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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


( 45 comments — Leave a comment )
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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.

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.)

... - kita0610 - Dec. 6th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Dec. 6th, 2012 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
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... - stoney321 - Dec. 6th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
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...
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

... - dampersnspoons - Dec. 6th, 2012 06:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Dec. 6th, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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.

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
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*
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!
Dec. 6th, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
arghulllggglleee.....it is so hard to look at the pictures. It pains me. IT PAINS ME.

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

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
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
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.

Dec. 6th, 2012 08:33 pm (UTC)
That is just so incredibly COOL.
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
I think so!! <3
Dec. 6th, 2012 10:01 pm (UTC)
I know nothing about musical instruments, but I know enough to know these are gorgeous!!!
Dec. 6th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Just wait until they're restored!! <3
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 :)
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.

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) - Expand
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!
Dec. 7th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
I will take that advice, ma'am!

... - Catherine Mitchell - Dec. 7th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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... - stoney321 - Dec. 7th, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
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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.
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
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( 45 comments — Leave a comment )


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.

Time Wot It Is

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