Oct
21
2007

A Boy and a Violin

It caught Jimmy’s eye immediately. “Hey, let’s stop in this shop.”

“Sure,” I answered.

The sign out front read “Antique Music Instruments” in a bold Art Nouveau typeface. I was surprised to see it in English. Most of the other Prague shop signs were in Czech, naturally. We walked in.

Inside the cozy little shop were rows of violins. Beautiful, intricately designed, and timeless, they sat on display like museum pieces.

The shop owner was seated inside, with a cello in her lap and a music stand in front of her. She quickly apologized in Czech and stood up.

“Ahoj! No, no, it’s okay. Please, keep on playing,” Jimmy told her.

She didn’t understand and just smiled.

“Um, mluvíte anglicky?” Jimmy asked.

“A little,” she held her fingers slightly apart and tilted her head. Then she said something in Czech.

“We didn’t mean to interrupt you. Please, keep playing.” Jimmy motioned towards the cello in her arms. “We would love to hear you play.”

She nodded and smiled, but didn’t otherwise move. The cello was still in her arms and the music stand at her feet. “Look? Come, see? Violins.” She motioned towards the magnificent display around her.

“Okay, thanks. Wow, there are so many violins here!” Jimmy exclaimed.

We walked around the shop and admired all the antique instruments. Note cards proudly displayed their names. And their prices. They were expensive, very expensive.

“Wow, look at some of these,” I marveled.

“Pretty awesome, huh?” Jimmy was admiring a case of oddly-shaped violins. “I’ve never played the violin before.”

“You play the cello though, right?”

“Yea.”

I turned to him. “Hey, know what you should do? Play the cello here!”

Jimmy looked at the shop owner. “Hmm. I wonder if I can. Maybe.”

The shop owner had put away her cello and was now standing at eager attention. When Jimmy looked at her cello, she said something and motioned towards it. “Play?” she said in English.

“Um. Naaah, that’s okay.” He smiled and backed off.

In the back were a few brass instruments, though the vast majority were violins. There were only a handful of cellos too.

After a good examination, Jimmy straightened up. “Well, okay. Thank you again very much. Dêkuji.”

The shop owner smiled and waved. “Thank you. Good bye.”

We left the shop. Jimmy was quiet and deep in thought.

“That was a pretty cool shop,” I said.

“Yea.”

“Too bad we didn’t see her play.”

“Yea.”

“You should’ve played man.”

“Yea.” Jimmy stopped. “I do kind of want to play. But I haven’t played in a long time. I don’t she’d want me touching her cello.”

I turned to him. “Dude, you should totally play. I’ve heard you play the cello before. You’re damn good. You’ve played before large audiences too! Also, she offered the cello to you. I think she’d like it if you played. You’d probably make her day.”

He looked over at the shop longingly. We subconsciously began walking back. “Yea, that’s true.”

“Here’s another thought. We’re in Prague dude. Prague. When will you ever get another chance to play the cello in Prague? How many people can say they’ve experienced that?”

“You’re right!” There was a fire in his eyes, a determination. He strutted back into the violin shop.

The shop owner was back at the cello. She stopped and looked up at us with a smile.

“Ahoj! Okay, I’ll play a little.”

Without a word, she got up and handed him the cello. Jimmy settled into the seat and practiced a few notes. “I haven’t played in a while,” he apologized to the shop owner.

“You play? Take lessons?” she asked.

“No formal lessons. I learned on my own.”

And with that, Jimmy began to weave a delicate melody. The shop was filled with a graceful sound that was warm and delightful. I noticed she was swaying a little with the music.

“Very good! Very good!” she cheered.

Jimmy blushed. “Thanks. Like I said, I haven’t played in a while.” He stood up. “I’d love to hear you play.” He offered the cello to her.

“Me?”

“Yes, please.”

She took the cello and sat down. We stood there as she began to enchant us with an aural feast. It was evident she’d played professionally as well. She gently swayed with each elegant swash of her bow.

Outside, a few tourists heard the music and peered through the window. A father and son came into the store. “Daddy, look! She’s playing!” the boy said in English.

All four of us American tourists stood in silent repose as the shop owner captivated us with her Sirens’ song. It was beautiful and mesmerizing.

When she finished, we broke in glorious applause. She beamed and bowed her head. “Thank you, thank you.”

The father and son left in high spirits. Jimmy, flush with the energy of music, fluttered around the shop. “May I play a violin too?” he asked.

“Violin?”

“Yes, may I play a violin? I’ve never played one before, but I’d love to try. I don’t need an expensive one, just any old junky one will do.”

She opened a glass case and gingerly pulled out an ancient, yet expensive-looking piece.

“Oh, um, okay. I don’t need one that nice.” She handed it to him as he was speaking. “But, um, okay, cool. Thanks.”

“You play? Take lessons?”

“Nope. Never played a violin before. So, I apologize in advance for any horrible noises I’m going to make.”

She smiled and watched him expectantly. I’m not sure she understood everything he said and seemed to expect a similar beautiful performance as before.

Jimmy carefully tested a few notes. Sometimes he got the right note. Other times it sounded like a cat dying. After a few practice swashes, he cleared his throat and nestled his chin in.

For his first time, he was surprisingly good. Jimmy’s one of those naturally-gifted musicians that can pick up any instrument and play a song after hearing it just once. While not as polished as his cello performance, he still weaved a delightful tune.

I applauded. The shop owner smiled and nodded. “Very good, very good.”

Jimmy handed back the violin. On that boy’s face was the biggest grin his head could hold. You could tell he was still high from his experience.

As he and the shop owner spoke enthusiastically about cellos and violins, I examined a case of violins. Wow, I thought. We’re in Prague. Jimmy just played the cello and the violin for the first time. Then the shop owner graced us with a private performance. How many people can say they’ve experienced that?

. . .

Do you play the cello or violin?

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