Tuesday, August 31, 2010

sometimes, the unthinkable....

This hundred year old factory made cello has been in the possession of a notable school music department for most of its life. In good condition it would have a value in the order of A$8000, but it has had to live with generations of school boys, and some of them have more interest in 'decoration' (generally with a finger nail) than playing.
I have maintained this instrument for them for nearly twenty years, with vain attempts to head off the vandalism by rescuing the varnish and restoring some sort of dignity to the old thing. But the incremental repairs have not kept pace with the vandals. The school has a collection of orchestral instruments which remain at school for lessons and orchestral rehearsals, to save them bringing their own instruments in every day, so this one has suffered particularly from the lack of a sense of ownership I suppose.
This year, the question was asked; 'Do we continue to patch it, or is it time to buy a new one?' Well, I'm a softie, and much as I'm sick of repairing it (because this sort of work isn't very glam, or very satisfying) I quoted a figure that was cheaper than it's replacement cost to give it another chance at life. But this involves the complete removal of the old varnish as well as the structural repairs. Removing old varnish is an absolute no-no to me, but what can I do? The thing would be junked, tipped and discarded if it isn't re-birthed as a tidier, more respectable instrument.
So I'm stuck with the job and it's taking four times longer than it should, but occasionally it's nicer to be on the side of the instrument even if it isn't profitable. And there is just a small chance that maybe for the next couple of generations of students, it will be charming and inspirational enough to keep their thoughts on the music and their hands on the bow.


  1. Perhaps the first music lesson the little darlings should have is the skill, time and care that goes into making an instrument.
    New career path for you Rob, oh no he says.

  2. This is along the same line of thinking as our last conversation about rescuing old boats. And I was about to make a comparison to old instruments...
    There is very little glory in such an undertaking, only personal satisfaction. A lesser man would burn it.

  3. Good point Mike, but as to the career path, 'pass'.
    And Michael you are so right too. My workshop has hundreds of old instruments!