Last week, when a group of musicians gathered to play together in a friend’s living room, I learned that some of my acquaintances get together every Saturday morning and play string quartet music. I was invited to join in, and in the process learned that the group was about to lose one of its viola players. At 93, she’s decided she just can’t keep up any more. Her departure is a blow, since viola players are traditionally in short supply.
That was enough to send me into the new Shar storefront in Farmington to rent a viola. After first falling in love with a 16″ model with a cello-like sound and a $2,000+ price tag, I received a student viola kit for my $16.95 monthly rental. The viola has some scuffs and a serious crack in the back, but I figured it would be a good start. After all, I need to learn to read the C-Clef and re-learn where all the notes are because of the different stringing of the instrument.
So, a week into this experiment, I’m still trying to remember where the sharps and flats fall on the string bed, and I’ve learned that the viola is probably the Rodney Dangerfield of the orchestra. There may not have been any instrument that has as many jokes about it. A sampling:
Which brings me back to the reason you want to play any instrument in the first place.
- You love how it sounds. (and I do love the mellow lower registers of the viola)
- There are opportunities to play it. (Yes, there are only about 2 viola players for every 100 violin players in the world).
So far, so good! But I’m not yet ready for prime time.