Education Award 2023/RAB Trust Award 2023:
Muireann was awarded funding from Education Services for tools, plus donated reamers and peg shapers from the RAB Trust.
RAB Trust Awards 2022:
Muireann was awarded funding towards wood and tools, and flights for a work experience in Norway where she has arranged work experience this summer with Salve Haakedal, a Hardanger fiddle maker.
“I am just back from a 10 day live-in work experience with Salve Haakedal in Birkeland, Norway. I cannot believe how much I have learned in this time, about my own making style, about the history and living culture of Hardanger fiddles and so much more. I could never have done this without the financial help of the RAB trust and I will not forget this generosity! I even got to go to a Kappliek, which is a three day festival that showcases hardanger playing along with traditional dance and song of Setesdal.
I also used the trust fund to buy wood to make this hardanger, as well as a fantastic gouge I have gotten from eBay.”
Muiranne was also awarded funding for a week at Halsway Manor on the BVMA Bow making and Repair course January 2023. She wrote of her experience:
“I have just returned to Newark after a thoroughly nourishing and inspiring week spent in Halsway Manor. Halsway is a folk arts centre tucked into the Somerset countryside, and plays host to a diverse collection of courses including folk art, music and dance traditions from Britain and beyond.
I was there to do a BVMA short course in bow making and repair, run by Tim Baker. Though the majority of those who attended the course were already either professional or amateur bow makers, three of us were students currently attending instrument making courses in England, but with a keen interest in bows.
I arrived with the intention to improve my rehairing and lapping skills. I imagined I might pick up one or two things from makers to help me understand the role and structure of the bow itself. What I did not expect was to become so interested in this whole new world of making. I had never looked properly at the subtle and varied shapes held within a bow, or even considered the process to be as intriguing as I now find it.
The layout of the course was not strictly confined to learning from scheduled lectures. Instead, we were all able to set our own working pace and goals, asking questions of one another which often led to someone demonstrating an aspect of making or repairing to the group. There was a good mix of concentrating on our own work, shadowing others and having group discussions. I spent the first day simply watching and reading, soaking up the shapes of bows by Peccatte and other greats, names I had not heard of before. I studied the beautiful photographs of bows, shapes I had never paid much attention to – the fluting on the head, the contour of the camber, the frog’s outline and the sweeping head-tip’s curves. Slowly, I began to understand the language of bow making, and with each new day in the workshop I found another door of curiosity had opened for me. I gained a lot by watching others work, and by eavesdropping on conversations around technique between the makers. Each new piece of information triggered another thought, blossoming more than I was able to keep pace with in my note taking! The crisp, fresh-air walk from the workshop building to the main manor house for meals was a welcome time to digest all of these new discoveries.
I was delighted to see how these established makers were open to sharing both their mistakes and techniques at different stages. There was no pretentiousness or withholding of information. I didn’t have much to add to their discussions on bow making, but I really enjoyed sitting at my bench sorting hair or making wedges, listening to the conversations intertwining around the room.
I want to add that as insightful as it was to meet makers active in the trade, it was also brilliant to meet the two other student makers from Merton College, Cameron and Ramkumar. They both had more experience in bow related work than I had but I think it was a mutually beneficial and comforting thing to be able to connect and discuss our thoughts on what it is like to be starting out as instrument makers. Though I can only speak from my own experience, it seems as though everyone thoroughly enjoyed the week together. It felt great to be connecting with other makers who come from different places and experiences. I was also gaining more insight into the ‘real world’ beyond (the fast approaching) end of my time at Newark..
Our time at Halsway Manor couldn’t have been more comfortable. All of us on the course really appreciated the relaxed and organised nature of how the house was run. The staff were cheerful and helpful, the fire was always lit and we were in want of nothing. Many of us enjoyed indulging in the immediate countryside for walks, reaping the benefits of the natural beauty at our doorstep. Halsway is a historic manor that is now host to all sorts of colourful and interesting courses and people. While we were staying, we met musicians of all ages, who had come to learn folk music and deepen their understanding of the tradition. A few of us on the bow course even got to try our hands at English Border Pipes – we returned to the workshop afterwards slightly out of breath! The crossover of musicians and makers on different courses was the ideal complement. It was fantastic to have live music to listen to every night by the bar. I want to extend our groups’ thanks to those who are part of the team in Halsway Manor. You have curated a wonderful and welcoming space.
On behalf of us three students who attended this BVMA course I would also like to thank the RAB Trust for funding our places. Personally, I would not have been able to avail of this opportunity without their support. The continued generosity and thoughtfulness of the Trust is something I will always be indebted to, and I hope that present and future students never take it for granted either. Coincidentally, one of the musicians on the other course was related to Rowan Armour-Brown, and I told him about the valuable opportunities this Trust has given to many of us.
There certainly is something special about these courses – the encouragement between new and experienced makers, the amount of knowledge and new skills to absorb and the calming beauty of the surroundings. Thank you to all involved!”