interesting stories

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Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and El Sistema in Venezuela

Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra and El Sistema in VenezuelaThe Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in Venezuela, is very well known across the world. Coming from South Africa, a country that also struggles with high levels of poverty and related social problems, I am fascinated by the incredible achievements of the Venezuelan El Sistema with social upliftment through music. I have shamelessly copied excerpts from an article that appeared in The Strad of September 2010. It was written by Jonathan Govias. I am hoping someone in South Africa will read this and get inspired...


Tom Robbins on Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg

Nadja Salerno-SonnenbergOne of my favourite violinists is Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, known for her fearless interpretations and passionate, electrifying performances. One of my favourite authors is Tom Robbins, known for his off-beat, highly original writing. When I came across this piece -- by Tom Robbins on Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg -- I knew that it has to be something special. You be the judge...

(This appeared in Wild Ducks Flying Backward, as well as Esquire, 1989)


The church organ in Cremona

Cremona churchThe first instruments that looked like what we recognise as a violin appeared around 1555 in Northern Italy. Around the same time the church organ in Cremona was overhauled and the pitch changed. Considering the fact that the church was the guiding musical force at the time, it is interesting to speculate around the effect this had on the design and use of the first violins. Here is an extract from the essay 'Music in the 16th century Cremona' by Francesco Rocco Rossi. 


Vuillaume's octobass

octobassThe French luthier, Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, built this monster around 1850. It is 3.48 meters high and required two musicians to play - one to bow and one to stop the strings through an elaborate system of lever and pedals. It still exists and can be seen in the Cité de la Musique just outside Paris. I'd love to hear it growl... 

A more modern take on this can be heard on a recording of a work by the composer Roscoe Mitchell.

(Click on the thumbnail to enlarge)


Wielding a Violin for Change in Afghanistan

William HarveyThe violin is one object that transcends cultures and ages like no other. Here is a heartwarming story that appeared in the AOL news today. It was written by Bina Shah

William Harvey is a slight young man with a shock of brown hair, glasses and a gentle, unassuming air. But when this Juilliard-trained violinist takes the stage, he's the biggest man in the room. And that's a good thing, given the monumental task he's taken on: using music to bridge cultural divides, both as founder of a unique musical outreach program and as a violin teacher at the newly inaugurated Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul.


A Famed Violin's Fantastic Journey

ImageThis article first appeared in the Dallas Morning News and was written by Mark Wrolstad. It tells the story of a famous violin and its astonishing journey. Enjoy!

The mystique of the name Stradivarius has resonated beyond classical music for generations, finding a place in the popular imagination and even urban legend. You don't have to know a violin from a viola to know the stories - some apocryphal - about one of the exquisitely rare instruments turning up in an attic or junk shop. Now add another stanza to what may be the most contorted tale of all the world's prized violins - a masterwork lost for half a century, today in the hands of a new master.


Secrets Wonderful and Cruel

I came across this article that first appeared in the LA Times in 1997. It is a good description of the making process and how the history of the maker, player, instrument model and wood comes together to create a new violin. Enjoy!

By DUANE NORIYUKI, August 31, 1997


'Sherlock Holmes' violin created

A violin made from a tree in the garden of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's childhood home is to be played to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The violin was carved from the sycamore tree by Edinburgh-based luthier Steve Burnett.

It was made as a tribute to Conan Doyle's creation, Sherlock Holmes, who played the violin while solving cases.

It will feature on Friday night at a concert held by Dunedin School, which now occupies Conan Doyle's former home.


The violinist, the architect and the chauffeur...

Alma tnHere is a story that I first became aware of when it was covered in the BBC series, 'Infamous murders'. It is a tragic tale of love, murder and suicide. One of the main protagonists, Alma Rattenbury, was a gifted violinist. Her life story reads like a novel with all the ingredients: love, music, war, tragedy, bravery, adultery and, finally, murder and suicide. This article appeared in Dorset Life and was written by John Walker.





Bournemouth’s most sensational murder

In his book, Murder at the Villa Madeira, eminent lawyer-author Sir David Napley introduces the Rattenbury murder as follows: ‘The sensation of the year 1935 was the trial at the Old Bailey on charges of murder of Alma Rattenbury, an attractive woman of perhaps 39 or 40, and her lover, George Stoner, who had been employed in her house as a chauffeur-handyman.’ It was certainly the biggest local sensation in Bournemouth that year, and the biggest ever on its East Cliff.

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