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New g and e strings.

In advance of tomorrow’s concert as solo violin. New passione g and e strings.

Needing new a and d. But will wait and hope!

19th August 2017
Granaries, Floriana, Malta
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra

Conductor Eugene Kohn


  • Joseph Calleja
  • Andrea Boccelli
  • Sir Bryn Terfel
  • Marvic Monreal
  • Destiny Chukunyere
  • Gillian Zammit
  • BOV Joseph Calleja Children’s Choir


  • Morricone
    Cinema paradiso
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Verdi
    Macbeth – “O, figli … Ah, la paterna”
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Irving Berlin
    Annies got a gun – Anything you can do I can do better
    Soloists: Joseph Calleja & Sir Bryn Terfel
  • Leigh
    Man of La Mancha – The impossible dream
    Soloist: Bryn Terfel
  • Lehár
    The Merry Widow – “Lippen schweigen”
    Soloists: Bryn Terfel & Marvic Monreal
  • Bizet
    Carmen – Habanera & Seguidille*
    Soloists: Marvic Monreal & *Joseph Calleja
  • Massenet
    Werther – “Porquoi me réveiller”
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Puccini
    Tosca – “E lucevan le Stelle”
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Puccini
    Tosca – “Recondita armonia”
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Verdi
    Rigoletto- La donna è mobile
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Lara
    Soloists: Andrea Boccelli & Joseph Calleja
  • Bizet
    Carmen – Children’s Chorus
  • Vella
    Kebbies tal-Fanali
    Soloist: Joesph Calleja
  • Russian Traditional
    Ochi Ciornie (Dark Eyes)
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Gounod
    Romeo & Juliet – Je Veux Vivre
    Soloist: Gillian Zammit
  • Sorozábal
    Maravilla – “Amor, vida de me vida”
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Bizet
    Les Pêcheurs de perles – “Au fond du temple saint”
    Soloists: Andrea Boccelli & Sir Bryn Terfel
  • Bock
    The fiddler on the roof – If I were a rich man
    Soloist: Sir Bryn Terfel
  • Louiguy
    La vie en rose
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Sorozábal
    Zarzuela – No Puerde Ser
    Soloist: Joseph Calleja
  • Boccelli
    Gladiator – Nelle Tue Mani
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Sartori
    Canto Della Terra
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Sartori
    Con te Partiro
    Soloist: Andrea Boccelli
  • Puccini
    Turandot – Nessum Dorma
    Soloists: Andrea Boccelli & Joseph Calleja
  • De Curtis
    O, Sole Mio
    Soloists: Andrea Boccelli & Joseph Calleja
  • Verdi
    La Traviata – Brindisi
    Soloists: Andrea Boccelli, Joseph Calleja, Sir Bryn Terfel, Marvic Monreal & Gillian Zammit
  • Traditional Welsh
    My Little Welsh Home
    Soloists: Sir Bryn Terfel & Joseph Calleja

Complete set of Passione violin strings
Wednesday 18th November

Viola has been sounding a bit dull recently so I changed a few strings for the first time in a little while.
New passione A, D & C

Having raced around Sydney for the past two days we had decided to start slowly for the last one. Unfortunately I forgot to tell my jetlag and so happily woke up at 5:30 again (the only symptom I’ve had really) to make up for this I decided to spend as much time having breakfast as possible and being the first down was shown to the best table which was in the corner of the room and had huge floor to ceiling glass walls on two sides giving a panoramic view of Circular Quay up to the bridge and the opera house. I was able to sit there and gently make my way through the breakfast menu, starting with a rye bread and honey before migrating onto the most delicious buttermilk pancakes. Having devoured 5 pots of tea (Manda would be proud!) And taken in the view for around 3 hours – definitely couldn’t get enough of the view – we packed up our apartment, checked out, left our bag with the hotel’s left luggage and wandered into the botanic gardens across the road.

On the edge of the botanic gardens was Sydney music conservatoire which was originally a stable yard! From the outside it is more like a castle and certainly would have had extraordinary views of the harbour. It’s been converted and restored beautifully and has a large entrance hall descending three stories off of which come two recital halls and several practice rooms.

