The Flute Maker And The Cittern

As always, I was very pleased to receive a call from Martin Doyle via Skype this morning. The distance between Martin in Ireland and myself in New Zealand is very close to 12,000 miles. Skype allows us the illusion that we are sitting across the kitchen table from each other and so we chat regularly and sometimes play music to each other. Today our conversation went something like this:

“Good morning Martin.”

“Good evening Shardul – just a minute…”

… Martin disappears briefly and reappears with an instrument that I at first thought was a bouzouki …

Nikos Apollonio

Luthier and boat builder Nikos Apollonio with one of his bell citterns.

“No, it’s a cittern. Just got it. The maker, Nikos Apollonio, who is from Maine, dropped it off himself this morning and I haven’t been able to put it down since!”

Martin proceeded to play some lovely tunes on his brand spanking new cittern – a beautifully made ten string instrument with a spruce sound board, walnut body and rosewood fretboard. It looked stunning and sounded amazing! Martin commented on its quality and simplicity.

Over the years I have watched and listened to Martin sing, play whistle, Irish flute, baroque flute, concert flute, banjo, mandolin and bouzouki – now the cittern. In my opinion, he is a very good musician who plays music from his heart and soul with a real love for quality of sound.

“What attracted you to the cittern”, asks I.

“Always liked it!” says he, strumming away. “But I ordered one from Nikos after seeing a YouTube clip of a young lass playing one of his instruments. It’s a really beautiful piece of music that she composed herself – see if you can find it.”

So I did and here it is:
‘Sumurun’ played by Helen Marshall on a Nikos Apollonio bell cittern.

Nice huh…?

As with many compositions, we find that there are some interesting stories behind Helen’s lovely piece of music. Have a look at the description below Helen’s video clip on YouTube – that’s where you will find the rest of the story.

Martin and I finished our conversation in this fashion:

Martin: “Oh, gotta go – Ronan Browne just came online – I’d better play this instrument for him too… then I’m off to a session…”

Anyways, Martin Doyle has a cittern and for that fact alone, the world is a better place. 😉

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6 thoughts on “The Flute Maker And The Cittern

    1. orphannomore

      Thanks for the pictures and the story. Helen’s tune is so beautiful and the letter from Helen is saying all the emotions I feel when I play your instruments. You make us all better musicians when we hold and play an instrument that you have built full of heart and soul.

    2. Admin Post author

      Nice to hear from you Nikos. Looks like you have quite a few satisfied customers out there – well done!

      1. Nick Apollonio

        I read you are in NZ…. do you happen to know Davy Stuart? I wrote to him soon after the ‘quake and he’s OK but had some damage. I don’t know where you are located but hope it didn’t affect you.
        Cheers, N.

        1. Admin Post author

          I do not know Davy Stuart personally, but I do know of him – he has a good reputation as a luthier. I was moving between Christchurch and Auckland over the last four years but always seemed to be in Auckland for the worst of the earthquakes in Christchurch. I am now living in Nelson. Christchurch is a very different place now to what it was four years ago but the people there have an indomitable spirit.


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