Heirloom violin’s concert connection

From left, Cara Bryant, Marsha Stringer, Lissa Cowie and Alex Bryant will perform together for the first time as a family in Blenheim. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

For 140 years, it has been passed down through the generations of a musically gifted family; its wood mellowed with both age and touch.

The European-crafted violin has been passed on to latest caretaker Cara Bryant, 14.

And the talented violinist will show off the special instrument in Blenheim later this month, joined by her family on stage for a special annual concert.

Cara Bryant with the heirloom violin. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Cara Bryant with the heirloom violin. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Featuring Blenheim-based concert pianist Marsha Stringer, the concert will also feature Cara’s mum Lissa Cowie, and brother Alex.

The performance marks a special moment for the family who are performing together for the first time in Blenheim.

It was Marsha’s grandfather, Alf Marsh, who passed the violin on to her when she first started learning as a child.

“I know it was made in Europe sometime in the 1880s and two of grandad’s older brothers played it before it was passed on to him.

Marsha's grandfather, Alf Marsh. Photo: Supplied.
Marsha's grandfather, Alf Marsh. Photo: Supplied.

“Legend has it that he was the best musician of them all. He also had a fine tenor voice and was a soloist for the London Male Voice Choir, which is where he met my grandmother who was their accompanist.

‘I think he would be absolutely delighted to know the violin is still being used today and to such great effect,” Marsha says.

The concert is held every year and this year it will feature works by Beethoven, Strauss, Popper, von Paradis, Verdi, Elgar, Offenbach, Quilter, Schubert, Puccini and Handel.

Cara, from Nelson, who has been learning the violin since she was six years old, is working towards her grade 8 this year.

Cara Bryant, Lissa Cowie, Marsha Stringer and Alex Bryant at the church where the concert will take place. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Cara Bryant, Lissa Cowie, Marsha Stringer and Alex Bryant at the church where the concert will take place. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Marsha, who trained at the Royal Academy in London, says it gives her great pleasure to see the violin being used by family.

‘It is Cara’s for as long as she wants to use it and enjoys it,” she says.

Marsha’s niece through marriage, Lissa graduated with a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours at Auckland University in 1996 before studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

She had been a regular fixture at the popular annual concerts which attracts performers from across the country.

Other artists performing at the concert on include soprano Lois Johnston, Elin Tomos who trained as a mezzo-soprano in London, cellist Elgee Leung who has trained and played overseas and Olivia Young, nee Sheat.

Tickets are $10 and will be available at the door prior to the concert which will be held between 2 and 4pm on Sunday May 30.