Workshop holiday – closing for Christmas.

Posted on | December 24, 2017 | No Comments|

The workshop will be closed from December 23rd and will open again on Tuesday January 2nd.

Thank you to all our customers.

We look forward to see you again in the New Year!

 

Toronto Symphony Orchestra and cello soloist

Posted on | December 10, 2017 | No Comments|

This Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure to listen to Dale Yoonho Jeong perform as soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Roy Thompson Hall. He was the 2017 winner of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition.

He performed a selection from Cello Concerto no. 1 in A minor by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Dale performs on a Stradivari model cello I made in 2016 that won a silver medal for workmanship in the International VSA competition in the US.

Dale Yoonho Jeong had been offered an 18th Century Italian cello for this concert, but decided to use his own Harrison cello. This summer I visited Dale for a check up on his cello.  We tried some different endpin spikes and I checked the soundpost but in the end we made no changes since the current set-up was working very well.

It was great to hear the cello in such a large hall with the orchestra!

Below is a quick photo of the Dale Yoonho Jeong’s cello.

Making violins in Maine and Tool Makers, Lee Nielsen

Posted on | November 22, 2017 | No Comments|

In the fall I was kindly invited to Maine, in the US, to work with 7 other violin makers at a beautiful seaside cottage for a week. We each worked on our own violins and violas and of course shared ideas on our current work. With such a small group it allowed people to share research that wasn’t quite complete and have valuable feed back.  With a larger gathering or conference there is more pressure to present completely finished research. These small luthier work groups are becoming common around the world, as luthiers continue to share ideas with a spirit of learning together.

As a break from making violins, we visited the woodworking tool company, Lie-Nielsen. They have been making fine woodworking tools in Maine since 1981.

With a showroom complete with benches, we could try all their tools!  It was a great opportunity to see how they performed rather than looking at tools in a catalogue.

During a guided tour of their workshops, we were shown many parts of the manufacturing process. For example below the rear section of a blade had been heated. The metal changes into a beautiful rainbow of colours during this process and importantly softens the steel. They found the hard steel was wearing the mechanics of the plane with years of use. So heat softening the back of the blade solved this issue. The cutting edge at the front of the blade is still hard for a keen cutting edge.

Lee Nielsen used many computer controlled milling machines to produce their tools. But some stages were still done by hand.  Shown below, an employee is sharpening chisels. Next the handles will be fitted.

Our tour guide shows us a box full of handles for their hand saws. All the wood for the tool handles comes from Maine, which I thought was a nice extra touch.

Below is a drawer of rejected planes. Some only had a tiny flaw but would still be melted down. The amount of quality control was impressive. As craftspeople we are fortunate to have such dedicated tool makers!

It was wonderful to spend a week in Maine during the fall as the leaves were just starting to change to red. As a group we all pitched in to help with the cooking and enjoyed some great local food and scenery too! 

 

ChiMei Museum

Posted on | August 21, 2017 | No Comments|

On my trip to Taiwan in July, I visited the Chimei Museum in the southern city of Tainan. It houses a mixture of art, natural history and musical instruments. The museum was first established 1992 and since 2014 has been located within a large park with extensive buildings. The purpose of my visit to Chimei was first to see what instruments the museum had. From there, to see which instruments might be worth copying or to gather ideas to incorporate into my work in Ottawa. I had already copied one of the violins from the museum: the ‘Ole Bull’ Guarneri Del Gesu from 1744. My copy is now in the National Arts Centre Orchestra. But there was much more to see.

 

 

On my arrival I was warmly greeted by museum curator Mr Dai-Ting Chung. The collection has around 1,300 violins and as well as several hundred bows. It covers a wide range of violins, violas and cellos from many different countries and time periods. A portion of its collection is lent to fine Taiwanese string players to support their careers. Since it was my first visit I asked to focus on seeing their Italian instruments from Cremona and some other interesting instruments from Brescia, Mantua and Venice.

