It hasn’t made a sound in years, but soon a very special instrument will find its second life.
Back in March, we previewed the sale of an “attic Strad,” the term given to old violins that have been hidden away in an attic or closet. The instrument was donated to St. Jude Thrift Shop, 800 Glenview Ave., by Sister Angelyn Dries, a member of the Order of St. Francis. A note accompanying the donation explained that the violin originally belonged to Dries’ aunt, Esther Dries Opgenorth who was born in 1906.
Opgenorth’s younger brother Jerome, Dries’ father, played the flute, which he kept well into the 1970s, Dries wrote in the letter.
“These instruments were most probably ones they had in their home when they were growing up, rather than something they first learned in high school as part of a band or orchestra," the letter states. "Coming from a German heritage … which has a love of music, I’m sure that music was in the home."
The words, “In the manner of Stradivarius,” are imprinted inside the body of the violin, which appears to be handmade.
The thrift shop had a musician assess the instrument, and confirmed that a few repairs would be needed to bring it back into working condition.
The violin is now in the hands of another music lover, Ben Tarrence, a junior at Wauwatosa East High School. The Tarrences heard about the sale, and Ben’s mother Heather was first in line on March 22 when it was placed for sale.
“My mom got to St. Jude Thrift Shop as soon as it opened while I was at school and decided to buy it,” Ben explains. “We weren’t sure what it was going to look like,” so Ben told his mom to use her best judgment as to whether he’d like it. He told her that if she thought it was unique, that he would probably like it.
Getting home that night, Ben got his first look at the instrument.
“I was really excited to see it and as soon as I saw it, I thought that this is definitely an instrument that I want to play in the future,” Ben said. “I really thought that it was an amazing instrument when I saw it.”
Ben, who was been playing violin since fourth grade, plays both classical and Irish-style music. He is a member of the fiddle ensemble at East, and is in the school’s orchestra. He also plays mandolin.
Some work is needed to bring the instrument back to playing condition, including needing new bow strings. Once the violin is up and running, Ben will decide what style of music he will use it for.
“I’m very excited for when I can get my hands on it and play it,” he said.
“We feel it’s found a very good home,” said St. Jude Thrift Shop volunteer Kay Tierney. Once refurbished, “(Ben) is going to give it a new life.”