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The Viola

AKA the Cinderella of the Orchestra. The viola is the middle voice of the violin family and one of the more underrepresented instruments in the string family (in my opinion). For a long time it was mainly used to fill in harmonies with not many solo works written for it at all. From the 20th century onwards more music has been composed for the viola, Paul Hindemith being such a composer (as well as a violist himself).

The viola is tuned a 5th down from the violin and is bigger and more mellow sounding, it's a bit like what liquid chocolate would sound like musically. Violas are welcome additions to any sort of band; from orchestral, rock and roll, folk, reggae, jazz, experimental, to name but a few.

In my opinion, the viola is a wonderful instrument and needs to be HEARD! If you are a composer, please write something for the viola, you won't regret it!

For more information about the viola I recommend the following website:

About my viola and I:

I'm a freelance violist and have been playing the viola since I was 15. I stopped playing in my 20's for about 7 years, then restarted in 2004 after I played my viola round a bonfire with other musicians during a T'ai Chi training weekend and could not understand why I stopped. My two viola's are called Pete and Yuri.

I originally learnt the viola from Martin Gadd. I then learnt from Nicky Busby (both in Essex) and as part of the viola section with Harry Danks when I played with a youth orchestra. I briefly learnt with Vince Parsonage in Leeds and on and off with Penny Veryard (Cambridge) since 2004, Penny runs the Quartet club of Cambridge.

I learned traditional Irish music (on viola!) from Josie Nugent and Hazel Fairburn. I'm very interested in improvised music and listen to lots of free music and Jazz. I also play cello, learning with Veronica Henderson, fiddle and I sing and write songs. I am learning jazz from Martin Kemp (the saxophonist) and being mentored in spontaneous music from Eddie Prevost. I work with Peter Shearer playing healing music (Soaking music)

I play in Kaszak and Afifi folk duo and also busking duo with my friend Banjo Nick and in Tony Phillips occasional Doghouse band. In the past with Red Velvet, Flaming June, Reasonable Tones (a free improvisation duo with a VJ) I Strip For Couples, Jam Band Caravan, TK Rose and the Bushwakkers, Tariq and the Africelts, Anette Grindsted (until she had her twins, but will be back in 15 more years)

Contact me if you are looking for a viola player to add that sonorous dimension to your band or music group. Please also contact me if you are a viola player, you obviously have impeccable taste in musical instruments and deserve congratulation.

I Strip for Couples at the Junction - Jason Williams Epic

TK Rose and the Bushwakkers reggae band at Strawberry Fair


Come and find me busking on the streets of Cambridge with various friends during the week and weekend. All busking monies collected go towards my 8 string electro-acoustic viola/mandola/Stroh violin metal hybrid fund.

Gig list:

See Martin Kaszak's website!

Past gigs

Lots of gigs including:

Too many!

Archive of Gigs from 2007-2009


Finger picking ragtime and country blues and singer songwriter, and my duo buddy

Hazel Fairbairn - Viola and Fiddle player

Adam Pounds is a composer and conductor as well as a pretty mean guitarist.

Traditional Irish music website with details of their summer school.

Tommy People's website, an Irish fiddle player who makes fiddle playing a work of art. I had the pleasure and honour of attending one of his workshops and was really impressed by the guy.

Singer/songwriter John Meed - if you like grasshoppers, John's your man. He is also a courageous lifeguard if you happen to be a swallow.

Ilana is a very accomplished Klezmer and baroque fiddle player who often runs workshops in Cambridge and is usually found in London. Ilana is a very good teacher and great fun to work with too.

Anette Grindsted

Ely Folk Club

Cambridge Folk Club

Royston Folk Club


My Viola and I - by Lionel Tertis

Viola Jokes needed!

If there are any other viola players out there who would like to email me a joke to put on my website please contact me and I will put it up for you.

Mat Maneri's Viola joke:

This joke was told to me by Mat Maneri (a viola player, hurrah!) at 2011's London Jazz Festival:
A viola player drove back home exhausted after a gig. He got out of his car and went straight to bed and fell asleep. He woke up with the strange feeling that he'd forgotten something "Darn! I left my viola in the back seat of my car!" he went to his car, to find 2 viola's in the back seat.

Mat very kindly let me play his 10K viola.

A selection of my favorite viola jokes:

There are many jokes about viola's and viola players (probably due to jealousy from other musicians, who wish they were playing such a gorgeous instrument):

What's the difference between a violin and a viola?

  1. The viola burns longer.
  2. The viola holds more beer.
  3. You can tune the violin.

We all know that a viola is better than a violin because it burns longer. But why does it burn longer? It's usually still in the case.

What's the difference between a viola and a trampoline? You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

Why is viola called "bratsche" in Germany? Because that's the sound it makes when you sit down on it.

How do you get a viola player to play 32 semi hemi demi semi quavers? Write out 32 crotchets and mark it "solo".

What do you do with a dead violist? Put him/her back a desk.

How do you know when there are 10 viola players standing outside your door? None of them know when to come in.

There is a conductor and a violist standing near you and you have a gun with 2 bullets in it. Who do your shoot first?

The conductor, business before pleasure!

A violist and a cellist were standing on a sinking ship together.

"Help!" cried the cellist, "I can't swim!"

"Don't worry," said the violist, "just fake it."