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About Us

A decade ago, a group of interested musicians began to sing through a little-visited corner of music: a treasury of domestic songs to be sung to the lute, printed at the turn of the 17th century. Between their leaves, the members of Dowland Works encountered some of the finest music ever written. 


In 2023, five devotees of this collective - all confirmed colleagues on the early music stage - established Dowland’s Foundry: an ensemble whose heartland repertoire is the golden age of Elizabethan song, and named after its most iconic exponent, the lutenist John Dowland. 


In the first of his published songs, Dowland invites us to imagine his tongue as a kind of forge: “my tongue, that makes my mouth a mint 
/ and stamps my thoughts to coin them words…” - by extension, voices, lute strings, ensemble, can be seen as parts of the same: elements of a workshop, crafting thoughts into sounds. In this sense, Dowland’s Foundry is a process: a tradition of minting ideas into music, four centuries in the making. 


Today lute song is mostly heard solo, as a lute-and-singer combo, echoing the Lieder tradition. More rarely heard is its truest expression: as songs of several lines, vocal and instrumental - a conversational genre, destined for whole households. Lute song is in fact close to a domestic argument, a discussion amongst individual voices: harmony understood as a dynamic process, rich in conflict. 


This intimate understanding of the genre underpins Dowland’s Foundry, and the group’s vibrant and subtle performances. 

John Dowland score

Our Family

Dowland Works: 

As part of Brighton Early Music Festival 2012, lutenist Jacob Heringman and soprano Emma Kirkby founded what was to become Dowland Works: a kind of lute song club for interested students and seasoned professionals alike. Today, members of Dowland Works meet regularly to play and perform together.

Dowland Youth Works:

In 2018, long-time Dowland Workers Laurence Williams and Sam Brown were invited to run a workshop for young musicians. The event was a hit, and in due course Dowland Youth Works was born: a free residential scheme for young singers and lutenists to study lute song.

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©​ Dowland's Foundry 2023

Photos by Joe Oswald

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