 1978. Along
with the tenor viol she played keyboard instruments in the early days of the viol
house parties in Edgewater, MD. Eloise organized all the VdGSA Conclaves through
1970 and served on the Board from 1963 to 1978, as its Chair from 1971 to 1978.
She also acted as an assistant or associate editor of the Journal of the VdGSA
from 1963 to 1971. After her husband's death in 1971, Eloise continued shepherding
and supporting the Society. She was remarried in 1980 to Frank Lowry.
John Hsu (1988)
John Hsu joined the VdGSA in 1964 and has received many accolades for his
dedication to the French viol, including the Chevalier of the Order of Arts and
Letters from the French Government. He published the groundbreaking A Handbook
of French Baroque Viol Technique
and served as editor of the seven-volume
Instrumental Works of Marin Marais
. He founded two outstanding chamber ensembles,
the Haydn Baryton Trio and the Apollo Ensemble, and was the artistic director of
the Aston Magna Foundation for Music and the Humanities. He was made a Lifetime
Member of the VdGSA in 1988 in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the
viol and his many achievements as performer and scholar. In 1992 the VdGSA
produced a videotape of John teaching French Baroque viol technique.
David Freeman (early 1990s)
David Freeman has introduced the viol to many new players in Czechoslovakia since
moving there from England in 1988, and has served as the VdGSA's official
representative there. When it proved very difficult to obtain good strings, he
appealed successfully to the VdGSA membership to fill the need, through Presidents
Ellen Powers and Richard Bodig. An important benefit of the interest he inspired
was the development of inexpensive student viols made in Czechoslovakia (later
Czech Republic) and sold there, in the U.S., and elsewhere as well, enabling new
enthusiasts to take up the viol. He and his wife ran the Czech Early Music
Festival in Prague for several years, and have promoted early music in many ways,
especially through workshops and instrument making.
Harold and Allene Westover (1996)
Harold (1923-2000) and Allene Westover were involved in the organization of the
VdGSA from its early days. Harold was elected to the Board of the VdGSA at the
very first Conclave in 1963. Both Harold and Allene produced affordable
instruments for students—2,875 in total, including 300-400 viols
first in Washington, D.C., then Gettysburg, PA, and Walpole, NH. The Westovers
also held workshops to share their knowledge and excitement for instrument making.
They retired to St. Joseph, MO in 1990. A number of Westover viols are still in
circulation, including in the VdGSA Rental Collection.
John Whisler (1997)
John Whisler was named an Honorary Life Member of the VdGSA in 1997, in
recognition of his twenty years of service to the Society as Publications
Manager (from 1976), Secretary (from 1979), and finally Secretary-Treasurer
(from 1983). During the years 1976 to 1996, he took care of the daily business
routines of the Society, developing many standard operating procedures still
in place, improving the society's financial stability and providing exemplary
support to more than half a dozen presidents and their Boards. He also served
as coordinator of the first several Traynor Competitions.
Ellen Powers (1998)
Ellen Powers (1918-2011) served as Vice President of the VdGSA from 1980 to 1984
and as President from 1984 to 1988. Ellen was also New England's early Area
Representative, and was recognized for her invaluable support in the founding and
development of the VdGS-New England chapter of the VdGSA. As President, she
contributed substantially to the proliferation and care of the VdGSA chapters and
areas, establishing the annual noontime meeting of representatives at Conclave.
She lived and taught in Belmont, Massachusetts, and in 1964 she co-founded the
Belmont Music School, which in 1988 was renamed the Powers Music School in her
Marjorie Bram-MacPhillamy (1999)
Marjorie Bram-MacPhillamy first attended Conclave in 1965 in Annapolis, Maryland,
and joined the Conclave faculty the year after. A violist, string educator, and
conductor by profession, she served on the VdGSA Board from 1965 until 1970.
In 1970 Marjorie became the second President of the VdGSA, serving until 1972.
Her signal contribution to the Society was the formation, at the 1971 Conclave,
of the system of regional chapters and overseas representatives. After her term as
President, she rejoined the Board from 1973 until 1978. Later she was to make
notable gifts of money and viols to the Society's rental program.
Rachel "Archie" Archibald (2002)
Rachel Archibald became a member of the VdGSA in 1966 and started attending Conclaves in
1973. For Archie (the nickname she strongly preferred to her given name), music was a beloved
avocation that became a vocation. She gave piano and organ lessons, and played viola in an
orchestra; along the way, she taught herself recorder, and that led her to the viol.
Archie was a dedicated member of the VdGSA Board for several terms and served as Regional
Representative for the Southwest. Her piece Fata Morgana was a finalist in the VdGS-Japan
Composition Contest in 1985, and her original compositions for the viol have been featured at
several Conclaves. Archie is fondly known for her ebullient personality, her customized
T-shirts, and her many long-distance bus trips across the country to Conclaves and workshops
with her viols in the luggage bins. Archie will be 100 years old in 2012.
Phyllis Olson (2002)
Phyllis Olson has been a member of the VdGSA since 1973 and was elected to the Board in 1976. A
string bass player by profession, and a student of George Hunter at the University of Illinois, she
served as Vice President in 1979 and President from 1980 to 1984. She was in charge of the VdGSA
publications in 1985, and was the organizer of a number of Conclaves in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Beginning in the 1980s, Phyllis collected history of the VdGSA and wrote Pastime with Good Company,
published in 1998, recounting the founding and first two decades of the VdGSA. The materials that she
had collected and saved formed the basis of the VdGSA Archive, now housed at the University of
Maryland's Performing Arts Library.
