Music Room

The Unfinished Violin

Sam Sweeney

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A veteran of the mighty Bellowhead’s domination of British folk for ten years, artistic director of the National Folk Youth Ensemble, founder member of the acclaimed instrumental trio Leveret, and a superb instrumentalist at the forefront of the revival in English traditional music, Sam Sweeney is releasing his first solo album, The Unfinished Violin.

The Unfinished Violin is an expansion and development of his acclaimed live show, Sam Sweeney’s Fiddle: Made In The Great War, which toured from 2014. The show centered on a fiddle the 19-year-old Sweeney came across in violin maker Roger Claridge’s shop in Oxford.

It’s the instrument Sweeney has used for numerous albums and countless gigs, and in time he set about digging into its history, and uncovered the fateful tale of Richard Howard, a music hall performer who made the violin, but was called up in 1916 to the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment to fight and lose his life in the Battle of Messines on 7th June 1917.

In 2017, Sam visited the battlefield and important sites connected with the Battle of Messines. In a special ceremony by Richard Howard's grave, Richard's granddaughter read a poem, Sam played 'The Wellesley' on the fiddle and a bugle player played 'The Last Post'.

The beautifully mournful 'The Wellesley' is also one of the outstanding 16 tracks on The Unfinished Violin. With its swelling melodies and stately rhythm, 'The Wellesley' is also the march Richard Howard himself would have heard as a recruit to the Duke of Wellington's regiment.

Playing that (The Wellesley) over Richard Howard's grave was incredibly emotional...We were all just stood there, sobbing. He was unknown, no one knew anything about him, no one would ever have visited his grave, ever, and all of a sudden, there I was, playing his fiddle to him. And there’s going to be a march every year to his grave, and people are laying flowers there. It’s amazing.
Sam Sweeney

Join Sam for an informal pre-concert talk from 6.45pm
Come and hear Sam talk about the story behind the album, how he put it together and made the songs come to life. This will be an opportunity for you to ask Sam any questions about the album, fiddle playing in general and anything else that you might want to ask!

Sam Sweeney is supported by PRS Foundation’s Open Fund.

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