The English lutenist and guitarist, Nigel North, studied guitar on a scholarship to the junior department of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1964 to 1970, taking up the lute in 1969, at the age of 15. He maintains he was more or less self-taught on the instrument. He went on to study at the Royal College of Music from 1971 to 1974: classical guitar with John Williams and Carlos Bonell, viola da gamba with Francis Baines; lute (one term) with Diana Poulton, qualifying in 1974 with an A.R.C.M. diploma in lute performance. He completed his studies on the postgraduate course in Early Music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1974-1975, and with one month's study with Baroque lutenist Michael Schäffer in Germany in 1976.
From 1973 to 1990 Nigel North played in baroque operas, baroque orchestras and chamber groups and accompanied singers in concerts, participating in over 100 recordings. Notable groups and people with whom he has worked: Early Music Consort of London (Director: David Munrow), The English Concert (Director: Trevor Pinnock), The Academy of Ancient Music (Director: Christopher Hogwood), Schütz Choir of London and Early Opera Project (Roger Norrington), Kent Opera, The Brandenburg Consort (Director: Roy Goodman), Taverner Players (Director: Andrew Parrott), Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Director: René Jacobs), Red Byrd, Fretwork, London Baroque (Director: Charles Medlam), Trio Sonnerie (Director: Monica Huggett), Raglan Baroque Players (Director: Nicholas Kraemer), The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra (Director: Harry Christophers). He has played accompanist to such singers as Alfred Deller, Peter Pears (Aldeburgh Festival, 1976), Emma Kirkby, Nigel Rogers, Mark Tucker, Stephen Varcoe, Nancy Argenta, James Bowman, Julianne Baird and Michael Chance. With Andrew Manze (violin) and John Toll (harpsichord) he formed the ensemble Romanesca in 1988; they played together for the next 10 years.
Nigel North made his solo lute debut with a J.S. Bach programme at the Wigmore Hall in 1977. In 1985, in J.S. Bach 300th anniversary concerts, he performed with Maggie Cole all of J.S. Bach's lute works for the first time in London. Numerous recitals and recordings followed and from 1984 to 2001 he toured worldwide. He played J.S. Bach recitals in Holland, Israel, USA, Germany, Poland and York; Visited Poland 1986 to play music by Silvius Leopold Weiss at Wroclaw; Solo recitals and tours from 1977 to USSR, Spain, Canada, Italy, Sweden, Bath and Aldeburgh Festivals; Stuttgart, Madrid, lnndbruck, Moscow, Utrecht, York and London (Lufthansa) Early Music Festivals.
In 1976 Nigel North was appointed Professor of Lute at the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, a position he held until 1996. From 1993 to 1999 he was Professor of Historical Plucked Instruments at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, Germany. From January 1999 he has been Professor of Lute at the Early Music Institute, Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University and, from January 2005, has taught the lute at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Holland. He also took part in Summer Academies with the Lute Society of America 1980-1988; Swedish Guitar and Lute Society; French Lute Society and Trio Sonnerie Summer School 1989, anf gave master-classes, lectures and workshops in Sardinia, Rome, Venice, Vancouver, New York and San Francisco.
His recording life began in the mid-1970's; while studying at music college, he played viol, cittern, rebec and violin as well as his more usual instruments, lute, theorbo, mandolin and baroque guitar on recordings with some of the English pioneers of early music of that time, such as David Munrow with The Early Music Consort and Alfred Deller with The Deller Consort. He recorded as soloist, music by Robert de Visee, Dowland, J.S. Bach and Antonio Vivaldi; Albums of Monteverdi, George Frideric Handel. Purcell, Arcangelo Corelli and A. Vivaldi with London Baroque, Taverner Players, The English Concert, The Academy of Ancient Music, Raglan Baroque Players, Trio Sonnerie and The Sixteen Choir and Orchestra (Monteverdi Vespers, 1988). He has made transcriptions for lute of J.S. Bach's solo violin works and solo cello suites, which he has performed at the Wigmore Hall and recorded on a 4 CD set, J.S. Bach on the Lute (1994-1998). He has published an edition of these transcriptions for lute tablature, classical guitar and staff notation. Other notable recordings include the complete lute works of John Dowland (4 CDs on Naxos Records), and a series of CD's of music by 17th-century French lutenists.
Nigel North published editions of lute music include: Oxford University Press Lute Series; Lute Music by William Byrd (Volume 6, 1976); Lute and Bandora Music by Alfonso Ferrabosco (Volume 8, 1979, Stainer and Bell); Tablature for 2 Lutes Volumes 1 and 2 (English Renaissance Treble and Ground Duets, 1983, Faber Music/Indiana University Press); Varietie of Lute Lessons, Robert Dowland's anthology of 1610 (in preparation). He has written the standard modern textbook on continuo playing on the lute and related instruments: Continuo playing on the Lute, Archlute and Theorbo: a Comprehensive Guide for Performers (Indiana University Press, 1987). The following textbook is in preparation: Lute and Early Guitar - a Performance Practice Handbook Original didactic sources from 1500 - c.1760, for lute and guitar. Sources in facsimile, with translations and full editorial comment; covering the working repertoire of a modern lutenist. It will be a book in which one may find the answers to performance practice questions taken directly from original sources.