Digital Dance album cover

Digital Dance (2011)

Authentic experiences of the quill-keyboard
Renaissance dances and Baroque favorites
The virginals and harpsichord of the Powerhouse Museum
Professor Michael Atherton, percussion

Sixteen tracks of Renaissance music by Memmo, Attaingnant, Newman, Byrd, Facoli and Gardane
Eight tracks of Baroque music by J.S. Bach (Italian Concerto), J.-P. Rameau (Les Tendres Plaintes) and G.F. Handel (Suite in E, “The Harmonious Blacksmith”) fourth, revised edition.

Digital Dance is a pioneer recording in four respects:

Authenticity of the virginals and harpsichord

Both of the historic quill-keyboards in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum are exceptional examples of their kind: an Italian Renaissance virginals (De Taegiis, Bologna 1629) and an English Baroque harpsichord (Kirckman, London 1763). When recorded in 1989 the instruments were newly-restored and played well for their age. They are voiced with plectra of natural quill. The virginals is the oldest musical instrument in Australia.

Authenticity of the dance rhythms

The tempi and discipline of the dances reflect David Kinsela’s work with the Early Dance Consort of Sydney, the pioneering ensemble led by Dr Fiona Garlick. The innovations include suppression of romantic habits of phrasing and particularly of cadential ritenuti.

Use of historic paired fingering

Paired fingering is applicable to all Renaissance music. It creates a distinctive energy and eloquence, encourages spontaneous shaping of the line, and stimulates a paired irregularity or inegale.

Use of percussion in keyboard dance music

On five tracks, the virginals is accompanied by percussion such as would have happened when opportune. It is played by Professor Michael Atherton on authentic instruments including spoons, tabor, tambourine, bells, wood block and bodhran.

Running time 72:00
Designer: Mark Venice
Cover booklet of twenty-four pages in full colour, including:

  1. Details of the instruments and of the twenty-four tracks.
  2. A description of “orthodox paired fingering”, the technique of playing scales using two fingers alternatively like a pair of legs running across the keys (hence the term “run”).
  3. The revelation that the well-known piece from the court of Henry VIII, My Lady Careys Dompe, is dedicated to Mary Boleyn who was wife to William Carey and sister to Ann Boleyn, the future Queen of England. Also it is suggested that the composer of this piece and its companion My Lady Wynkfelds Rownde was the Venetian organist Dionisio Memmo, chaplain to King Henry. (A relevant article “Princess Mary, Lady Carey and Dionisio Memmo” is in preparation for the Musicology page of this website).


No-nonsense ocker character, marvellously robust… manifest good humor… genuine scholarship… appealing to younger people who find classical music limp-wristed.

Fanfare (UK)

A delightful collection played with fine feeling for the different styles, while the recorded sound is suitably crisp and clear… Byrd’s variations on The Woods so Wild is especially good… shows off the diversity of timbres available on the Kirckman instrument and its rich, resonant personality… a thoughtful but strongly individual performer.

Canberra Times (ACT)

I enjoyed this thoroughly… indeed, this CD was pick of the bunch.

Soundscapes (NSW)

The player is clearly at home with the sixteenth century pieces so aptly chosen to demonstrate the beauty of Taegiis’ virginal… infectiously rhythmical, and the addition of percussion is not out of place… a clear picture of the tonal palette of the Kirckman.

Victorian Organ Journal (VIC)

A diverse and attractive collection… the CD notes are among the best I have read.

Australia Today (NSW)

Extreme clarity and richness of tone, even in the most delicate passages… one of the essential recordings in any collection. If you think you do not like music, a short listen to this recording will convert you.

Go Classics (NSW)


  • Caldwell, John: English Keyboard Music before the Nineteenth Century (Blackwell, Oxford 1973)
  • Falkus, Christopher (ed.): The Private Lives of the Tudor Monarchs (The Folio Society, London 1974)
  • Giustinian, Sebastian: Four Years at the Court of Henry VIII, trans. Rawdon Brown (London 1854), including letters from
  • Giustinian’s secretary Nicolo Sagudino, himself a keyboard player. (The first two quotations attributed to Giustinian in the annotations were actually written by Sagudino.)
  • Heartz, Daniel: Pierre Attaingnant, Royal Printer of Music (Berkeley 1969)


This project has been assisted by kind generosity from many quarters, notably Pat and Noel Brooke-Kelly of Hiltona Orchard, Thuddungra Road, Young NSW.