Making Music

Mennonites are a people that love music. This characteristic is not necessarily unique to Mennonites but in the version of Mennonites we grew up with and from, music is next to Godliness. The church service always included lots of singing both from all individuals attending whether they could keep a tune or not and also from a choir.


One Sunday it was announced in church that a “world famous” conductor and music teacher had agreed to come out to Springstein once a week to teach music. His name was Mr. Conrad and he himself specialized in violin. Everyone was invited to take this amazing chance to learn music from the hands of a maestro. Somehow I was delegated to be a volunteer. Apparently these lessons were not free but I never found out how much Mr. Conrad charged. It was the church housekeeping Dad did that paid for my lessons by a kind of barter system.


I remember the first meeting. We were about ten of us eager to find out what this was all about. Each of us was asked (or told) to take a turn holding a violin under our chin with our left hand. After viewing how we did this, Mr. Conrad promptly had something negative to say to each of us. Already he became impatient with these country bumpkins who didn’t even know how to hold a violin. He demonstrated his own skill in this regard by even supporting a violin safely with his ample chin alone. No hands.


I remember him having some sarcastic words to say to Jane Voth who carried a beautiful piece of jewelry on her middle finger of her left hand. Mt. Conrad said rings had no place in playing instrumental music and told us that from now on not to wear any jewelry next time we came for the subsequent lessons. Needless to say Jane Voth never came back.


We were told we would all soon be playing the most beautiful classical music on our violins we were supposed to buy by the next time we would meet (he had a few right there with him which he recommended we tell our parents about) and to demonstrate he played something for us with great flourish. We were duly impressed.


First we would learn bowing. He demonstrated what he wanted us to practice. I did this faithfully outside behind our house where the annoying sounds did not disturb the rest of the family.


Next fingering, while sight reading. We had no trouble with this because Dad had taught us the mandolin and this was just the same except with no frets. We had also learned sight reading by singing notes in school.




Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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