2021 Virtual Exhibition | Viola da Gamba Society of America (VdGSA)

Boston Early Music Festival
Boston Early Music Festival

The Viola da Gamba Society of America is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the support of activities and resources relating to the viola da gamba, other early bowed string instruments, and their music. We are active in the United States, Canada, and abroad. As a Society of players, builders, publishers, composers, scholars, restorers, and others, what brings us together is a mutual love for the viola da gamba: the instrument, its music, its history, and its future.

The viola da gamba, or viol (which rhymes with 'smile'), is a bowed, fretted string instrument which typically has six strings. Viols come in many shapes and sizes but all are held vertically, supported on the legs. This vertical position gave the instrument its name: gamba is Italian for leg. Viols were developed during the Renaissance and were popular instruments in Europe through the Baroque era, and have enjoyed a resurgence since the early 20th century, when they were enthusiastically embraced by amateur and professional musicians alike. While viols look similar to cellos, the two families of strings are actually quite distinct. Viols can play all sorts of music, they're easy to learn and fun to play. 

Explore the links provided to discover the sounds of the viol in solo music, like the example with continuo from Marin Marais’s Plainte, and in consort music. Consorts are small chamber groups. In much of the consort music written for viol, every player has an equal role in the music. You can hear that easily in duets like Michael East’s Follow me Close, where two bass viols imitate each other throughout. Adding more parts gives a denser and filigreed texture to the music, as you will hear in Mallorie’s Yf man in care. Viols pair beautifully with voices, featured in Vinci’s Sonetti Spirituali

​We hold an annual, week-long Conclave, workshop come festival, in mid-summer a faculty of internationally recognized performers and scholars. Conclave features a free five-class introductory course for beginners to the viol, as well as options to play consort repertoire with others in coached classes and socially. ​This year we hold our 59th Conclave online from July 25–31, 2021. For more information and to register please visit vdgsa.org. 

At vdgsa.org, you can also join the VdGSA and experience the music, scholarship, and camaraderie! Members have access to our large collection of teaching videos (see linked excerpts), grants, lesson subsidies, an online music collection, teachers, and more. 

Visit the VdGSA Website

Viola da Gamba Society of America