Cellist has a string to his bow – a cello in a box

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Bill Simmons and Ruth Hall.

Boston oceanographer Bill Simmons is in New Zealand on a musical odyssey – and has a cello in a box.

Mr Simmons and wife Evelyn McFadden, a violinist, called at the Ashburton music farm (At Violinos) of Ruth Hall and with Christchurch violinist Robert Tait, started jamming.

Mr Simmons brought out his Travielo, a portable cello invented by the late Ernest Nussbaum, of Maryland.

The cello-in-a-box was invented to avoid the problems of carrying such large instruments, with top-line cellists paying first class fares to ensure their beloved instruments arrive safely.

That is an expensive exercise – hence the Travielo.

“I bought this and have taken it all over the world. They are still selling these as he (Mr Nussbaum) had an understudy.”

Mr Simmons, with a guidance of a jazz bassist, has had a brass pick-up fitted, improving the sound, broadcast through an amplifier.

“It really sounds like a cello. It is designed to come apart and it all fits in a box,” Mr Simmons said.

Protecting valuable instruments is important – as the couple discovered in Boston.

They had been to Hawaii and both thought the other had brought a violin case in out of a taxi.

In truth, neither had.

Evelyn said at first she was just going to report it missing, then decided to try everything to get it back and she started “camping” outside the airport taxi stand.

A woman eventually came forward, saying she had found it under a bench and had put it in front of a fire – not recommended for a instrument made of wood.

“But it was all right,” she said.

The couple heard about At Violinos after meeting a musical friend in Auckland and came south.

The visiting couple joined a tour of the music farm and even played some of the rare instruments on display.