Judith Davidoff (2005)
Judith Davidoff joined the VdGSA in 1964 and toured the USSR that same year with New York Pro
Musica Antiqua. Already a well-established cellist, she founded the New York Consort of Viols
in 1972, and participated in the formation of Early Music America in 1985. Judith served on
the VdGSA Board from 1987 until 1991 and led the inaugural workshop of the Pittsburgh chapter.
A long-time Board member of the Greater New York chapter, she has been a prolific teacher at
workshops, and she has taught at the Conclave many times. With the NYCV she has championed new
compositions for viols along with the traditional repertoire, and in connection with her Sarah
Lawrence College dissertation she compiled the original database of over 900 contemporary viol
compositions that is now online at VdGSA.org.
George Hunter (2005)
George Hunter (1918-2011) first taught at Conclave in 1980. As Professor of Music Theory at the
University of Illinois, director of the Collegium there, and an avid consort player, he brought many
students under the spell of early music and the viol. In retirement, he made the heart of the
English consort repertory commercially available in his own exquisitely edited, affordable Northwood
Music performing editions. He was honored for his achievement in early music by Early Music
America's first annual Howard Mayer Brown Award in 1998.
Grace Feldman (2006)
Grace Feldman was elected to the VdGSA Board in 1986. A legendary workshop teacher, Grace is
especially known at Conclave for her teacher training sessions and skillful Beginning Viol classes,
and for getting 100-plus viol players tuned in record time for the "big bow-in." While on the Board,
Grace was instrumental in creating such programs as the Seasoned Players and the Recording Project.
The Country Dance and Song Society of America honored her by creating the Grace Feldman Early Music
Fund. The founder and leader of the New England Consort of Viols, she has taught for over 40 years
at the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, Connecticut, which honored her with a studio in her
name. She has contributed to viol pedagogy with her meticulous eleven-volume series The Golden Viol:
A Method for the Viola da Gamba
Wieland Kuijken (2009)
One of the leading exponents of the viola da gamba of the late 20th century, Wieland Kuijken (b.
1938) has been an important teacher of viol and Baroque cello at the Brussels Conservatoire and The
Hague for many years, inestimably influencing the world of viola da gamba performance through his
students as well as his own playing. Especially known for his performances with his brothers
Sigiswald and Barthold (violin and Baroque flute), he has recorded with such early music leaders as
Gustav Leonhardt, Frans Brüggen, and Alfred Deller. In 2011 he gave a weeklong series of
post-retirement masterclasses in Boston for which the students were supported in part by
scholarships provided by the VdGSA.
Martha Bishop (2009)
The Music Director of the VdGSA Conclaves from the late 1970s until 2009, Martha Bishop was President of the Society from
1978 to 1980. Joining the young Society while still a student, she quickly rose to the forefront of teachers, performers,
and composers for the viol. A tireless and inventive promoter of the viol, she supported the development of the Society's
microfilm collection for viol research by developing and selling the first VdGSA T-shirts and note cards. Her witty
captions on reproductions of classic pictures of viol playing, used as ads for the T-shirts, became the basis for the
very first Conclave Auction in the 1980s. Her playing editions of the Jenkins 4-, 5-, and 6-part consorts are free for
downloading from the VdGSA website. She has taught at Emory University and at other Atlanta-area colleges and plays with
Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, New Trinity Baroque, and others. A prolific producer of pedagogical material for viols (over
sixteen volumes), she is also a professional cellist.
Albert Folop (2011)
The Secretary of the VdGSA from 1969 to 1979, Al Folop was a teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis when he
joined the young organization in 1964. He began editing performing editions of viol music in 1966, and managed the
Society's re-publication of the playing editions from the English VdGS, as well as producing his own ("F" editions in the
early publications lists) until he went to work in Germany from 1979 to 1985; on his return he published a number of
"Music minus one" tapes for practice. His editions, over 3000 titles, now transcribed from manuscript to computer and
catalogued as to number of parts and instrumentation as well as composers, are available free online on the Werner Icking
Music Archive website.
Chester Pearlman (2011)
A psychiatrist by profession, Chester Pearlman has been a member of the VdGSA since its early days, and has attended
almost every Conclave. He served on the Board from 1999 to 2004 and has often contributed his time and expertise at other
times as well. He has also been very active in the organization of the New England chapter of the VdGSA, contributing
music to its music library (as well as the eastern collection of the VdGSA Conclave Library), and in coordinating chapter
and VdGSA activities at the Boston Early Music Festival, on whose board he served. A frequent traveler to Japan, Chester
has been particularly helpful in welcoming Japanese participants to the Conclaves.
Kathleen Schenley (2012)
Kathy Schenley ran or helped to run more than twenty VdGSA Conclaves, from the 1983 Conclave in
Raleigh, North Carolina, to the grand 50th Anniversary Conclave in 2012, serving initially as
local host and organizer and more recently as Conclave Coordinator. Throughout, the Society has
benefited from her consummate skill at organizing these major events, her ability to evaluate
potential sites, and above all, her devotion to the Society and to the people who come to each
Conclave. She has also contributed her wisdom and experience to numerous other areas of VdGSA
life during her many years on the Board of Directors. She served for several years as the Board's
liaison to the chapters and areas, and has long been active in her own chapter in North Carolina.
Kathy's work as a primary-school teacher has honed her natural gifts for shepherding people and
organizing events, which have stood the Society in such good stead.