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Altramar medieval music ensemble: About Us

- About Us and our Instruments

Jann_Blemf_04.jpgJann Cosart plays bowed string instruments from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries, and concertizes on vielle, rebec, crwth, period violins, and early violas with leading early music groups across the country, including the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston, the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, and Altramar. In addition, she serves as Associate Professor of Musicology and Director of the Early Music Ensembles program at Baylor University. She is the author of The Monophonic Tropes and Conductus of W1 (A-R Editions), and has published articles in Early Music, Proceedings of the Conference on Early Music in Higher Education, and Early Music America Bulletin. Her research interests include the investigation, employment and pedagogy of historical performance practice in all periods; archival, paleographic and musicological study of historical manuscripts; the preparation of editions and new music for medieval music performance; and, as an overarching scholarly ethos, the synthesis of research and performance across historical epochs. Jann has also played a key role as soloist, section-leader, or concertino member in multiple recordings of medieval and Baroque repertoire on the Dorian, Titanic, and L'Oiseau-Lyre labels. She is also active in contemporary music, appearing with numerous symphony orchestras in the U.S. and Japan, and has worked with Native American communities as violist of the Dakota String Quartet. She is currently a member of the Waco Symphony Orchestra.

Angie2000_resized.jpgAngela Mariani's career included experience in rock, folk, and traditional music before taking a left turn into medieval music performance practice.  She is Associate Professor of Musicology at the Texas Tech School of Music, where she teaches graduate seminars on early music topics and undergraduate musicology courses, and directs the Texas Tech Early Music Ensemble; her book Improvisation and Inventio in the Performance of Medieval Music will be published by Oxford University Press in Summer 2017. She is a Board Member of Texas Tech’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the TTU Teaching Academy, and recently inaugurated a Graduate Certificate Program in Early Music Performance Practice at TTU. Angela also hosts the nationally-syndicated early music radio program Harmonia and is a past Vice President of the Board of Directors of Early Music America.    She maintains her strong interest in folk musics, including sacred chant from around the world; performs Irish traditional music with the group Johnny Faa; and has recently become acquainted with a hurdy-gurdy.



David Stattelman, a native Iowan, received his earliest musical training through participation in the Roman Catholic liturgy, and has remained an active church musician. Since earning a Master’s degree in Early Music Vocal Performance from Indiana University’s prestigious Early Music Institute, where he studied with Thomas Binkley and Paul Elliott, he has performed with Altramar,  Magnificat, Theater of Voices, and other ensembles, recording and touring both nationally and internationally.  Most recently he has maintained an active career as a freelance performer and church musician in Southern Michigan, and is the Director of the Chant Choir at Resurrection Parish in Lansing. David’s main areas of scholarly interest are chant, liturgical music and early vocal performance practice. Should you wish to relocate to Southern Michigan, David also sells real estate.


Chris_with_Gittern2_04.jpgChris Smith is Professor and Chair of Musicology/Ethnomusicology and director of the Vernacular Music Center at the Texas Tech University School of Music, and founder and director of the TTU Celtic Ensemble and Elegant Savages Orchestra. He is a member of TTU’s Teaching Academy, and in 2010 was a recipient of TTU’s prestigious President’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and Indiana University and as a guest lecturer at University College Cork, in addition to Texas Tech, and leads a yearly roving field-trip for TTU students in the West of Ireland. His research interests are in American and African-American Music, 20th Century Music, Irish traditional music and other folk musics and cultures, improvisation, music and politics, performance practice, and historical performance; his book The Creolization of American Culture (Universitiy of Illinois Press) won the prestigious Lowens Award from the Society for American music. He leads the Irish traditional band Johnny Faa, and has lectured or performed at hundreds of colloquia, concerts, workshops, and pub sessions across the U.S.and in Europe. A multi-instrumentalist, he concertizes on Irish bouzouki, tenor banjo, button accordion, slide guitar, saz, lute, gittern, Turkish lavta, and percussion, and is willing to admit that he plays the accordion for a bunch of wild Morris dancers at 8am on Saturday mornings. 



- About Altramar's Instruments


Altramar uses instruments appropriate to the times and places of their repertoire. Most of the information about medieval instruments comes from iconography, because very few of the originals survive. By studying paintings and sculptures, one can discover which instruments were played when and where. Also, clues can be found which suggest construction techniques of medieval craftsmen. Luthier Timothy G. Johnson (pictured, left) has created a matched set of instruments for Altramar using this type of research.





The vielle is the ancestor of both the violin and viola da gamba families. It had three to five strings, optional frets, and a flat or curved bridge. Tim Johnson has created several different vielles for Altramar, all based on historical models.


The gittern is the ancestor of the guitar, but it often resembled the medieval fiddle: two identical instruments were commonly shown together, one plucked and the other bowed. However, gitterns more frequently had frets, flat fingerboards, and flat bridges.

The ‘ud, an Arabic lute, was popular in Southern Europe, especially Iberia. Johnson has designed an instrument for Altramar combining Arabic construction techniques with characteristics of the earliest European lutes.


The Romanesque harp played by Altramar is based on a twelfth-century mosaic. It is a small instrument, held on the lap. This simple, triangular shape was common throughout Europe from Carolingian times into the Gothic period.


The Irish harp played by Altramar is based on period illustrations and the Brian Boru harp held at Trinity College Dublin.


The rebec is a small fiddle with only two or three strings. Its one-piece, gourd-shaped body gives it a characteristic sound. Altramar’s rebecs were inspired by eleventh-century sculptures in the French cathedral of Gargilesse.


The vielle is the ancestor of both the violin and viola da gamba families. It had three to five strings, optional frets, and a flat or curved bridge.


Variants of the dumbek or darabukka, a goblet-shaped drum, are widely depicted in sources across Europe and throughout the period.





The_Cruit_reduced.jpgFor Altramar’s Celtic projects, Tim has created two additional one-of-a-kind reconstructions of medievThe_Crwth_reduced.jpgal Celtic instruments. The cruit is a Celtic lyre similar in design to early lyres seen across Europe in the early to high Middle Ages. Medieval stone carvings depicting a rounded, rectangular lyre are found today throughout Ireland and serve as models for Altramar’s instrument. The crwth is a bowed lyre, constructed very similarly to the cruit. Altramar’s instrument has six strings, four strung over a fingerboard and two resonating openly off the fingerboard. The crwth was played in Welsh traditional music into the nineteenth century.

In addition to their consort of Timothy G. Johnson instruments, Chris Smith also employs a lavta (long-necked plucked lute) by Samir Azar of Homs, Syria.