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Saturday, 26 September 2009

Dead Flowers

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.


Maria Zannini said...

Now figure out how to make a recording you can put on You Tube. I want to hear what you sound like!

Ref: Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

Oy! I think I'm going to make this my new motto.

Mike Keyton said...

Maria, the only recordings I have of the old Devil's Elbow, the band that came later, are on cassette only and I have no idea of how to transfer them. What I can do - and this is in pure cheating mode, is to offer you this link

I must stress these are not us but they play similar stuff to that we aspired to