All About Falling in Love with an Instrument01 Apr 2020
I hadn’t played the flute for over forty years. I wasn’t even sure I still had my old instrument, having moved many times over the years. But, one day, as I was rummaging around in the cellar hoping to find a bottle of red wine, lo and behold, there was the flute (but, sadly, no wine). The case had been nibbled away by mice, the silver was so tarnished the flute was an ugly black, the pads were non-existent, the springs dead.
The next time I was in Paris, I found a very odd instrument repair shop on a back street: it was wonderfully chaotic, filled with abandoned, smashed instruments. The shop owner was a marvelous eccentric, and he said he would fix my flute.
I spent the summer re-learning fingerings and trying to get a decent sound. Then, when fall came around and our very awful local band met for rehearsals, I joined them. To tell the truth, as awful as they were, they were far better than I, so I ate humble pie and slogged away for hours, doing scales, studies, and technical exercises. As the months went by, I did improve, so I bought a cheap piccolo to play, as well.
“But even when I was a kid, I never wanted to play the flute,” I admitted to Bernard, my partner. “I wanted to play the oboe, but my father insisted it wasn’t a girl’s instrument.”
And — yes, you guessed it — when September and my birthday rolled around, Bernard presented me with an ancient oboe.
I signed up at the local conservatory for lessons because the oboe is a real killer, not something to be tackled alone. My teacher was Stephanie, a bland young woman in her twenties, and she was very condescending with her two adult students: why learn an instrument at our age? I refused to be discouraged, but learned all I could from her. I joined another awful band, too, where the conductor was very tolerant. Yes, I sounded awful, but I do get five stars for persistence.
I found another oboe teacher. Marc, in his 60s, preferred adult students. He encouraged me to take up the very lovely English Horn and also introduced me to the oboe d’amore — an alto oboe. Then, I went to a concert and heard the baroque oboe, and fell in love. It’s very different from the modern oboe, so I started all over, learning what I could, joining a baroque orchestra and being the worst player in it. But, I survived: so did the other players. Then, I fell in love with the taille d’hautbois, which is a tenor baroque oboe.
When I heard the bombarde — it’s a short primitive sort of oboe, a bagpipe without the sack and the pipes — I again fell in love. I learned that, too (it’s so noisy, I’m only allowed to practice in another part of the house.) I also discovered how lovely the recorder is, so I acquired a tenor, an alto, a soprano, and a sopranino recorder and joined a recorder group.
So, there I was, ten years after I’d picked up the flute, playing the modern oboe, oboe d'amore, and English Horn in one excellent orchestra, the flute and piccolo in a small village band, the baroque oboe and the taille in a baroque orchestra, and the recorder in the recorder group. You’d think that would be enough, wouldn’t you?
Until my close friend Gabriel died — he played the euphonium (it’s a small tuba) in the village band. Neither one of his sons wanted the euphonium, so I inherited it. And, yes, you guessed it: I began taking lessons, and I now play it in a big band in the Paris area.
I won’t say I’m a wonderful player, but I do have fun. This summer I’ll be starting guitar lessons.
It’s only normal for me to put music and musicians into my books. In my Contemporary Romance, Desert Rose, my hero Jonah plays the baroque cello, and my heroine, Rose, is a singer of Russian music. However, since both Jonah and Rose are very secretive people, it takes some time for both of them to reveal their talent, or even to admit their interest in music.
Excerpt from Desert Rose:
Jonah looked at her, took in the flat planes of those wonderful cheekbones, the radiance in her eyes, and his heart warmed. Incredible, how much she affected him. How pleased he felt, just to be sitting across the table from her. It was almost uncanny. He needed to know more. As gently as possible, he said, “Okay, it’s your turn now.”
Rose stared back at him, uncomprehending. “What’s my turn?”
“It hasn’t escaped my notice that you have a real talent for asking questions, drawing people out. It’s flattering, it’s a talent that won me over, and I’m certainly not the only person you’ve managed to charm, either. Being a perfect listener can also be a tactic.”
She looked wary, suddenly. “A tactic? What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means, it’s a very good way to avoid talking about yourself.”
“Ah. I see.” Rose looked down.
“I’m right though, aren’t I?”
