Newsletter Issue 29 - July 2007
Written by Richard J Milner
Sunday, 15 July 2007 00:00
- Sydney Consort Day
- Technical Tip
- Viols on the Web
- From the Viola da Gamba Society of Great Britain
- The Marais Project
- Melbourne Spring Early Music Festival
- Viols in the New York Met
- Chelys Australis
- Pan Pacific Gamba Gathering Hawaii 2007
Sydney Consort Day - July 21 2007
We had a full consort of 6 for this one day workshop held in Jenny Erikssons studio with Annabelle McIver and Richard Milner on trebles, Ian Georgeson and Glenice Norton on tenors and Joan Milner and Helen Aladjadjian on basses. We started with a warm-up motet by Marenzio and found it to be much more demanding than at first sight with some Gesualdo-like harmonies and unusual phrases. Tuning was especially demanding and we had to work really hard to get it to sound like music! For the first time we had decided to record ourselves which proved to be a valuable exercise.
After an excellent lunch (with a particularly fine carrot and pumpkin soup provided by the host), we decided to cut to the quick and tackle the main course - the second of the Gibbons 6 part fantasies. The opening went well and we found it surprisingly friendly after the Marenzio however the really tricky passages were still to come. We listened to a recording made by Phantasm and this resulted in a marked improvement, however our recording was a little short of commercial quality! Finally we played an Intrada by Altenburg which had lots of exciting chasing games for the two trebles. Im not sure the others enjoyed this as much as the trebles! Altogether an excellent day - good food, challenging music and wonderful company
Technical Tip: Care of Viol Bridges
The bridge is the focal point, both tonally and structurally on any bowed instrument. It is a sensitive filter for the vibration of the strings and must both support the enormous down bearing of the string load and filter the resonances of the strings.
The bridge of the viol works harder than most modern violin family bridges, both in terms of load and range that it must filter. The optimal designs were set long ago and will be familiar to most viol players, as they have been proven superior and have slowly come to replace the earlier cello style bridges which were common in the 1960s and 70s.
Despite the quite robust look of most historically informed bridges, they do benefit from occasional care and can be made to last indefinitely if well tended. Some things you can do yourself as a player and other things are best undertaken with the guidance of a maker or repairer.
As the viol generally has a fixed tail post, the tendency for strings to creep over the bridge is more manageable that, say, on a cello. Nonetheless, the constant process of restringing and retuning does cause movement and a viol bridge, being quite wide to take 6 or 7 strings, can tend to twist as well as creep forward.
Looking at your viol in profile, the bridge should sit on the belly so that the rear surface (facing the tailpiece) is vertical to the belly at that point and the front surface(facing the fingerboard) is angled at greater than 90°, thus resisting the forward creep of the strings. When the bridge does creep, you will see these angles change and, looking closely at the feet, you may see there is a gap appearing between the bridge foot and the belly of the viol.
It is a simple matter to correct this by lowering the pitch of all strings by about an octave and gently easing the bridge back towards the tailpiece until the angles are restored and the feet sit flush. If you are not comfortable with this first time round, ask your local viol maker to show you how. It is good to check this point each time you replace strings, paying careful attention to the angles and any twist on the crown of the bridge.
The bridge should be square across the belly and the most common form of creep is that the treble side moves towards the fingerboard more than the bass. This comes about because of the extra string changes in the treble and the extra tuning attention that the treble side receives due to the plain gut strings.
More bridge tips next time
Last Updated on Sunday, 20 September 2009 14:00