Priceless violin loaned to Shropshire musician for album tour

A Shropshire musician is returning home to perform on a priceless violin for his group's UK tour.

Conor Gricmanis will return to his home county with a priceless violin that dates from 1572
Conor Gricmanis will return to his home county with a priceless violin that dates 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 played in principal positions in orchestras at some of the most prestigious venues in Europe. Last year at just 26, he became concertmaster violinist of the London Baroque Orchestra and tours with the esteemed Academy of Ancient Music.

Now, the 27-year-old is very excited to be returning to his home county with his group, Noxwode, at St Chads in Shrewsbury on July 23. Conor said: "I love Shropshire, I feel at my best here, in myself and musically. To be able to perform back at home is so important to me.

"It's also a huge way of saying thank you to my family, my teachers and my community. If I didn't have the supportive upbringing that I did, I wouldn't be doing what I am doing today.

"To play back at home brings me the biggest joy, and to be able to bring my friends - these wonderful musicians - from London to see this part of the world is inspiring."

Noxwode specialises in performances of mostly 17th and 18th-century music performed on period instruments. Among these instruments, is a 1572 Andrea Amati violin that was loaned to Conor for the recording of his debut album last year, and will now come along for the tour.

Amati founded a dynasty that stretched four generations working in northern Italy, and his grandson trained Antonio Stradivari, the greatest of all violin makers.

This particular violin was believed to have been commissioned by Catherine de Medici and ended up in the French Court under 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 Marie Antoinette would've heard it being played. The history of it is amazing.

"This year is its 450th birthday. I'm super happy to be able to play on it again. By playing this music on these instruments, it's exactly how it was meant to be. Classical music is always treated as a very rigid thing, but this music was never performed like it is today in huge halls with audiences sitting quietly. It was about eating and drinking and commenting on it throughout. We'd love to bring some of that back into our shows.

"There's a lot of freestyle, we improvise quite a bit and there's a huge folk element to it. It's what these violins were made for. These composers rarely lived past 35 and by default they were all very young, as were the audiences. This music is for the young, by the young."

Tickets are £15, available on the door in cash or online at eventbrite.com.

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