Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I was just wondering if anyone else has come across the problem of greedy relatives and instruments…..
What I mean is that both of my great grandfathers played fiddle, and when my sister and I started playing, we kind of assumed that if we stuck with it, we would get them. Well, it’s been 5 years, and still nothing. One of them went to a greedy aunt who will not give it to us because it "might be worth something" and it’s just sitting in a closet somewhere, while the other went to my mom’s cousin because one of her kids is taking violin lessons. That’s all fine and good, except they think the instrument is c%*$ because it is all scratched up and stuff. So they bought the kid some expensive and shiny new violin, and the other one doesn’t even get touched.
It just seems like such a waste, with them not even being played, I mean they could sound great, but I guess we’ll never know!!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

That’s a very sad situation. You have something more than just music here- you have a family heirloom. You can buy a violin anytime, but you can never buy one owned by your great-grandfather.

I’d go to your greedy aunt and your mom’s cousin and stress the family heirloom angle. It sounds as if you and your sister are the ones who have demonstrated a willingness to learn to play well, and wouldn’t it be great, Auntie, to hear Great-Grandad’s fiddle played the way he did and to know it will be played by my children, too?

I consider myself extremely lucky to have my grandfather’s violin. It cost me hundreds to restore but it was worth every penny, and I use it in my session. Good luck to you and to your sister!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

You could tell your aunt and mom’s cousin that if they let the instruments sit around then their value will depreciate. Not to mention tonal quality and all that. Have you tried directly asking if you could play the fiddles for the time being with the understanding that they can have them back if they ever want to use them. Or offer to buy the fiddles from them.

I guess I’m lucky in that all of my relatives are very generous and since my siblings and I all play they all want us to have nice instruments. My uncle is even trying to snag a fiddle from some friends of his - it’s been locked in a gun safe for a long time - and none of these guys or their kids or relatives play - so I can’t complain.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

One of my aunts had my grandfather’s fiddle for many years after he died. I didn’t know this until I had been playing a few years. I asked her if I could see it and she obliged, but stated that she planned to keep it, presumably for sentimental reasons. I didn’t ask; she just wanted to stake out her position.

Next time I visited, she had changed her mind and gave it to me. I think one of her older sisters and her daughter convinced her it should go to someone who actually played. Maybe that’s the kind of intervention you need.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My grandmother was a classical soloist in Boston in her younger days. She did the "packed it away and never touched it again when you got married and had kids" thing.

I pulled the fiddle out of the closet once when I was about 12 and staying at her house for the summer and gave it a look over. Don’t remember much about it other than it’s old and French. As I recall it was labled Jean Baptiste and is just the right age for a Vuillaume, but of course I’m probably misremembering that and inserting more recent knowledge into place. On the other hand her parents were not well off, but the sort of immigrants who would work three jobs scrubbing floors to make sure their children got the sort of culture they could never have had themselves as serfs under the Czar and in those days all sorts of odd things turned up in Boston pawn shops for a fraction of what they were really worth, or what they would come to be worth.

When she died about 10 years ago I asked for the fiddle. It went to a cousin because he majored in music in college, specializing in …piano. I majored in physics.

He works as a web designer. I work as a fiddler.

The fiddle sits in a closet deteriorating because the cousin didn’t like the price the luthier quoted for bringing it back to playability and he isn’t going to play it anyway. It’s just an icon to him. I could give a damn about the price of restoration or the value of the fiddle or the ratio between the two. The fiddle should be out with me in Quincy Market making music for people again.

For them, for me, for the fiddle; and, of course, in memory of my grandmother.

The fiddle needs an intervention.

KFG

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Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I relate to this for sure.

I have on permanent loan a fiddle belonging to my boss and sometime-sound engineer’s family, think it belonged to his mother’s grandfather. It has - gasp, wait for this - a paper label inside that says it’s a Stradivarius. So do zillions of other trade fiddles, it was never an attempt at fraud, it was just something that was done. (I have a "Guarnerius" and two "Amatis" in my custody at the moment as well!)

