I thought it would be good to do a blog about the making of the beautiful bass viol that Jane Julier made for me last year. I received an email from her just as the first UK lockdown was announced say that she could start working on my instrument the following Monday! I’d been on the waiting list for over 2 years so it was such an exciting moment.
The instrument she was going to make is a copy of Lucy Robinson’s ‘unknown 1645’ English bass viol. Jane asked what I wanted in the instrument and I sent her a bonkers film with drawings, photos and music that I liked, which she interpreted perfectly as:
Structure/depth of field/texture/space/resonance
And this is the story in pictures taken by Jane, and the close ups by Ross Emerson.
Medullary lines in the spruce and sycamore. Structure!
So the sycamore is back ribs and neck block. The spruce is the long creamy lengths with the outline of the bent pieces.
Here is a copy of the wordy CV I wrote for my MMus Recital in Southampton September 2017.
I began playing the viola da gamba in 2010 having had the desire to do so since I can remember. I have always loved ‘early music’: memories of enjoying watching David Munrow on the black and white TV and when my dad asked which piece I’d enjoyed the most in his organ recitals, I always answered ‘the Bach or Handel’. As a teenaged cello player I listened to recordings of Christophe Coin playing Vivaldi and Haydn and we mused at home, in cello lessons and with friends, about historically informed performance practice. After a couple of years of indecision, I went to study Fine Art where I spent three years painting, as well as playing the cello alongside brilliant students many of whom have become acclaimed singers, instrumentalists and conductors.
Two decades on, having studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Prague, met Petr, had Tereza and Cecilia, and now teaching art in Worcester, it was 250 years after Handel’s death, and I was persuaded to take part in a workshop weekend of Saul in honour of the anniversary. This led to playing in the Midlands Early Music Forum Baroque Band, until I borrowed a bass viol, which I couldn’t put down. I began lessons with David Hatcher and we have had great fun tackling a huge range of repertoire from Ortiz to unaccompanied Abel. He has been responsible for many painfully rewarding facsimile reading sessions and giving me opportunities to take part in life-enhancing concerts on copies of early renaissance viols.
Seeing Opera North’s Coronation of Poppea with Erin Headley and Elizabeth Kenny on stage gave me the impetus to investigate the MMus performance course at Southampton University. I have loved every minute of it and been very surprised by how much I enjoyed the historical research project. Highlights have been being swept along by Liz’s slipstream of continuo brilliance in the Student Chamber Operas, playing chamber music with the undergraduates, meeting the inspirational early music post-graduate students and the privilege of having lessons with Jonathan Manson.