I discussed this with Owain in person at a renaissance fair several years ago.  
The short answer is yes.  He played a deliberately modern instrument that looks 
kinda renaissancey to entertain an audience that is seeking fantasy via 
idealized anachronism rather than expecting anything like a historic approach.

I stumbled across him doing a set with a small ensemble while I was reluctantly 
wandering the grounds of a renaissance fair in the late 1990s.  I knew of his 
New World Renaissance Band but had never seen him perform before.  Afterwards, 
I approached to discuss his interesting instrument.  I said something like, 
"That's an interesting piece you have there.  It looks to be a modern 
steel-string guitar fitted with something similar to banjo tuners and 
ornamented to emulate the famous Jaquemart-André vihuela held in a Paris 

He replied something like, "This is a chitarra battente," in spite of the fact 
that he played it entirely fingerstyle.

I told him exactly what design features are typically considered to constitute 
the chitarra battente that arose in Italian-speaking places of the baroque era. 
 However, the conversation had already ended by then, and I just hadn't 
realized it had.

He actually knew chitarra battente perfectly well.  He played one by James 
North (1993) on the album Sweet Was the Song (1995), although he rearranged its 
10 string capacity to span six courses.

Yes, I actually liked his sound.  I consider it a slightly guilty indulgence 
only to be selectively revealed to my HIP friends.  Unfortunately, cancer took 
Owain in 2012.


From: lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu [lute-...@cs.dartmouth.edu] on behalf of Edward 
C. Yong [edward.y...@gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2014 12:34 AM
To: Vihuela List
Subject: [VIHUELA] Owain Phyfe


i've been relistening to my cds of the late Owain Phyfe's stuff. it's fun 
stuff, catchy and all, but the description of his instrument as a 'chitarra 
battente (Italian renaissance guitar)' in interviews puzzles me.

it sounds like neither a chitarra battente nor a renaissance guitar of any 
sort, and pictures show it to have 6 single metal strings, bridge pins, machine 
tuners etc. merely tarted up w some vihuela-style soundboard inlays.

would i be right in concluding that calling it a 'chitarra battente (Italian 
renaissance guitar)' is nothing more than an organological lie that he got away 
with for so long because his audience were (are?) generally ignorant Renfaire 

Edward Yong


τούτο ηλεκτρονικόν ταχυδρομείον εκ είΠαδοιο εμεύ επέμφθη.
Hæ litteræ electronicæ ab iPade missæ sunt.
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