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Digital Subscriptions > The Strad > August 2019 > NORTHERN LIGHTS

NORTHERN LIGHTS

The 19th century witnessed a thriving double bass making scene in the Manchester area of England. This northern school, which had its own distinct style points, flourished for a longer time than its southern counterpart, as Thomas Martin, Martin Lawrence and George Martin explain
William Tarr made this double bass in around 1826. He had yet to develop his characterisic style of soundhole and outline

The English school of double bass making is widely known to players and luthiers alike, with most major orchestras likely to have an English double bass among their ranks. But to claim that there is any definitive example of the English double bass would be to misjudge entirely the nature of making in this country. Indeed, when looking at instruments produced during the heyday of the industry in England we see not one homogeneous school of production but a great number of regional variations focused around the main population centres. While the London makers are arguably the best known, there were a number of makers of considerable importance in the northern city of Manchester, including William Tarr, James Cole and James William Briggs, who pursued a distinctly different style from that of their southern neighbours.

Manchester came to importance at a relatively late period in England’s history. First established as a Roman settlement in around 79AD, it remained a small town until the turn of the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution brought sweeping changes.The textiles industry prevalent in the surrounding county of Lancashire experienced a boom owing to advances in manufacturing technology, and this led to a rapid increase in population as the town became a centre of trade and commerce. Manchester was granted city status in 1853 and continued to grow until after the Second World War, when the UK began to deindustrialise.

This c.1826 head is in William Tarr’s unique style that coninued to develop over the years
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About The Strad

Double bassist Leon Bosch discusses his career, and we investigate the bass makers of Manchester. There’s an interview with early music pioneer Eduard Melkus and cellist Johannes Moser gives a Mendelssohn Masterclass. Plus Leonidas Kavakos’s teaching tips