Joyous Homecoming : Laguna High Graduate Returns, Ancient Lute in Hand, With Carolinian Consort


When Scott Pauley graduated from Laguna High School 10 years ago, he’d been playing drums in the school marching band, guitar and double bass in the jazz ensemble, and saxophone in a “swinging telegram service” known as the Oversaxed Quartet. When he returns to Laguna Beach tonight, it will be as a member of the Carolinian Consort of Guildhall, London and he’ll be toting a theorbo, a large, ancient type of lute.

“The theorbo is my great love right now,” he said on the phone recently. “It combines everything for me. It’s a bass instrument with very long strings, so it reminds me of the (double) bass. Because you’re improvising from the bass line and because it’s a lute, it combines my love of jazz and my love of guitar.”

It’s also a perfect match for him in that both he and the instrument stand well over 6 feet. The Consort will play tonight at 7:30 in the Laguna Presbyterian Church; the concert, sponsored by the Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society, will feature music of 17th-Century Italy and England by composers including Monteverdi, Dowland and Purcell.


The Consort--sopranos Anne Sutherland of Scotland and Liliana Mazzarri of Venezuela, alto Emma Haines and harpsichordist Carolyn Gibley, both from England, and Pauley--also performs today for music classes at Laguna High and will present the U.S. premiere of an early baroque cantata Thursday at Pomona College.

Next week, Pauley, 28, will play his doctoral recital at Stanford University, culminating two years of study with lutenist Nigel North on fellowship at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

The theme of tonight’s concert will be “rhetoric” of 17th-Century music, the subject of Pauley’s doctoral dissertation. “All educated people of the time were taught rhetoric, and music can also be organized like a well-structured speech,” Pauley explained.

“Repeating a musical phrase at a higher pitch, and again at a higher pitch, for instance, was a principal of rhetoric that audiences would have automatically understood. Word painting--illustrating an individual word such as pain with a dissonant harmony, or the word thunder with a crashing chord--is another.

“In the 18th Century,” he continued, “only one effect is expressed throughout an aria--anger or sadness or joy--using a few lines of text. In the earlier music, you have several effects, and great contrasts, in a very short space of time. To really make every word count, (to color and shape) every phrase according to the meaning of the words . . . performers don’t exploit that enough.”

Switching to the theorbo was a more logical progression for Pauley than one might think. He began studying classical music at Pomona College, and after graduation went to Madrid to study classical guitar for a year. Halfway through the year, he “fell in love with the earlier repertoire” and changed his focus to baroque guitar and lute--which led him to the theorbo. He earned his master’s degree in early music at Stanford.

He is not necessarily a purist when it comes to authentic instruments. Whether, for example, one should play lute suites on guitar all depends on the music itself, he said. “Bach can work on any instrument. I’ve heard the ‘Goldberg Variations’ on accordion and it sounds wonderful. But for other composers of the period, choice of instrument can be critical.

“The theorbo has 14 strings, and the tuning is very different. For most theorbo music, a guitar wouldn’t even have the right number of notes.

“While I now feel a responsibility to do things correctly,” he added, “there are only so many treatises you can read on early music. There’s a lot you’ll never be able to know, and you’ll never really know what it sounded like. You have to use your own imagination, and that’s something you can only develop yourself.”

Pauley, who lives in London with his wife, a free-lance journalist, remembers a happy, secure childhood in Laguna Beach. “To a certain extent, it was a sheltered place to live. I was able to play my music without pressure from parents and teachers. I was never forced to practice X number of hours a day. I had a lot of fun doing the silly sax quartet--it’s a fond memory. Had I been pushed. . . .”

* The Carolinian Consort from the Guildhall, London plays music from the 17th Century tonight at the Laguna Presbyterian Church, 415 Forest Ave. Curtain: 7:30 p.m. $3 to $5 (students free). Sponsored by Laguna Chamber Music Society. (714) 494-4153.