I did an assessment today. I have way more musical instruments than I’ve had husbands. That’s oddly comforting. I had this thought while listening to Scottish music and realized that I do not have a set of bagpipes.
Most of the instruments I’ve purchased I can barely play. However, let me say that I have yet to meet one on which I cannot play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Bagpipes might be an exception.
I think my fondness for instruments has roots in my teenage years when I played the viola and oddly landed as first chair in the high school orchestra. Viola players are rare, a bit like white squirrels. If you recall (and likely don’t), a viola is larger than a violin and generally unpopular – which also describes me in high school. We were a good fit.
A viola player had more opportunities than did violinists, who had to be highly competitive for limited seats in an orchestra. There was always an empty chair for a viola player. Violin players were also pretty unpopular in cool-culture but not as unpopular as those few of us who lugged around a viola.
There were, however, a few benefits I enjoyed, like the time we went on a bus trip to play in a competition and, in the dark ride on the way home, the first cellist gave me a dry little kiss on the lips. Cellists were almost as sexy as bass players. Which brings me to another instrument.
I had a short stint as a bass player in a high school jazz quartet. Not that I could play anything beyond plucking a few strings behind the guys on the piano, drums, and saxophone. But I compensated by being cute, having a big bubble-cut blond hairdo, and wearing a pink mini skirt with white patent boots. That gig came to a crashing halt one night. I am sure you are aware that a bass is a big instrument and about as heavy as a Smart Car. As I went to return the bass I’d borrowed from the orchestra (I don’t recall the permission part of that) it slipped from my grasp and catapulted down a flight of marble stairs. To call the results ‘kindling’ would be like calling Mt. Whitney a pile of stones.
Later in life I occasionally played in orchestras at a few weddings and events and then eventually got a real nine-to-five job and sold my viola. But I still had the fiddling bug and, to stay in touch with strings as I traveled for my job as a magazine writer, I bought an electric fiddle. It looked very cool. And I could play it in hotel rooms using little earbuds so that only I could hear how AMAZING I was sounding. Amazing is, of course, a debatable term.
Back home, a young man who’d had too many Budweisers invited me to be a fiddler in his aspiring country-style band. All the members were at least 30 years younger than me and could actually play country music (I could not). We rehearsed early evenings in a member’s garage: electric guitars and drums and me. I felt overwhelmed because I was. I had zero idea what I was doing, and unlike my bass days, I wasn’t even decorative. The day came when the guitarist announced we’d landed a gig at a bar in Nevada. Instead of being thrilled I felt immediately tired. Me – who goes to bed and reads National Geo at 9 p.m. - playing in a dive bar with beer and dudes until a 1 a.m. closing time and then sleeping in a cheap motel room? In the desert? I looked around for the nearest wheelchair and rolled out. Next step, sell the electric fiddle.
Thus it is that I came to my collection of instruments. Collecting being less challenging and demanding than actually playing. Though I do intend to … someday … play every one of them. Perhaps at my memorial service. To date, I have 3 violins, two guitars, a Bodhran, 2 Irish flutes, a concertina, an accordion, an Erhu (look that up here), a Ukelin (look that up here), a few South American clay flutes, a WWI bugle, two harmonicas, and a Stellar Accordion. I had a piano but gave it to my grandkids. After all, enough is enough. Except for maybe the bagpipes.