Priceless violin lent to Shropshire musician for album tour

Conor Gricmanis will return to his native country with a priceless violin dating from 1572

Conor Gricmanis grew up on a farm with his family near Bishop’s Castle and started playing the violin in primary school when he was just five years old.

Since then he has held senior orchestral positions in some of Europe’s most prestigious venues. Last year, at just 26, he became principal violinist of the London Baroque Orchestra and is touring with the prestigious Academy of Ancient Music.

Now the 27-year-old is very happy to return to his home county with his band, Noxwode, at St Chads in Shrewsbury on July 23. Conor said: “I love Shropshire, I feel at my best here, in myself and musically. Being able to play at home is so important to me.

“It’s also a huge way to say thank you to my family, my teachers and my community. If I hadn’t had the supportive education I had, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.

“Playing at home brings me the greatest joy, and being able to bring my friends – these wonderful musicians – from London to see this part of the world is inspiring.”

Noxwode specializes in interpretations of music primarily from the 17th and 18th centuries performed on period instruments. Among those instruments is a 1572 Andrea Amati violin which was lent to Conor for the recording of his debut album last year, and which will now accompany the tour.

Amati founded a dynasty that spanned four generations of work in northern Italy, and his grandson trained Antonio Stradivari, the greatest of all luthiers.

This particular violin is said to have been commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici and ended up at the Court of France during the reign of her son, King Charles IX of France.

Conor added: “We know it was played in the French court, so there’s a chance that Marie Antoinette heard him play. The story is amazing.

“This year is its 450th anniversary. I’m super happy to be able to play it again. Playing this music on these instruments is exactly how it was meant to be. Classical music is always treated as something from very stiff, but this music was never played the way it is today in huge venues with audiences sitting quietly. It was all about eating, drinking and commentary throughout. We’d like to bring some of that back into our shows.

“There’s a lot of freestyle, we improvise a lot and there’s a huge amount of folk. That’s what these violins were made for. These composers rarely exceeded 35 years old and by default they were all very young, just like the public. music is for young people, by young people.”

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