So this fiddle is lying in a wardrobe, unplayable, where it has been for donkey’s years, because everyone is convinced it’s a Strad, or at least very valuable. A Sothebys instrument expert comes out here, they dig it out and take it for evaluation, to be told it is a sturdy, well-made trade fiddle from the latter half of the 19th century, probably quite a good student instrument, but that’s it. Water off a duck’s back it was, apparently, so back in the cupboard goes Fiddle waiting for someone else to come along who will recognise it’s true worth.

Then a young and very deserving friend of mine with no money was battling her not-very-good instrument in a tertiary performance course. Trying to find a way of helping that wouldn’t look like charity, my boss thought he would suss out getting this one done up to lend her on the off chance it was better than what she had. No chance. The family knew nothing about music or instruments but seemed utterly convinced that this thing had to be worth a mint and they weren’t letting it out of that cupboard. So Fiddle continues to rot quietly and my friend soldiers on while my boss fumes at the waste of it all.

After his mother’s death, inspired by witnessing a fiddle resurrection to rival Lazarus, he thought he’d have another go. His father this time said "OK", and all it needed was a new soundpost, a spot of glue where the chin rest goes and a new bridge. $200 plus a set of strings later, Fiddle is a going concern. Dad actually seemed pleased and is happy for me to be using it. It’s the only one in the place with a bridge slot that accommodates the Fishman pickup my boss bought for the PA kit, so my regular violinist plays it for amplified gigs, and she’s delighted because it’s much better than her own instrument.

And now everybody’s happy - but what a shame about all those wasted years!

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Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Same story. My grandfather was a fiddle player. He made his children play and they hated it. He told them (that was after the war) "you won’t get new shoes if you don’t practise"… When he died my uncle took the fiddles and put them onto the wall so that they would never be played again. When I started to be interested in playing I asked him for the loan of one of the two fiddles. He said with 19 years I was too old to start and those fiddles were not going to be played again. That caused a lot of bad feelings between him and my mother (his sister) but I went to a shop and bought a cheap fiddle. After about 12 years of playing Irish music he came to one of the small concerts I did with some friends. A few days later a phone call from my aunt: You can come down and take one of your grandpa’s fiddles. They gave me the "cheaper" fiddle but it is actually the fiddle that my grandpa liked to play. It is a lovely fiddle, I think and I am very happy to play it and it will be played as long as I am able to. So maybe there is hope twin fiddler…

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Hey twin fiddler, I can understand your Aunt getting one of the se Fiddles as she was obviously a direct descendant, but the one that went to your Mum’s cousin is, in my book, out of order.
I think these things should stay in the immediate family as long as there are players to play them.

I play my Great Grandfathers fiddle but I was lucky cause nobody else in our family showed any interest in playing music so when I took up trad music in my early 20s my grandad, who was a piper, just handed me his dad’s fiddle one day & told me to keep it & play it.

I’d say as long as that cousin is playing, you’ll have a job getting your hands on that one, but you should be able to persuade your Aunt to at least let you use the other one.

It might even be worth offering to have some sort of written agreement drawn up wherby you get to borrow the instrument & are responsible for the repair of any damage, while you have it, but that it is clearly her property.
Think she might go for that?

Who knows, in the process of having that paper drawn up, she might catch herself on & just give you it, once she see’s how interested & genuine you are?

Anyway, good luck & please let us know if this story has a happy ending.

