Viola de Gambas

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Or should that be Violas de Gamba? Whichever, I attended a free performance at the Newport library this afternoon to hear these fiddle precursors play in harmony with several different types of recorder. The musicians, from left to right, are Eileen FloryCorlu Collier and Jane Boyden, of Lost in Time, a consort of the Oregon Coast Recorder Society. The song is “To many a well” from the 15th century, England.


The music selections ranged from a piece by Guillaume de Machaut from the 1300’s to a modern selection from Soren Sieg with the common theme ofPuzzles, Tricks, and Illusions.” One of my favorites was Mozart’s “Der Spiegal” which is a “table” score – one person plays the score rightside up, the other reads their part from the other side of the table, or upside down. Fantastic performance!

The viola de gamba is enjoying continued popularity due in large part to a renewed interest in baroque music and the work of modern builders like Dmitry Badiarov.

The ladies were kind enough to allow me to take pictures of their instruments –

All three of the instruments had six strings – wire wound with a perlon core, but they looked like gut from the audience.

The bridges on the larger gambas looked very much like small cello bridges.

While the smaller gamba had a very graceful cross between a cello and violin –

The scrolls of each were not full scrolls, but open loops which I like very much –

The frets are made from waxed nylon string, wound twice around the neck and tied off in a square knot –

The bellies had shallow arching while the backs were flat.

Want to build one of your own? Me too!

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Now Here’s a Crazy Project!

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Have you read Vaughn vs Violin? Adult beginner Ryan Vaughn has given himself one year to go from Zero to playing Paganini’s 24th Caprice on the violin.

Seriously? Apparently so.

Of his experience level, Vaughn says, “Now let me make one thing clear.  I’m not totally new to the violin.  By totally new I mean when I was in 5th grade I played violin for 6 months and I played for two months from October through November 2009.”

He does have one advantage – his wife, Danielle Belen is a concert violinist and teacher.

Good luck, Ryan!

Fado and the Violin

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Fado is a musical genre of Portuguese origin which can be traced back to at least the 1820’s. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor.

Here’s Maria Ana Bobone singing “With that Voice-“

Beautiful, no? Amazing what YouTube searches can lead one to. But, back to my point. Here’s Natalia Juskiewicz, a Polish violinist who has lived in Portugal for the last ten years –

The sound of the violin has been compared to the human voice since its invention 460 years ago, and this song proves that point.

At the beginning of 2010 Natalia conceived of the idea to record traditional Fado music using the violin as the vocal focus. Look for her upcoming CD entitled “Um Violino no Fado.”

Do you know of another artist who uses the violin as the “voice” of another genre of music? I find the subject endlessly fascinating and long to know more…