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.
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