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Delphine Coleman

The violin laid in its old case of faded worn blue felt and rusty locks, it had not been played for 40 years or so and had belonged to my late husband who was a very keen violinist. He was one of 3 brothers whose parents must have been very thrifty to have paid for piano and violin lessons for them in the late 1920s… Those were days of great hardship in the Welsh valleys, and my father-in-law worked as a railway ganger which was not a very well paid job. They all played in a local orchestra, the leader of which was their qualified violin teacher. The orchestra practised every week in the nearby Workmens’ Hall and gave concerts at local venues, mostly for charity, which gave the boys added skills and experience. They also performed at chapel gatherings as a trio. The eldest, an excellent organist is still playing in his parish church at the age of 91!

My husband became a teacher, and when we married in 1950, musical evenings were very popular, he would play, and I would accompany him, and friends would join in. A lovely way to enjoy music in your own home at no cost which was an important factor after the war for quite a while. He told me all those years ago that in his teens, he had played the Second Movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto before Paul Robeson. How I wish I had asked more, but I do remember it was one of his very special memories…His brothers recall it but only vaguely, and all my efforts to discover more have not been successful. Information gathered seems to concentrate only on Robeson’s speeches, rather than any concerts. He visited South Wales many times and was very respected by the mining communities with whom he had a great affinity. Maybe someone somewhere might remember although it is such a long time ago in the mid 1930s.

I am now 85 years old, and have been widowed for 13 years but am blessed with a loving family and 4 great grandchildren, the eldest of whom is 10 years old, and has just passed his Grade 3 violin exam. His sisters aged 8 and 5 years have also started lessons. Young Jacques is also a cathedral chorister so I think there must be a few musical genes around! This made me think about the old violin, could it still be played, should I seek advice about having it restored, and would it be worthwhile?

This is where Cardiff Violins enter my story. A visit there was to prove a lovely experience. The time and expertise given to advise and show what was necessary in such a friendly atmosphere was amazing, so lacking in today’s busy world. I was told that the violin was in relatively good condition, was about 120 years old, was probably made in the Vosges region of France, and was certainly worth restoration.

My granddaughter and her husband, (Jacque’s parents) were thrilled to think that in time he would be able to play his great-grandfather’s violin so it was obviously the path I needed to follow, and the work was put in hand.

When we went to fetch it a few weeks ago, Jacques had no idea why we were going to Cardiff, and what a surprise it was for him! Once again every effort was made to ensure that everything was as it should be, in fact, he would soon be able to play it. We chose a new case but my grand-daughter insisted on keeping the old one with its white painted initials on the cover

It was a very happy and emotional occasion, enriched again by the whole ambience which surrounded us. I know my husband would have been delighted and proud to know that his treasured violin would be in good hands, and that it had passed down to the fourth generation of the family. So if anyone has a budding musician in the family, and maybe an old instrument tucked away and forgotten, please give it some thought. It could well have a new life, and give much pleasure to others.

Once again, thank you Cardiff Violins, how glad we all are to have found you!