Historic violin lent by Oxford University to Syrian refugee

By Sean Coughlan
Education correspondent

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media captionSyrian refugee lent 19th century violin after being spotted playing in a Lebanon monastery

A 19th Century violin has been taken out of a collection of historic instruments held by Oxford University and sent to a young Syrian musician living as a refugee.

Aboud Kaplo, 14, was forced out of his home in Aleppo and is now living in Lebanon.

Film-maker Susie Attwood came across Aboud and saw his passion for music, but also his lack of an instrument.

Oxford University has now lent the teenager the restored violin.

The German-made violin is part of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, which has more than 2,000 examples of historic and modern instruments, tracing their development since the Middle Ages.

'Positive contribution'

They can be used by academics, students and researchers, but for the first time an instrument from the collection is going to be lent to a young aspiring refugee musician.

Curator Andy Lamb said that "the moment I read about this lad's situation" he thought the collection "could make some kind of positive contribution".

"I immediately had an instrument in mind. It belonged to a former curator, Dr Helene Larue, a very generous person, and I knew that if she had been confronted with this situation, she would have donated an instrument instantly."

image source, Amr Kokash
image captionThe 19th Century violin has a new life outside of the university collection

Oxford University found about Aboud from film-maker and former student of the music faculty Susie Attwood.

She had met Aboud and his family at a Syriac Orthodox monastery, where she was making a film about Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon, stuck in an "in-between existence", unable to find work or to provide an education for their children.

Aboud had a great interest in music and was trying to teach himself using YouTube videos and a "rattly" toy violin.

"Life is very difficult for Syrians living in Lebanon, but seeing how music provides such hope for someone like Aboud is very moving. I couldn't just let it go," said Attwood.

She contacted the university, and the Bate Collection immediately offered to help.

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"The violin is not rare or ancient enough to be regarded as a precious resource, but it's significantly better than a cheap modern factory instrument, and it's entirely the kind of instrument we would lend to a student here at Oxford," said collection curator Mr Lamb.

Aboud said he "cannot express by words how I feel - I'm so happy, so excited".

"Playing the violin helps me express my feelings. I want to go on to study music and play on a big stage and travel the world."

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