Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Violin

As an anniversary present, Cheryl took my old violin to have it fixed by a violin guy in Tampa. I quit playing it over 20 years ago, though I've taken it out occasionally, usually just for few minutes before sending back into isolation in the closet. Sad, because of its pitiful condition and because of my ever-compounding inability to play it.

Here's my Hopf, back from the restoration job.

It's a Hopf violin, 150 or 200 years old, and it would be worth some money today if not for me. I haven't been a good friend to it at all.

I bought it while in college. Folk music and bluegrass were in a revival, and it was cool to play Nitty Gritty Dirt band and other acoustic music. I took lessons from Dr. Carl Forsberg, a great guy, played in the university's orchestra and string quartet--a whole world of music that was new to me. And then, somehow, my violin and I found ourselves playing cheesy country music in smokey bars, for money, and this went on for much too long.

Then one night, as I was playing some yee-haw thing or another, my Hopf literally exploded in my hands. The neck came loose from the body and the tension of the strings snapped it two. Even the lid came loose from sides. It was violin suicide, I believe--the old guy couldn't stand one more note of that crap.

Being broke and single-minded in estimation of my abilities, I took it upon myself to do the repair. But it never was the same. A hollow thin sound was all I could get, the raspy voice of a sick old man.

The accident also further damaged the exterior, which was in a very sorry shape, so one night I decided to strip the varnish and put on a new finish. A dumb idea but I just didn't care. I read about a formula that called for boiling down shrimp shells in lye until they become a sort of varnish. Then you're supposed to put in some human blood for color. A friend of mine owned a seafood restaurant, so I had the shells. I wasn't too keen about the blood. In the end I just used some tung oil. Of course, by removing the original varnish I also stripped away the collecter's value if I ever try to sell it.

So, I didn't have much hope that the violin guy could really fix it. But Cheryl wanted to give it a try, and that was present enough for me.

When I pulled it from its case and played it yesterday I nearly cried. It looks good. It sounds as good, maybe better than ever. Now I just need to learn to play again.

Read about the violin guy in Tampa.

1 comment:

  1. It's beautiful! You'll have to bring it over at New Years :)