Violin…At last! You Make My Heart Sing!

A few weeks ago, I was starting to wonder whether I’d be playing air-violin at Sunday’s violin concert.

My fingers just couldn’t move fast enough and it’s been so hard to keep up the practice, that it’s felt like some kind of conspiracy. That someone or something doesn’t want me to practice and keeps sabotaging my best efforts.

Of course, we’ve all been there and know that familiar poltergeist!

Well, finally after considerable soul-searching as you do at the end of another year, my violin and I are talking again and our lover’s tiff is over.My violin might not be singing like a lark but it’s no longer a cockatoo and as long as I simply blend in with the group, I’ll be happy.

When it comes to the difficulties of mastering and even taming the violin, I’m hardly unique. The violin is notoriously difficult and renowned for sounding like a scolded cat. Indeed, it more than deserves its bad reputation and I have no idea how it could ever sound sweet and intensely beautiful let alone spiritual.

I guess like so many things, you have to go through the rough before you can reach the green.

Moreover, I’ve also realised that a new level of thinking was required. That mastering anything requires more than blind persistence and not giving up. That you also need to know why you took this thing up in the first place AND why you want to keep going. This goal setting and introspection becomes particularly important once you hit the higher grades and “your thing” becomes more difficult and more demanding.

You’re no longer a dabbler. Yet, you’re not a maestro either. Indeed, you’re along way from it. Moreover, as your expertise increases, so does your awareness of the treacherous mountains which lie ahead if you’re to advance. These next steps take all those nasty qualities like perseverance, persistence, focus, long hours of practice and potentially spending buckets of money as well.

Jonathon smiling violin

Mister smiling during practice tonight. He looked so happy. He has been learning the guitar but we did a few lessons as a family.

All of this isn’t something you can just drift into. It has to be a choice. You have to sign your life away on the dotted line and buy into that decision. No backing out. You might even have to put your life on the line either figuratively or literally. There can be no turning back.

That is, if you’re wanting to be a maestro!

Violin & concert violinist music

Well, personally, I’ve decided that  I’ll never be a maestro violinist and am best putting my time and energy into my writing and photography. Yet, at the same time, I’d like to take the violin as far as I can. Do my best. I recently started learning my favourite of all favourite violin pieces: Meditation by Massinet. This is actually about a 6th Grade piece and I’m around 2nd Grade but we’re taking it slowly. Some of the notes have so many ledger lines that they look like quadruple-decker buses. I know what the notes meant to sound like and use my ears instead of my eyes to find my way around. I guess it’s the equivalent to “park by feel”…another of my specialties.

Anyway, we’ll be playing Pirates of the Caribbean for the concert. This has some really fast sections I wish I could give my fingers something like Red Bull to get them moving without affecting the rest of my body. I find it hard to move my fingers quickly but given my assorted medical problems, I know I’m lucky to be playing at all. Indeed, my neurologist was amazed. We’ll also be playing Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which is so pretty.

My violin teacher has actually doctored my bow to help keep my fingers in place. It was an inspired idea. I have no shame using a walking stick on public transports and crowds so why not use a prop to help my fingers do their job?!!

Amelia with violin

Miss cuddling her new violin in 2011 aged 5.

By the way, you might recall that I initially took up the violin to help our daughter. That learning the violin was all her idea. I’d suggested piano but she stood her ground in typical fashion and really seemed to have a thing for it.

I do believe that everybody has their own soul song and needs to find the best way of channeling and expressing it. That there’s no one instrument fits all. The violin supposedly sounds the most like the human voice and Miss and I both sing so it’s not surprising that we would love it.

Anyway, Miss’s affair with the violin reached a tumultuous end when the cat screeching became way too much and the less she practiced, the worse it got and I finished off the term’s lessons and kept going while she went “on sabbatical”.

family playing violin

The family playing violin

That was four years ago.

While I never gave up and didn’t sell her violin, even I with my over-inflated sense of optimism, was close to calling it quits. Besides, she’s doing dancing, singing, drama, cub scouts. She also needs some spare time, especially as she’ll be traveling to school next year.

However, today miracle of miracles, she announced that she’s wanting to start learning again.Well, that might have been more of a mention than a “tell the entire world on your blog Mummy” kind of broadcast. But, she did say it.

The inspiration?

A few weeks ago we attended an orrientation day for her new school, During the talk, they mentioned that they have a string ensemble. Again, this was more of a mention than a grand announcement but to me it was more like a “sign”…just like a heaven-sent bolt of lightening, the place suddenly lit up! They could have had a band or  cheer-leader program but no! They have a violin ensemble! I know that playing in my ensemble has really supported and encouraged my playing and got me through those periods of struggle or doubt. This was meant to be, even if Miss didn’t know it yet.

Then, today…miracles or miracles, she said she wanted to learn the violin again. I was hopeful because I knew how much she loved the violin at the start. It had been her choice and I always hoped that one day, she’d find her way back.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

I still haven’t taken her violin out of the cupboard. Feigned indifference is definitely the way forward here. Treat em mean, keep em keep.

