February 2014

Only just got in before the end of the month this time. Time seems to be on the flood just now, as is the river a few hundred yards way… and closing. Lots of exciting things happening professionally. I’m very happy to say that I’ve been asked to act as a consultant to the Dextra Musica foundation of Norway, which holds a wonderful collection of instruments. The foundation is dedicated to bringing fine instruments to the best players in Norway and encouraging musical education. I’m very proud to be involved in a small but hopefully significant way.
Another exhibition by the wonderful Amati.com looms in March, at the luxurious Lansdowne Club in London. Significant for me as we will be launching the Monograph publications I have been working on with James Buchanan (the Boss), John Milnes (the Brains) and J.& A. Beare. We aim to produce four volumes per year, each one describing one worthy instrument in fine detail and glorious photography.
Another forthcoming publication is the work on Spanish makers by Jorge Pozas. More deadlines. Jorge hopes to have something ready to show at Mondomusica in September. I am working on my contribution, greatly helped by the startling dendrochronological revelations of expert Peter Ratcliffe. Which has made me think a lot about wood…
Dendrochronology generally seems to suggest quite short seasoning times for most classical makers. The idea that violin wood should be as old and aged as possible seems to be on the retreat. Where did it come from? Was it really only Vuillaume who started it all, with his ‘Swiss Chalet’ wood?
But here I am, with a challenging commission to make a copy of the delicious ‘Alard’ Stradivari. Hunting through my wood store I looked again at the old (and I mean OLD) Hill workshop pieces I was given many years ago. I found nice match. Thing is, it’s dark tar brown. Almost black. You can just read the writing on it, which says ‘July 1894, 4/9’. Which means one hundred and twenty years ago it cost W.E.Hill round about 25p. It’s beautiful wood. I used some to make a copy of the ‘Wilton’ del Gesu some time ago, which turned out to be one of my favourite pieces of work. So I’m happy to use it for special occasions. The depth of colour goes right through the wood, a wonderful base for varnish. I’ve jointed it and it’s nearly ready to cut out. We’ll see how it goes.



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