“There’s nothing much to say. Nothing interesting, anyway.” She was still refusing to look at him.
“How about if you let me be the judge of that.”
She didn’t look up. Instead, began folding her table napkin into a tiny square.
“Is there a deep dark secret you want to hide?”
Her eyes flicked up. Finally. Met his. They gave nothing away. “Okay. Fine. What is it you want to know?”
“Everything, of course.” He smiled at her. “How about we start with essentials?”
She shrugged. “What sort of essentials?”
She looked away again, nodded. Looked back. Also smiled… faintly. “Guilty as charged. Not because I’m hiding any deep dark treacherous secret.” She dropped the folded napkin, put her elbows on the table and crossed her arms. “Okay. Music is important to me.”
He stared at her, nonplussed. What was so secret about that? Didn’t almost everyone in the world like music of one sort or another? “What kind of music?” He was prepared to be disappointed. What chance was there that their taste coincided? No chance at all.
“My all-time favorite…” She hesitated before continuing. “Well… at the moment, anyway… my favorite is traditional Russian music.”
“Russian music? Russian composers?”
She nodded, looked rather unsure, but remained silent.
“Russian. As in Shostakovich?”
“Shostakovich?” She blinked.
“Do you know the music of Shostakovich?” He shook his head, not because of her, but because of his own gaucherie. Why had he come up with the name of that composer? What could she possibly know of the grotesqueries, the operas, of the trials suffered by a creative genius caught in a repressive communist regime? Again, he felt like a horrific snob. Or, like a man who wanted to protect himself against his own emotions, to prove that he and the lovely woman sitting across from him had little in common. “Shostakovich was a contemporary Russian composer.”
Her expression changed. She looked annoyed. “Of course, I know who Shostakovich was.”
“You do?” He stared.
“Of course,” she snapped. “Why do you sound so surprised?”
“It’s just that…” He stopped himself before he said something that made him look like even more of a snob. Even more condescending.
“Go on. It’s just what?”
“Not many people do know about Shostakovich,” he answered quietly.
“Because I live in Blake’s Folly? Because you don’t think anyone who lives in a backwoods semi-ghost town could possibly know anything about classical music?”
Yes, of course. She’d hit the nail on the head, all right. That was exactly the reason why. He could think of a few others too.
She uncrossed her arms, placed her palms flat on the tabletop, leaned forward. “Do you know his arrangements of popular Russian songs?”
“Yes, I do,” he said, feeling fully chastised.
“So do I. And, one of the reasons I know about Shostakovich is because, as I said just a few brief seconds ago, I love traditional Russian music. By that, I mean traditional Russian song as well as traditional Russian instrumental music. That doesn’t exclude classical music.”
He leaned back, staring at her, lost for words.
“Now what’s the matter?” Her voice challenged. “You look as though you don’t believe me.”
“Oh, I believe you all right. I just don’t know many people who share my own enthusiasm for classical music.”
“I can second that, all right.” To his great relief, she relaxed, smiled at him again. “I can’t blame you for not seeing Blake’s Folly, Nevada as the cultural center of the world.
Blurb for Desert Rose:
Men love Rose Badger, and if the other inhabitants of dead-end Blake’s Folly, Nevada, don’t approve, she couldn’t care less. With a disastrous marriage far behind her, settling down is the last thing she intends to do. Isn’t life for fun? Doesn’t a stable relationship always mean predictability and boredom? Well… perhaps things might be different with Jonah Livingstone, but he is off limits for anything other than friendship. Even though, secretly, she’s deeply attracted to him, she knows he’s still entangled in a complicated past relationship. Besides, Rose has another secret life—one that she’ll never give up for any man.
The last person geologist Jonah Livingstone expected to meet in a semi-ghost town is Rose Badger. She’s easy-going, delightfully spontaneous, and Jonah is certain their attraction is mutual. But Rose is always surrounded by a crowd of admirers and doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite. Though Jonah has also suffered a failed marriage, he can’t help being drawn to Rose—and he dares to hope she may feel the same for him. But is Jonah too independent to settle into a permanent relationship again? He’s leading his own very private life, as well…and secrets are an excellent protection against love. Will he do what it takes to hold on to his Desert Rose?
Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JBSMQB1
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