Shem Mackey has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) Award for Excellence in British craftsmanship. The postgraduate programme leader in Making Stringed Musical Instruments at West Dean College receives the award for his research into the 1683 Michel Colichon viola da gamba and for inspiring the next generation of instrument makers.
‘I feel very honoured and humbled,’ said Mackey. ‘I strongly believe in the value of research into original work, particularly where there has been a break in the tradition. Through observation we have the opportunity of apprenticeship to the great makers of the past…and as artisans we have a responsibility to pass on the skills to the next generation. It is a natural part of the job.’
Mackey’s research has shed great light on an instrument considered to be the prototype seven-string viol and the inspiration for the French Baroque music of St Colombe and Marin Marais.
West Dean College in Chichester, UK offers the only full-time programme in the world that teaches the making of viola da gamba. Students complete two to three instrument-making projects a year, focusing on bowed instruments from the viola da gamba and violin families.