Friday, May 05, 2006

Music, Maestro!

The boys are on their Easter holidays, despite the fact that Easter was some time ago, thanks to the staggering of vacation time according to zones. This is a handy dual-purpose method of ensuring the whole country is not on the roads at the same time, and extending the commercial potential of vacation-dependent businesses. Thus from two weeks, the holiday period becomes six weeks and the roads are only averagely busy.

Freed from the draconian timetabling of school commitments I am able to run various errands. The most pleasurable this week has been to a luthier in Montpellier, Freidrich Alber. My son is learning to play the violin and has been progressing up the sizes as he grows. At present, he has a half-sized violin, and really needs the next size up as he is growing at a terrifying rate of knots. However, the other side of the family, despite having a 3/4 sized violin, is adamant that no instrument passeth the threshold of la sorcière Anglaise (me), and as I am reluctant to buy another instrument which will last a few months only, decided that he could go straight into a full-sized one - mine.

I used to play the violin before moving onto the viola, and it has been sitting patiently under the stairs awaiting its moment of glory anew. Having taken it out of its tatty case and putting the bits back together again, I came to the conclusion that it needed some TLC in the hands of an expert and took it to M Alber in the Beaux Arts quarter.

I am a maestro viola player manquée, which translates into a love of going into workshops of violin makers/repairers, great pleasure in looking at sheet music, and longing at the sight of beautiful instruments. I used to play in an orchestra and chamber orchestra in Montpellier until I became pregnant and could no longer participate. I won't go into the attitudes expressed by my ex-h about my participating in an activity outside the home, but think 'medieval', and 'repressive' and you'll get the gist.

Back in the workshop, M Alber examined my violin with a critical eye. I was sensitive to the fact that it is not the world's greatest instrument, and feared that the repairs might total more than the violin's worth. He kindly reassured my that he was not holding a piece of junk and that he would do enough to make it agreeable to play without going overboard. I like people like this. They understand that one only has a certain amount of money and that, while I would love him to bring the instrument up to its maximum potential, simple economics makes this a futile wish. He quoted me a reasonable estimate and apparently has already carried out the work.

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it again, and am now wondering where I can get hold of some 'music minus one' CDs - karaoke for musicians...


  1. Music thrills the blood, and reaches the soul. I'm constantly listening to music (mostly blues, classic R&B, jazz and older rock) and reached the apogee a few years ago when I started singing backup vocals for a friend's rock band. It may not have been a high-profile position, but gods, was it ever fun.

    Encouraging your sons to pursue their interest in the violin, and working with a maître luthier to bring your older violin back into prime condition, well, that shows a feeling that I can really empathize with. That, and your previous blog about literary readings make me think I'm really living in the wrong part of France.

    Cheers, --- Phil

    Ben's Multiverse

  2. Singing is my other great musical love. When I wasn't playing in an orchestra I was singing in a choir, alto, too. Ahh, happy days.


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