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Old school family nostalgia

I finally found someone that I felt I could trust to repair some precious family heirlooms and got sucked down a hole of genealogy today. :)



So much emphasis is placed on the patriarch in the LDS culture that it's easy for me to forget the really cool things my grandmother's family did. While researching dates, I ended up lost in a bunch of stories of how her family was one of the first in Navoo, her grandfather was the first Alderman of Salt Lake City and secretly polygamous under Brigham Young's orders, not to mention one of the leaders of the Mormon Army when they prepared to fight Gov. Boggs in Missouri... I laugh whenever I hear someone say that I'm not a "real Mormon" because I grew up in Texas, not in SLC. We were Martin Handcart Company, yo. G-G-grandpa that I just mentioned was a business partner to Parley P. Pratt - Mitt Romney's ancestor. UTAH IS SO INCESTUOUS, I swear. Anyway...

The Story - Pics below

My great-great-grandfather (my grandmother's father's family) was born in Denmark where he made musical instruments and other fine pieces of woodcraft for a living. Times were hard, the Church was calling, and he loaded his family up for a long and perilous voyage to The Promised Land of - snerk - Ephraim, Utah. It is now famous for being where most of the West's turkeys are raised. Tres glamorous! But he was able to have a huge family and be prosperous, so well done! His son became a math teacher, but carried on the musical instrument trade for his own pleasure.

Specifically, he made violins. I believe he made 7 of them? There are 2 left in my family's possession, and most importantly are in MY possession. My grandmother promised that I could have one after she died, knowing that I had wanted to play the violin, but my older sister (perpetually the favorite of my parents) was given the family violin, so I was stuck with a viola rental. I actually loved playing the viola, and was pretty good at it in school - always first chair, in fact - but became tired of being made fun of in junior high and gave it up in high school. My sister stopped playing the violin after three years, sixth through eighth grade, so it was stuck in a closet in my dad's house.

He then loaned it to some asshole (I say this with no remorse) in the church who had a kid that "maybe wanted to play the violin." Gave the family violin to these people. They destroyed it. Okay, it isn't destroyed, but they broke off the bridge, loosened the tail piece and didn't remove it, so it metronomed in the case for years, gouging a deep groove in the body of the instrument. Destroyed the bow, never bothered to loosen it, properly resin it, clean off the fingerboard or belly after playing? Psht.

I finally finally got my hands on it. And the very first one my great-grandfather made, to boot. I have kept them in my house, trying to find a luthier that could restore them. Someone I could trust to appreciate the emotional value of these instruments, if not their monetary value.

I took them in last night, and ended up hanging out in the shop with these two brothers who were the epitome of awesome music geek. They oohed and ahhed over my violins, admiring the technique (they're deep-chested, something very Old European that isn't done anymore) and the craftsmanship. And they wanted to hear the story of my family, how they came to the states, what instruments they made, and so on.

:)

They'll be ready to play in a few weeks, I've been told, and I'm very excited to pick up an instrument again after twenty years of not playing anything, not even to just fool around on. I got a little emotional last night, remembering a talk I had with my grandmother when I was caring for her as she, well, died. (I dropped out of college my junior year for a semester to care for her on Family Orders. I did it willingly, I want to add. We had the best time together that winter.) She had an older sister that was "the beauty." The popular one. The more beloved by her parents. And my grandmother also wanted to play the violin, but was told she had to play the viola. (This has long been lost and no one knows what happened to it.) After several years, her sister stopped playing and my grandmother was able to take the instrument and play it in private until her arthritis made it too painful.

That was why she promised that I could have it. I know that if my older sister knew I had them, she would demand they go to her. I don't particularly care what she thinks. She and my other sister (the awesome one y'all know from around here) have been given pianos and personal guitars from my father. I'm glad they were given them, because both sisters are amazing musicians. I don't begrudge them their gifts, really. But I got zilch. I wasn't encouraged to stick with music, I wasn't praised as a musician, and was harshly criticized by my dad. So I stopped playing.

Now I'm going to play for me. Because I really did enjoy it and I don't need a parent telling me I played Tchaikovsky well at the recital. Or commenting on how technically proficient I was on that Paganini piece. So this is my Christmas gift to myself, to just enjoy something in private that makes me feel like I actually can make music, even if I'm not as talented as my sisters.


The violins
My g-grandfather dedicated the instruments to his wife, signing her name on the back of each violin. (How freaking romantic is that?)


