All my life (it seems) I have filled in time spent waiting – which is a LOT of time, as all women know – by imagining myself playing the violin. I have played symphonies in parked cars, concertos in dentists’ waiting rooms, the ‘Four Seasons’ in cafes (of course) and etudes lying on the beach. In my imagination I have tucked a fiddle under my chin and set feet tapping in all sorts of unlikely places. I have loved the imagined feel of the thrumming instrument on my shoulder and the sensuous glide of the bow awakening the silent strings.
In 60 years I have never even got close to – or dared to – pick up an instrument. Not that I ever came across any which could be just casually picked up. But two months ago, I decided to FINALLY learn to play.
I found a teacher – easily, in the local supermarket, just by chatting. I found a violin to borrow. All systems go. I am left-handed and I knew that I wanted to play the violin left-handed because that’s how I had always played my imagined violin. But apparently a violin can’t just be restrung like a ukulele (for instance). A left-handed violin has to be specially made. Just learn to play it right-handed, I was told – like everybody else.
I didn’t want to. I knew that it wouldn’t be the same experience as playing my imaginary violin at all – it would hurt and I wouldn’t want to play it. I returned the borrowed violin and rang a few music shops and instrument makers here in Western Australia to enquire about left-handed instruments. Not one to be found. I went online and discovered several pages of left-handed instruments for sale in Wisconsin. Left-handedness is not only acceptable but big business over there, it seems.
My violin arrived and my first lesson was arranged. I had been too – overawed, I think – to even touch my instrument up to this point. There were a few extra bits that had come with it that I wasn’t sure what to do with and I thought it might scream if I put the bow to the strings.
But when I had tightened the bow, rosined it well, set the shoulder stand in the comfortable position and I finally held that violin in my arms, I knew that we were meant to be. I drew the bow gently across the strings and that quirky, curvaceous little box with a handle sighed, trembled and SANG.
We were made for each other.
My teacher plays fiddle – bluegrass, Celtic, folk – so that’s what I’m learning. Vivaldi can wait. She belongs to a group of fiddlers and I have been allowed to play the drones and shuffles for them (until my fingers get faster and I can play tunes). This is the most fun you can have without food I reckon.
I just wonder why I waited so long to do it.