Monday, July 11, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Part 1.

Sometimes you just have to do it. Drive away and get back to where you once belonged, seeing a lot of people you haven’t seen in a great long time. I am not yet on the cutting edge of technology, but that is all on the up and up and soon I will be more forthcoming when on the road.

So I will honestly ‘fess up and say that I was not on hand for the 4th of July concert, although I did see the Hartford Symphony do a very similar concert on July 1st. There were interesting differences- their concert was out in a small town (Simsbury) but still drew about 7,000 people. They had a chorus accompanying the 1812 overture, but their fireworks display couldn’t hold a candle to Knoxville’s, and there were minimal fireworks during the overture. I had never attended a 4th of July concert like that; only performed them.

On this trip I stopped in Bethesda, MD at Potter Violin Shop for some badly needed bridge work and “body work.” My instrument, (allegedly) an anonymous English axe from around 1800, had been subject to 16 years of dings, divots and dimples since it was last massaged, and the bridge was warped in three different ways. Since it was a week in the shop, I continued on to New Hampshire, having not seen my parents since they each had had some fairly serious health issues this spring.

I trust the shop I go to because that is where I bought the instrument. The search for a new cello in 1995-96 was exhausting, taking me to Chicago, Philadelphia, Ann Arbor, New York and DC. Like many who are on a budget, (which is, everybody?) I was often told that my price range was “in an awkward area.” I was enticed by cellos from an Ann Arbor luthier named David Burgess, and may still buy one. I borrowed 2 of his for a couple months, people liked them, but I really wanted an older instrument- one that knew the Dvorak and Haydn D Major concertos already. Norris Dryer very generously donated his car and his ears for a tour of shops in Philly and New York in December of 1995 (I think).

On a snowy, messy day we visited famous Moennig’s (which, unbelievably, went out of business last January), where I was allowed to play for an hour and a half and instantly fell in love with several $90,000 instruments. Nothing near my $25,000 limit was intriguing, here or at any of the other 5 shops we visited in the next 2 days, so although we had a blast, I came away empty-handed. It was on a trip to the DC area in February, in fact after a Philadelphia Orchestra audition I took, that I visited Potter’s. I had a solo coming up, (actually a duo) the David Ott Concerto for Two Cellos, with the previously-blogged Phil Hansen and the Chamber Orchestra in March. Only after four trips looking at cellos did I realize that I should explore the price range below the one I had set, and I struck paydirt with this old English cello. I took it home to try out; it never went back. Phil tried it and said, “you better buy it, because if you don’t, I will!”

Now that I think about it, “Olde English 800" as I have come to call it, was not perfect right away. The bridge was too low, set up for a more careful player than I. So the frog of my bow crashed the C-string bout several times during the Ott, and these have only now been repaired. Other “memories” have been erased also- the place where about five years ago I dropped a metronome my son Thomas was handing me (he had actually faked throwing it to me a moment before, then carefully handed it to me but I dropped it anyway- I'm such a klutz lol), the divot where I dropped a stage clamp on it after a recent Chamber Orchestra concert, several dimples where the bow came loose inside the case, and 16 years of edge deterioration. The result is a tighter, more focused sound and the return of that resplendent maiden I have come to know and love.

No comments: