Yesterday was a multi-task day of juggling the errant website, laundry, working on today’s sermon, and trying to make headway on the article. Laundry was successful. By evening I was too tired to continue trying to think let alone write cohesively. So I went to bed instead of posting, and it felt great.
Today was the beginning of getting ready for Christmas music season. We had a two hour practice starting at 3. It went way over two hours. I got home about 6:30. In the past month I’ve played the violin three or four times for very short periods. Not really playing any specific music, but working on bowing, intonation, and finding those sweet spots that makes the violin resonate.
Last week I pulled out my three violins to determine which one I should loan to our granddaughter, Faith.
How is it that someone who’s only an amateur player, one who didn’t even start learning how to play the violin until age 37, has three violins?
First, this old beauty, the first violin I learned to play.
She was my mom’s violin from the time she was about 12. Her aunt handed it down to her (Anita) when she wanted to join the school orchestra. Her Aunt Maude had played it since she was in high school at the beginning of the 20th century. I do not know its history before then but the tag inside has the date of 1813 or 1818 – there’s a bit of rubbed out area on the inside of the final number.
(Faith is the 4th generation violin player spanning about 120 years.)
Around 2000, as the band I play in, Crooked Finger, was preforming more often, even getting paid, Ed felt I needed a better violin. Mom’s violin is nice enough, though slightly high voiced, but it doesn’t project well in a big space. At that time we knew the owner of a music store specializing in bluegrass / folk music instruments. After playing all the violins in our price range (definitely amateur prices!)
I settled on this one, which I named China. (very unoriginal!)
It was made in China in 1996 and I’m the first owner. It has a pleasant, and carrying voice. It’s a bit bigger, with wider fingerboard than the Amati shaped violin of Maude. It’s been a very good violin for me and I played it exclusively for about 4 years.
The marks on China’s finish makes me sad for I took very good care of it. But I loaned it to a young friend who was rapidly moving up in the ranks of the Salem Youth Philharmonic and needed a decent violin. She played China for over a year until she gained First Chair in the SYP and was loaned a quality violin from a patron.
Last but not least: Nellie.
A seminarian at Mt Angel Abbey stopped by the Abbey’s library circulation desk one morning when I was working there in 2005: would I be interested in buying his violin? He’d played all during high school and in the Chicago youth symphony. He loved it but hadn’t played it in over a year. He was at the place where he felt that he was leaving that part of his life behind, besides, he needed the money. He was asking a very fair price, and offered to loan it to me for a week so I could test it and get my violin teacher’s opinion. Having recently retired from a career in the Oregon Symphony she understood what a good violin sounds like. With her approval Nellie soon became my primary instrument. She’s the one that waits next to the wall in the beautiful upright violin box Ed made, easy for me to pick up and play at a moment’s notice.
A happy experience took place a few years after I’d bought Nellie: Crooked Finger was playing at the St Patrick’s dinner gig in Milwaukie (OR). We’d finished a piece when a person approached said “Hi, it’s great to see you playing my old violin!” I was surprised and delighted to see him. He was thrilled to know it was being played. We chatted a bit and I offered to sell it back to him if he missed playing the violin but he was content with his decision to sell it to me.
Each were played in turn as I tried to decide which to send with DD to take to Faith last week when they went to spend Thanksgiving with them. They each have merit, and while none of the violins are expensive violins they do have worth: sentimental, tonal and monetary.
Nellie was fitted with fine tuners for each string – a real bonus! But the pegs of both Maude and China hold very well, remarkably the strings often need no tuning adjustments between sessions – Maude especially so.
In the end I sent China to Faith. She’s already been loaned to one young player and has a few dings to show for it. I also have the feeling that Faith will like the looks of it. I’m endeared to China since Ed bought her for me, a fact that gives it more meaning to Faith who loves her grandpa.
– three violins that each hold special meaning
– ability to play them
– my granddaughter’s desire to play the violin