California violin maker's family donates 10 violins to Palestine

June 14, 2013 at 11:12 AM
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SACRAMENTO, June 14 (UPI) -- The family of a Palestinian doctor who made violins on the side after immigrating to the United States has donated 10 of them for use by Palestinian children.

The family of Dr. Maurice Hanna Bisharat, who died in 1998, found the violins while going through the home of their late mother, Mary Bisharat, and donated them to the non-profit Al Kamandjati Association, The Sacramento Bee reported Friday.

"It's really a lovely exclamation point to his career and his life," a nephew, Charlie Bisharat, said. "It's a poignant completion of the circle from where he came from to where his violins will end up."

Charlie Bisharat is a studio violinist who has taught children to play at the Edward Saed Conservatory of Music in Ramallah in the West Bank, where some of the instruments will wind up, the newspaper said.

"They have very limited resources, and the music students were very attentive, a huge contrast from what I'm used to here," said Bisharat, the only member of the family to play his uncle's violins. "Music takes them off the streets so they can be a part of something beautiful."

Keith Bisharat, a professor at California State University, Sacramento, said the violins were in a special cabinet his father built, the newspaper reported.

"He played the piano a little, but he really loved the violin. He couldn't play it very well, because his fingers were very broad," his son said.

"Using beautiful little tools he carved himself, he made 15 violins from 1977 to 1979. He completed his 26th just before he died. He even invented a shoulder balance to make violin playing easier."

Longtime violin maker Cheryl Macomber of Sacramento said Bisharat "did a good job; they are playable."

"He definitely put his heart into what he was doing and used the proper woods -- maple on the back and sides, spruce on the top, which allows for proper vibrations and tone," Macomber said.

Maurice Bisharat was a Renaissance man. Besides his medical degree, he became an award-winning watercolorist, wrote poetry, studied psychiatry, grew olives and walnut trees he carved into gunstocks, and made fly-fishing lures, his son said.

"He went through a phase where he was inspired by Ishi, the last of the Yahi, and made bows and arrows out of deer antlers, turkey feathers, flint and obsidian, and tied weeds around his head so he could hunt animals like the first Americans," Keith Bisharat said. "He was also a philosopher who liked to say, 'When you are a mouse, everyone around you looks like a cat.'"

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