You might walk through the Castle Arcade in Cardiff and never even realise there is a balcony, let alone somewhere as special as Cardiff Violins up there. But if you let yourself be led by the sounds of violins, violas, and cellos that drift down and resonate through the arcade, as I did in 2003, what you will find is a treasure trove. And I say that not only because of the many instruments, but also for the knowledge and passion that Chris King has for his work, and the dedication of Cecile and the rest of her staff to really helping you find the right instrument for you.
What began as curiosity found me falling in love with a new cello, a Dheil copy by the British maker William Piper. This encounter not only gave me a great instrument to play and enjoy while I was studying, but also led to me working for Cardiff Violins for the following five years. The appreciation for instruments, their quirks, nuances and almost endless potential for different sound that I learned from working extensively with Chris is what I value the most from my time at Cardiff Violins. To be able to hear the hidden capabilities of an instrument is a wonderful gift, and to awaken them is a skill.
Towards the end of my time in Cardiff I was lucky to inherit some money, and I knew that it was to be for a cello. I had liked many cellos that had come and gone through the shop, but never fallen for one as Ruth Elder did with her violin. Chris and Cecile put every effort possible into looking for a cello that would have just the right character for me, and I am very lucky to now own a beautiful old English cello by Thomas Kennedy. Luckier still am I to own a bow by Benoit Rolland, made for me after his visit to Cardiff Violins in 2007. It is growing with me as I develop as a musician, and will forever be a part of me.
To pursue a dream of travelling around South America, I now live in Buenos Aires. Travelling with a 200 year-old cello did not however seem like the most sensible idea, so I have left my Kennedy on loan to the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and exchanged my Piper for a good quality Chinese “Belissimo” cello to take with me. So far we have been through deserts, across mountains and down into jungles travelling around Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. While the cello does of course react to the extreme climate changes, I have not had any problems. For a new instrument it has a very rich sound, and is a pleasure to play.
Although I am such a long way away, I still have a very close relationship with Chris and Cecile at Cardiff Violins, and I hope that it will continue for many years to come. They are the kind of people, and Cardiff Violins therefore is the kind of shop, with whom you can have a relationship for life.