On leaving the conservatoire we made our way into the botanical gardens. They started with rose beds and very formal garden settings. A very shy Kookaburra flew between the trees (no elderly eucalyptus trees I’m afraid) and avoided being photographed by any passing tourists.

As we walked through the gardens land trains drove towards us and the scenery changed to become more tropical and closer to that which we had experienced the day before in the valley of the Three Sisters. I was very impressed by my brothers knowledge of the Wollemi Pine as he not only identified the dreadful picture I sent him of ‘the rarest tree in the world’ but told me there was another in Kew gardens! There was another aerial rooting tree which was also quite bizarre to see it as it seemed as though it was set on columns and a squat tree started growing 8 feet up in the air!

The birds around the gardens were equally fascinating. Having watched the Ibis’ from our balcony over the last few days it was amazing to see these dinosaur like creatures up close. That coupled with a Kookaburra, Crimson Rosellas, Rainbow Lorikeets, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, Shrike Thrush and all manner of other little birds.

The gardens rolled out to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair from which the ultimate view of the Opera House and the bridge can be seen. We rejoined the tourists and took many photos of ourselves in front of the view. Some of the waterfront walk back through the gardens was impassable because a large concert had taken place and the area was being cleared of staging meaning that we had to walk around.
On rejoining the promenade we were overtaken by a large number of bikes on a city tour as we walked up to the opera house.

Approaching from the other side was really interesting and it shows just how incredible the architectural design is that you can view it from any angle and it still looks amazing! I was really keen to go on a tour of the Opera House, and although it was definitely set up for the cruise passengers it was still quite interesting and it was amazing to see the inside of both halls. I didn’t realise that the outside structure simply forms a shell in which they built the concert halls, an almost completely separate structure certainly not supported by the sail-like exterior.

After the tour we wandered into Sydney and visited the Queen Victoria Building to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea in the old ballroom. The prawn & lettuce and ham & rocket sandwiches were good and the Orange Pekoe delicious – scones were clearly made the night before or early in the morning, still quite nice, and the cakes were delicious.

With an hour left before we needed to leave for the airport we made our way back to circular quay and sat watching the cruise ship depart. It was a little late leaving and we had to leave just as it was turning round. We continued to watch it from the station platform before our train arrived.

Sydney domestic terminal was quite busy. Thankfully we had our boarding passes printed already and we were able to go straight through security quite quickly which was lucky because just as we went through and as we bought dinner (a subway sub for me) the final call for our flight was announced – a whole hour before it was due to take off! After wolfing down our supper we joined the queue as it died out.

Having sat on the ground for a while the plane took off and again turned hard left and right immediately after lifting off to leave Sydney Harbour. The flight was delayed in the air by about 20 minutes and then stacked at Melbourne for another 10 making the 50 minutes flight more like two and a half on the plane. I was very keen to get off at the end! Lucciano picked us up at the airport and we arrived back at around 11 to climb wearily into bed!

Having woken to the sun rising over the botanical gardens I was unsure how breakfast would compete. However it did and more. The restaurant overlooks the bridge and had views of the new cruise ship which had arrived early in the morning. The food was just as spectacular, I had a pork cheek with a side of egg whites on a bed of vincotto. It looked amazing and tasted even better! There were also a variety of toasts and teas to try, which I’m definitely looking forward to exploring tomorrow. We had to leave quite early as the blue mountains are a reasonable distance from the city.


The view from Circular Quay Station

Train travel in Australia is quite slow, but seems to be very effective. We travelled from Circular Quay station (which must have the best view from a station in the world) to Central to ride an intercity train to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Sydney is a vast and sprawling city which takes nearly and hour and a half to get clear of but when it does its worth every minute of the wait. The railway line climbs up hills for another hour and gives breathtaking glimpses of the valleys in the foothills of the blue mountains as it winds slowly around the edges of them. Often the view below the train feels like a similar distance to that across the wide valleys as the sheer drop numbs the mind somewhat!

On arrival at Katoomba we swapped our Link tickets for a tour bus pass and joined the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus which gave us a hop on hop off access to all the attractions around Katoomba. The bus included a loop around the Scenic World centre. We debated whether or not to get off at the start of the loop or take in the loop on the bus and then walk to the centre. I’m really glad that we decided to do the loop by bus as the centre had nearly 12 coaches waiting and didn’t seem to be the serene and calm place I had imagined. Because of this, when we jumped off at the end of the loop, we walked away from the centre and along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. Every corner I turned took my breath away. The rocks and the views reminded me of the Grand Canyon and certainly just as spectacular. The blue mist (which gives the area it’s name) only added to the effect.

Our walk along the cliff tops gave us incredible views of the cable car which tourists were using to complete the crossing from one side of the valley (at the Scenic World centre) to the other.

We walked around the path and took in as many views as possible especially as the Three Sisters came into sight. It’s quite understandable that the three rock towers are important for the aboriginal people. The sight of them is quite breath taking and set against the deep blue background of the haze I found it quite intoxicating and can’t begin to imagine what the first explorers must have thought when the first stumbled upon them.

As with other parks around the world, the closer we got to the major attractions the greater the density of people. As we arrived at echo point with the ‘best view’ of the three Sisters, a school party of at least 3 coach loads arrived. Pupils dressed on full school uniform descended upon the area and reminded us that we were in the second most visited attraction in Australia (I couldn’t believe that fact when I first heard it either!)

Like other parks the solution was to walk away from the area for around 2 minutes before being plunged back into tranquillity. Having enjoyed stunning views from the cliff tops we chose to descend into the valley several hundred meters below. The route involved climbing around the back of the Three Sisters and walking down the thousand steps to the forest below. The noise from the cacophony of birds as you climb down increases exponentially the lower into the valley you walk until finally you are immersed in the din!

It took nearly an hour to climb the whole way down but was definitely worth every step. The temperate forest below was filled with palms and some of the tallest trees I’ve seen. It left us in almost complete shade, which was almost a relief as the Sun’s rays were very strong.

As we climbed out at the end of the valley we came across countless and seemingly endless waterfalls every time you thought you’d climbed to the top of one you found that it was just a ledge onto which fell another. higher and just as spectacular as the last. We climbed out with a French lady and were followed by and Australian couple and another man. Everyone was very friendly and the very strenuous climb was quite enjoyable.

Worrying about making the final bus we didn’t end up walking around the valley to the falls at Leura, this was possibly a mistake, but walking over the top was still impressive and just means that there is more to explore next time! We managed to join the penultimate bus but only after not being able to find the bus stop. However, it just meant having to wander aroubd the path a little further and along the road up to Leura village. We rejoined the bus outside a train and toy museum but couldn’t go in as the entrance was an unmanned gate which needed a two dollar piece (which I didn’t have in my pocket!)

We took the bus back through several golf resorts (a bit of a change to the scenery we had enjoyed the rest of the day!) and caught the train from Leura station back to Sydney.

Having enjoyed a great meal in our room last night I went back out to the supermarket to pick up some more salmon and sauce. Sydney was great fun to wander through and very easy to find where I was heading.

I’ve felt like Sydney is a place you just need to take in with your eyes and enjoy the views. everywhere I’ve been there’s been something to look at. I’d quite like to stay a little more, but with only one day left I feel I’ve only just scratched the surface.

We decided to spend the day at the edge of the bay and the best way to see it is definitely by bike. Amy, Susie and I took the train from Fairfield to Flinders street and then down to Brighton beach (incidentally the line passed through both Sandringham and Windsor as well as Brighton)
After jumping off the train we cycled around the coast until a view of the Melbourne skyline required a stop. In front of the skyline were the brightly coloured Brighton beach boxes quite an anomaly against the modern skyscrapers in the distance and were just nestled in the edge of the beach. Swimming at the waters edges were black swans and many jellyfish washed up which we later found out were blue blubber jellyfish.
We continued cycling round until we reached our coffee stop at Brighton bay sea baths, an enclosed section of the sea with 50m length lanes parralell to the shore stretching 300m into the bay. We had a butter croissant, an almond croissant and a cup of tea all taken whilst sat under a tall palm tree.
The boulevard of Palm trees extended for several kilometres as we cycled around the bay and made you feel quite tropical, a sensation heightened by the 28 degree day and bright sunshine (although that very occasionally vanished behind the odd bank of cloud)

Arriving at St Kilda pier we wandered out to see the new kiosk building at the end of the pier, which was rebuilt in the original style after a fire in the early part of this century. We didn’t stop at the cafe however and continued walking around the back of the pier to where rocks were piled up to form a harbour wall shielding boats from the bay. A colony of Little Penguins has settled there and can be found hiding in between the rocks. At up to a foot in height they are the smallest species of penguin. We spotted one little chap tucked up between two rocks who seemed very cool with us watching him and I could imagine him being quite interested in us! As we walked back along the pier there were two shapes moving in the water which at first glance could have been clumps of seaweed. However, as it moved in very erratic patterns its tail became apparent and two stingrays were clearly visible just below the water line. Each around a meter in width and 1.5 in length.

Our reason for heading up St Kilda pier was to find somewhere to eat. We eventually found a great little place between St Kilda pier and Port Melbourne just a little further around the coast. I had fish and chips – Australian style! It was Barramundi fish which has a really delicious taste and was perfect after a hot bike ride.

The route continued on to port Melbourne where the Spirit of Tasmania was in port. A very large ocean going vessel dwarfed the old immigration centre where new arrivals to the country were processed and checked for lice etc!

After this we followed the tram lines into the city and enjoyed a cold ice cream at the foot of the crown casino complex. There used to be fireballs from towers along the Yarra outside the complex on the hour which we waited for but this didn’t happen whilst we waited.

The evening meal was my first BBQ in Melbourne and the sausages from the local Italian butcher were absolutely delicious. Coupled with a red cabbage and apple side with sweet potatoes and carrots.

During the evening the news was filled with details of a siege in Sydney which was very close to the hotel we are staying in tomorrow. It’s meant that most of the area is completely closed and we might not be able to get to the area. The foreign office advice is to avoid the area so we might not be going. After several calls to the insurance company we’ve established that I probably won’t be covered as it’s probably a terrorist attack. Anyway we will see what happens in the morning…

I arrived at Melbourne very early in the morning to warm sunshine and tried to get out of the airport. They really didn’t like that I had mud on my shoes, but the loose tea was no problem.

After having my shoes washed I was able to leave and meet both Amy and Luciano, who were waiting in the arrivals hall.

We went through the suburbs of Melbourne to Northcote for breakfast. After a delicious Australian tea (called Madura) and porridge we visited the local shops in Fairfield to get some sunglasses and lunch before heading out to Fairfield park.

Fairfield park is set on the banks of the river Yarra and is a slow running river, possibly around 10 meters wide at this point that meanders through Melbourne at a very leisurely pace. It was almost unbelievable that we were in a city as the wildlife was so varied and the scenery so beautiful. We were guided by Beth, a friend of Susie and Amy’s. It was a great way to land and survive a morning very jetlagged. Lunch was waiting for us on return, a delicious selection of hams, bread (foccacia included) and cheese.

I’m afraid I failed to get through the whole day without falling asleep and after lunch had a very deep sleep from which I was woken up after what felt like 10 seconds but what was actually a good couple of hours!

To keep me awake and to try and stop my feet swelling any more than they were – in the neat 30 degree heat. We visited the local swimming pool. The complex included an indoor pool (which was almost unused at this time) and a selection of outdoor pools including a beautiful (slightly heated) 50m pool which was perfect to cool off a pair of baking feet!

Again supper was ready for us on return and starving and exhausted I tucked into a delicious risotto of radicchio (bitter red lettuce) asiago cheese and chicken stock. At 8pm I was no longer able to keep my eyes open and retired to bed – I fell asleep instantly!

New passione e string.

Some brief recordings made for the Sound and Music summer school film music composition course at the Purcell School.


Audio-technica ATM350 used in the Purcell School music technology recording studio.

On Friday night I drove down to Portsmouth to hear the BSO wind and Helen Nicholas play a selection of wind quintets.

