Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Me & Lady Godiva

So, I have a new love, and her name is Lady Godiva.

Longtime readers may remember this post about my violin, whose name was Half-Pint. I named her for little Laura Ingalls, of course. That was the pet name Pa had for his second daughter. It was perfect for my violin! And, just like my teacher said, it made me feel like I was in a relationship with my instrument, rather than merely playing it.

Fast forward to my adventures as a cellist. My first instrument was a loaner from my teacher. It was a great starter instrument! For the next year or so, I rented an instrument on one of those pay-as-you-go arrangements... each month I was building equity for an eventual purchase. I thought perhaps in early 2017 I'd be ready for my very own cello.

As it turns out, I was ready in mid-2016. :) On a day trip last month to Atlanta, Paul and I stopped in at Atlanta Violins. I thought I'd just try a few cellos, see what's what. And then I spied her - a dark German beauty with all kinds of nicks and scars, circa 1875. Even though she was out of my price range, I tried her out. And she had the sweetest sound! I was in love, and I came home with her on a trial basis. I couldn't wait to introduce her to my teacher!

Well. My teacher wasn't impressed. Instead of the rousing enthusiasm I'd been hoping for, she said, "It's okay."

It's okay?! She didn't feel the instrument was resonant enough. To her, it just didn't sing. She suggested I take it back and let them work on it some, and maybe that would help? So I called Atlanta Violins, and they said, sure we can hotrod the bridge (coat it in superglue, then let it dry, so that it has a hardness to it for better sound), work on the tailpin, adjust the bridge, etc etc... so Paul and I headed back over for another cello date.

While they were working on the cello, I tried out some others. I shared with Megan that the sound I was wanting was that mellow, sweet sound with some hints of mystery and moodiness -- all the sounds that made me fall in love with the cello in the first place. And I played a few, and Megan played a few for us, and there was this one that made both Paul and I lift our eyebrows and smile -- it was THE sound, yes it was! AND, it was awfully forgiving to play. It just felt easier somehow, smoother, better.

But it wasn't the dark German one with all the history! I realized I was attached to the hidea of a cello with a STORY. But more than that, I wanted a cello that had the chocolate-y sound I adore. So it came down to this: the dark German cello with a history that wasn't quite as resonant and was a little harder to coax sound out of... OR... a new (2015) Czech Thomas Karvina cello with a beautiful resonance and sweet, mysterious chocolate sound??

It broke my heart, but I said goodbye to the dark German cello with a history. Megan, who helped me the whole way through helped me re-frame things when sh said, now I would get to start a new story, with this new cello. And doesn't every cello's story start somewhere?

Wise words, don't you think?

So I brought home my new cello with its beautiful poplar wood and it's chocolate sound. My teacher thought it was a great choice. "Nice!" she said. And I set about naming her, because yes, this is a relationship, not just an instrument.
by John Collier

I was thinking about that chocolate sound, andabout how my favorite chocolate is Godiva chocolate. I remembered the story of Lady Godiva, who rode naked on horseback through the streets of Rome to protest taxation of her husband's property.

I thought, isn't that how I want to play? With the boldness and vulnerability of Lady Godiva?

And so, there you have it: me & Lady Godiva!
Home alone, so here I am using my practice
mirror to take a selfie with cello. Ha!

A few things I learned while shopping for a cello:

There is no perfect cello. Each one is different. There are all sorts of tricks to help cellos sound better, like weights on the strings (for wolfing), etc. Also, it's really hard to stick to a budget! If you have a firm budget, do yourself a favor and don't play an instrument that's out of the budget, because then you'll only want that cello. Which is why you should really be as generous with your budget as you possibly can be. Yes, it can feel a little crazy to spend a lot of money on a instrument, when it will only be played as a hobby. But, a wise cellist-friend advised me to think of it this way: an instrument can be for your whole life long. And don't we spend a FORTUNE upgrading computer and other tech equipment from year to year? You won't have to do that with a cello. It's one and done. Yes, there's maintenance, but really, you'll only do this once, so why no get the cello you're going to love forever and ever?

From Half-Pint to Lady Godiva. I'm thrilled!


  1. Beautiful cello!! Thanks for sharing your "how we met" story :-) My daughters name their French horns. They played a horn named Buddy for a long time. Now one of them plays Pierre (he's French, of course).

  2. I just like to listen to you play ... sorry ... you do know I'm tone deaf

  3. I'd love to hear you play sometime. And yes, especially to the last section of your post. You have to put some skin in the game if you're serious about what you'd like to do in life. Money and the work itself.

  4. What a moving cello story–perhaps it will grow into one of your future stories in one form. Enjoy your music making journey with Lady Godiva Irene!


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