Spencer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Music


The Exhibition of the Spencer Collection which includes manuscripts – some dating from the mid-sixteenth century, printed books, musical instruments, engravings, concert notices and flyers of the lutenist, guitarist, singer and musicologist Robert Spencer at the Royal Academy of Music Museum, London opened on 3 January 2017.

In 1998, with the assistance of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Mrs Jill Spencer, the Britten-Pears Foundation and public support, the Robert Spencer Collection was acquired by the Royal Academy of Music. Robert Spencer had been professor of Early English Song and lute at the Royal Academy of Music for nearly 25 years. He was a lifelong researcher and collector of music and musical instruments, and as a trained librarian, he excelled in tracking down rare manuscripts and engravings, as can be seen in the range and invaluable collection on exhibition in The Spencer Collection: A Musical Banquet.

A short documentary film was made to accompany the exhibition, which includes performances by Robert Spencer on his own and with Jill Nott-Bower, as well as interviews with the lutenist Elizabeth Kenny, a former student of Robert Spencer’s and his successor at the Royal Academy of Music, singers Michael Chance and Ian Partridge, and the luthier Martin Bowers.

Robert Spencer (1932–1997) was a warm and generous-spirited man who loved music. He was dedicated to all aspects of music-making: performing, researching and teaching. He performed on the lute for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s productions and was a member of the Julian Bream Consort. He regularly accompanied the counter-tenor Alfred Deller and performed in duo with the actress/singer Jill Nott-Bower (his wife) for over 30 years. Robert Spencer was such an important part of the early music revival and the revival of lute playing; he was a founder member of the Lute Society.

The Exhibition very much reflects the spirit of Robert Spencer; and in keeping with his pleasure in sharing his knowledge and research, there is a Spencer Exhibition Children’s Trail.


The Spencer Collection: A Musical Banquet exhibition is open until 31 March 2018 at the Royal Academy of Music Museum, Marylebone Road, London. For more exhibition details, see.

To search the Robert Spencer Collection, visit.

© 2017 Thérèse Wassily Saba

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