Bellowhead fiddle player builds show around century-old instrument

Sam Sweeney
Sam Sweeney

Six years ago Sam Sweeney, fiddle player with Bellowhead, bought a violin. 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 music hall performer, Richard S Howard, who had left for war in 1916 aged 35, leaving his violin unfinished.

Richard didn’t make it back from the war and the violin pieces were left to his daughter Rose, who kept them all her life. In 2007 luthier Roger Claridge bought the pieces at auction, finally finishing the violin and placing it in his Oxford music shop window, just as Sam Sweeney happened to be shopping for a fiddle…

The history behind the fiddle 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 the First World War.

The production, entitled Made In The Great War, comes to Buxton Opera House on Monday, September 14 .

Sam will be performing the show with the very same 100-year-old fiddle.

He has used the fiddle in performances and recordings as a member of some of the most important folk bands currently playing in the UK, including Bellowhead, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings and The Full English.

Collaborators of Made In The Great War include award-winning story-teller Hugh Lupton, fellow Bellowhead band mate Paul Sartin and acclaimed concertina player Rob Harbron. Bellowhead lighting designer Emma Thompson developed the set, projections and lighting.

The show takes place at Buxton Opera House on Monday, September 14, at 7.30pm.

Tickets cost £17.50 and discounts are available. Contact 01298 72190 or visit www.
buxtonoperahouse.org.uk