Best Theorbo Player

Christopher Kendall
“I would not claim to be the best theorbo player in Washington,” says Christopher Kendall, “but I may be about the only one.” The theorbo (pronounced thee-OR-bow), is an early forerunner of the bass guitar. And by early, we’re talking late 1500s. The double-necked stringed instrument was first used in Florence, probably the invention of Medici court musicians who were looking to multitask. The first, shorter set of strings has a similar register as a conventional lute. The second, longer set extends the length of the second neck, which can be as long as six feet. Kendall affectionately calls his instrument the lutobeast, giraffe-o-lute, or the theorbosaurus. Want to see him play it? Kendall is the founder of Folger Consort, the venerable local ensemble that specializes in Renaissance music. Regrettably, he won’t be playing it at the consort’s April concert, which will feature music written a 100 years before the theorbo was invented.