NACO Dequincey Viola

Posted on | October 27, 2014 | No Comments|

Last week the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada began their tour of the United Kingdom. Beginning in Scotland they have traveled south with a busy schedule of concerts.  This summer, NACO violist David Thies-Thompson, purchased a viola made by my assistant which he took with him on tour. The photo below shows Charline Dequincey putting the final touches on the varnish as she was finishing this instrument for the workshop.

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The viola is based on a viola made by Paolo Maggini, in Brescia, Italy in the early 1600’s.  One reason we wanted to copy this viola was to better understand the construction techniques possibly used by Maggini. Going through the process of actually making an instrument is an ideal way to learn about a particular maker from the past. We were also looking for a different type of viola sound compared to the Guarneri and Amati type violas from Cremona that we had both made in the past.

Here is a link to a clip of David Thies-Thompson with cellist Leah Wyber and violinist Jeremy Mastrangelo performing in St. Giles Cathedral on tour in Edinburgh.

http://nac-cna.ca/en/stories/story/music-at-st.-giles-cathedral

St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

David Thies-Thompson is also a well known and respected teacher of violin and viola in Ottawa.

In the workshop I’m currently finishing a third ‘Maggini’ viola and look forward to hear this instrument as well!

Violin thickness maps

Posted on | September 22, 2014 | 1 Comment|

Sometime ago we were fortunate to have a beautiful Guarneri Del Gesu violin in the shop. We photographed and took measurements of it to keep on file. As I make instruments in the workshop I often refer to photographs and other information for inspiration or to copy. I also keep records of my own violins as I make them.  It’s an important part of most modern violin maker workshops.  For the Guarneri we also measured the thickness of the back and front of the violin.

To measure the thickness we used a hacklinger gauge (shown below) at numerous points, spaced 1cm apart over the entire surface of the back and front of the violin.

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To be precise about the location of each measured point, we laid paper over the back of the violin, printed with a grid pattern. (available online from incompetech.com) I used the hacklinger gauge to measure each point printed on the paper, while my assistant wrote down each measurement.  We factored in the thickness of the paper (.1mm) that we had laid over the violin.   Once we were finished we had a page of measurements (in mm) like this:

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While this might be interesting information, it’s difficult to make sense of all those numbers.  I like to have a feel of the overall concept of a great old violin, not just the thickness of a particular point on the back or front.

To help visualize the thicknesses, a colleague Hans Pluhar wrote software (available at violingraduation) that allows these measurements to be turned into “Colour Graduation Maps”.

Yellow being under 2.5mm and purple over 4.5mm.  scale

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Using the software I’ve made thickness or graduation maps for the workshop.  Below is a part sample of one:

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Now the thick area in the centre of the back is clearly visible (in dark blue and purple). The thinner green areas are also clearly defined. How I interpret and use this information while making a violin is another subject. But having this information, from great sounding instruments of the past,  has been helpful in deciding what concept of thickness I might use in my own instruments.

 

National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada -Violin

Posted on | September 15, 2014 | No Comments|

This summer violinist Donnie Deacon purchased a violin I finished in 2012. Donnie Deacon has been principle of second violins with the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada since 2001. As he played this violin for the first time, it was almost instantly a good fit for him. The violin was based on Yehudi Menuhin’s Joseph Guarneri violin from 1742, which I had the chance to see and study in Seattle a few years ago.

Above is a link to the NACO website with Donnie’s biography. I would only        add that I’ve seen him help and inspire several young players in Ottawa. As well as working at the NACO, he has performed with a range colleagues, both young and older professionals.  Currently he is also music director and conductor of the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra.

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Above is Donnie’s Harrison violin.

Violin Making Competition – Mittenwald Germany 2014

Posted on | July 16, 2014 | No Comments|

This year I entered a violin in the International Violin Making Competition in Mittenwald, Germany. It is held every four years and this time the majority of violinmakers taking part came from Europe and some from Asia. I was the only violin maker from North America to enter.  My violin made it through to  the final round and was performed in the closing concert. I was pleased to be awarded a special prize for workmanship and excellent/special artistic expressiveness. (more or less translated from the German with help from a German colleague!)

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The violin was my usual Stradivari model that I have made for many years.  Though I’ve continued to change details in the f’holes, edgework or for example in the front and back arching. In particular I’ve changed the style of bridge, fingerboard and dimensions of the bass bar over time as well.  The changes in ‘set-up‘ (bridge, fingerboard etc.)  have a large effect on the sound, ease of playing and the feel of the bow on the strings.  Many of these adjustments are from the advice of good colleagues but also a result from working with musicians everyday in the workshop.

