William Gilkes son of Samuel, was born in Westminster, London in 1811. He died in 1875, having worked and lived in Wandsworth, South London. He, as you can see from this photograph, made copies of great Italian makers like Paulo Maggini, which this particular bass is modelled after. Like most of the English 19th. century school of makers, Gilkes instruments work. In many respects, I think English double-basses are the best buys that an orchestral player can buy. The trouble with some of the great Italian masters is that some of their instruments have such a distinct sound that they can stand out like sore thumbs. Great for solo playing or even chamber music, when only one or two basses are needed, but to stand out in an orchestral section can sometimes be working against a player as apposed to working for the section. At the end of the day, a bass section is just that, a section. One does not really want to hear only one three and eight player, one want to hear the whole section. To me, that is the great talent that the English sound has, it blends well. A big warm sound that will only enhance the cellos, viola and violins. The bass is after all, the bass of the orchestra, it props up the whole orchestra, so what is needed is a sound that will cut through without standing out. English basses, such as Gilkes, Lott, Kennedy and Fendt. Great makers one and all, and all copying the great tradition that was started in the Italian school of makers. So what makes a good bass ? Is it the shape, maybe ? Is it the wood, maybe ? Is it this or is it that ? The truth is probably encompassing all of the above and more ? I have a theory. My theory is that, what made England great ? The ships called the wooden walls of England. And what made the wooden walls of England ? The wood that came from forests that stretched from the south of England to the far north. A forest that had taken thousands of years to grow. Think of Englands weather, not cold, not hot, not dry, but plenty of rain and sun. The right combination for growing really fine trees. And history has shown in many ways that England had the best trees in Europe. Cut these trees, store the wood and what have you got ? Great instruments from great makers.
Dear Bernie Cash. A great friend who I miss so very much. Bernie was a fine old school player, one who had the fine ability to cross from classical to jazz at the drop of a hat, or a telephone call from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra or his friend and mine Peter Ind at the "Bass Clef". Sadly for all of us, Bernie died very suddenly some years ago while on tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Germany. Bernie had several very good instruments including the above William Gilkes which he bought some years ago from us. He also bought a Louis Lawendahl double-bass from Gallery Strings. A very early Dresdon Lawendahl of c1780. He also owned one of the best examples of John Lott double-basses that I have ever seen, sadly not bought from us. He was a prince among us and will be remembered by one and all who new him.