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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.

2 comments:

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
http://www.mabon.org/

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