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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 Suzanne Ferguson.

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 the 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.
More photos.


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. XXXIV (1997).


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 Baroque operas.


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. (b. 1935)

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.
More photos.


David Freeman (early 1990s)

David Freeman (1937-2009) introduced the viol to many new players in Czechoslovakia after moving there from England in 1988, establishing courses in making and playing period instruments under the umbrella of the organization Modi Gaudio, which he founded with his wife, the Czech musicologist Michaela Freemanova. In the 1990s he served as the VdGSA's official representative in the Czech Republic. When it proved difficult to obtain good strings, he appealed successfully to the VdGSA membership to fill the need, through Presidents Ellen Powers and Richard Bodig. An ancillary benefit of the interest he inspired was the production 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, through workshops and concerts as well as courses in performance, tuning and temperament, 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 honor.
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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.
More photos.


Rachel "Archie" Archibald (2002)

Rachel Archibald (1911-2013) 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.
More photos.


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.
More photos.


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.


Jean Seiler (2013)

Jean Seiler, a member of the Society since 1973, has provided extraordinary service to the viol and the Society as a Board member (elected, then appointed Parliamentarian-Historian for 7 additional years), as a Conclave teacher, and as an invaluable member of the Conclave Management team from 2001 to 2012. An editor by profession, she has served as longtime Associate Editor of the Journal of the VdGSA (1995 to the present), lead proofreader of both the Journal and the VdGSA News, co-author and co-editor of Pastime with Good Company II: The Continuing History of the Viola da Gamba Society (2013), author of the Board’s manual of Conclave Policies and Procedures, and consultant on numerous other VdGSA publications and projects. A loyal benefactor of the Society as well as an indefatigable volunteer of multiple talents and interests, Jean was granted Lifetime Membership in 2013 by a grateful Board.