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Emily Grossman

I felt guilty for drinking the sauce.

December 20, 2011 at 3:42 AM

I have now in my possession a 1720 Flemish violin from Dan Lawrence in Kansas City. This is the violin that I couldn't stop thinking about over the past year and a half because its sound was so uniquely beautiful, and I've been wondering if perhaps its aged, warm tone would be the perfect complement for my modern Italian's bold, bright sound. Is it possible to own and play on two equally beautiful, but tonally diametric violins? Perhaps, but is it my wisest option at this time?

There was only one way to find out: I set up an appointment with Dan and road tripped it from Tulsa back to KC for another instrument trial and BBQ review. Oklahoma Joe's hung on the horizon, a mecca in Anthony Bourdaine's review of his top 13 places to eat before you die. If Tony likes it, then obviously, I had to sample some and see for myself.

(Re:OK Joe's: This is the barbecue for salt lovers. I love salt; therefore, I loved the fries and loved the Z man burger: brisket, smoked provolone, and two onion rings on a kaiser roll. George said hands-down best pulled pork ever. I said hands-down best sauce ever. Sides were special, too. Spicy beans, kick-it-up cole slaw. Decent price. Resides in gas station. I'd post photos, but I can't find my camera.)

Post-barbecue, I interviewed Dan about why he chose this violin and why he had it for sale. He said he just fell in love with the sweet tone and found it a real pleasure to play. It sounded a bit different than I remembered it, and noticed it had Pirazzi strings this time. He let me try three different brands of strings on it before choosing to take it out on trial. Nervously, I filled out a form and wished him a merry Christmas, promising to bring it back safely on my way home from the East Coast in a couple of weeks if I decided not to keep it.

Next, I went over to Matt Wyatt's shop to say hi and show him what I had with me. I was curious as to whether he would try to point out flaws and tell me it wasn't worth what Dan was offering. I suspected he wouldn't though: the first time I ever called his shop while searching for bows last year, he had suggested Dan Lawrence and was more than ready to send him my business if I could find what I needed there instead. I tend to trust dealers who are more interested in helping people find what they need than turning a profit off them.

The shop was busy while I was there, and I found it entertaining to sit and watch people coming and going. Some of the rooms are used for private lessons; I could hear a teacher instructing a student on the phrasing of the fist few bars of Vivaldi A minor. Other people were sampling instruments for possible Christmas presents. Matt laid out some instruments and bows for me to try, mostly for educational purposes, since nothing matched anything I might be looking for. I played on a fine German violin and a French violin (Francois?) from the 1930's. Also, he showed me a French bow--one that reminded me of the one I used to have that caught fire--as well as a bow by Rodney Mohr, which was quite nice. A bit rough in handling, but bold in sound. I still like my Nurnberger more than any other bow I've played. We dug around in the bow archives to try to pinpoint which Nurnberger made it. We're still not sure, but I quickly discovered I could read bow and violin catalogues all day long if you let me. All told, I spent about three hours.

While I was fiddling around, he took the Flemish violin back to the shop to check it out. He explained, "It's important you don't end up with an instrument that has been 'hogged out' to make it sound fuller, because the tone will fall flat after a couple of years, and then you're left with nothing but a really thin piece of wood." Fortunately, the wood's thickness checked out, indicating it had not been carved out. It'd had some work done on the bass bar. All in all, though, it would be a safe purchase, if that's what I decided I wanted to do. Regie Williams in Atlanta originally sold the violin to Dan Lawrence, and Matt regarded him as a trustworthy dealer. (In general, I reckon shady business will become more and more difficult to hide with the astronomical increase in communication over the past few years.)

They had a card to give to me. I glanced at the envelope, which had a little Christmas tree and some stars doodled in blue ink across the front. This is when I sheepishly realised I'd not brought anything to give them as a token of my gratitude for everything they'd done to help me and my studio over the past year. I tried to buy a couple of Swing DeVille cd's to show my support, but instead, Matt insisted I keep my money and gave them, along with a bow rehair, to me for free.

With some excellent toe-tapping music accompanying me on the four hour drive home, I had time to think about something I could give them. I don't have much.

I know, I'll send them some snow...