I began with the Amati family of violin makers, the founders of violin making. Below on the table are three Amati violins that I studied as a group. Also for comparison, an Andrea Guarneri violin, since he was a pupil and employee of Nicolò Amati in Cremona, Italy. It’s useful to see a group of instruments from the same maker or family of makers. At times a typical feature of their work can become quite obvious when seeing their work as a group.

 

Next were the Stradivari violins, which included the 1707 ‘Dushkin’, 1709 ‘Viotti’, a 1713 Stradivari, and the 1722 ‘Elman’ Stradivari violin. The ‘Viotti’ Stradivari is very similar to the other ‘Viotti’ Stradivari at the Royal Academy of Music in London, U.K., of the same year. Both with well figured one piece backs and a striking red varnish. The ‘Viott’ pictured below was a beautiful example of Stradivari’s work, with a high level of workmanship and a great choice of woods used.

 

Moving on from the Stradivari violins, for me one of the stars of the collection was a Carlo Bergonzi 1732 violin. Bergonzi was a colleague or perhaps an assistant of Stradivari working in Cremona in the first half the 18th Century. The varnish was well preserved, with much of the original texture and crackeleur intact. So often this detail has been polished away on older violins. While Bergonzi’s work clearly shows the influence of Stradivari, it was impressive to see that he was still able to develop his own fine style and not just copy Stradivari.

The collection had many great cellos in storage and in particular I looked at 5 Italian cellos. 2 Stradivari cellos: the 1709 ‘Boccherini’ and the 1730 ‘Pawle’. A Carlo Bergonzi cello from 1735. A later Cremonese cello by Storioni and a Venetian cello by Matteo Groffriller.

 

Above: One the left the 1730 ‘Pawle’ Stradivari cello and on the right the 1709 ‘Boccherini’ Stradivari cello.

The Stradivari cello from 1709 was made with his classic ‘B form’ design. Unfortunately a previous owner in the late 18th Century had the body of the cello cut down to reduce its size. Later a restorer increased the size by fitting in new wood. Together with some serious damage to the ribs and missing the original scroll, it has been badly treated during the last 308 years. But the other Stradivari from 1730 was in overall beautiful condition with large amounts of original varnish. It was made on a smaller design which is typical for the late period Stradivari cellos.

Above is a quick photo of the scroll of the 1730 ‘Pawle’ Stradivari cello.

All the instruments I’ve mentioned above were taken out from their vault. The permanent collection on display to the public also includes other Stradivari and Guarneri violins and so on. Below shows some of the public museum area.

My visit was short given the large size of the collection at the Chimei Museum. I photographed several instruments and took notes of my observations. It was great to have a general sense of what is in their collection and perhaps it will be a useful source for future study.

July 2017 – In Taiwan.

Posted on | July 2, 2017 | No Comments|

After returning from a busy two weeks of violin making in Oberlin, Ohio and working for a week in my Ottawa workshop, we shall close again for one week.

Next week our workshop shall be closed, from July 3rd and opening again on Tuesday July 11th. 

During this time I will be traveling to Taiwan to visit the ChiMei Museum.

.It has a large collection of fine old violins, violas, cello and bows. Including 1376 instruments by 1124 different makers and 740 bows by 344 bow makers from around the world.  I’ll write more on this museum after my visit in a future blogpost.    Link:  www.chimeimuseum.org

 

 

Summer 2017 – in the US.

Posted on | June 10, 2017 | No Comments|

This June our workshop shall be closed from June 17th and opening again on June 27th.

My assistant is enjoying a summer holiday in Europe. Meanwhile I’m traveling to Oberlin College in Ohio for a violin making workshop.  The VSA/Oberlin Violinmaker’s Workshop is a two-week, intensive, graduate level program for professional makers.

www.oberlinviolinmakers.org

I look forward to catch up with our friends and colleagues in Oberlin!

