August 2022: Violin making in this country is in safe hands.
A quarter of a century ago, I was a committee member and part of a team who created the BVMA, the British Violin Making Association.
We brought together every violin maker and restorer across the country by establishing this organisation, and the membership now spans across the globe.
We were very aware of how disjointed our world was and how makers could go for months without seeing anyone. We wanted to create a body of excellence. A place where we could share ideas, disseminate information and support and encourage one another.
This brought about conferences, exhibitions, makers competitions and a quarterly newsletter where many people as well as myself write informative articles.
The BVMA has also written an impressive list of world-renowned books that give so much information to the reader on instruments, makers and methods, past and present.
So, having been on the committee for 2/3 years I realised there was a missing link between us, the professsionals, and the colleges and their students.
I went about setting up my own charity, the ‘Rowan Armour Brown Memorial Trust Fund’, now more often referred to as the RAB Trust.
I stayed on the BVMA committee as a link between the two charities and set about selecting trustees for my own charity. I named it after a well-known maker and teacher, a female trail blazer who in her time did so much to support our trade. She sadly died quite young and I thought it would be a fitting tribute to her life at the bench.
Over the past 20 years we, the RAB Trust, have grown to become an invaluable support mechanism within the trade.
The advance of technology has enabled us to move with the times. A comprehensive website exists and due to the ‘covid’ years we have implemented many things we would not have thought possible in the early days.
All the students can now apply for grants to us through our website. The application forms are now all online (gone are the days when I would have to photocopy hundreds of A4 applications to post out to the trustees).
When the students were unable to attend college in the worst months of the covid crisis we held many international lectures introducing some of the world’s current greatest makers and restorers to the students with this extraordinary tool called Zoom!!
We are doing everything we can to ensure that standards are maintained, that students are provided with financial support, good tools and quality wood to make their instruments with.
Invaluable advice and support are also given in our ‘hands on’ workshop placements. We assign a student to a professional maker or restorer, and they spend up to 2 weeks side by side at the bench learning first hand.
As players, please rest assured that the standard of making in this country is exceptional and our industry/trade is constantly changing and evolving with one important goal in mind, to give YOU the player, the very best quality instrument possible.
As well as restoring and selling instruments, I provide a service whereby you can hire violins, violas and cellos for very reasonable rates.
This gives you an opportunity to try a different instrument out without overly investing initially. It can also be a first port of call when taking up a violin, viola or cello, so beginners particularly love this option.
The instruments can be hired out on a monthly basis and come with a good bow and case. Very straight forward!
The Berwick Music Series, coming in September, hired one of my cellos, a beautiful European turn of the century instrument, and used it for recording for the series.
This particular cello has the sweetest character/sound and I’m very much looking forward to hearing the composition.
Berwick Music Festival
One of the highlights of my year is the Berwick Music Series where music lovers can enjoy a celebration of music in September and October.
This year, the focus is on three stringed instruments: violin, viola and cello, and three great performers: Darragh Morgan (violin), Fiona Winning (viola) and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello).
The core of BMS 2022 will be four concerts in the Watchtower Gallery.
The repertoire will be a mix of Baroque and contemporary music, with the special feature that much of the contemporary music to be performed is influenced by or is a commentary upon the Baroque style.
I’ll be attending as many events as I can so look forward to chatting to you if you are about.