‘Could break anywhere’ The Repair Shop’s Becky Houghton shares unease over fragile violin

‘Could break anywhere’ The Repair Shop’s Becky Houghton shares unease over fragile violin

04/08/2022

The Repair Shop: Expert Becky says violin 'could break anywhere'

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The Repair Shop specialist Becky Houghton had been given the mammoth task of restoring a German trade violin that had cracks running down its front during a classic episode of the BBC series. After entering the workshop, the owner, Nick, shared its heartwarming backstory involving his great-grandfather, who played the violin professionally in orchestras and jazz bands around the 1920s, with presenter Jay Blades before Becky got to work on the musical heirloom. While detailing the job with Jay, Becky shared her concern over the instrument and claimed if she wasn’t careful, it “could break anywhere”.

Jay asked the musical expert: “So, how long have you been repairing violins?”

“About 14 years, now. So, I’ve done a few,” Becky revealed to her co-star. 

She went on to say: “I do violins, violas, cellos, double basses if I have to.”

“And have you ever seen anything as broken as this one?” Jay wondered before adding: “[It’s] quite bad.”

The crafter replied: “I have seen things a lot more broken than this one, which is good but restoring cracks is always a bit iffy.

“It could break anywhere, so what I don’t want is too much wood to split out.”

The Money For Nothing star asked Becky: “To much wood to split out?”

She explained: “Yeah when you take it off, you will lose bits of the front, they’ll get attached to the ribs, so it’s a big job.”

“For such a small instrument,” Jay reflected in amazement. 

Becky had been drafted in to help restore the fragile violin, which dates back more than 100 years, and managed to successfully take the instrument apart bit-by-bit.

Earlier on in the programme, Nick revealed the violin belonged to his great-grandfather who was born in the Bahamas and later moved to Germany to play the violin in a jazz band professionally, explaining: “He was in Germany, I believe, during the First Wolrd War, but he couldn’t have been more than 20, 25 [years old].”

Jay weighed in: “As a black young man going there and playing in a band, they wouldn’t just have anybody, really.”

Nick said: “It must have been really difficult for him, as well.”

He continued: “Then after the war, he came to England and got married in 1921, this was many years before the Windrush scandal and at the same time he joined a band in the UK known as the Ken Johnson’s West Indian Orchestra. 

“They were the first black band to perform in the UK.”

While attending the BBC workshop with his daughter Vicky, Nick had hoped to pass down the violin as a keepsake.

Speaking on the programme, Vicky gushed: “To hear the sound that my great-grandad made on that violin would be amazing.”

Despite the challenge given to Becky with a cracked, worn-out violin to repair, she surpassed expectation when the instrument was shown in immaculate condition, moments before Vicky and her father re-entered the BBC studio. 

After the instrument was unveiled, both Nick and his daughter were lost for words at the restoration. 

Vicky turned to Becky and said: “You’ve done an amazing job, it’s fantastic.

“I’m speechless, I didn’t think it would look as good as that.”

In a surprise twist, Jay asked the pair if they’d like to hear it be played by musician Becky, to which they agreed happily.

The Repair Shop airs weekdays at 3.45pm on BBC One.

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