I’m not musically gifted. As a child, I took piano lessons under duress for years, rarely practiced, and never progressed very far. I refused to participate in recitals. As a young adult, I took some lessons in an attempt to uncover previously hidden talent, but it didn’t work out that way. I did manage to tackle a few pieces in the Royal Conservatory’s Grade 7 book—but only a few. I’ve written about this elsewhere:
“My most impressive musical accomplishment is Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C; except for the part toward the end of the second movement where a bunch of flats insinuate themselves into the music line and trick me every time, I think it sounds pretty good. Most of my repertoire is at a much more elementary level, so I like to keep the book open to that page. That way, if anyone passing by the piano notices all those dense black notes, gasps, and says “You can play that?” I can leap right in and play a few bars. It’s a sham. I consider it more fanciful than dishonest.”
As I enter my elder years (okay, I know I’m a bit past the entrance..), I’ve decided I need something to challenge my sometimes sluggish brain. I could try playing the piano more often—say, once a month instead of once a year. I could hunker down and finally master Spanish—another one of my half-baked enthusiasms that stalled somewhere near the “barely adequate” point. But I’ve been thinking about the violin.
My mom played the violin in her high school orchestra. I only know this because there was a violin in our attic when I was growing up. I never heard her play it. My youngest son, given the choice between piano lessons and violin lessons at the age of eight, chose the violin. At first, we heard he had real potential. “A good ear,” they said at the conservatory. Maybe so, but his dedication rivaled my own. Minimal. That chapter in his life ended after a few years when we left his violin in the trunk of the car on a hot May day. When he arrived at his lesson, the instrument tumbled from the case in several pieces. I was the only one who was amused, and my chuckle stuck in my throat when I remembered that the violin didn’t belong to us. We had it repaired, returned it to the Conservatory, and to my knowledge he’s never picked one up since. The somewhat creaky strains of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in its multiple variations have stayed with me, though, as has the image of cats running for the door when he began to play.
Now they are running from me.
Two days ago a friend who plays and teaches strings indulged me with a brief lesson in how to hold the bow (awkwardly, it seems, with all the wrong fingers) and how to play the first few bars of Twinkle Twinkle (nothing new under the sun, I guess). She loaned me her back-up violin, and I’ve been practicing like crazy. The tune is still creaky, I keep fumbling with the bow, bumping it into the wrong string, and having to re-adjust my fingers. But the tune is recognizable and I’m feeling somewhat compulsive. Given my history, that probably won’t last when the going gets rough, but I’m going to give it a try.
So far, I can play six notes on two strings, and I’m feeling pretty chuffed! Fortunately for you, wordpress won’t let me post recordings unless I upgrade. Maybe when I move on to Mozart…