S. Chordę Consort of Viols was founded by gambist John Dornenburg for the purpose of performing and recording the rich body of music for viol consort of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Consort has performed widely in California with presenters including the Berkeley Early Music Festival, San Francisco Early Music Society, San Jose Chamber Music Society, Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, Gualala Arts, and Magnificat. In 1999 they made their European debut at the Tage Alter Musik Festival in Regensburg, Germany.
The Consort currently has three highly praised CD recordings released on the Centaur label. The most recent CD features Renaissance Music by Josquin Des Prez and Heinrich Isaac with guest vocalists Scott Whitaker and Susan Rode Morris. They have also recorded suites from Johann Hermann Schein's Banchetto musicale of 1617, and Claudio Monteverdi's Third Book of Madrigals played on viols alone without vocalists.
In the chamber music of this period the consort of viols occupied a place of honor that in later centuries would be awarded to the string quartet. The repertory for viol consort embraces a wide variety of styles ranging from the chansons, madrigals, and dances of the Renaissance to the fantasias, anthems, consort songs, and suites of the early baroque. Three and sometimes four different sizes of viols create a blended sound that is warmly resonant yet surprisingly transparent.