On the other hand, if you want me & the boys to go round there & rough her up a little, just say the word! 😀

I jest, of course!
I couldn’t punch my way out of a wet paper bag these days!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

thats SO irish

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Ptarmigan, go after my cousin. He bought his son a c.1760 Italian violin—not a major maker but sweet none-the-less—this violin has been sitting under a bed for 25 years. He won’t even let me play it. I tried the "needs to be played" ploy to no avail. I even gave him a copy of a study someone had done on violin tone production, how they should be played every day, and if not, sat in front of a television or on a stereo speaker for vibrations (who knows?). No dice. Still under the bed.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

all of these stories make me very sad, especially the ones that are involving a parent or grandparent who used to play and now some adjunct relative won’t let them near the violin…violins are meant to be played, and I really appreciate the romantic notion of us who now have violins just being their steward until they are passed on to the next steward.

dmarie, go get that Italian instrument, KFG wrestle that fiddle from the greedy arms of injustice…

we actually have my father-in-laws (rip) cello…he was a professional cellist/musician who taught at a small private college for 25 years…we bought it from the estate because we couldn’t bear to see it go to a stranger…my wife plays some, but not nearly enough…I don’t know what the next step for this instrument will be….my son plays GHB and violin, so he’s got his hands full…maybe I should take up the cello….

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Our experience in our family was better when my dad died, perhaps because my brothers appreciate music better. My oldest brother got the trumpet that dad picked up in France during WWII, which he learned on, and also a cool cornet that dad had picked up in a tag sale. I got the Gibson Masterwork 4 string plectrum banjo because I am the only one who has ever played it, the harmonicas for the same reason, the Boosey&Hawkes cornet I learned on (with a switch that changes it from Bflat to A, pretty cool), and the fifes that no one else wanted (they turned out to be Cloos, and nothing to sneeze at). Next brother took no instruments, as he doesn’t play any more. Next brother got the blackwood simple system keyed D piccolo. Last brother runs a music store, and didn’t ask for anything, as he has plenty of access to the instruments he wants, and mostly plays electric guitar anyhow. So all worked out well for everyone—a happy story to contrast with some of the sad ones above. And I only have one son, so when I go, it works out very simple.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I have a similar story, thanks for opening up old wounds. ; ). At least I know I’m not alone. My bachelor uncle inherited the contents of my grandparents home. Grandpa had a fiddle, accordion, and zither in the attic. He dabbled with them when he was young. I asked my uncle if I could have the fiddle when I started playing. He refused without explanation. He has since had a family, nobody plays it, and I suppose the fiddle is still up there, rotting. Funny thing is, I think Grandpa would have given it to me if I had shown an interest when he was alive.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My father passed in 1996 and he had several fiddles: some of them he made himself and several are antiques. My mom is 90 years old and wanting to make arrangements for passing them on, but no one in the family right now plays fiddle. We have the same situation with several relatives fixated on how much they are worth. No appreciation of the instrument or the music.

On the same topic, I have seen antique fiddles thrown away, then picked up by a real fiddle enthusiast, given TLC and restoration and now being played with excellent tone.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Hey, I’d be willing to take one or two of them on until someone in the family wants them, okay? *smirk*

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I guess I was right, I suspected others were in the same boat. I’ll try out some of the suggestions, thanks everyone.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

You and your sister should ask to borrow the instruments for a while , a long long while.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Al, just curious. Does your banjo look anything like this:

http://www.mandoweb.com/48-3100.jpg

Ceol, "We have the same situation with several relatives fixated on how much they are worth" -
Yeah, it is very sad when that happens to a family, that vulture trait when they gather round for the spoils. It happened when my grandad passed on & it was sad to see.
I was asked what I wanted & various watches & bits of furniture were discussed but the whole episode made me feel sick & I wanted nothing really to do with it. In any case he had given me what, to my mind was his most treasured possesion, his dad’s fiddle, so I just asked for a small framed print of ‘The Dog’s Prayer’ which hung on the wall by his smoking chair, by the fire, just to remember him by.

