Clare Salaman

Clare Salaman (Merton College 1985) was a multi-instrumentalist, director of The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments and an AHRC-funded PhD researcher at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Clare played nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, baroque violin, viola d’amore, Hardingfele, medieval vielle, accordion and trumpet marine. A music degree at Merton College, University of Oxford and post-graduate study at the Royal College of Music and Guildhall School of Music and Drama led to performances, broadcasts and recordings with all the leading period instrument ensembles in the UK including the English Concert, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and St James’ Baroque. Clare had extensive experience as a director and section leader. She guest directed Norwegian baroque orchestra, Barokkarnerne, on numerous occasions. 

Clare collaborated with musicians from Iran, Norway, Finland, France, India, Andalusia and Tanzania, as well as folk musicians from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. A collaboration with Hardanger fiddler, Benedicte Maurseth, resulted in performances in the UK and Norway and a CD, The Longest Night. Multi-disciplinary projects included Fair Field, a collaboration with poets, writers, performance artists and actors to create theatre, music, and spoken word for a site-specific performance. Clare devised and directed Sound House, a pioneering exploration of sound perception in the 17th century and Nine Daies Wonder, a celebration of a publicity-grabbing sponsored Morris dance from London to Norwich in the year 1600 by Shakespeare’s clown, Will Kemp.

Clare was founder and director of The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments (SSAI). The ensemble presented music from all sectors of society ranging over centuries on a plethora of unusual instruments, drawing audiences into a previously unimagined world of sound. Invention and risk-taking lie at the heart of the original, and often cross-discipline projects, which have been widely praised for their excellence and ingenuity. ‘SSAI has forged a reputation for being one of our finest exponents of early music. They enchant and amaze in equal measure.' The Musician.  Since 2011 SSAI gave 70+ often sold out performances at major festivals and venues, made frequent national radio broadcasts, commissioned five new works, delivered three education projects, and produced two acclaimed CDs. SSAI’s last project, The Trumpet Marine Project was awarded a major grant from Arts Council England. It included 20+ performances, two major education projects, a CD and four new commissions. 

Clare taught at the Royal College of Music and the Norwegian Academy of Music, working with students to develop their practice through exploration and improvisation. She appeared frequently on BBC Radio 3 and 4 as interviewee and researched, wrote and presented three programmes for The Early Music Show on BBC Radio 3.

On Thursday 16 November at 6.15pm there will be a memorial evensong at Merton College Chapel. This will be a rare opportunity to hear live performance from the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments trumpet marine consort. 


The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments website.

A short film about Clare’s practice, made for the BBC website.

Videos of The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments.