shopify analytics ecommerce

Richard Jones :: Viol maker

Inspired by the work of David Munrow, in 1978 I bought an early music shop bass viol kit, had one lesson from Alison Bagenal in Cambridgeshire, and taught myself to play. Five years later it was clear to me it would be worth making reconstructions of 16th century instruments, appropriate for the music I loved.

During the summer holidays, over a number of years at Kilquhanity School workshop, I designed and made a set of five instruments based on a single surviving original which had been made by Francesco Linarol in Venice In 1540.

By the late 1980s Vivien (my wife), who had also started to play the viol, had made contact with Elspeth Henderson a young teacher in Dumfries who had studied the viol with Jane Ryan, and we three became the core viol players in our group. The Galloway Consort, formed in 1985, included viol consorts in its concerts from the beginning.

In 1988 we had the privilege of our first joint lesson, in Edinburgh, with Alison Crum. I had written to Alison suggesting that she put us in touch with all the other players of Renaissance Viols in Scotland; that we would meet and rehearse; and then have a coaching session with her. She replied that she didn't know any other renaissance viol players in Scotland - which was the case in 1988 - but would be happy to teach us anyway.

These coaching sessions led us to ask Alison and Roy if they would come up to lead a viol weekend, specialising in the Renaissance viol, which we would host at Kilquhanity School, under the umbrella of the Early Music Forum of Scotland. In 1990, Alison and Roy; Michael and Pat Plant; and Vivien and I provided twelve instruments and one or two players brought their own. This was the first Renaissance Viol Weekend with 13 participants, some from Scotland, others from as far south as London. We repeated it the following year before somebody else thought it would be a jolly good idea to have these down in England and Alison now runs them at Charney Manor.

When Kilquhanity and its successor closed in 2000, I devoted myself full-time to making 'renaissance viols' . Nineteen of these are in Scotland and are played regularly on concert platforms. There are another sixty of my viols elsewhere in the world.

Vivien adds …
One of the highlights of our viol-playing year has been, and is, what came to be known at the 'Scottish' Viol Course held for many years at Wedderburn Castle near Duns and, latterly, at Netherurd House near Blyth Bridge. It has been our delight to take the earlier viols to these courses and introduce them to those that attend on a day set aside for this very purpose.

Contributed by Richard Jones & Vickie Hobson

You can find out more about Richard's viol making on his website:
Details of the Galloway Consort can be found here:

Posted by