Fretwork (music group)

Fretwork is a consort of viols based in England, United Kingdom. Formed in 1986, the group initially consisted of six players, while it is currently five viols. Its repertoire consists primarily of music of the Renaissance period, in particular that of Elizabethan and Jacobean England, arrangements of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and contemporary music written for them.

OriginLondon, England
GenresRenaissance music, Baroque music, Contemporary music
Years active1986–present
LabelsVirgin Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Signum Classics
MembersRichard Boothby
Joanna Levine
Asako Morikawa
Sam Stadlen
Emily Ashton

The group has toured all over the world, with tours of Japan and the United States, and three visits to Russia, the first in 1989, when it was still a part of the Soviet Union. They initiated a series of courses for voices and viols on the Greek island of Evvia with Michael Chance, and have also been invited twice to teach on the annual Conclave of the Viola da Gamba Society of America. It currently teaches each year in the first week of Dartington International Summer School.

In addition to its performances of earlier music, Fretwork has been active in commissioning new works for viol consort. Its 1997 recording Sit Fast includes new works by such composers as Gavin Bryars, Tan Dun, and Elvis Costello. It has also commissioned music from Sir John Tavener, Michael Nyman, Alexander Goehr, George Benjamin, Duncan Druce, Fabrice Fitch, Gavin Bryars, Barry Guy, Poul Ruders, Simon Bainbridge, Ivan Moody, John Woolrich, Thea Musgrave, Peter Sculthorpe, Sally Beamish, Andrew Keeling and Orlando Gough.

Fretwork has recorded a series of discs for Virgin Classics and Harmonia Mundi USA, but currently records for Signum Records. Recent discs include 'Bach's Goldberg Variations arranged for viols by Richard Boothby and The World Encompassed, with Simon Callow.

In 2007 they recorded Birds on Fire: Jewish Music for Viols which presents some of the music composed by Italian-Jewish composers from the Bassano & Lupo families, who came to England to work at the court of Henry VIII in 1540. It also includes music by Salamone Rossi and Leonora Duarte. Finally it includes the first recording of 'Birds on Fire' itself, a three-part piece by Orlando Gough written for Fretwork in 2001. This work is based on the novel by Aaron Appelfeld "Badenheim 1939", telling the story of a group of Jews who holiday in a resort near Vienna in the spring of 1939. The town gradually becomes a ghetto, and the band of musicians gradually rediscover their Jewish roots to break out from the Vienese schmalz to play klezmer tunes.

Their second recording of the complete Fantazias by Henry Purcell, including the two in Nomines, for HMU (Harmonia Mundi USA) was selected as Editor's Choice in Classic FM Magazine; where Fretwork's playing was described as "all one could wish for"; and it won the Gramophone Award on the Baroque Instrumental section 2009.

In 2008, they recorded two tracks on Ryuichi Sakamoto's album Out of Noise.

Fretwork was featured on the soundtracks of two Jim Jarmusch movies, Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) and Broken Flowers (2005). Other filmtracks include The Da Vinci Code, Kingdom of Heaven, The Crucible, La Fille d'Artagnant and many others. It has also recorded for Robbie Williams (Supreme) and Loreena McKennitt (for the album An Ancient Muse).

In March 2011, Richard Campbell committed suicide, losing his battle against a melancholy he had been fighting for years. His loss is keenly felt by all his colleagues.

In 2016 they celebrated their 30 years of activity with a concert in London's Kings Place, with guest players and singers, ending the concert with an arrangement of 'Because' by Lennon & McCartney.

Since 2017 they have been recording for Signum Classics, and have released three CDs on this label: The World Encompassed, In Chains of Gold and John Jenkins Four-part Consort music.

Current membersEdit

(* denotes members when the group originally formed)

Former membersEdit

Frequent guestsEdit

Prizes and awardsEdit



  1. ^ Liam Byrne, the musician's website

External linksEdit