From julie Littleton
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 11:42 AM
Sounds like both shops are excellent. Maybe that is where I should go to buy my new violin. I should be able to do that very soon with in the next couple months. There only about an hour and half or so north of here. Sounds like you had a wonderful time and that they are both trust worthy. Thanks for the great blog again as always wonderful to read.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 1:39 PM
Judging by your location, I'd say that's the best place for you to drop by. Kansas City is a lovely town, and the drive there is pleasant as well. Let me know if you do decide to go!
From julie Littleton
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 2:10 PM
I think I will go in march. Better weather by then. May even take my husband he likes BBQ. I looked it up again saw your violin. How is it sounding today? I noticed it on the sight last month it was one I liked too just from what was written about it.
From Paul Deck
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 4:38 PM
Did you say your bow caught fire? Were you trying to set the world's record for Perpetual Motion?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 9:27 PM
My bow caught fire in August of 2010 during a rehair. Friday the 13th, actually. It was one of the luckiest accidents I've ever encountered, and I've encountered many.
From Tom Bop
Posted on December 20, 2011 at 10:53 PM
"Is it possible to own and play on two equally beautiful, but tonally diametric violins?"

Yes, it's like having two wonderful lovers with none of the conflict, drama, or emotional issues that would arise if they were people. Enjoy each as much as you want, then play the other, repeat in any sequence you want.

From Ray Randall
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 2:37 AM
What are you doing 9in Tulsa, Emily? I went to school there and played in the Tulsa Phil.
From Ray Randall
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 2:37 AM
What are you doing 9in Tulsa, Emily? I went to school there and played in the Tulsa Phil.
From Jerry Koziorynsky
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 4:40 AM

Did either of the shops mention if the scroll/neck were original to it? I checked the fiddle out on Dan's website and its quite beautiful, but I didnt see any peg bushings or the line on scroll from the graft. This is something I think would influence price.

Did the evah pirazzis work out on it? I dont really care for them. Their tension is way to high. The Light tension ones arent to bad and quite nice on the right fiddle. However, Passiones are where my heart is.


From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 6:38 AM
Ray, I'm an Okie, born in Tulsa, Union High school graduate! But I'm currently in PA visiting family for Christmas. Glad to hear from another Okie!

Jay, yes, I was thinking the same thing. The original label is missing, and I doubt it's as old as it claims, but I also think that the price reflects its value, just judging by my own comparison to violins in this range. An original 1720 would be worth more, no?

And yes, I switched the Pirazzi strings for Passiones. We must think alike!

From Jerry Koziorynsky
Posted on December 21, 2011 at 8:38 PM
Ya Emily, I think if it were really a 1720 the price would be a bit more. However maybe it is possible that it is that old but the price is reflective for the fact that the original scroll is missing. Maybe it got misplaced somewhere along the line and some one had to craft a new neck for it??? Not sure, just my thoughts!! That was the case for my fiddle.

Yay for Passiones! :)

From Terez Mertes
Posted on December 22, 2011 at 11:43 PM
I'm probably the only one here fixating on the barbecue angle of your blog. You KNOW you've got me there (I seem to remember having this same discussion this time last year). Long live Kansas City barbecue! But oh, dear, to chose just one favorite among all the contenders? I'm still going to have to lean toward Jack Stack. Although I will second the opinion over Oklahoma Joes being [almost] peerless. And Arthur Bryant's tangy saltiness. And Gate's convenience.

Oh man. I'm getting hungry.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 24, 2011 at 4:00 AM
Terez! I seriously ran out of food and was using tiny scraps of crumbs to justify lapping up more pools of the barbecue sauce! Before I knew it, I'd gone through half the bottle, wow...

They opened up an Oklahoma Joe's in Broken Arrow where my folks live, which shouldn't feel like cheating because it is after all called Oklahoma Joe's, but I don't think it will taste the same without the trip to KC.

In Tulsa, Elmer's has the best smoked sausage of any place on the planet. I dare you to try to find better!

From Rosalind Porter
Posted on December 26, 2011 at 2:46 AM
I do always so enjoy reading your blogs, very atmospheric! As proud owner of a Dutch violin, I hope you decide to keep the Flemish fiddle. I certainly agree with the strings conundrum too, have you tried nice ordinary Dominants on the Flemish yet? I'm always quietly impressed at the number of Strad and Del Gesu owners who are using Dominants and do wonder that perhaps we get carried away with fancy names and reputations when really, our violins prefer "the simple life"...
Good luck with your fiddle trial!

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