Over the last months I’ve been involved in a time-consuming but satisfying project. One of my longstanding friends gave me some instruments from the workshop of her late father-in-law, Maurice Bouette. In 1972 Maurice helped set up the Newark School of Violin Making and was its first director; he taught me when I was a student there from 1977-80.
I was given two violins and two violas. The project is to return them to playing condition and then to sell them to raise money to fund projects that support young violin makers during their studies and at the beginning of their careers. I’ve been happy to do this work for free so that we can donate the full sale price of the instruments, and it’s been interesting to immerse myself in them, gaining a fuller understanding the ideas and standards of the violin making world that in a sense I was born in to.
This violin was made by Maurice himself and labelled as such, dated London 1971, not long before he moved to Newark. It had clearly spent some years in the huge barn of his house at North Clifton, a few miles north of the town. As well as running the violin making school, he had a business selling wood, and the barn held his huge stocks as well as being the venue for an annual violin making festival.
Barns aren’t the greatest place for storing instruments and the varnish of the violin had become degraded with a few additions of guano from the birds that had free range! It had also lost its fingerboard over the years and the centre joint of the back had come slightly open.
So I fixed the open joint, made a new fingerboard, and stripped the old varnish. Before revarnishing I gave it an oil sealer ground which really enhanced the wood, and anyway older wood is always great to varnish.
I put on a few coats of translucent golden brown varnish and then set up the violin. I’m really delighted with the sound; it’s resonant and responsive, with a lovely rich and slightly dark quality, even over all the strings. It would be a great buy for a good young player or serious amateur and I’m selling it at a very reasonable £3500, and the total sale price will be donated to fund training for young violin makers. Please contact me if you’d like to try it.