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Stephen Munro

It was with a degree of trepidation that I contacted Cardiff Violins in the late summer of 2014 to see if it might be possible to view their collection of cellos in September, following their August break. There were reasons for the trepidation… I had only begun playing the cello in mid-July (on an electric cello!) but within a month had recognised that this was a love affair which was going to need an acoustic consummation at some point  – but not likely to be necessary for at least a year, so it was at best a speculative visit; and should these circumstances not appeared to be an impediment, my journey to Cardiff would require a 1200 mile round trip from the North West Highlands of Scotland. Not, one would have thought, the most promising of customers upon whom to bestow valuable time and space. Notwithstanding the impediments Cecile Limon was more than welcoming and during the phone call was happy to arrange an appointment for me… Which was duly upheld by both parties.

I was welcomed warmly and offered time, space, tea, advice and encouragement and left several hours later without a cello but with a renewed faith in humankind and a promise from Cecile that they would bear me in mind should they find an instrument which they felt might suit my needs. Perhaps a month later I had a call from Cecile, who suggested that they may have a cello which the staff were sure I would like and that perhaps I should go to play it. So, I had now been playing for 3 months faced with an enormous journey and a cello somewhat beyond my budget, and grave concerns about my ability to benefit from such an instrument. I decided to take advice from a conservatoire teacher about my aptitude and potential – particularly given that I was now into my seventh decade! – and I was generously encouraged but put in no doubt that a ‘proper’ cello must replace the electric one at the earliest opportunity. After some minor prevarication, I decided to put my faith in the judgement of the staff at Cardiff Violins and headed south… I had not been misled; his was indeed a beautiful cello, and, after several hours and several assorted beverages for myself and the friends who had accompanied me to assist in my decision making I left Cecile and Chris King’s premises a poorer but happier man. Which is the state in which I remain as this cello continues to grow with me.

The story does not end there, however… a couple of bows had come into the possession of  Chris and Cecile which they believed would complement both the cello and my playing and contacted me to advise me so. Now, instead of my having to drive to South Wales from Northern Scotland, they agreed to entrust two very precious bows to the vagaries of the national courier networks and to me, simply for me to try them. They were so good I very nearly bought both! But finally decided on a sensible path and bought the bow which had made the most profound impression on me. The patience and advice of Chris in particular during this process defied my belief and frankly left me awe-struck…Their support during the ensuing year on so many levels has been not merely helpful but inspirational and when I approached Cecile recently with a notion to swap my now redundant electric cello for an acoustic viola Cecile was instantly on board and was able to immediately offer me assistance beyond the bounds of expectation and suffice to say I am now a deeply happy violist and cellist and continue to flourish with the help and support of two people along with their exemplary ancillary staff who have become a significant part of my life and whose judgement and technical expertise I would trust without any qualm. Remarkable people and a remarkable shop. Thank you so much Cecile, Chris and of course Katja.