The violin remained silent for 100 years

This is Elsie Reford’s great-grandson, Alexander Reford – now director of the Jardins de Métis – who entrusted the violin to his great-grandmother, Olivier Pérot. He discovered the instrument some thirty years ago while going through a stack of boxes in his father’s shed containing items that had belonged to his ancestors.

I took it out, I gave it to a violin maker who was more industrial at the time, and he repaired the object so that we could present it [au musée] because it had no more strings, it was no longer very interesting. »

A quote from Alexander Reford

The violin was therefore repaired in the 1990s, but nobody started playing it again. It remained under a glass bell in the Jardins de Métis museum for fifteen years, like one object among others that belonged to the founder of this place.

It was fascinating, it was a portal to my great-grandmother’s life. »

A quote from Alexander Reford

Browsing through Elsie Reford’s archives, her great-grandson discovered that she played music daily during her youth. She was a member of string ensembles and took part in several music competitions. Renowned musician Paul Letondal – who notably taught the creator of Canada’s national anthem, Calixa Lavallée – was one of his teachers.

Elsie’s last public appearance was in 1894 when she performed the Messiah by Handel in a church in Montreal.

Elsie played until the start of World War I, explains Alexander Reford. I reckon when the violin plays again this summer it will be at least 100 years since it was played, maybe even 110 years.

Elsie definitely had a taste for music, it wasn’t just an education on her part, it was a real passion.states the coordinator of the museum department of the Jardins de Métis, Marjolaine Sylvestre.

The music, it gave him that kind of mental structure, his rigor, adds Alexander Reford. That rigor then gave her the discipline necessary to found the Reford Gardens she is known for today, her great-grandson believes.

A woman sits on a bench surrounded by flowers.

Elsie Reford, circa 1940Photo: Courtesy of Reford Gardens/Robert W. Reford (Friends of Reford Gardens Collection)

But the violin, which was part of Elsie Reford’s daily life during her younger years, existed long before her. Several clues suggest that it was designed more than 300 years ago.

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