But at least I was given the Fiddle.
Hope all you guys ‘n gals are lucky enough to inherit those instruments - eventually.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My late grandfathers’ silver cornet was sold during the war ( WWII ) to raise some money, and I don’t grieve because I’ve never had any talent for any sort of wind ( pardon ).
However, you do get people who use instruments as window-dressing, and it drives me mad !!!!
Trying to even get a price on an old mandolin; "It’s 19th century Italian, you know." Yeah, they had bloody great factories churning these things out you know ( well, you don’t, I suspect ), and you won’t even take it down for me to look at, do I look disreputable ? ( Well, okay. )
Or the violin-maker with a portugese guitarra hanging in his window, much the same dusty answer.
The trouble is that the relatives with the money-signs instead of pupils in their eyes have really no idea of how they might realise these asset anyway, it is purely dog-in-the manger. GRRRRRRH!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

It occurs to me that one day I might be looking down from above ( or below ) watching the sort of debacle described.
What is one to do?
I think, rather than have them taken away by people who don’t play them, the first requirement is that anyone who plays a similar instrument has first choice; when the pile has shrunk a bit, a silent auction, fee a cheque to one of your favourite charities, largest cheque gets first choice, providing it is above your secret reserve. Anything left over goes to public auction.
Or give them away before you die, to musicians, dammit !

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I will make sure that my instruments go to people who will use them. I received one of my instruments from a complete stranger (it had no attatchments for her family as she won it in a raffle) because she wanted it to go to someone who couldn’t afford one but wanted one. I still remember how amazed and thrilled I was when I found out that she wanted to give it to me.

I’d personally find out if any of the kids were interested in having the instruments to play - not display - and if no one I knew wanted them then I’d contact an organization to see about getting the instruments to young people who can’t otherwise afford a good instrument.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I have a young nephew who is the only one of his generation in my family to show any interest in music. So far I’ve gotten rid of my electric guitar, amp, various FX/distortion boxes, and Cry-baby wa-wa pedal. Heh heh. My brother won’t talk to me.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Heh, see what a good relative you are. Trying to foster musicality in your nephew. That’s what we want to see - people passing instruments down to those who will actually use them.

(throw in the added bonus of agitating your brother, and, well there you have it to much to resist) 😉

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

These stories are sad. You all have my greatest sympathy! So far, I haven’t had such problems, but they could arise. My grandmother keeps saying that she is going to will me her hammer dulcimer, but so far there is nothing in writing.

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Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

i was given an old wooden flute (approx. 100 years old) by my dads friends father, who died at the beginning of this year. my dad took the flute into the local music shop, and they told him part of it was missing. i’ve decided its about time i got it restored, but it seems the flute has gone missing (it may have disappeared with some stuff from the garade that got thrown out……not good……). i’ll be in the garage and up in the loft looking for it right through the christmas holidays. if i don’t find it, i will be truly GUTTED.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Ptarmy,
No, the banjo I have does not look like the picture you linked, it is not a tenor banjo, it has a full-length neck, like modern five strings, just with that short string missing. Designed to be strummed rather than plucked, used primarily in dixieland and old-time jazz and in vaudeville. Can be tuned like a five string, or like the top four strings of a guitar.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

Twin, that’s indeed a rough deal. I’ve got to ask, though: Did either you or your sister ASK for the fiddles when the time came?

As for the aunt that wanted one "for the money," offer to take it to a luthier you both agree to give an appraisal, then offer auntie X+5%, with X being the luthier’s appraisal.

As for the cousin’s mother’s dog’s treehouse… don’t know what to say about that.

-P

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

my grandfather had 2 fiddles, both of which he bought in pawn shops yrs and yrs ago!!. when he died they were of course locked up the the cupboard.

