Fiddling Around

When I was in elementary school, my father gave me a violin. I think I was in fourth grade. I joined the orchestra and stuck with it for six years up to my sophomore year in high school. I remember it wasn’t cool to play the violin, but that wasn’t what stopped me. Frankly, I just wasn’t very adept as a violinist. It wasn’t a natural talent for me. In other words, in my case, practice did NOT make perfect. However, I did  enjoy playing the classics in our school concerts, something I’ll always remember. But I knew I was not destined to be the ‘first chair.’ So I gave it up.

I recall as a kid looking inside the violin at the label and puzzling over the strange words. If I asked my father where the violin came from, I don’t remember doing so. It was a hand-me-down, something that had been in the family maybe for generations.

Last year, after my mother died, I went back to Minneapolis and helped my sister clean out the house where we had both grown up. In the closet of my old bedroom, I found the violin in its somewhat battered case. I didn’t have room to take it back with me on the airplane so I had it carefully packaged and sent through the mail.

Last week we visited friends who are professional classical musicians and have played many international venues. One of their daughters is a violinist and I noticed her violin case near the door. For some reason, that triggered my interest in my old violin. I took it out of the closet and examined it closely for the first time in many, many years.

I realized that now with Internet resources, I could look up the Latin or Italian writing on the inside. A few of the letters have become difficult to read, but by Googling what I could read, I was able to figure out the entire label. Here it is:

Andreas Guarnerius fecit Cremonae fub
Tituto Sanctae Theresiae anno 1701

That translates to:
Andreas Guarnerius made this in Cremona under the title Saint There’s in 1701.

I also found out that Guarneri dedicated all of his instruments to St. Theresa. Do I have an antique Guarneri violin, I wondered. Andreas Guarneri was a student of Antonio Stradivari. He died in 1698 and his son or nephew continued his work under his legend. I continued my research and found that there were thousands of copies of Stradivarius and Guarnerius violins made in the late 19th century and early 20th century in Germany and Italy. Finally, those luthiers were stopped from continuing those copies because so many people around the world were wondering—and still do—if they owned a real Stradiverius. Unfortunately, most do not. Same with the Guarnerius violins.

Out of curiosity, I’ve recently sent out photos of my violin to two luthiers, who requested pictures of the violin after I described the label. I have yet to hear back from either one, but in all likelihood I have a Guanerius copy. Regardless, it’s a very nice instrument…though now missing a couple of strings.

If I get an interesting update from the luthiers, I’ll add it on here.

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4 Responses to Fiddling Around

  1. Darren B says:

    The violin has actually become somewhat of a meme in my current readings.
    I finished the wonderful book ‘Draw Your Weapons’ by Sarah Sentilles not long ago and the book is based around the building of a violin.
    This is how Amazon describes the book –

    “Through a dazzling combination of memoir, history, reporting, visual culture, literature, and theology, Sarah Sentilles offers an impassioned defense of life lived by peace and principle.
    It is a literary collage with an urgent hope at its core: that art might offer tools for remaking the world.
    In Draw Your Weapons, Sentilles tells the true stories of Howard, a conscientious objector during World War II, and Miles, a former prison guard at Abu Ghraib, and in the process she challenges conventional thinking about how war is waged, witnessed, and resisted.
    The pacifist and the soldier both create art in response to war: Howard builds a violin; Miles paints portraits of detainees.
    With echoes of Susan Sontag and Maggie Nelson, Sentilles investigates images of violence from the era of slavery to the drone age.
    In doing so, she wrestles with some of our most profound questions: What does it take to inspire compassion?
    What impact can one person have?
    How should we respond to violence when it feels like it can’t be stopped?”

