Renowned violin, viola and cello maker Saskia Schouten, who lives and works in her studio in the south of the Netherlands, recently presented her 50th cello, which she'd just varnished. For Saskia this instrument marks a special anniversary, but it's unfortunately not just a celebration, but also a commemoration of a sad tragedy.
On the evening of 13 November 2015, a series of coordinated attacks took place in various locations throughout Paris. At about twenty past nine, three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants and the Bataclan theatre in central Paris. The attackers killed about 130 people in total, including 89 at the Bataclan theatre, where hostages were taken before there was a stand-off with police. Another 368 people were injured, 80-99 seriously. Seven of the attackers also died.
Saskia watched the events unfold on television and felt awful. "I was working on the inlay on the back of my 50th cello," she recalls, "just after the tragedy in Paris had happened. Every day, when I'm in my workshop, not under any threat, with the heating on and beautiful music on the radio, I realise just how privileged I am to be able to do this work, which is my passion. But then my thoughts drifted to all those people who were killed in this tragedy in Paris."
"I felt so powerless about not being able to do anything to relieve the sorrow of all those victims. So I intuitively decided to make a kind of 'peace cello' and to insert the peace symbol that was being used at that time to refer to the tragedy in Paris as a special inlay on the back of the cello. The inlay is made of three layers of wood (ebony-pear-ebony) and is cut close to the border of the instrument to increase its strength, but also for aesthetical reasons. Sometimes the inlay is used for special decorative features such as a family coat of arms or a floral design, but on this occasion I decided to use the well-known peace symbol."
Saskia, who is the Chairman of the Dutch Violin and Bow makers Association continues, "Time goes by, and maybe after a few years nobody will remember it anymore, but I just hope my 'peace cello' will contribute to a more positive and nicer- sounding world."