Violin mellows with age

17:00, Jul 30 2010
Cathy Irons
RESTORED: Cathy Irons, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra first violinist, will play a 100-year-old instrument at a concert tonight. The violin has not been heard for 70 years.

A century-old violin will be heard for the first time in 70 years at the Christchurch Town Hall tonight.

The instrument belonged to former Canterbury College (now Canterbury University) rector, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra violinist and violin collector Sir James Hight.

Hight's great-grandson, Warwick Duncan, has pulled the violin out of his Ashburton wardrobe, given it a new lease of life, and permanently loaned it to Christchurch Symphony Orchestra first violinist Cathy Irons.

Irons will play it at tonight's Rodgers and Hammerstein concert.

Duncan said he was inspired to restore the violin after hearing composer Christopher Marshall say on the radio that it was a shame so many violins were in storage.

"I realised it would be good for it to be played as that's what it was made for," he said. "It's better it dies being played rather than fading away in a wardrobe."


The German instrument, believed to be between 100 and 150 years old, was believed to be the only one of Hight's collection left, Duncan said.

Irons said she was looking forward to playing the violin, which had a more mellow sound than newer instruments.

"Its tone is still bright from the new strings and it needs to be played in, but it has an openness with particular warmth in the lower strings," she said.

"It's just a lovely sound."

The Press