February 10, 2014

Happy Endings

Hello!  I'm sorry I was away for a whole week, but the cold/flu bug I came down with really had me in its grip.  Fortunately I am now on the mend, but my poor husband is now stricken with it and feeling pretty punk.  It's time for spring, no doubt about it.  We need warm rays of sunshine streaming down on our faces, melting this icy grip of winter that has frozen our good spirits and health.  And we need it....now.  I live in Wisconsin, so I am well aware I'm not going to get it now, but I guess I can dream, right?  I'm reading Louise Penney's third novel, The Cruelest Month, which is set in April and her beautifully written descriptions of spring's arrival has me envious for the fictional characters of Three Pines!

It was a scary week in Wisconsin last week...first came the brutal assault on Milwaukee Symphony's concertmaster, attacked and tazed in a church parking lot following a concert.  And while the concertmaster lay stunned and incapacitated on the ground, thieves made off with his priceless Stradivarius violin.  It was shocking news to all of the art world, but as string players the brazen act left my husband and I speechless.  And after that came the absolutely horrifying news that a newborn was plucked out of his own bassinet and kidnapped in the middle of the night by a family member.  As a mother my heart was broken for the parents of this beautiful baby boy and the sleepless day and a half they spent praying for the safe return of their child.

And in a world that all too often brings sad news into our homes, last week proved the exception.  The Lipinski Strad is safely back home with no major damage to the violin, and even more importantly, Kayden Powell is back in his parents' arms, in excellent health despite being kidnapped and left beside the road in bitter winter weather.  The art thieves and kidnapper are in police custody, and here in Wisconsin we are so very thankful for the two miracles that occurred.  

I couldn't help but obsess slightly over the theft of the violin, knowing how much I prize my violin, which while it is nowhere near being called a "valuable" instrument, is priceless to me, a gift from my parents on my thirteenth birthday.  That violin has been with me through junior and senior high concerts and music contests, college performances, music camps, professional and community orchestras, and recitals, and has given me so much pleasure.  I've played it in my family quartet (first with my siblings, then later with my own children), sat with it in the pit for ballet and opera performances and it is like a family member to me.  I can't imagine how I would feel if it were violently ripped from my arms and disappeared.  

 I really need to locate some more recent pictures of me with my violin!  This was in Indiana,  many years ago, with my dad and cousin listening to me play Stephen Foster folk songs. 

All the focus on the Lipinski Strad this week brought to mind the poem I recited at my very first junior high recitation contest.  I was so nervous, but I loved the poem and brought home a blue ribbon.  It was a proud and happy day, and I still remember excitedly bouncing up and down in the back of the school bus with my best friend Barb, who also brought home a blue ribbon for her humorous recitation. I wish I could remember what her piece was, but (unbelievably and slight horrifying) it was forty-five years ago and my memory is slipping a little!   This poem, by Myra Brooks Welch, is perhaps a tad sentimental for this rather hardened age we now live in, but I've always loved it and hope you enjoy it too.

The Touch of the Master's Hand

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?"

"Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three…" But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
And going and gone," said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply:
"The touch of the Master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine,
A game — and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

Happy Monday!

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