By BETHANY ROGERS
Jewellery magnate Sir Michael Hill’s first violin concert in almost a quarter of a century’s a sell-out.
Hill, his grandson Jacob, professional pianist Kinga Krupa and soprano Tamaki Iida will play two concerts next week in aid of the Wakatipu Community Foundation’s Greatest Needs Fund.
All the money raised will go to the fund, which is helping families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’ll be the first time Michael Hill has played a concert in “about 24 years”.
His last public performance, at the Gibbston Valley Winery cave, spawned the idea for the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, which has helped dozens of young musicians further their careers.
In this week’s concerts, 81-year-old Michael Hill will perform alongside his 12-year-old grandson, Jacob Jacques.
Jacob was on the brink of giving up the violin, which he’s played since he was three, until Krupa suggested the pair play a piece by Vivaldi together.
“For young people today, there’s so much opportunity to do other things.
“The last thing on the list, probably, is playing violin, especially when there’s no one else playing,” Hill says.
“But Kinga comes along, and I don’t know how she did it, but she got Jacob playing again and he loves it.”
Hill admits he’d become slack at practising the violin, too, until lockdown prevented him from travelling and brought his attention back to music.
The opportunity to tackle some difficult violin pieces with Jacob – who’s proving to be a talented musician – has been very special for Hill, who’s been passionate about music since he was Jacob’s age.
“I was never very good at school.
“I was bullied … I hated school and I wanted to get out of it.
“I didn’t show much aptitude for anything except art and music.
“So, I started playing violin at he age of 11 and later I left school to become a violinist … which was very unusual in Whangarei, I can tell you.
“Eighteen months later, I entered the Herald violin competition.
“I came fourth and my parents and my uncle said that this wasn’t good enough and I needed to get a proper job.”
Hill joined his uncle’s watchmaking business but after breaking a lot of watches he was sent to work with his dad in sales instead.
He stayed there for 23 years until, in the late ’70s, his home burned down.
“It’s that old story; the home burned down and I lost everything and that’s what started me off with my own jewellery business … but music was always with me.
“It was the thing that I could always fall back on.
“I had an Italian violin and as the house was burning I rushed in and got my violin.
“That was all we had – the violin and the clothes we stood up in.”
Today, Hill plays on a 1755 Guadagnini violin, known as ‘The Southern Star’.
He describes it as “one of those rare finds, with a big sound”.
“The funny thing about it, is that it takes a while to warm up.
“It’s a bit like a Ferrari.
“When you’re warming it up, it’s quite tricky to manoeuvre.
“It’s so sensitive it exaggerates not only your good and sensitive feelings, but also your bad feelings.”
He’s also set himself the challenge of playing Bach’s cello suites on the viola – an instrument he describes as ”a bit of a mouthful to hold” compared to his violin.
The two concerts will also include music by Liszt, Massenet, Faure and Debussy.
Hill says in challenging times, playing and listening to music together is “incredibly important”.
“All communities are better if they’re enriched with a deep understanding of music, and it’s something the human race has always had.
“If people are in sync and have music as a development, it stimulates the brain, it causes much more happiness and contentment.”
Michael Hill Returns, Lodge at The Hills, Thursday, September 24 and Thomas Brown Gallery, Sunday, September 27. Both concerts have sold out