Tales and Yarns

On A Musical Note

Author:  Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

The sound of the familiar jigs and reels of our Newfoundland music flowed towards me as I approached our home. Our driveway was a long lane and the music was loud enough to reach out to me at the bottom of the lane, telling me that the music being played in our home was much louder than the usual soft tones I was accustomed to and loved. These fast musical numbers were wonderful and added to the bright Newfoundland day with the flowers waving their heads lazily in the sun.

I reached the house to find my husband standing in the kitchen.

“Why is the music so loud?” I was driven to ask.

“It’s not me. It’s him!” he answered, and nodded toward our sunroom that was my comfort zone, a room that overlooked the ocean.

I moved toward the room to find a family friend having a ‘grand old time’ as he called it, sitting in the manner of the accordion player, the sun reflecting off the red, black and gold colors of the instrument. His toe was tapping to the beat of his music. It would have made a glorious photograph. He continued to perch on the end of the chair and fiddled with the keys, pulling the bellows in and out, and enjoying every wonderful moment of making music. He obviously loved what he was doing, and consequently so did we.

“Now I know that it is really me after all!” I told our musician friend. “I have never been able to get that accordion to play, no matter how hard I tried. So I quit the battle!”

He looked at me with his familiar and charming smile and said “You have to stick with it. Some people take longer than others. Just practice and practice and soon you’ll have it conquered. Nothing to it really. How long have you had this gorgeous thing? It looks brand new; it is in the key of ‘G‘, and perfect for learning on.”

Well, this was the defining moment. Would I ‘fess up’ or pretend otherwise with some wild story? I decided to tell the truth because I never had time to think of a believable answer to that question.

“It’s like this my kind sir-I have had that accordion for forty-five years! It was a birthday gift as a child from my musically inclined mother. Yes, forty-five years that treasure has been in my life and I cannot get it to play for me!” I confessed with hesitation.

Gales of laughter followed that statement and a very red-faced me had to stand and take it. I had no recourse. It was the truth.

Then my husband stepped in and added his tidbit. “Well, she can play two lines of “Twinkle twinkle little star” and “Let’s scratch our fingers on the chalkboard’ and she also does a pretty good imitation of a catfight.” So much for husbandly support in this regard. “She said the accordion was faulty and would not believe otherwise!” He finally finished his sad tale of my musical ability. And a darned sad one it was too!

Yes, it is my precious little accordion, in mint condition, and I still have the instruction booklet that came with it. Never made any sense to me so I just ruled the whole thing hopeless and rarely picked it up anymore but it occupied a treasured place in any home I ever lived in. It is a beautiful instrument. It is also a reminder of my lack of musical ability.

The fact of the matter is that I have absolutely NO MUSICAL ABILITY WHATSOEVER! No talent, no skill, no aptitude to learn the special ways of playing a tune, my genetics notwithstanding. I have tried it all, even the spoons and believe it or not, I cannot keep rhythm with those things. My brain is totally devoid of the necessary cells that enable a person to make music. I love all types of music but cannot play it myself, no how, no way!

So I conceded defeat a long time ago. No point in flogging a lost cause as my father was known to say!

My mother’s family, who hails from the Labrador coast, and my fathers’ family from Fortune Bay, oozes musical talent. My mother can pick up a fiddle or sit at the piano and play the fine old hymns I love so much, and she does it effortlessly. My sisters and my brother, if not extremely talented themselves have offspring who are so inclined, as do I! The whole thing is a puzzle to me. When I see my sister sit at the piano at my parent’s house, lift the cover, and start to play by ear all sorts of music, I am driven to distraction with envy. I don’t want to play Bach, or Beethoven, but I would love to play a few tunes, but it is not to be.

So a friend has played my accordion, proving that it does make music, any kind of music, and it is I, after all, who has the problem. It is a worthy enough instrument, but as I watch him play I see clearly what the problem is. He needs to use both hands simultaneously, and also move the bellows in and out at the same time. There is no way in this earthly world can I do that! And that is not to mention the fact the saying something is in the key of ’G’ means nothing to me!

It is unexplainable. I can type eighty words a minute if I have to, row a boat, and do all sorts of other activities such as pick berries with both hands, but put a musical instrument in my hands and the instrument cries and my hands freeze. In Newfoundland musical expertise is rampant, but for me it is not to be. Do I dare ever try again? No, I don’t think so; it is too hard to take defeat over and over. I will just stick to playing the radio, I seem to be rather skilled at that, and the CD player, I can do that too! So there!

I am reminded of a discussion I had with one of my sisters who plays whatever she wants to play and says it is no ‘big deal’! Not for her obviously! She has no idea how ‘musical meltdown’ feels.

“What’s wrong with you anyway?” she asked, “You can walk and chew gum at the same time so why can’t you play a tune on something?” Now, that is the sort of thing a sister would say. It is just that way with sisters, always was and always will be, especially in my family.

Then I got to thinking-and that is not necessarily good for me! I realized I am proud I can make sounds like a murder of crows, and a gaggle of geese, or an Acadian Gas Engine that is on its’ last piston or whatever!

Then the question of walking and chewing gum hit my brain. I remembered the question my sister had asked. I don’t know really if I can do that or not! My next quest is to buy some bubble gum and set out for a walk.

I have to find out somehow if I can do that-sounds easy enough!

But on second thought, we are talking about a very inept individual who does not have the coordination to play ’chopsticks’ on an ebony and ivory keyboard!

But I do know I can walk and talk at the same time, adding the gum should be easy enough!

We’ll see-I’ll have to give it a try and let you know!

Darned accordion!!

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