Number One - Before




Number One - Before, Back




Number One - Close up of signature inside. :)





Number Six - Before




Number Six - Back




Number Six - Close up on dedication name/number




They're not Stradivarius, but they're my family's legacy. <3

Comments

( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
kita0610
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
I can't remember if I ever told you that my Poppy (Nana's husband, may he rest in peace) was a concert pianist. Much to his dismay, I could not carry a tune with a handle and a hand grenade. My first cousin, Scott, got his baby grand and all of his music books. He is now a professional musician, so I feel like everyone chose well, but I have a lot of fond memories tinged with some regret that I have no clue even how to READ, let alone MAKE music.

All that's to say, these are gorgeous, L, and I think I know a bit about what they must mean to you.

<3
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
Everyone in my father's family can play, read music and sing. To...varying degrees of skill, but it was a requirement. The mantra: "But what if they don't have a pianist in church on Sunday? They'll need you."

I was left alone after two or three years of playing the piano, and then the viola, to pursue science as my older sister was really talented on the guitar. My younger sister? Holy shit. She was a trained opera singer by 14, a virtuoso on the piano AND guitar. My dad had to teach his instructors so they would be qualified to give him his Master's Degree in Classical Guitar.

It was a fraternity that I was blocked from in my family, and I felt that keenly (still do, for anyone not picking up what I am laying down). Yeah, no one is getting these instruments from me without gunfire. ;) (Not to mention that I'm apparently the only one willing to pay to have them restored.)

<3
kita0610
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
I am always SUPER impressed by anyone with classical musical talent. I have been known to fall in love from afar with girls who can sing opera. Given 'em a guitar and SWOON.

Did you ever meet my ficbitch? She is a classically trained singer. Teeny little body, HUGE SET OF LUNGS. Amazing.

I hope these pieces bring you endless joy.
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
<3

My dad wrote a beautiful piece of music for my older sister's wedding for my younger sister to sing, just before the vows - not a dry eye in the house.

I can balance check books, though! ;)

I am so looking forward to the new year - I might even hire a private tutor to get me back on track, because I REALLY want to play some specific pieces and do it well.
kita0610
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
Man, this is JUST how I felt about getting back into my art after so long away. DO. IT. Just do it. You will be AMAZED at how much it energizes you.
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
For funsies, here's my dad playing a Fugue during his Master's performance. He was 24. :)

CLEEK

(I have evidently forgotten how to internet...)

Edited at 2012-12-06 06:30 pm (UTC)
dampersnspoons
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
WOW! I'm so, so, so happy to hear you're getting our family heirlooms refurbished. And getting over our father's critical "advice" is something that took me years and years to put behind me. I'm so excited for you to start something that's just for you. Music is so healing and cathartic, and it's also one of the best challenges in life once you're able to keep going over those technical hurdles that trip you up while playing. Just keep swimming... Just keep swimming... a ha-ha-ha ha just keep swimming...
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
I got so excited last night talking with these guys. (The FIRST people in the music world in DFW that didn't know who dad was! I WAS SHOCKED, lol. But they're classical instruments and guitar repair, so...)

And #2 intimated that she might be willing to take classes with me, too, which would be WONDERFUL. She wants to play an instrument, but she's shy about it. <3

I LOVE YOU, B.
dampersnspoons
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
OMG WE CAN PLAY SCHUBERT AND BEETHOVEN PIECES FOR PIANO AND VIOLIN. THE ONES THAT ARE SUPER SAD AND GORGEOUS.

Whatever, we're going to Cosby show this shit and put on recitals for guests and make #3 come out and lip sync while The Boy dances in the background.
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
I WOULD LOVE NOTHING MORE THAN THAT I SWEAR TO THE LORD OUR SAVIOR TUBBINGTON.

Yes, we are totally going to have a family band, HOORAY! <3 <3 <3
flaming_muse
Dec. 6th, 2012 07:31 pm (UTC)
I am SO EXCITED about this. I am glad that you have these violins and that you're able to get them restored with the love that they and you so deserve.

SO EXCITED!
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
I AM SO EXCITED TOO! I will play at weddings and graduations! I mean, I'm just going to walk in places with my violin and start hoeing down, but still! :D
secondalto
Dec. 6th, 2012 07:52 pm (UTC)
Oh Stoney, they look GORGEOUS even now, I hope you post pics so we can see what they look like once they've been repaired. What a legacy to have.

