Mark O'Connor's Prized Violin Damaged in Backstage Accident

Tuesday, April 08, 2014 - 05:46 PM

Can his fiddle be fixed? It's too early to tell, but at least one virtuoso violinist is hoping so.

Mark O'Connor said he dropped his fiddle as he was getting ready to go on stage Monday night in Sioux Falls, SD, causing several major cracks in its body.

"I had my hands over my eyes in horror as I saw this violin being silenced right in front of me," he said on Tuesday. "It was a major split across the top. Then the side was also cracked open. Then there was a second split in the top. It was hard to look at."

The violin was custom-made for O'Connor in 2002 by John Cooper, a Portland, ME luthier. O'Connor says he will take the instrument back to Cooper, who is cautiously optimistic about a repair. The fiddler wrote about it on Facebook on Tuesday.

O'Connor admits that, even with a repair, he worries the instrument will lose its special qualities. "I need that little edge on stage, I need that little edge in the studio, both if it’s real and perceived," he said. "You have to feel it’s working for you."

The accident occurred as O'Connor, 52, was preparing to play his Improvised Violin Concerto with the Augustana Orchestra, as part of the Sioux Falls Jazz & Blues Festival. A small microphone was attached the violin and the cord was in turn connected to O'Connor. As he turned around suddenly, the fiddle was yanked off the counter on which it had been placed, falling to the ground.

The multiple-Grammy winning O'Connor says he'll now play on his back-up instrument, an 1830's Vuillaume violin, until a prognosis is provided for the Cooper.

While the instrument itself is insured, O'Connor says the potential loss is psychological. "I’d played my whole heart and soul into it over the years and recorded it and had so many big moments with it," he said. "The real value is your feeling towards it and your time spent with it."

Listen to the full interview above.

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