Anyway, yet again I’ve written about playing the violin instead of practicing and it’s now too late.

Writing about playing the violin and also taking photos…they’re my strength!

Wish me luck for Sunday but please don’t mention anything like “break a leg”. I actually broke my foot at last year’s Christmas Carol performance and that had better be a one off…no repeats!

xx Rowena


23 thoughts on “Violin…At last! You Make My Heart Sing!

  1. merrildsmith

    Good luck, Rowena–and no broken body parts! 🙂
    No reason why anyone should care that your bow is “doctored.” Musicians often adjust their instruments to fit their needs. I remember going through several different neck/shoulder pad things for my violin when I was in high school (the kind that you put under your violin so it fits better). I was terrible at the violin, but honestly, I did not practice all that much.

  2. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Merril. The violin is a very unforgiving instrument and is extremely possessive. Absence certainly doesn’t make the sound grow fonder. I will post a photo of my doctored bow.
    Meanwhile, Geoff is preforming emergency surgery to the hard drive. It is scanning so things are looking up but not sure if the directory is working so it could be a real dog’s breakfast but at least there’s progress. xx Ro

  3. Solveig

    Germans say: “toi toi toi” before a performance, so there you go. And the French say “merde” no explanation needed I guess, better than breaking bones.
    I do hope that your daughter will pick up her violin again.

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks so much for those insights, Solveig, For the benefit of others reading the comments, I’ll stick this explanation in hrere: “Toi toi toi” (English pronunciation: /ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ ˈtɔɪ/)[1] is an idiom used in opera, and to a lesser extent in theatre, to wish a performer good luck prior to a performance. It is equivalent to the actor’s idiom “Break a leg”. The expression reflects a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person “good luck” is considered bad luck.[2][3][4] The expression is sometimes used outside the opera as superstitions and customs travel through other professions and then into common use.
    I think warding off evil spirits sounds like a good idea after last year’s effort!
    I don’t know if i told you that I lived in Heidelberg for about 8 months back in 1992. I lived with a German family and attended their Church and really was part of their community. We went away on a camp and the youth group started playing their instruments and just automatically doing harmonies and to be honest sounded like professional musicians. It was a bit humbling. Our weather here is so good that learning and mastering instruments has a lot to compete with. If you live near the beach, the surf culture is particularly strong.
    I would like to see her take up the violin again. I’m not really sure why other than mother’s intuition. I have some very talented musicians in my family but that’s not it. Time will tell. Hope you have a great weekend and I’ll catch you for coffee. xx Rowena

  5. roweeee Post author

    Not really. Dare I ask? I’ve also had an interesting comment from Solveig which I’ve translated. You might find that interesting too! Hope you’re having a good week. Today, I’m off to the Year 6 fete. It’s all part of the send off at the end of the year. I’ve been photographing it for years and now it’s Jonathon’s turn. It’s a bit sad and all of us are somewhat unexpectedly leaving as Miss got into the opportunity class which runs out of a different school…45 minutes drive away. Wouldn’t surprise me if she goes back but she’s pretty determined to make a go of it and as a friend of mine said. She has grit. xx Ro

  6. TanGental

    The DBs also translates as the Bee’s Knees and the Cat’s Whiskers. Slightly fruitier version. I think it comes from the old joke ‘Why does a dog lick its balls? Because it can’. Sorry, Ro wholly inappropriate! Yes a good week with no short stories to write! Good if sad news re the kids moving on. Life huh!

  7. derrickjknight

    Good luck tomorrow. Are you familiar with the band Bluegrass Parkway? My son Sam’s father in law, Mick O’Neill plays in it. They live in Perth. Malachi, 6, and Orlaigh, 3, our two shared grandchildren are learning to play the violin

  8. Solveig

    Wow you really put effort into explaining! I know it from theatre when I participated in school plays 🙂 and a lot of people use it when they “knock on wood” they say it when knocking.
    In Heidelberg!!!? really???? I lived just outside in Wiesloch for 5 years (1995-2000) but my aunt lives in Heidelberg with her husband and kids.
    I will be reading coffee posts this weekend but won’t write one myself as my blog is hijacked by the advent calendar, I feel it’s not nice towards my guests to post something else in their day (unless inevitable and really necessary).

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I know that the performance went well as I have read your coffee post. Well done Rowena. I had only heard the screeching violins until I met a friend who taught violin and played in a couple of Symphony orchestras (Newcastle and Taree) and had a string ensemble in Gloucester. She played a solo at a birthday party of another friend and I finally understood the beauty of the violin. I hope your daughter asks again to take it up. Great that your teacher could modify your bow for you to enable you to play as well. You and your family are motivational in the hurdles you overcome. Cheers Irene xx

  10. Pingback: Cryptoquote Spoiler – 01/01/16 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

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