    I met Sarah and wrote a post about how I came to read her book here –

    The current book that I just started reading, but have had in my “to read” pile for about a year is Doreen Virtue’s book ‘The Courage to be Creative’ and in the introduction of the book Doreen lists her creative background and at the beginning of the list is “playing the violin since I was a child”.
    The thing is with Doreen Virtue is she has renounced her tarot decks and God knows what else (pardon the pun) of her past works since becoming “more” Christian.
    I also wrote a post about that subject,
    as I have a deck of her tarot cards (and the book I’m currently reading of hers), but now I have no idea what she thinks about all of her creative past work that she seems to have lost the “courage” to stand by now she has found “the truth”.
    I saw Doreen in Brisbane years ago with my then father-in-law, not that we went to see her though.
    Doreen was one of the speakers for a Hay House event.
    The other speakers were Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay.
    I was interested in Wayne’s work at the time and my father-in-law was interested in Deepak’s work and I think we both rolled our eyes when the “angel lady” took to the stage, but she wasn’t as nutty as we thought she was going to be.
    Years later when my father-in-law had just died my then mother-in-law went to a card reader/psychic who used Doreen’s cards and work to give her a reading and I told her that we had both seen Doreen when I won two $300+ tickets that time from the newspaper.
    How accurate those readings turned out to be I have no idea, but I thought it was ironic that with my ex-father-in-law being a confessed atheist that his wife getting a reading with an “angel lady”‘s cards and from someone whose creative work he had seen live up on stage in front of him years before now disowned her work because she is now a “Christian”.
    Isn’t life (and death) funny?
    I’m wondering if Doreen still plays the violin or whether that too would be considered an instrument of the devil in her new found faith?
    Maybe it’s the fiddle that I’ve seen pictures of the devil playing, maybe he isn’t into violins? 😉

  2. C.J. says:

    I imagine if Rob holds the violin, closes his eyes, focuses on the instrument and allows his consciousness to slide into that wonderful Alpha brain wave level where we are able to experience the energies that are embedded in objects, he might be delightfully surprised at what he finds!

  3. C.J. says:

    As mentioned here on the blog previously, my Mother was a classical pianist and violinist. Growing up and listening to her play brought a little piece of Heaven into our home. She was a math and musical genius, and as a child, I would lay on the floor and that magnificence seemed to carry me to some distant, different space. Her violin was one of the best Stradivarius copies at that time. Currently, there are only approximately 650 original Stradivarius violins around the Earth, and they are worth hundreds of thousands to several million dollars.

    There are many copies, and their monetary value depends upon their quality and manufacturer. My Mother transitioned at the age of 63 from metastatic lung cancer. In her Will, she bequeathed her beloved violin to our son Kenny, who is musically inclined. Unfortunately, (and I suspect her Karma will be vicious), my Mother’s sister , who was a multi-millionaire and who died a few months ago at the age of 98, went into my Mother’s home one night while my sister and I were at the hospital caring for Mom, (Sis and I are both RNs), and literally stole my Mother’s violin, along with quite a few other precious belongings. She didn’t take Mom’s treasures out of any sense of love or sentiment. It was done in her spirit of meanness and cruelty….that is who and what she was.

    A couple of weeks after Mom died, I decided to retain an attorney and retrieve the stolen treasures….some had no monetary value, simply endeared because Mom had cherished them. But the night before I contacted an attorney, my Mom appeared to me in a sleeping dream, and she said, “Honey, let it go. Let it go. They are just material. Let it go.” And so I did. But all these years I have yearned for my Mother’s exquisite violin, yearning to display it on a special place on the wall where we could see it, and remember. When our Aunt’s attorney sent out the notification letter, etc, of our Aunt’s Last Will and Testament, I decided to retain a Legal Aide Attorney to have the violin returned to its rightful person. Her attorney responded that my Aunt’s assets and acquisitions were in the hands of an estate appraiser due to the extreme wealth, and would notify us if the violin is found. So far, nothing. Trish and Rob, cherish your violin with the missing strings. Someone played it, loved it, and it holds within it all the energy of the music it ever gave to its owner. Thank you for this post. It brings tears, but also memories and love.

    • Trish and Rob says:

      Fascinating story, CJ. It was rob’s violin as a kid. He doesn’t know where it came from.