The Strad – May issue

Posted on | May 31, 2017 | No Comments|

This month the English magazine ‘The Strad’ published an article on my workshop. In each issue they have a ‘my space’ section which shows the workshops of violin makers from around the world.  The main photo below is my main bench surrounded by the tools I use everyday. Also a small photo of our dusty machine room in the basement which most clients never see!

(click on the image above to read the article)

Exhibition in Toronto – follow up

Posted on | March 8, 2017 | No Comments|

The January exhibition of Canadian violin and bow makers in Toronto was a great success. With over 35 violin and bow makers from around Canada attending and showing their work. Some of the makers had never shown their instruments and bows in Toronto before. So it was a new opportunity for Toronto musicians to try a wider range of fine instruments made in Canada.

From the beginning of the day it was well attended by professional string players and students.  In the afternoon the fine violinist Kerson Leong performed a short passage on 24 new violins. He did a wonderful job adjusting to each violin quickly. It was interesting to hear the different sound qualities each instrument was capable of in the larger space. Overall I felt there was a high standard of sound and worksmanhip among my colleagues work. It was special to be part of this exhibition.

Throughout the day I enjoyed hearing players try my violin and latest cello. After hearing them play, we often talked about what kind of instrument they were looking for and their thoughts on the instruments they had been trying.   After the exhibition my Stradivari model cello was sold to a wonderful student of  David Hetherington from the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.  Below is my cello being played at the exhibition.

 

Thank you to the organizers, Elizabeth Barbosa, Fany Fresard and Emanuel Euvrard, for their work with this exhibition and ‘Le Forum des Fabricants’.

 

 

Via Rail – now for cellos as well!

Posted on | February 6, 2017 | No Comments|

 

 

While traveling around Canada for business I sometimes travel by train which I enjoy very much. It’s relaxed and comfortable and I usually finish some paperwork or write a blogpost on the train! But if I need to bring a cello with me, I’m unable bring it on board under the luggage restrictions with certain Via Rail trains. A cello case is too large for the trains between Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. So my only other option has been to drive by car, take a bus or fly. None of which I particularly enjoy.

Last year I wrote to Via Rail’s, President and Chief Executive Officer,  Yves Desjardins-Siciliano about this cello issue and recently received good news that cellos will be allowed on the trains beginning in the fall of 2017!

The trains used on the routes between Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal are being modified to allow tall, larger items to be safely brought on board!

Below is a photo of the new space that the trains will have for cellos and other larger items.

So next time when I need to deliver one of my cellos to a customer I will take the train!                                               The modified trains should also be useful for music students, professional cellists and amateur musicians traveling between the large cities of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.

The changes to the trains should be complete by the fall of this year.

Toronto Exhibition! ~~~ Jan.14th ~~~

Posted on | December 30, 2016 | No Comments|

On Saturday, January 14th, I will be visiting Toronto for an exhibition of Canadian violins, violas, cellos and bows!  This is a great chance for string players in Toronto to try instruments and bows from the best award winning Canadian violin and bow makers.

The event will take place at Koerner Hall Lobby at the Royal Conservatory at 273 Bloor St. W, Toronto. (Link for more information)

At 2pm the wonderful Canadian violinist Kerson Leong will be playing various violins from the exhibition. At 3pm there will be a chamber music concert with the Concertmaster and principal players from the Toronto  Symphony Orchestra.

I will present a Guarneri model violin and my medal winning Stradivari model cello at the exhibition. All string players are welcome to try instruments and I look forward to meet you!

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    About

    Guy Harrison Violin Maker
    792 Gladstone Avenue
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1R 6X9
    Tel: 613 569 4803

    1997 Silver medal for viola in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2010 Bronze medal for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2014 Workmanship award for violin in the Mittenwald International Violin Making Competition, Germany.

    2016 Silver Workmanship medal for cello in the VSA Violin Making Competition, USA.

    Member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers and Violin Society of America.

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