February 2007


I was saddened to hear a couple of days ago of the death of one of the great stalwarts of Irish music in Australia, Billy Moran.

Billy Moran

A fine accordion player, I shared a number of great sessions with him over the years at the National Folk Festival and other places. I was privileged to share a stage with him at the 2005 National in Canberra. And at the sessions if you sat too long without playing, he would raise an eyebrow and suggest you start the next tune. Of course he would know it – I doubt there are many tunes he didn’t know.

Billy Moran

Billy was a rough diamond who played music since he was a lad. According to IrishAustralia.com he spent some time working in the Midlands of England, and his accent was a mix of Irish and north country. Migrating to Austrlia in 1950, he worked on the Snowy Mountain scheme and at Maralinga – site of the British nuclear weapon tests. He finally settled in Melbourne and he haunted the sessions. He certainly had stamina. At the National Folk festival several times he would start a session mid afternoon, and if you were around at two or three in the morning, you could still hear his accordion playing.

Billy Moran

Billy, we will miss you.

Jerry

Now here’s a gem – one of the pieces in the Future Museum of South West Scotland is a sheet of parchment comprising part of a medieval music manuscript found reused as the cover for a book of records from Stranraer.

Future museum
The museum covers key people, key industries, social history and arts and crafts and the site is well worth a visit. Thanks to Linn Skinner of ‘The Embroidress’ for pointing it out :-)

Cheers
Jerry

It might be hard to imagine a small wooden box with a handle on it being worth AUS$10million – but when it’s a Guarneri violin the sound is priceless. The un-named benefactor of the Australian Chamber Orchestra obviously knows a thing or two about violins. They have to be played in order to keep their tone and suppleness. So rather than just keep it in a museum, the mystery buyer of this wonderful instrument has decided to share it with the world. And if it hasn’t been played for fifty years, its tone will just get better over the next several months as Richard Tognetti – lead violinist of the Australian Chamber Orchestra gives it a thorough workout on a tour starting next week. The Australian Chamber Orchestra is playing in Canberra on 10 Feb.

Guarneri violin

The instrument was made in 1743 by Guiseppe (Joseph) Guarneri (1698-1744) – known as del Gesu as he signed his violins with a cross and the initials IHS – the Greek abbreviation for Jesus. Guarneri label

The “Carrodus” violin – named for one of its owners, 19th century British violinist John Tiplady Carrodus (1836-1895) was one of the last of around 250 violins known by this maker. Around 100 of these violins survive today. Interestingly the Carrodus violin was made from timber from the same tree as another authenticated Guarneri violin known as ‘the canon’ for its big sound.

Guiseppe was the grandson of Andrea Guarneri who, like Antonio Stradivari had trained under Amati, and the two rival families had workshops just a street away from each other in Cremona, Italy – both families making superb instruments, each as good as each other. The Guarneri style stayed more true to the Amati design than did Stradivarius, and the Guarneri violins tended to be less refined in appearance, but richer in tone using a soft oil varnish.

The guarnerius design

What struck me when Tognetti played a little on ABC TV was the depth of tone in the lower strings, when compared with his own $300,000 instrument. There was really no comparison.

Here is another image of a Guarneri violin, similar to the Carrodus violin.

Guarneri violin

The thought of this instrument being played again is indeed a rare treat!

Cheers
Jerry

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