North & South in Franconia … part 2 … The Viola of Doom feat. Jitterfinger

Back from the morning matinee … 19 other students and I first performed two pieces together (a french 16th century “Pavane” and a nice summer piece “Dance of the Mosquitos”) … I was the only viola, there was one contrabass, three celli and the rest all violins. 13 students (including me) were then to perform solos (or duets, trios & quartets), so between a lot of classics (Bach, von Weber, Mozart, Uccellini, Küchler, Pachelbel, Leclair, Kabalevsky & Vivaldi) and a funny bavarian folk tune performed by accordion, 2 violins & a cello – I and the “Viola of Doom” screeched along the tunes of “I’ve seen hell” … for the really brave (and deaf) ones: have a look at the vid 😉

North & South in Franconia … I've seen Hell … from FrauVonElmDings on Vimeo.

I’m really a bit uncomfortable, when I know, that what I have to deliver can & will not be perfect … but as so much people told me recently, that they’re feeling “to old” to start learning an instrument at all, I thought it might really inspire and encourage folks to give it a try, when they see what can be done in just a half year of practising. I’ve started this “string-project” just before my 45 birthday in the last week of january this year. Since I read my first Sherlock Holmes novel when I was about 12, I wanted to play a stringed instrument … instead I played the Melodica for one year, wooden flute just by ear and then my gran taught me to play the piano. But as puberty hit fully I started worshipping the church of disco and quit playing music myself. But deep within this “dream of strings” remained. By hearing a viola/violin duet last year I fell in love with the sound of the viola and as I discovered that they also are available in different sizes (and as a lefthanded version) that was that. I’m really short and so I play a half size “leftie” viola now, which is the size of a full violin!

So this really happened to be my “RAndom act of kindness” for day 4 – inspiring others by not being afraid to let my own imperfectness show. As Osgood says in “Some like it hot”‘s final scene “Nobody’s perfect.”

PS: for the ones interested in art/architecture: the church dates back to the 12th century and was originally constructed as a fortified church, the choir in which I am standing was added around the year 1440, the crucifix is a late gothic masterpiece from famous Tilman Riemenschneider and the oil on wood painting on the left side of the altar shows Adam & Eve with an interesting detail: a large pointer-type dog is sitting in front of them (early 17th century, from Nuremberg painter Paul Juvenell d.Ä.).

PPS: my “RAndom act of kindness” day 3 was – again – not really noteworthy: I just did NOT set an ant trail on fire whom I discovered going past the front door … as long as they stay outside they can do as they please, it’s their garden too 😉


North & South in Franconia …

One month ago I involuntarily planted the idea in my viola teacher’s head of performing with me – as part of her music school’s contribution to the village’s summerparty – a viola-piano-duet of “I’ve seen hell” from the BBC’s miniseries “North & South“. You hear this piece while Margaret is writing to her friend in London about visiting John Thornton’s cotton mill, describing it like “I believe I’ve seen hell. It’s white. It’s snow white.”


I had looked for and found the sheet music for piano on the net (left) a while ago and transcribed it for viola (right). As you can see, I still need to write the numbers for my fingers on top of the notes – just in case of a total blackout while performing LOL … also I’m still struggling with the alto clef – as the only instruments I’ve played about 30 years ago were Melodica and piano which are both using the G clef …

Anyway, while listening to (my really poor performance of it back then) my teacher totally fell for it (haha) and suggested it should be my part of the performance…

Now tomorrow’s the big day and it feels a tiny bit unsettling. I will be performing 2 pieces together with the others (providing the only viola part, because the other viola backed out last week *sigh*) and then this duet with my teacher. It really is very motivating for me that she seems to trust me (aged 45 who only started learning to play the viola 6 months ago) of being capable to pull this off. I’m still not totally sure if this really was a good idea, but imagining playing/hearing this piece in the acoustic space of our beautiful 12th century fortified church is rather intriguing … so, wish me luck – I’ll get back to you, if the “Viola of Doom” and I were successfull 😉 … -> here.


St. Matthäus church … a real beauty of the “wanna-get-married-there” sort 😉 Pictures by “Aarp65” [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons