Six years ago Sam Sweeney, fiddle player with Bellowhead, bought a violin in Oxford. It had all the appearance of a new instrument but the label inside gave the date 1915 and the name Richard S Howard.
Research revealed that the violin had been made – but never finished – by a luthier and some-time music hall performer from Leeds called Richard Spencer Howard. He had been conscripted in 1916 at the age of 35 and two years later was killed during the battle of Messines Ridge. His violin had been left unfinished in his workshop. The pieces were given to his daughter Rose in a manila envelope, as a memory of her father. She kept them all her life. On her death they were sent to an auction house. The parts were bought and the violin was finally finished by luthier Roger Claridge in 2007. The fiddle was then placed in the window of an Oxford music shop where it was spotted by Sam.
Discovery of the history behind the fiddle has inspired Sam to create a multi-media performance telling the incredible story of the fiddle which took nearly 100 years to complete, to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Collaborating with award-winning story-teller Hugh Lupton, fellow Bellowhead band mate Paul Sartin and acclaimed concertina player Rob Harbron, as well as Bellowhead lighting designer Emma Thompson who has developed set, projections and lighting for the show, MADE IN THE GREAT WAR will bring the reality of World War I into 2014, as Sam performs the show with the actual fiddle made by non-returning World War I soldier Richard Howard.
They shared the work in progress at Cecil Sharpe House a little while ago and it was, by all accounts, a very overwhelming experience, so try and catch this one if you can.
An album of the show will also be released which will be on sale during the tour.
Tour Dates – September 2014
05 – Cheltenham Town Hall
04 – West End Centre, Aldershot
05 – The Stables, Milton Keynes
07 – Colston Hall, Bristol
08 – Colchester Arts Centre
09 – Chipping Norton Theatre
10 – Theatr Mwldan, Cardigan
11 – Exeter Phoenix
12 – Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music, London
13 – mac birmingham, Birmingham
16 – Key Theatre, Peterborough
18 – City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds
19 – Sage Gateshead
20 – The Atkinson, Southport
21 – Palace Theatre, Mansfield
24 – Diss Corn Hall
25 – The Met, Bury
26 – The Civic, Barnsley
27 – Ropery Hall, Barton-on-Humber
28 – Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon