A year ago, January 9th, 2019, I posted a list of fun stuff I hoped to do. Better than resolutions, these were things that I’d thought about doing over the years but just hadn’t accomplished.
Making a sound on a cello was one of my crazier ideas. It was so crazy in fact that I could never successfully explain just what I meant – or even why it was a thing for me.
Probably because I wasn’t even sure myself.
But as of Wednesday, one day short of a full year later, because of two lovely ladies who went out of their way to make my wish come true, I can check hugging a cello off my to-dream list.
And I’m not so sure I can find words to share the experience with you.
Our host was a professor from my days at the University of Michigan’s School of Information. We’ve kept in touch off and on over the ten years since I graduated and last month she read about my cello hugging dream and knew that she could help me realize it.
She coordinated with a cello playing friend of hers who, it turns out, didn’t mind at all letting some novice stranger sit with her cello and hold her bow while making noises unrelated to music.
Carol was so patient.
There’s a lot to playing a cello. Two hands doing different things, one bulky instrument leaning against you, knees and arms encircling it’s girth. Fingers to grip the bow just so, relax the shoulder, movement from the elbow only, the angle of the bow on the strings, how the fingers of the left hand press down just from the tips. What to do with your left thumb.
So much to remember.
But when I got everything right a low round tone would swell out of the instrument. Not as beautiful a sound as when our instructor played, but still pretty nice. And each time I played a clear note I could feel the sound reverberate right though my soul and fill me up.
There was so much to remember that I couldn’t take my eyes off of my own hands to look at music. Which is just as well. Because, well, cello music!
I thought it was written in base clef and it often is. But when the notes get high enough it switches to treble clef! So you could be reading along and suddenly your brain would have to switch clefs? And to make it even more insane, there’s also a tenor and an alto clef!
I saw at least three clefs on one of the pieces of music she shared with us. The different clefs are needed because the cello has such a wide range of notes, from very low to quite high. All those notes won’t fit on any single staff…so the composer can just include several different clefs in a single piece, and those talented cello players deal with it.
The next time I’m enjoying cellos playing in the symphony or a quartet, or even in a DC subway, I’ll have a better understanding and admiration for their talents. The sounds are spectacular. The brains and hands of the artists are astounding.
It was so much fun. I am indebted to the women who willingly shared their lives and time with me just so I could learn something about an instrument I have always admired. If everyone could hug a cello the world would be a better place, and I’m grateful to have had the experience.
I drove home in late afternoon sunshine under fat, purple bottomed clouds that were chasing a three quarter moon. I tried to pinpoint what the experience had felt like.
It felt round and strong and deep and soft, sort of like the golden light falling all around me as I drove.
It felt beautiful.