If it’s not ‘Baroque’………..

Allegro Optical musician Philip Sutcliffe Violas De Gamba wears musicians glasses

Don’t fix it

As we musicians, experience is something we grow in throughout our careers. With experience comes a broader sound and often a very individual musical persona.   However, as we gain experience so at some point seeing the music on the stand becomes an issue. It doesn’t matter what instrument you play. Eventually, for most of us seeing the music on the stand or the conductor will become a challenge. At Allegro Optical, the musician’s optician, we see many keyboard players, string players, percussionists, brass and woodwind players. We’ve even been consulted by the odd bagpiper. However, it is always a pleasure to be presented with something a little different. I have to admit I do have a bit of a penchant for medieval instruments. There is something about those Rebec’s, Dulcimers and Viols which really excites me. So it is little surprise that when I first met ‘Viola da Gamba’ player Philip Sutcliffe in early 2018 I was quite excited. 

What is a Viola de Gamba

The Viola da Gamba is a mid to late 15th-century instrument which was popular in the Renaissance and Baroque (1600–1750) periods. The Viola da Gamba or Viol for short, is played with a bow and is held on the lap or between the musician’s legs. It is a  stringed musical instrument with six strings, but unlike most modern bowed instruments it has frets. Violas da gamba come in seven sizes: the “pardessus de viole” (which is quite rare, exclusively French and didn’t exist before the 18th century). The treble (in French dessus), the alto, the tenor (in French taille), the bass, and two sizes of contrabass (also known as a violone). The smaller bass is tuned an octave below the tenor bass (violone in G, sometimes called great bass or in French grande basse) and the larger one tuned an octave below the bass (violone in D).

Keeping everything sharp

Philip, like most enthusiasts, has quite a collection of Violas da gamba and it was my pleasure to get to see some of them. Philip returned to Allegro Optical for his bi-annual appointment just before lockdown in March 2020. Optometrist Sara Ackroyd tested Philip’s vision and found it to be very stable, but Philip fancied a change and took advantage of his stable prescription and updated both his varifocals and his specialist musician’s glasses. Having an amblyopic prescription Philip copes quite well with the image size difference between his two eyes. Amblyopia is sometimes called “lazy eye,” it is a condition that occurs in children. It occurs when one eye has poorer vision than the other. However, Philip is more troubled by his advancing presbyopia than the amblyopia. With a reading addition of 2.25 seeing the music has become a challenge in later life. Music teacher Philip also plays the keyboards and often accompanies many local musical groups. These groups include; the Millhouse Green Male voice choir, All Souls’ Amateur Operatic Society, The Halifax Gilbert and Sullivan Society and the Huddersfield Gilbert and Sullivan Society Sara checked Philips vision at all his working distances. After an extensive examination she was able to prescribe a correction for all his working distances. Philip opted for Power addition lenses (PAL’s) or varifocals for his everyday wear. But for music-making, he opted for our Sessione lenses. These lenses provide an unrestricted field of vision, perfect for when working in a recording studio or orchestra pit.

All framed 

Philip chose two frames, for his PAL’s he chose the Jaguar 36808 and for his specialist musician’s glasses he chose the ever-popular round crystal frames Inspired by and designed in London, Hook LDN, a British company that specialises in creating high quality, style-led designs. When Philip collected his glasses a few weeks later he was delighted and treated us all to an impromptu recital. When we asked Philip how he liked his new glasses he said: “They’re great! They are so comfortable I hardly know I’ve got them on. And now I can see my music so clearly I’ve got no excuse for all the wrong notes I play!”

Why do musicians come to Allegro Optical?

As an independent family run business, we are gaining an international reputation. Both for professional excellence and an inventive approach to meeting customer needs. Now known internationally as the ‘Musician’s Opticians’ we are attracting many clients from across Europe and further afield. Our groundbreaking work with performers, players and conductors have resulted in Allegro Optical becoming the first and only opticians to gain registration with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM). We treat each client as an individual because they are. It is true that no two musicians are the same, so why should their vision correction be? We enjoy creating unique lenses to meet a musician’s particular needs. As musicians ourselves we can ask the right questions and interpret the answers accordingly.

Award-winning eye-care

We’ve been pretty successful in helping performers to #SeeTheMusic. In fact, in the last twelve months alone we have scooped no less than five national and regional awards for our work in this field. These awards include the National ‘Best New Arts & Entertainment Business of the Year at a gala event in London. Managing Director Sheryl Doe was awarded the 2019 Dispensing Optician of the Year and she was a finalist in the AOP Dispensing Optician of the year 2020. She has also reached the finals of the  National Business Women’s Awards, for the Business Owner of the Year category.  Allegro Optical’s cutting edge approach to dispensing and their musical experience has led to the team being shortlisted for the prestigious Opticians Awards, Optical Assistant team of the year 2020 During March 2019, Allegro Optical was awarded the Scale-Up Business of the Year, at the regional finals of the Federation of Small Business awards in York. They then went on to receive the FSB Chairman’s award at the national finals in May. Finally winning the FBU Yorkshire family business of the year. Allegro Optical has been featured in many national publications including The Times, 4BarsRest, The British Bandsman and Music Teacher Magazine. If you are a musician who is struggling with their vision and making music no longer the enjoyable experience it once was, give us a call at either Greenfield on 01457 353100 or Meltham on 01484 907090.

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