It was lovely to see Helen playing and great to hear the wind play beautifully too, I was also quite impressed by the hall which although small had a great sound and brilliant sound projection from the stage.

Pieces included Beethoven & Mozart’s piano Quintet along with some smaller items for piano and wind.

Lovely concert


It’s been a while since the violin was looked at and I decided to take it to my friendly violin shop in Bushey called Thwaites, the fingerboard was in need of shooting (smoothing off the grooves that the strings leave in it) and the bridge, which was set up for my previous choice of strings (oliv or gut), needed to be lowered for my current choices which invariably are pirastro’s passione, which I’ve been enjoying a great deal. (synthetic gut, with a wide variety of windings, very nice indeed)

The service in the shop is fantastic and I was really impressed by the quality of the finish that they achieved, tiny things which I hadn’t mentioned were tidied and sorted and they are very reasonably priced!

I’ll add more photos of the new set up when I get the chance…

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Google maps link

I’ve found a great supplier for strings and the like, Soundpost, it was reccommend to me by Duncan Riddell (leader, BSO) and has proved time and time again to be ever so reliable. 

Brian Cohen seems very reliable and always reccomends decent items for the price bracket I am after. Everything arrives very quickly and is fairly cheap.
01483 456422

Right its been bugging me that the D string wears through so fast, so I have decided to try out a new Silver covered Oliv D-string, which if it lasts may well be the solution to my problems, whilst I love the sound that the oliv’s are making and they just work with the violin so beautifully I really cant go on propping up the british economy by Spending so much on them!

We shall see where this takes us!

Its the afternoon of the University Concert and My A has been getting worse and worse over the last few days, what does one do? with a tiny notch in the string around the 2nd finger position I am being driven slightly crazy by the irritation of having my pads ripped to shreds by the ever widening hole. So a new Oliv A will have to go on before the concert.

This was in hindsight a rather poor move as performing Mendelssohn’s Elijah without being able to use the A string properly ass it slips down so much was quite some failure, however it did make the epic piece just a little more exciting as runs up firstly went up the d string before switching across to the E! Its a good job my hands are large enough to stretch or I would have had no chance!

Good fun However

New Oliv D string

New Oliv A

New oliv a-string

I think I will be using up my last oliv strings before changing back to something a little less expensive now that the concerto’s are over. Not quite sure what but I have been enjoying low tension strings so will most likely go for something similar, or maybe change is in the air?

new D-string

I keep on noticing that the A and D Oliv strings are fairly poor at withstanding any use, I know that my fingers to rot them very quickly but it is a little ridiculous.

Not sure what to do about it but guess we will see what happens

All of my bows have been in need of some attention for several months now, having been over 9 months since any of them were given any love I decided it was time to have them given a bit of a service.

The Voirin was the most in need dispite being the most recently seen, with the need for a new thumb grip and a bit of attention to the winding.

The viola bow hasnt been rehaired for around 2 years and the baroque bow not since it was loaned to me!

The luthiers to undertake the work were ealing strings they run the largest workshop in europe and were an ideal choice as it had to be done very rapidly. Their knowledge is second to none and the skills are out of this world. All three bows were taken care of within the hour. This meant that there was no chance to rosin the bows completely and took some time to play in, but after an hour they were playing beautifully, more often than not when rehairing bows the final result is that one side has far more hair than the other, however with these they seem to be much more evenly spread and it’s made control far easier.

Many apologies it’s been some time since I last wrote to you, in that time I’ve replaced a good set and a half, my new years resolution it to try and keep this diary as up to date as posible!

New Oliv D and A string

New oliv G string,

I’ve been impressed by the oliv G string so far, it has lasted such a long time and sounds really very powerful.

Arcus Number 2, its much softer and stickier than before and really makes the bow far smoother whilst increasing grip! very very nice stuff, a huge improvement on pirastro schwartz or gold (the gold was very hard and unpleasant for me, good rosin however)

Supplied by Soundpost after advice from owner Brian Cohen

New A string

New oliv D

New Oliv E

New Oliv A string, dominant string fatigued very early and sounded very different to the olivs on the instrument