Behind the wall lies small happiness

How are the musicians of Embrace Netherlands doing? What do they do in their free time and how do they cope with corona? Severiano Paoli plays double bass and greatly misses playing on stage. Still, the Italian born is not sitting still. “It feels good to sell things I like.” A story about a representative in rosin and bows.

Severiano explains quietly. We drink tea on his small balcony. Resin is extracted from pine trees, he says. Heating the product leaves a hard form called rosin. With this, among other things, the hairs of a bow are rubbed; so that there is friction between stick and instrument. So that sounds are created. This kind is also called violin resin for understandable reasons. “Among other things, we add beeswax,” Severiano Paoli says. “But I won’t say what other ingredients we add.” The blacksmith’s secret.”

He knows a lot about it. It should be because he is the European representative of Australian resin producer Leatherwood. As an agent, he delivers resin to musicians throughout Europe. From his home in Groningen, on the third floor of a townhouse – in a cozy student neighborhood – he talks passionately about the resin.

,,Every musician has personalized resin. Some like hard, others like a soft kind. It’s a matter of mixing and melting. It’s about adding just the right amounts of ingredients,” Severiano says. “Sometimes it fails ten times before you get your desired resin type.” The final choice is also determined by geographical origin; a musician from generally dry Scandinavia may use a slightly softer resin than someone from Spain or Portugal. Where it is much warmer and therefore more humid.

His clients are all over Europe, playing for the NNO in Groningen or world-renowned symphony orchestras, such as the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Leatherwood’s resin supplier was in Paris, Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon for its work. But not for a while now, of course. Sales are now done purely online, meetings with his colleagues in Australia are conducted via Zoom or Skype. ,,We usually meet at night, at about one o’clock. Then it’s nine in the morning in Australia.”

Severiano also keeps a musical instrument shop running. He mostly sells bows. Modern and classic bows, as the English name goes. His clientele includes students, professionals and full companies. He offers his wares on facebook. You can rent or buy the bows, as long as you make an appointment first. Today on facebook he praises an H.R. Pfretschner; a bow of German manufacture. This is what Severiano writes under the photo of the “wonderful Germna bow”: “A big noble sound full of overtones, with a firm yet not gritty hold of the string, clear articulations and lots of power. Severiano hits the true nerd string with: “It has a pernambuco stick, a silver mounted ebony frog and an ebony button, for a total weight of 140 grams.

Pork fat
A Severiano Paoli bow costs between one thousand and five thousand euros. They are made of precious woods and crafted by skilled bowmakers. A week ago Severiano got one back after lending the bow to a customer. To try. The bristles of the bow felt strange. Very rough and in places even completely hardened. “The man had smeared them with pig grease. Pig grease!” The annoyance was not played. A decade of Groningen sobriety has not been able to dispel Italian passion. Still prefer pizza to an egg ball. Severiano shakes his head: “It took me more than an hour to clean the hair.”

He misses Embrace. He misses playing in a room with an audience in it. ,,Embrace is normally an important part of my musical life. The mostly small, intimate setting in which we play is extraordinary. When you perform in front of three thousand people, you are the boss. If you play for one person, and that person is also very sick or even dying, then you are not in charge. In such a moment, you are aware of your vulnerability. You feel almost naked and that’s pretty exciting. At such times, on the contrary, you have to make music with extra conviction. You have to convince yourself to break through the wall.”

He first experienced this wall when his grandfather became demented. In the end, communicating with his grandfather was almost impossible. Sometimes Severiano succeeds. Then he breaks through the wall and makes contact with the person opposite him. A blissful feeling. When you can reach someone with whom you no longer expect it, it feels really good. Only then am I a really good musician.” He grabs his cup of tea and takes a sip. In the corner of the room lies a bow. “How do you think of it,” he says. “Pig fat!”

Practical Expertise Center Embrace Netherlands

Embrace Netherlands develops innovative music programs and training with the goal of giving vulnerable people a better life. We perform our music programs together with professional and amateur musicians, family caregivers, care workers and students. Our professional musicians took the master module “Music and Healthcare” at the Prince Claus Conservatory of Music. Embrace designs special programs. Want to know more? Email us: