Of Strings and Wood…

A little over 2 weeks ago, we had the unique opportunity to visit the only violin making school in Switzerland; the Swiss School of Violin Making in Brienz, Geigenbauschule Brienz. Thanks to our wonderful violin teacher who arranged the trip.

It is located in one of the most beautiful lakeside towns in Switzerland, in the region of Interlaken, the calm and ever quaint Brienz. i can’t think of a better place to have such a school. It’s neighbour is the Swiss School of Wood Sculpting/Carving, established in the late 1800s. So this place has a history of wood crafting.

Isn't the view amazing? Lake Brienz in the foreground, the mountains at the back.
Isn’t the view amazing? Lake Brienz in the foreground, the mountains at the back.

We got the grand tour from top down. They buy and store the wood used for violin-making in the attic. There were piles and piles of different wood; for violins’ bodies and necks, cellos’ bodies and necks, Maple, Spruce, Ebony (used to make the necks and are naturally black), Boxwood, Willow and Rosewood. He explained in detail about the grain and the age of the wood (they have wood from 1960s even!), but in German, so i missed a lot of the details, not to mention i had an 8-year-old constantly wanting to talk to me.

It is wonderful to think simple wood slats can become such beautiful musical instruments.
It is wonderful to think that simple wood slats can become such beautiful musical instruments.

Then we went down to the workshop. The school only takes in a maximum of 10 students, roughly 2 or 3 for each school year. It takes 4 years to study to become a violin-maker. You have to know sounds, acoustics, understand wood, learn to play the instrument (if you don’t already), treating the wood, lacquer and more. They make their own lacquer at this school!

Students hard at work. It takes them about 6 months to make a violin/viola and a year to make a cello.
Students hard at work. It takes them about 6 months to make a violin/viola and a year to make a cello.

We were there for a little over 2 hours and it was one of the more interesting tours i have taken in a while. We enjoyed it very much.

Left to Right: forming the shape (1 of 2 methods), parts made, lacquer drying...
Left to Right: forming the shape (1 of 2 methods), parts made, lacquer drying…

Now i want to just talk a little bit about the second concert we were privileged to take part in. It is part of 3 concerts of the 3 schools in our school circle. So on 15 June 2013, Wednesday, we played as part of a strings group at the Oberdorf concert.

Getting ready for rehearsal.
Getting ready for rehearsal.

We had fun but it was quite a nervous time, at least for me. i made 2 mistakes during the 5-minute performance. Thank God we were in a group and no one really heard my mistakes, at least i hope not. It was also great that we were the first group to perform because we could then enjoy the rest of the concert without anxiety (again, i think it was just me.).

We have no pictures of ourselves performing as Walter was away and there was no one to take pictures of us. i did, however get pictures of us, doing silly faces waiting for the concert to start.

Aren't we silly?
Aren’t we silly? It was dark and i used the phone-camera, that’s why it’s so blurry.

And here you can see 3 of Tobias’ favourite groups.

Top to Bottom: Saxaphones, Electric Guitar and Drums.
Top to Bottom: Saxophones, Electric Guitar and Drums.

The Drums group was really interesting to watch. They played an original composition by their teacher. You can see four drum sets and a xylophone. The girl on the xylophone played the whole time, keeping the melody going. The 14 drum students rotated between the 4 drum sets and played some amazing beats! i wished i had thought to record a video of them, but i was enjoying the music too much 😛

We have another 2 concerts to go… ooooh…

syc

PS: You can read about our very first recital before Christmas last year.

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