Andrew Bellis - bowmaker and violin repairer

Andrew Bellis is Dorset's longest established violin repairer and bow maker. Andrew is based on the border between Bournemouth and Poole. He is also a well known local viola player.

Newsletter (Oct 2009 - Feb 2010)

Bournemouth Youth Orchestra 1977 – 2009

As the orchestra has ceased to exist (it did not meet as itself from September 2009), and I was one of the founding members, I thought it timely to put down some reminiscences about just how succesful it was.  Most of this is purely from my memories; somewhere I have concert programmes, and of course any corrections would be welcome.

The Bournemouth Youth Orchestra was founded by Geoffrey Otter and Carol Bacon-Harty in 1977.

Geoff (b.1934) taught percussion for Dorset schools and lived in Littledown Drive, Queen’s Park, Bournemouth.  He also conducted for the Salvation Army and owned a fish and chip shop in Ashley Road, Boscombe (next to my father’s typewriter shop).  Geoff died in 1997 and has a memorial stone in St Mark’s graveyard, Talbot Village, Wallisdown.  Geoff became the orchestra’s conductor and Carol took care of the organisation.

Both were involved with the Dorset Youth Orchestra in the mid-1970’s.  Perhaps they noticed how many players in that orchestra came from the Bournemouth conurbation.

Many of the players in that first concert in the autumn of 1977 also played in the student orchestra ‘Gli Amici Della Musica’ in school holidays (also now sadly defunct since about 2002).  ‘Gli Amici’ was remarkable in that it was run entirely by students, had no ‘professional’ input whatsoever and tackled ‘real’ music – Franck, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Beethoven, a world away from school orchestra ‘tat’.

Geoffrey Otter continued to conduct the BYO until about 1985.  Because it was reasonably central for most players the BYO settled at King’s Park School, Boscombe for weekly rehearsals one weekday evening.  Concerts were given there (informally) and in local churches.  It replaced the Central Schools Orchestra but there had been a gap of about ten years since that had dwindled away (before my time, though I played in the remnant of it that accompanied the Bournemouth School’s Carol Concert in the Winter Gardens in the 1970’s, conducted by John Staff); the BYO also replaced Mr. Bellinger’s string orchestras that had met at King’s Park, only ending with his retirement.  The St.Alban’s Youth Orchestra (meeting and performing at St. Alban’s Church Charminster) conducted and organised by Evelyne Pearson continued but was a thorn in the side of the BYO.  A few players also belonged to the Wessex Youth Orchestra (which met Saturday mornings, organised and conducted by Don Riddell) but found it politically difficult to be in both.

There were two tours to the fringe of the Edinburgh Festival ?1980 and ?1982.  This was part of a youth orchestra scheme (?National Federation of Youth Orchestras) that Carol exploited, giving an orchestra a performing ‘slot’ in the Festival.  Concerts were also given on the journey with the 1980 stop being York University with a concert on the campus, and 1982 in York Minster (Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, the BYO being joined by another youth orchestra).

In 1982/3/4 the players were so good and enthusiastic that I organised a spin-off called the Bournemouth Youth Chamber Orchestra.  Concerts were given in Beaminster Village Hall and various National Trust properties.

Tht tour to Berlin in 1984 by double decker coach was the first foreign tour – before the wall came down.  Catherine Walsh played the Bruch violin concerto having won the concerto competition.

While I was involved with the orchestra there were two guest conductors, Owain Arwel Hughes and Sir Charles Groves, the latter for just a rehearsal.

After Geoff ceased conducting the BYO the orchestra appointed the BSO oboeist Andrew Knights as chief conductor; by that time I had (quite rightly, age-wise!) left it.  A few players at that time also left but to go to the NYO.

Carol established a concerto competition quite early on, for strings/woodwind alternating every other year, the piece stipulated.  The first won by a cellist, in about 1980, then clarinet, then violin that I remember.

The Bournemouth Youth Orchestra was merged with the Bournemouth University Orchestra in September 2009 due to lack of numbers, and thus passed away.  It had a lifespan of thirty-two years and encouraged a large number of excellent players right from the start.  What’s wrong with the education system that it can’t survive?

Many apologies if I have left anybody out – please email me – and also if you have any corrections.  My memory isn’t too bad but this is all over thirty years ago!


Fake Bows. As I mention on the home page, last year (2011) and early this year I have seen one fake Arthur Bultitude bow and heard about two others. How easy it is for someone with no scruples to seek to 'imitate' the work of a dead man. The new market created by the internet must take some of the blame. In the case of Mr. Bultitude, since I know his work so well, I easily spot the fakes. Other perhaps better fakes and from bow makers with whom I am not so familiar might pass me by. Often, in order not to arouse suspicion, the fakes are no cheaper than the real thing. Please be on your guard if you are considering purchasing anything which has a 'famous' name attached to it.