…until one day i came home from school 6 yrs ago after getting a new music teacher. dad spoke to my granny who dug out both fiddles, both in unplayable contitions!! my dad got them both restored for my sister and i. my sister was given the cheaper one, i chinese make, ideal for beginner. she has since moved on the better things.

i was given the most valuble one…v old with stadivarius written on the inside. it has i gorgeous tone and every time i play it i get such pleasure out of knowing it was my grandads (who i never knew), who was a highly respected fiddler in my village. i mind that fiddle with my life!!!

i would advise you to talk about how much you love playing the fiddle whenever your relations are within earshot. make them feel guilty!!! it may seem harsh, but the feeling you get when you play an old fiddle belonging to your grandad or whoever is truly unique….even magical..and definitely worth it!!!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My sympathies to you and hopefully things will work out in the end. Not a great problem in my family as there’s only an old knackered piano, although one of my grandfather had a good voice and sang semi professionally. I suppose you can pass on a voice, eh! Anyway, don’t be too hard on ‘greedy’ relatives - remember they will often hold their own cherished memories of whoever playing music for them. They may want to hold onto those memories and the instrument is the tangible connection, even if they don’t play it. Obviously it would be much better if the instrument could sing again, played by a descendant who cherished it but remember people can be ‘greedy’ in different ways - not just for money.

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Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

I’m told my maternal grandfather played the violin. Unfortunately, when he died and my grandmother moved from Liverpool to London, the violin was left in the house when it was sold. Nobody else in the family played it (my mother made a failed attempt at learning at some point - probably discouraged by the ‘Victorian’ approach of her teacher), so it was probably seen just as one extra item to clutter my grandmother’s flat in London. I have no idea what sort of a violin my grandfather had - whether he brought it with him as an immigrant from Poland or whether he bought it in England. It has been made up for, however, as the violin (or ‘fiddle’, since that’s what I use it as) I have now was gift from a man with a huge heart. Anyway, who knows? Maybe, by some amazing coincidence, or morphic resonance, or twist of fate, my fiddle IS my grandfather’s violin.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My old fiddle belonged to my mother who inherited it from her maternal grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his father. The undocumented family history is that the fiddle was brought from Ireland to West Wales round about 1850 (i.e. the time of the Famine) by a professional Irish fiddler/violinist who sold it to my great-great-grandfather. We have no information about that Irish violinist, but one could make a tentative supposition that he fled the Famine and sold the violin in order to live. If that is true, then it is indeed a sad story, but probably not uncommon at the time. Anyway, the instrument evidently found a good home.
My mother was a piano and violin teacher until the outbreak of WWII and never touched the violin after that, but she resumed piano teaching in the 1960s and contained into the final years of the 20th century. At the beginning of the war the violin was packed away in a cupboard and didn’t see the light of day for the next 60 years. It then came down to me and obviously needed a lot of refurbishment - cracks repaired, new soundpost, bridge, repegging, new tailgut, refiguring the figerboard, and new strings, and, of course, much playing in to regain its tone.
I’m told it dates from the late 18th century and is probably a German copy of a Stradivari. Whatever it is, its responsive rich tone has returned, and I am ensuring that it remains in my family for at least another generation.

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

oops! "continued", not "contained"
and "fingerboard" not "figerboard"!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

In response to Philem yes we did ask, except the aunt that it went to is the ‘black sheep’ of the family, and since we never see her (not of our choosing, of HERS), there was no way she was going to give it to us, and as for the other one, it may actually get played someday, but who knows….

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

My Dad had a nice old zither and he and I were the only ones who could play it. So when he died Mum gave it to my sister. She said it was because I had the piano. My sister doesn’t play the piano either, but she liked the look of the zither. Anyway she’s not greedy and might have let me have it in more recent years but it was stolen ages ago, so maybe I wasn’t meant to have it. Have never found one remotely like it, sad to say.

Now my auntie has died and has left me a gorgeous grand piano but I HAVEN’T ROOM FOR IT !!!!!!! AARRGGGHHHH!!

Re: Can anyone else relate to this?? I suspect so…

You can play the zither? So can I, (sort of). I just recently started playing fiddle because I was so frustrated with the inability to find interesting music and someone to play with. I have two zithers, one is newer and has a cracked fret board. It is also too big for me since I have a ladies or childs zither that fits my hands better. Do you know of someplace to get zither music in the US?