Sometimes you do things, and things happen.
I bought a second hand violin in a Swansea junk shop. I think it cost me seven shillings and sixpence (pre-decimalization) 45 pence, new money, or about 75 cents. I bought it because it had the same tuning as the mandolin, which I could play; beyond that I had no idea why. It’s just sometimes good to listen to your voices.
A few years passed and I was sitting in my Newport bed-sit, time on my hands and thoroughly pissed off. The violin was in a case grey with dust and sat sulking in the corner. What surprised me was how easy it was to get a tune from it. The fingers worked by themselves; the bowing was something entirely different, more arthritic chainsaw than Stephane Grappelli. But I learnt, and the neighbours didn’t complain, at least to my face.
Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. It’s the only reason I can think of why I decided I was good enough to play the Rolling Stones' ‘Dead Flowers' on the violin at the school’s Christmas Concert. Fortunately I was rescued within two minutes by students who knew the words and covered my shortcomings.
I put the offending instrument away for a time.
Sometimes also, people come along.
Father Tony Hanson was an effete and cultured priest who, amongst other things, enjoyed match-making. He’d heard I ‘played’ the violin, knew of a Welsh dance group so desperate for musicians they’d sign on a paraplegic who could whistle, and introductions were made.
From then on I learnt how to look elegant in waistcoat, stockings and breeches, discovered a whole host of Welsh tunes, and spent summer weekends in country pubs and fairs while the dancers posed and twirled.
I could say my finest moment came when the troupe came third in the Welsh National Eisteddfod, but the truth was I was scared shitless, remembering an earlier debacle on stage with ‘Dead Flowers’. I just put my head down and played and hoped I wouldn’t be found out.
No, my finest moment, in this particular context, came when I met Henry and Lol Lutman, who had also (I think) been ‘fixed’ up with Welsh Dancers by Father Tony Hanson.
More musical adventures next post.