One thing everybody agrees on the Violoncello da Spalla is that it is a small, portable cello.
Walking in a parade, or accompanying a square dance, or hanging from a hip of the horse of a travelling musician, this is how a Violoncello da Spalla spent his life, as clearly shown from the worn signs on the back of the Wagner, the original instrument preserved in Lübeck.
In today's world, we may want to protect it a bit more, so we need a case.
This article is not an exhaustive list of all that’s available in the market of cases for Violoncello da Spalla, but just a few suggestions following my direct experience.
The prices I quote here are indicative as each option involves shipping, customs duties, currencies exchanges... it’s simply how much they cost me to have them delivered in Italy.
130€: Gewa padded gig bag 1/8 cello plus Artino bow case
The first thing I bought to carry around our first instrument was this:
It is well padded, a bit big (but with a couple of stripes of padding more, it will be just perfect), has tons of pockets, and two comfortable straps.
The bow pocket is too short for us (and not padded enough), so I also bought this:
Perfect for our bow’s length. It will not fit a violin bow.
On our first trip, this was my outfit. I was more than convinced it would be enough, and I didn't want to spend more. Until lunchtime, when in a small and packed restaurant, I had to cross all those tables and groups of noisy people and leave my husband’s work of art in a corner on the ground. That I always do with my violin, but it has a hard case!! I was frightened that someone would bump on the bridge or stumble on it. So I said to Alessandro: ok, you were right. It’s not enough. I will spend some more money.
It remains a good and cheap alternative to keep your instrument at home.
560€: Crescendo carbon fibre 1/8 cello case
Following the suggestion of Mark Wickersham on Facebook, I ordered this:
You may notice that in the shop there is also a shiny red one at half the price. They will probably tell you the red one is not there anymore and you will have to buy the blue one, as they did with me twice in more than one year time.
This shop is in Canada, and it seems to have Chinese managers.
If you are in Europe, you can’t order directly. You have to ask for a quotation first. I need to thank also my friend Tim McCluskey who phoned them to ask them to answer my emails because in one month nobody responded to my several emails. But when they did, everything went smooth. Except that they didn't write my vat number on the invoice so that I couldn’t claim the custom duties back. They told me there is no field for the vat number in their invoices... But don't mistake me, they are very kind: on my second purchase the lady was coming to Germany on a business trip, and she carried my case personally in her flight to make me save money on the shipping and customs.
I am pleased with this case: it is robust, has a lovely colour, many handles, comfortable straps. One thing they could do better is adding some space to store accessories on the bottom of the cello, on the sides of what is meant to be the place for the endpin. It has only one small pocket where you can just keep your rosin and the frog of your bow, but no strings or pencil. The only thing that troubles me a bit is the bow handle: it is only a velcro strap, and often it goes off (because our bow is longer than expected for a 1/8 case), so you need to be careful opening it to avoid the bow falling on your instrument. One thing that I don’t like is that it has wheels: it makes it unstable when you're placing it standing somewhere. I love that it stands, so it is very practical to keep close to your seat during rehearsal, to change instrument rapidly. It has a big elastic strap on top where you can hang the cello from the scroll, so it is very safe even standing in the open case.
I once felt embarrassed because a hotel manager, seeing me with what is clearly a children cello case, was winking behind me, expecting to see a young cellist clinging from my skirt. When I told him I was alone, the winking look turned something between horrified and enquiring: what did I do to the young cellist?
So I decided I needed something to make clear that was not a children cello, and I created the stickers you see in the picture:
You can find them here, together with other cool gadgets:
650€: Japanese custom-designed wooden case
This is a professional case specially designed for Violoncello da Spalla. It matches Japanese quality at a reasonable price and has a good choice of colours. It's also light (in the range of wooden cases). If you are on that side of the world, the price should be not only reasonable but a real deal. It fits the Badiarov small model perfectly, plus two bows.
They usually have a waiting period of around six weeks for delivery.
This case was made under the guidance of the luthier Takumi Takakura, and it is widely used in Japan.
He also had a demonstration of the protection given to the instrument in extreme conditions: under his eyes, they launched from a terrace ten-meter high a case with a guitar inside. The guitar survived perfectly.
To order one, you are welcome to get in touch with Takumi at firstname.lastname@example.org
870€: Kingham case
This is a luxury case. It’s made in the UK, on order and following a template with your instruments' measures. They already have the Badiarov models' measures, so you don't need to send templates for that. They are not charging more for a custom model, as they make them one by one anyway. They usually have a delivery time of one month, and they offer two models, the one you see in my pictures is more expensive.
They also have a choice of colours and materials (alert: the true velvet inside will cost you 20% more!).
I bought this case for a customer: he was delighted to have such a personalised service, and the case delivered so fast. It fits the instrument perfectly and has two bows handles.
It is not very light, but it is for sure good protection, and it shows great attention to details. Despite the price, it is a real treat! You can contact Kingham cases through this page: http://kingham.merion.co.uk/
Note: the links in this article are not affiliate links. I don't take any money for advertising products.
News from da Spalla world
Väsen-Duo, Olov Johansson and Mikael Marin in live-streamed concert, on Väsen's Facebook Page on March 20 at 20:00 Swedish time. This time they will focus on the fiddle wizard known as Viksta-Lasse. Nyckelharpas, Violoncello da Spalla and low pitched electric viola!
Updates from our workshop
This week Alessandro worked in his orchestra every day, and when at home is doing the set up of his violin in white.
He is also varnishing the Wagner. He is the oil-varnish guy, I am the spirit-varnish lady, so up to now, it happened that I varnished his cellos and he is varnishing mine 😝. I am exercising with a new rigger brush (Escoda Versatil 2) because this instrument will have painted purflings (below pics of the original). And to someone who never took a brush in her hands before, painting a purfling feels quite intimidating!
Featured video of the week
In this video, Sergey Malov explains what intrigued him when playing Bach's suites on the da Spalla. Don't miss the one in which he plays the 6th Suite! It will probably be suggested at the end of this one.