In May 2017, we were approached by Music Faculty alumna Susie Attwood (college, year) with an interesting request. Susie was working on her debut documentary ‘The Wait’ about the plight of refugees fleeing from the civil war in Syria, which focused on a group of Syrian Orthodox refugees living in a monastery outside Beirut.
When Susie, visited the monastery, she was impressed with the talent and dedication of one of the boys living there. Aboud Kaplo and his family had fled the fighting in Aleppo the previous year. The only possession he was able to bring with him was a violin. As an accomplished violinist herself, Susie recognized the limitations of his instrument.
Unbeknownst to the Kaplo family, she had set out to make a huge difference in Aboud’s musical capabilities. The Kaplos were visited by a translator from the documentary team who had some surprises for the family, including greeting cards from Attwood. And for Aboud, there was a prized violin on loan from the Bate Collection.
“I was overjoyed. I couldn’t believe it, that it was happening,” Aboud said. He said the difference between his old violin and the Bate instrument “is amazing.”
The Bate Collection holds more than 2,000 instruments that date from medieval to modern times.
In my accompanying letter to Aboud, I wrote, “We have heard how enthusiastic you are to learn to play the violin. It is with great pleasure that the Bate Collection, as part of the Faculty of Music, has found an instrument that you can borrow on a long-term basis to help you in your learning. It is a good instrument, and you should find it better than the one you are currently using.
“We understand your circumstances may change at any time and hope that this instrument will be able to travel with you and be of use until you need a better one. At that time, we will try to find another instrument for you. We wish you all the very best for your future and hope to hear from you about your progress.”
The violin sent to Aboud is a 19th-century instrument made in Germany by Wolff Brothers and once belonged to a former curator of the collection.
Aboud wrote to us at the Bate Collection to explain his enthusiasm, “My passion for music started when I joined the boy scouts in Syria. My parents noticed that passion and I asked my father to attend music classes. I wanted to learn how to play the violin. I felt that I can express both my joyful and sad moments as I play on this instrument.”
“My mother tried several times to encourage me to study at school so I could become a doctor and my answer to her was always that I will not become a doctor but a violinist. I knew that is what I want and is my purpose in life.”
“When I got the new violin it was the happiest day of my life and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now with this new violin I could reach new levels in playing and learn new techniques.”
In April 2018 Aboud and his family finally received the necessary documentation to emigrate to Australia and Susie is currently seeking funding to allow him to study at a junior music school there.
Andrew Lamb, Bate Collection Manager
Become a friend of the Bate Collection: www.bate.ox.ac.uk/friends-of-the-bate