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The Alternative History project is inspired by the practice of renaissance musicians rearranging the acappella polyphony of their predecessors and contemporaries for voices and lutes. We also re-imagine the world of twentieth century English song as lute song, as it might have been had the early music movement started fifty years earlier. And we add to the lute song repertoire songs provided for us by living songwriters including Tony Banks (Genesis), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Sting and Gavin Bryars. We work as a quartet, and also in smaller voice/lute permutations – and sometimes we’re joined by other musicians...


JP, John Paul Jones (mandolin), JH, AA, AMF, Malcolm Creese (bass)

Brexit and the pandemic have kept us quiet for a while, but we’re back in 2022 with new programmes and a new video. We will continue to offer radical new programmes of sacred music by Victoria and Josquin, alongside new explorations of Morales. Our secular River God Songs programme features E J Moeran and Peter Warlock transcriptions, new commissions from John Paul Jones and Peter Erskine, as well as a unique song intended for The Last Ship given to us by Sting. The new works also feature in our ROCK ART! programme, which is a complete recital of songs given to us by jazz and rock musicians (including Tony Banks of Genesis).


Amores Pasados


’Des voix sublimes, une interprétation simple et pure, un album qui enchantera les amateurs de musique vocale.‘
Daniela Jaloba Nouvelle-Vague

’...a luminous ECM recording...a lovely thing.’‘
Andrew McGregor BBC Radio 3 Record Review

’Achingly beautiful.‘
Robert Aubry Davis NPR Millennium of Music

’...sublime lute playing from Ariel Abramovich and Jacob Heringman...Anna Maria Friman and John Potter perfectly matched.‘
Graham Rickson The Arts Desk

’This will appeal to all who enjoyed Potter's work with the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek, and will be of much more than of passing interest to those spent their formative years immersed in the music of Led Zeppelin, Genesis and the Police.‘
Nick Lea Jazz Views


Amores Pasados is a secular programme based on material developed from the ECM album. It includes new songs by Gavin Bryars, Tony Banks and John Paul Jones not yet recorded, more Warlock, Moeran and the almost unknown Peter Pope. Below is a short promotional video clip from our concert at the Nostalgia Festival in Poznan.

Secret History: sacred music by Josquin and Victoria



Secret History is a sacred programme featuring Victoria’s Missa Surge Propera interspersed with chant, motets and lute intabulations by Josquin Desprez including his famous lament on the death of Ockeghem, as they might have been performed in England in the early 17th century. There is an extract from the mass and a short interview in the video below (from 1.55 onwards) from the Musica Divina festival in Krakow.



John Potter ~ Ariel Abramovich ~ Jacob Heringman


Cristóbal de Morales: Missa Mille Regretz

Cristóbal de Morales’ most famous six-voice mass, based on Josquin Desprez’ chanson of the same name, is here performed in a unique realisation for tenor and two lutes. Although it originated as acappella polyphony, the longer life of this mass was in versions like this which were performed well into the seventeenth century.


Tota pulchra es

A programme based on madrigal and motet arrangements from the late 16th century by Bovicelli, Rognoni, Bassano and others. Similar to jazz – unique improvised versions of well-known tunes – the so-called ‘division school’ produced some of the most virtuosic music ever heard. The originals by Isaac, Victoria, Cipriano da Rore, Palestrina and their contemporaries are transformed into extraordinary feats of vocal and instrumental display. In between the hectic improvisations calm is restored by serene lute duets from the same period.



Playing with History: Edward Paston’s Passion

John Potter and Ariel Abramovich present a programme of lute songs based on the C17 Paston Manuscripts.

Antiquarian, lutenist, linguist and poet, Edward Paston recreated 15th & 16th century polyphony as lute song for the enjoyment of his household and companions. His collections included not only motets by his great contemporaries but music from all over Europe and from many previous generations: Tallis and Byrd sit alongside Taverner, Fayrfax, Palestrina, Victoria and Josquin Desprez. The programme will include excerpts from masses by Taverner and Fayrfax, motets by Tallis and Byrd, and the Ferrabosco Lamentations.


Music that her Echo is

John Potter and Ariel Abramovich celebrate a 10 year partnership with songs by Dowland, Campion and Danyel.




The Book of Lost Lute Songs

Many of the great English song composers of the first half of the twentieth century were inspired by seventeenth century poets. Philip Heseltine, the composer Peter Warlock , wrote the first book on lute song and was one of the few musicians of his time to read lute notation. This programme imagines what might have happened if the early music revival had occurred 50 years earlier, in which case Warlock, Moeran, Quilter and their contemporaries might have written songs with lute rather than piano.


Josquin Desprez: Missa Pange Lingua

Josquin’s music was disseminated throughout Europe by lute players who re-invented his sacred polyphony as lute music and song. This programme contains the complete Pange Lingua mass, partly sung and partly in lute versions by Mudarra, Capirola and Fuenllana, and a selection of some of the great motets.


Guy Carpenter’s film of John Potter and Jacob Heringman performing Dowland’s In Darkness let me Dwell as a metaphor for Brexit can be seen here and there is a blog post about the making of the film here.

photos Guy Carpenter except JP & AA (Pablo Juarez)