High Notes

Beautiful music: Making a baroque violin in 21st century Houston (with video)

Beautiful music: Making a baroque violin in 21st century Houston (with video)

Houston is home to many creative personalities doing cutting-edge work. Some are highly visible while others, well, the scope of their work keeps them underground and unknown to the masses.

Mercury Baroque opened my eyes to a unique collaboration with Dorian Barnes, a Houston based luthier in the midst of crafting baroque instruments in the style of Carlo Antonio Testore (1693-1765).

Working with English sycamore, Testore’s violins were known for their superb sound and gorgeous tonal qualities but were a little physically rough. Barnes affectionally refers to them as the “drunken masters.”

Barnes’ instruments have a reputation of having a powerful sound while being quite responsive. For Mercury Baroque, the unique opportunity to shape the instrument’s sound translates in having the ability to create a distinct homogenous and unified aesthetic for their ensemble.

How long will the complete project take?

There are a lot of unknowns working with natural materials. But a prototype already exists and is in the hands of Jonathan Godfrey, Mercury Baroque's concertmaster. You can become a Violin Parent with a contribution of $11,000 including an acknowledgement visible through one of the violins f-holes, a private performance by Godfrey and a private behind-the-scenes tour of the violin shop.

I had a chance to visit Dorian Barnes' studio, where he walked me through the process of making a violin. Here's the video. To see a photo essay of the creation of the hand-crafted instrument from start to finish, click here

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The finished product Courtesy of Photo courtesy of Dorian Barnes
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Dorian Barnes Courtesy of Photo courtesy of Dorian Barnes