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.

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            Stradivari model, Harrison violin 2014

 

 

Cello Flight Case Rental

Posted on | May 15, 2014 | 2 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.

Alexandre Turmel concert

Posted on | August 21, 2013 | No Comments|

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This Friday violinist Alexandre Turmel is giving a concert with George Harris on flute. The program begins with a Mozart flute concerto and a Mozart violin concerto. The second half includes a new double concerto for flute and violin by George Harris.

Alexandre was taught by Christian Vachon for two years at the Conservatoire de musique in Gatineau, Quebec and has continued to study at the Conservatoire, now with Alexandre Da Costa. He has been a member of the Ottawa Youth Orchestra for three years and last season was Concertmaster of the orchestra. He has also performed with the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Gatineau Symphony Orchestra and the Thirteen String Ensemble.

Alexandre performs on a violin I made in 2001, which he purchased this year. The violin is based on Stradivari, which was my standard model until 2010.

Concert details:

7:30pm Friday, 23rd August

Shenkman Arts Centre,  245 Centrum Boulevard

$10 advance tickets, $15 at the door.

Chamber Music Concerts – Ottawa

Posted on | August 19, 2013 | No Comments|

Each summer Ottawa is fortunate to have the wonderful Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, which has grown to be the largest chamber music festival in the world. The festival contacted me in July to borrow a viola and a violin for two visiting musicians.  This was arranged with the assistance of local players, who both owned instruments I made and generously they agreed to lend their instruments.

Martin Beaver  (violinist with the Tokyo String Quartet) played on the Harrison viola loaned by Nancy Illman. With violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon and cellist Roman Borys they performed Serenade in C major by Ernst von Dohnányi.

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(After the concert from left to right, Nancy Illman, Martin Beaver and myself)

A few days later the Paris based Zodiac trio needed an extra violin for a work by Bartók. Local violinist Rick Carpenter agreed to lend his violin – a recent copy I made of Pinchas Zukerman’s violin. Both Martin Beaver and Vanessa Mollard of the Zodiac trio borrowed instruments due to the difficulty of traveling by plane with two instruments.  (Martin Beaver also performed in the festival on his own violin)

An interesting feature of Chamberfest was the ‘Rising Stars’ concert, featuring talented young musicians.  Violist Jonah Poplove, pictured below, played a viola made in our workshop by my assistant. After his concert we were pleased that he decided to purchase the viola from us. (photo below Copyright © Sean Done Courtesy of Ottawa Chamber Music Society.)

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Finally we were asked to lend a bow to a member of the ‘Lemon Bucket Orchestra’. One of the violinist had broken his bow, which apparently happens quite often in their ensemble. So they called to borrow a very cheap bow. After some rummaging about in the workshop I found the perfect bow to lend. It did the job for his performance and survived in one piece as well!

Talk at the NAC Young Artist Program

Posted on | July 24, 2013 | No Comments|

Each summer the National Arts Centre  presents the Young Artist Program.  Young musicians from around the world come to Ottawa for chamber music coaching, masterclasses and recitals with Pinchas Zukerman and an internationally-renowned faculty.  Chatting with students who visited our workshop, it’s certainly clear they have an inspiring time here.

We were asked by the NAC to give a one hour ‘Question and Answer’ session for the string players regarding their instruments.  Some of the young students have rare expensive instruments, while others are playing on modest factory instruments. But many of the issues for maintaining them are the same.

We were welcomed to Perez Hall at Ottawa University by Allyson Rogers, administrator for the Summer Music Institute. To get things started, I gave a brief talk on soundpost adjustment. I often adjust the sound of instruments in the workshop for clients. Some players seem to have an instinctive understanding of how to work with a luthier while adjusting their instrument. While others, even experienced older professional musicians, seem lost how the process can work for them.

Developing a good working relationship between a luthier and musician became a running theme during the Q & A session.  The students asked interesting questions regarding their instruments – from issues involved with traveling with their instruments, to maintenance and repair techniques. It was useful to have my assistant with me, as we went back and forth discussing various problems and different solutions.  The same as we do in the workshop everyday. Perhaps we also gave an idea how violin makers can work successfully together as well.

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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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