My mom played cello when she was younger and always talks about going back to it. She passed on her musical gift to me and my baby sister. Baby sis plays clarinet (she was in marching band and everything) and I sing (some in middle school and all through college).

I wish I could find a good secular group to hand out with and sing more often, but I feel it's not to be. *sigh*
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
But of course I'll post pics! I can't wait to see how amazing they're going to look!

you should put out feelers for a group! NEVER SAY NEVER!
kuzu_no_ha
Dec. 6th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
arghulllggglleee.....it is so hard to look at the pictures. It pains me. IT PAINS ME.
god.

Thank goodness you found someone you trust to restore the instruments. The signature inside is so very sweet!

stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Try having that in your hands and wanting to KILL.

The signature inside is my g-gpa, the maker. The name inlaid on the back is his wife. <3
brunettepet
Dec. 6th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
Sounds like these instruments made their ways to the right hands. Getting them restored and playing them is the best gift you can give to yourself and you'll also be honoring your grandmother's memory.

I have no musical talent whatsoever and am always in awe of people that do. Except my older brothers. Just because they're my older brothers. :D
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
I'm so excited to have an instrument again, I can barely stand myself. My husband has a guitar and drums, but they're not MINE.

*bouncing*
txvoodoo
Dec. 6th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
That is just so incredibly COOL.
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
I think so!! <3
bdbdb
Dec. 6th, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I know nothing about musical instruments, but I know enough to know these are gorgeous!!!
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Just wait until they're restored!! <3
fishwithfeet
Dec. 6th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
I played the viola from elementary school through technically college. It was forced on me because I got to choose an instrument later on the list than my other classmates in 4th grade but I did end up loving it.

Those instruments you have are gorgeous. I can't wait to see what they look like after restoration. I would love to have something like that from my family. Your Grandma sounds like a lovely lady :)
stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love the sound of a viola. It's so warm-toned and womanly. Then again, I'm an alto, so I always preferred the harmonies. :D

And my grandma was the best. Oh, how I miss her some days...
Catherine Mitchell
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
I love family histories! My grandpa repairs instruments, mostly horns, and so this was really cool to me. And all the little details like the name in the back are adorable! The guy who repaired them did such an amazing job! They look like they've never been abused. :) How wonderful!

You kick that violin's ass and go on to become a better violinist than your sisters! I'm so happy for you to have gotten them! I recently decided I wanted to learn the mandolin and am loving it! My family was very musical as my grandpa and mom and uncle are all band directors. So, I didn't really have a choice, I had to learn to play something, but once I got into HS I was such a band geek I didn't even mind anymore.

I hope you have the BEST time picking up the violin again! It sounds like you already know how to play, but I happen to have a violin book I am never going to use and have no idea what to do with it. Anyone on here want it? I'll mail it to you for free. I'd rather have someone use it than it just sit around my place.

stoney321
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, no, these haven't been repaired! (No strings, no bridge on one, damaged bridge on the other, missing tail piece) When they are restored and the gouges are filled in and the caked on resin is buffed off, OH HOW LOVELY THEY WILL BE! <3

I don't know that I'll be a better violinst than my sister was, but I know that I'm going to enjoy playing for me me me! As it should be with music.

My daughter wants to play the mandolin, and I couldn't be happier. All the instruments!
Catherine Mitchell
Dec. 7th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
Oh boy do I feel silly now. :/ I saw the back of the second to last one and it was so shiny and beautiful, it looked new! Oops. *insert tail between legs* I totally see all that now.

Yes, agree to music being played for yourself. :) I stopped playing after college and sold my saxophone and guitar for money (I wish I hadn't done that, but I was a poor post-college kid and had no money and thought I'd never play again) But a friend and I went bar hopping in the Nashville strip and I realized how much my heart was aching for playing music again. Making/creating something fulfills the self so so much. There's no other feeling quite like that kind of proud of having played a piece and know you did well. :)

I'm having so much fun with the mandolin and I can't wait til I can play more than "She's coming Round the Mountain" and I'm glad your daughter wants to play too! It's got such a cool sound. :)
ruthless1
Dec. 7th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC)
Best advice I ever got from a professional musician was "dare to suck". As adults we are much harder on ourselves when learning stuff - find your inner non-judgemental kid and have fun playing. As I like to say to people - I never practice - I only play. It keeps the joy in it for me. What a great score though - I hope you and #2 have lots of fun with it!
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
I will take that advice, ma'am!

