Contrabass Serpent in CC by Christopher Monk “George”

The original “Anaconda” contrabass serpent was crafted by Joseph and Richard Wood in England in 1840. This 16-foot-long instrument, in the key of C, currently resides in the collection of the University of Edinburgh. Christopher Monk (1921-1991) created his magnum opus, commissioned by Phil Palmer (1935-1996) for the serpent festival in 1990, which turned out to be Monk’s final instrument before his passing. Monk nicknamed this instrument George because he finished it on St. George’s Day (April 23, 1990)

Rather than replicating the original, Monk opted to enlarge his Baudouin measurements by doubling the size to contrabass dimensions. Crafted from Sycamore wood and wrapped in calfskin leather, it features six brass keys that remain open until the lever is activated, covering the hole and allowing pitch changes. The mouthpiece is fitted into a two-piece brass bocal, and all brasswork was completed by the late Frank Tomes. Two Monk contrabass serpents were made; George was the first, followed by a second crafted by the Monk Workshop. A custom Kingham case was made for this instrument and it needs a van to be transported and two people to be transported, this is the scale of this magnificent instrument.