Musical Instruments made by Leslie H. John - Book Launch

The elegant eighteenth century surroundings of Llanelly House were an ideal setting for the launch of a very special little book on Saturday, 20th January - Philip John’s affectionate memoir, Musical Instruments made by Leslie H. John.

Friends and family, not just from the UK but from Paris, Italy and Sweden were entertained with champagne and canapés accompanied by a Haydn quartet. The players of the Caradog String Quartet whose members, Matthew Everett, Rebecca Bradley, Niamh Aston and Beatrice Newman had come from Cardiff and Newport for the evening, were playing for the first time on these original instruments made by Leslie John.

Leslie John 1909-1982 began his working life as an engineering draughtsman, rising to engineer and then Chief Engineer at Richard Thomas & Baldwin Steel Works West Wales, but he had “another life” as an instrument maker of skill and reputation.

Philip John spoke of his father as a talented musician and maker of musical instruments. Between 1935 and 1981 he made perhaps as many as 63 instruments, including cellos, violins, violas, one lute and one harp. His reputation as not only a maker but also a repairer of instruments meant that his skills were frequently in demand during the 1960s and 70s when he worked with many professional and amateur musicians, and “kept in playing condition” the instruments of school orchestras across south and west Wales.

The beautifully produced book is just 52 pages long with 24 of those pages having colour illustrations of some of Leslie John’s violins and cellos together with their specifications. Philip John hopes that this little volume will find its way into the hands of string players who share his own respect for the art of violin making.

 Photographs by family member Jonathan Thomas