Violin Mittenwald '14

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            Stradivari model, Harrison violin 2014

 

 

Cello Flight Case Rental

Posted on | May 15, 2014 | 4 Comments|

We have a ‘Bam‘ Cello Flight Case now available for rent.  We’ve successfully used this case to fly with cellos in North America.  It increases protection for the cello during flights when the cello is placed with the hand loaded cargo. We thought cellists traveling to summer festivals, courses and concerts might find it useful just rent a good flight case for a short time when they need it.

bam-caseThe flight case is in two parts. The standard case is placed inside the thick protective outer shell while traveling.  Once a cellist arrives at their destination, they can use the light weight standard case to get around and leave the outer case at their hotel or residence.

The rental fee is $35 per week, plus a refundable deposit, for both the outer case and standard cello case.

Cellists interested to rent a flight case can contact us at 613 569 4803.

Canadian Armed Forces Collection

Posted on | April 30, 2014 | No Comments|

Some of the instruments from the Armed Forces Instrument Collection were brought into our workshop for restoration and a general check up. Included in the collection was a viola labeled Charles and Samuel Thompson, London, 1776. The condition of this instrument was so good, one of the musicians from the Army just assumed the viola was new.

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It needed the angle of the neck to be raised higher, among other routine adjustments older instruments require after many years. Below is the original top block (inside the viola with the back and sides) into which we reattached the neck at the proper angle.  The hole in the centre of the block is from the iron nail (removed long ago) that the maker hammered in, as they attached the neck while making this viola.  Today necks are glued to the body, not nailed. My assistant managed to save the original top block while she adjusted issues with the ribs and reset the neck.

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Below is one of the corner blocks, sides and linings inside the viola. Even though the instrument was 238 years old, the inside was fairly clean.  The viola is now back with the Central Band of the Canadian Armed Forces, which provides music for military and Government of Canada events.  Together with a French violin made in 1723 they are probably some of the oldest pieces of equipment in use with the Canadian Armed Forces.

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Six Old Italian and six new violins – Blind tests.

Posted on | April 14, 2014 | No Comments|

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The recently publicized  “Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins” has kept my email inbox busy for a few days now.  With media headlines such as “Stradivarius Strung Out” or “Stradivari surprise…” the old vs. new blind tests have grabbed people’s interest.

Here is the actual study itself for those interested:

PDF file:  soloist-evaluations-of-six-old-italian-and-six-new-violins

(Above photo from our workshop – Antonio Stradivari violin)

Opus Concerts – Sandy Hill, Ottawa.

Posted on | November 24, 2013 | No Comments|

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This Sunday, piantist Frédéric Lacroix, violinist Christian Vachon and cellist Peter Rapson will perform Beethoven’s Opus 1, a set of three piano trios written in 1793. Christian Vachon performs on a violin I made, copied after the 1693 Stradivari from the National Music Museum in South Dakota. I look forward to hear these three fine musicians in the inaugural performance of the Opus Concert Series.

The concert begins at 3pm, Sunday, December 1st, at All Saints Anglican Church, in Sandy Hill, Ottawa.

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‘Ole Bull’ Guarneri copy

Posted on | October 24, 2013 | No Comments|

In September I finished the violin pictured below for a member of Canada’s National Art Centre Orchestra. It was based on the Guarneri violin, made in 1744 in Cremona and played by Norwegein violinist Ole Bull. The wood for the back of this violin was made from an old piece of maple that I was fortunate to find at the workshop of a retiring violin maker. He was kind enough to let me look through all his wood and this was one of the pieces I bought.

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Note: The shape of my copy was constructed around a form I used previously to make a classic 1742 Guarneri model. To create the new outline for the ‘Ole Bull’ violin and in particular the squarish shape of the upper and lower bouts – I carved the corner blocks proud of the form so the ribs wouldn’t follow my form but followed the shape of the original ‘Ole bull’ violin that I was aiming for. It was a practical approach to make a new violin design, without making a new form and a technique that perhaps Guarneri himself could have used.

Milanese violin at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Music.

Posted on | September 26, 2013 | 1 Comment|

Today the Ottawa Citizen newspaper published an article on a violin made in Milan during the 18th Century by Carlo Fernando Landolfi. It was generously left to the University of Ottawa by the late Sally Benson (violinist with the NACO). The violin is now being used by the professor of violin, Yehonatan Berick, at the Faculty of Music.

For the Ottawa Citizen article – click here

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Above is the violin by Carlo Fernando Landolfi from the Ottawa University collection. (photo from our studio)

In 2009 I restored the scroll of this violin as part of our work to maintain the violin for Sally Benson. Some old repairs on the sides of the scroll had begun to come apart. I replaced the previous inlay repair work with new wood. (for details on the repair click here)

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I’m pleased to see this fine sounding violin being played again and I’m sure it well give great service to Yehonatan Berick.

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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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