AND HELLO THERE! <3
Catherine Mitchell
Dec. 7th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
My guitar teacher said the same thing! I like literally broke down crying in the lesson because I kept messing this one measure up and he gave me the same advice and that a lot of great musicians wrote great things some "mistakes". It made me feel so much better and so much less self-conscious. This is GREAT advice.

Music should be fun, not stressful! :)
lynnenne
Dec. 7th, 2012 01:55 am (UTC)
How cool! I didn't know you had luthiers in your family. Too bad my dad is 2,000 miles from you, he would gladly repair your violin.
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
Way back down the line. My dad rebuilds pianos as well as tunes them, but that's not the same. I remember talking to you in my very kitchen about your dad and his awesome luthier skills! <3
cdvla313
Dec. 7th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
Those are beautiful. That's wonderful they're being restored, it's always so sad when an instrument isn't playable anymore.
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
I am so glad to have found someone that can restore them! I'm right there with you on being sad at non-playable instruments. It's the very definition of lost potential.
turnonmyheels
Dec. 7th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
What an amazing story! I'm so glad you have the violins and that you've found people who appreciate them as much as you do to restore them. After the year you've had, it sounds like the perfect just for you gift.

My G Aunt Bernice's second husband had a music shop. They sold all sorts of instruments, mostly in bad shape, but not all of them. After he passed away the family picked through some of the pieces [I wound up with a player piano that refused to play and couldn't be tuned, but it was sufficient for my piano lessons I eventually quit. I totally regret that to this day] and they auctioned off the rest.

My cousin Dayetta has a basket -- not like a normal sized basket, this is a basket the size of a mini-cooper, *filled* with violins. They all look to be in the same shape as the pictures you've posted. No one in the family plays that instrument so now they're mostly used as decorations.
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
"the perfect just for you gift" - I think so, too! <3

I'm so sad about that player piano... They're tough when they break down. They don't really make them anymore, and there aren't many people that know how to repair them. =/ (My dad tunes and rebuilds pianos.)

I am BLOWN AWAY at the thought of that giant basket of violins. BLOWN. AWAY.
turnonmyheels
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:23 pm (UTC)
I was blown away by a basket that size!

I played the hell out of that piano for about two years. They had someone work on it and try to tune it but it was hopeless. I don't know whatever happened to it, I probably could have torn the ivory keys out of it and sold them today for a nice chunk of change.
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
...it had honest to god ivory keys??

Oh. If, um, you ever find that piano? RIP THOSE KEYS OUT AND I WILL HOOK YOU UP because yeah. Those aren't cheap.
turnonmyheels
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
I don't know if they were *real* ivory keys, but my G Aunt said they were .... granted, she said a lot of things that weren't so, but that's because she was gullible. Guess I got it from her *g*

Some of the guitars and violins had actual ivory pegs, but pegs aren't nearly as big as 88 piano keys.
stephanierb
Dec. 7th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)

Those are gorgeous instruments even in the shape they're in right now. I can't wait to see the after photos.

I took a few violin lessons but had to give it up when my arthritis started acting up - holding and playing the violin and bow aggravated the joints in my wrists and fingers - but that was back when I was on a different medication and I think I might be able to manage now. I would love to pick it up again and learn to play properly.

I'm glad you managed to get a hold of something so precious and have found someone that can restore them properly for you. Something that special should be in the hands of someone who truly appreciates it.
stoney321
Dec. 7th, 2012 07:17 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to share the "after" photos!!

My grandma couldn't play due to her arthritis and was always so sad about it. I hope that if you decide to try again that you get to have that enjoyment for yourself!

<3 <3 <3
(Deleted comment)
jenrevenant
Dec. 9th, 2012 04:17 am (UTC)
How perfectly lovely! Keep them safe and love them well.
stoney321
Dec. 9th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
I think so! Once they are returned to me, they will be back in the hands of a caring musician. ;)
kseenaa
Dec. 15th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
They are beautiful. :-) And so wonderful to have all that history to them... Amazing.
beadattitude
Jan. 26th, 2013 03:34 am (UTC)
That is so cool. I actually know a couple of guitar-specific luthiers, should you ever need references. I'm so happy for you, and I love the parallels with your grandma.

Oh boy, do we have some family parallels here about talent and worthiness, and playing favorites, but for voice and acting.. I'm pretty sure I can ear my dad screaming and yelling up in heaven about his favorite grandson majoring in musical theatre at NYU. And I am both laughing my ass off, glad he's not around to stomp on the dreams of another generation.
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )

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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

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