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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Freaky Cello

I love the cello. 

In the past, I was more of a violin person. When I was in fourth grade, my parents borrowed my Aunt Betty Jo's violin for me to play. I stuck with the horrendous collection of squeaks and moans clear up until seventh grade.

At that time I was informed that if I got any better, I'd get to play in church. That put the squelch on it. There was no way I was going to inflict my brand of aural torture on others in public, although they wouldn't have slept in church after that. Ever. They'd have had to call in a medical team to fix all the broken eardrums.

No. I couldn't stand to hear myself play the violin in private, let alone publicly. So I took up guitar, knowing I'd never be forced to play in church. I lugged that guitar all over the place, including up to Alaska to gut salmon, and to three colleges and a university. It was my solace and my baby, right up until I broke the bridge on it. Now it languishes in neglected, dusty splendor above my bookcase.

I have moved on yet again. Now I play tin whistle (or penny whistle), bodhran (Irish drum) and a tiny smattering of piano,all by ear. 

The thing about the tin whistle is that it's sort of the red-headed stepchild around here. You can't play it in the car or small crowded rooms very well, as you gather all kinds of pained stares, even if you do a great job on the song. That and sharp braking tends to shove the flute into your gizzard.

You'd think the other passengers would be amazed at how well you pick a song out of the ether and just play it, right? Not so much. The penny whistle's notes can pierce through steel pretty easily. Not only that, but when you tell people you play the tin whistle they think you're playing a kazoo. It's an acquired taste best suited for jams or ceilidhs or...well...playing in church.

The bodhran I play at jams too. It's technically P.'s drum anyway. I just play it more often than he does. And the piano is only for plinking around on when I'm the only one in the room--until I get my compositions perfect enough to put on YouTube. I may be too arthritic and decrepit to play anything by then. It's a catch-22.

So now enters a new generation of musicians, or magicians of music. My daughters, C. and J. play with the Tucson Jr. Strings (J. plays violin.), and with their school orchestras, and my son B. plays the tenor sax in his school band.  This affords us plenty of chances to hear them play. Our tiny hovel rings with a cacophony of music, especially when they are preparing for concerts.

For two to four weeks a year we are completely inundated with orchestral magic. Nine or so concerts fill each of those two brilliant chunks of time with nearly nightly flights of fancy. Now that C. has climbed from the aural ooze from which I never could manage to slog, it's a joy to listen to her. J. and B. are getting there rapidly.

I only wish they weren't quite as shy about playing in front of people while not surrounded by an entire chamber orchestra. It sort of nixes those tin whistle/violin/cello trios I have crashing through my cranial concert hall.

Ever since C. took up the cello I have found a new love. The mellow somberness speaks to my soul. Cello is an instrument you can play all by yourself in a dark room. It's molasses tones should be the soundtrack of every rainy day, or the background throb when you're stalking the creep with the dripping knife. The cellos are my favorites to watch in symphonies, now (except maybe for the timpani guy). I love it when cellists get so kidnapped by their music that they lose all knowledge of anything else. They're in the cello zone and making love to the music.

So what does all this mean? It means that I get to live vicariously through my childrens' magic fingers. It means that I get to hear the deep throb of the cello (or the soprano of the violin and occasionally the mellow sax) drifting through the desert heat. And it means that through them, I can alleviate at least some measure of my parents' anguish when I put down the violin for the last time (for some strange reason they never quite caught the dulcet tones of the tin whistle).

They always leave me wanting more--which is a good thing, is it not?

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