Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Across Canada

inspired by G Rogeri

This April an exhibition will accompany the concerts of violinists - and ambassadors for the forum -Jonathan Crow and Andrew Wan in Edmonton, April 20/21  and Vancouver, April 23 to 26 .

Visit  www.leforumdesfabricants.org  or    www.themakersforum.org  for details.

It is a great opportunity for musicians in the West to experience the rich array of violins,violas,cellos and bows currently being created in Canada.

For the violin I am sending,I was inspired by the beautiful flow of lines of a Giambattista Rogeri violin. While I have only memory and a few photos to go by ,I drew my impressions free hand on previously decided proportions, approximating the photo.

The basic measurements are well within the norm: 
                                                                                  string length: 328mm
                                                                                  body length:  354mm
                                                                                  upper bout:164mm,
                                                                                  centre bout:107mm
                                                                                bottom bout: 207mmm 

Once I was happy with the drawing’s flow, I derived the inside -, the sound hole  and the scroll templates , a basic set around which to construct the instrument. 
This is not an approach to copying,but a mindful development.

To be led by visual memory only, could lead the violin maker astray.Just think of the grotesque “Stainer copies”, which poured out of Germany in the 1800.
With my project here, I felt Stradivari’s  straight  and upright  C bouts were not my preference stylistically. I have to acknowledge though ,that Stradivaris centre bouts impart less stiffness below the breast,than the rounder open C’s of the Rogeri. With time we develop an imagination of the movement,the interaction of the arching influenced by outline and the placement of the “ffs” 
( sound holes).

My violin at the forum is the third incarnation of this model and I am proud of the response and roundness of the tone. 
I chose a tough European spruce top,highly flamed Canadian dense red maple ribs and a one piece red maple slab back (fifth and last instrument from this aged board). The scroll is of homogenous and -as in the Rogeri of subtly shimmering European maple.

My own amber varnish on a well tanned golden background radiates like the warmth of the sound ,an unashamed flaming red.

Saturday, 12 March 2016


Pulcinella is a type of cello,which we developed together and the only one we share in making.

By 2009 we had collected about two dozen models of revered and stage worthy cellos.While copying is an important practise, blind reverence for anything famous or Italian is simply decadent. Deeper insights can be attained through juggling and recomposing the elements according to intuition and experience

II love playing outside (weather permitting) .I need a comfortable string length.What I wanted at the time was a simple,elegant, compact cello with a sturdy, focused sound. Additionally it was my wish to make it ,not cheap -this is impossible, but more accessible price wise. I designed the “figure 8” or corner less cello .The simple guitar shape is of course noting new-Stradivari made such a violin and many others have since.

Tongue in cheek I call the model Pulcinella. Admittedly an Italian name draws more attention than “figure 8”or “cornerless”.Pulcinella ,the  prankster of the Commedia del Arte can be mean , which I hope my cello will never be. However I do like it to be able to zing and growl.

The sound expectation was inspired by the materials, especially “Liriodendron tulipifira”, which we use for the back.Searching for Poplar years earlier, a specialty wood dealer sold us a trunk full of this ”yellow poplar”. I was disappointed at first. The greenish wood was heavier than poplar and smelled of swamp.But the ugly duckling turned into a swan, when we tested it out on violas. There is something peculiar and intriguing about the sound.
We soon sourced boards large enough for one piece cello backs. The tulip tree is the largest North American hardwood ,native to the Carolinian zone.
Combined with Engleman spruce for top plates and finely worked hard maple for heads and ribs the all native material is capable of an iridescent sound.

How did the corners reappear? Eventually a prodigy playing the cello on stage complained, that he had nothing to hold onto when bowing.While I love the elegant simple shape, which has internal corner blocks, we have made more cornered versions.

 Are you curious,if such a cello is a good fit for you? You may make an appointment to try it. If you love it, you are in luck. This cello is half price. It can be ordered with a string length of 675mm or 685mm ( a large 7/8th size or a small full size) with or without corners.