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Christmas with the Baltimore Consort

Mary Anne Ballard, viol

The viol is a family of bowed instruments widely used in the 16th and 17th centuries, both for solo and ensemble playing. Wide variations of size, tuning, and shape among viols is common. The bass viol often served as contiuno, and was long preferred to the cello for that important function, whereas the treble viol, tuned an octave higher and capable of great resonance, excelled in polyphonic music. Viols are ideal for expressive playing; the sound of many can closely imitate the timbre of the human voice. The viol's characteristic playing position ­ between the legs, in the same way a modern cello is played ­ probably originates in 11th century Europe, and the instrument itself first appeared in Italian paintings of the 15th century.


Mary Anne Ballard plays viols and rebec for the Consort. She researches most of the Baltimore Consort's programs. She also plays viol with the Oberlin Consort of Viols (with whom she has made two recordings). Formerly, she directed or coached early music at the Peabody Conservatory, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, where she founded the Collegium Musicum. A graduate of Wellesley College, where she began her viol studies, her later mentors included August Wenzinger (viol) and Konrad Ruhland (medieval music).