Violins have always been an important part of my work. I use several different models which I choose both for their acoustic quality and the inspiration I gain from the beauty of their design and workmanship; my favourite makers include Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, Antonio Stradivari, GB Guadagnini, Paolo Maggini and Carlo Bergonzi.
In 2019 I had two wonderful violin commissions: a Maggini model violin for the principal second violinist of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin, and a copy of the Stradivari ‘Habeneck’ violin for Philippa Heys, the sub-principal second violinist of the Hallé orchestra. Both in their different ways were looking for a similar sort of sound; rich, warm, with a good lower register and capable of blending, but with power and projection too. For more detail on how I approached these commissions, see my Work in progress page, and read what Philippa says about her violin:
I commissioned Helen to make my violin in the spring of 2019. When speaking to her about what I was looking for in terms of sound, she filled me with confidence. I was involved every step of the way, and she even let my children help to make it! It was ready at the end of August, and I was instantly struck by the quality of the sound. It is incredibly resonant and has wonderful clarity. It has fantastic depth in the lower strings, and an equally impressive top register. In my job as an orchestral musician I need power and the ability to be soft and blend. It gives me both, and there is always warmth and quality in the sound even when very soft. The word that keeps coming to mind to describe this instrument is genuine – perhaps a rare quality! I am very proud to own this beautiful violin, and I couldn’t recommend Helen more.
I have also been commissioned from time to time to make slightly undersized violins. For those I have chosen an early Guarneri del Gesù model which is slightly less than full size – perfect for players who have small hands but who were keen to maintain power and richness of sound.
Whatever model I use, I aim to make violins which are responsive, and that have character and personality from new, developing further as the instrument is played. I choose the materials carefully for optimal sound quality and appearance.
My violins are owned by orchestral and chamber music players, students and teachers, and by the collections of the Royal College of Music, Royal Northern College of Music, York University and the Benslow Loan Scheme.