Ronn McFarlane is one of the principal interpreters of music for the Renaissance lute. This sets McFarlane apart from many players who study the lute in addition to the guitar, or those who play lute music on the guitar. McFarlane is mainly devoted to the lute only, and he has mastered a variety of different lutes of diverse courses from discrete historical periods.
Born in West Virginia, McFarlane initially studied the guitar, even played in a few rock and blues groups while taking a course of study in classical guitar at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. McFarlane ultimately dropped out of the pop bands and completed his training in classical guitar at the Peabody Institute, where he would also teach for a time afterward. Among his own teachers were Paul O'Dette, Roger Harmon, and Pat O'Brien. McFarlane decided to give up the guitar altogether in favor of the lute in 1978. Not long after he was among the co-founders of the group the Baltimore Consort, which soon became the best-known American period instrument group in the world thanks to a generous touring schedule and an extremely popular series of releases on the Dorian label.
Although some members have been in and out of the Baltimore Consort over the years, McFarlane has remained a constant member within the group. Yet he has recorded and concertized on his own far more prolifically than any other member in the Baltimore Consort. McFarlane has recorded six CDs for Dorian, including such popular discs as A Distant Shore, The Renaissance Lute, and The Scottish Lute. He has also recorded three more backing honey-toned soprano Julianne Baird and another accompanying tenor Frederick Urrey. In 1996 McFarlane was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Shenandoah University, for his work in popularizing the lute and universalizing its appeal. In the new century, McFarlane has taken up composing, following in the footsteps of the Renaissance lutenists.