Select Page

I am a rather large bass cello. A double bass. My player (the cellist) lays me on my side when he takes a break. His moustache, by the way, actually looks like a bow. We have joked that my bow is made out of his whiskers. His name is Samuel. My very good friend over there is Gordon who is rather harry since after all he’s a dog. It makes no sense to me that Gordon and I are pals. He is mobile. I am at the mercy of Samuel, my cellist.

When I came into the household, Gordon initially had some level of curiosity about me. Then as Samuel spent quite a bit of time with me, Gordon hovered closer. He realized – or seemed to – that Samuel enjoyed being with me, and in his own way petted me. In turn, Gordon maneuvered to the point where he would sniff me. Sniff me, look at me, walk around me, and finally one day he laid down next to me, when I was left on my side. (By the way, a dog’s nose is a curious thing, and something cellos do not have. We have a peg, what we stand on when you play us.)

I should note further that cellos can actually see, but I won’t be able to explain how. We also age, and that of course comes with various challenges. We are considered at our “finest” well into the years, which does cover a significant period of time, but to be perfectly honest we all wish it took longer, and that we were good for even longer. This is a common lament.

Gordon and I are now friends. He comes with Samuel when I am taken out of the house. I am not sure quite why, but Gordon seems to be welcome anywhere Samuel goes. Gordon clearly assists Samuel. In fact, Gordon has a leather vest, with two attached straps which are held by Samuel. Someone once said it looks like Samuel is going to water ski… My impression is that Gordon leads Samuel here and there. I have heard Samuel say: “Gordon you are my eyes.” There certainly is a mutual understanding and bond between them. Similar to how I feel about bow. It would make no sense for me just to be upright but not have bow there to bring out my best sound.

When we play in the auditorium, Gordon is no longer next to Samuel. He remains in the room we go upon arrival. That room is not nearly as nice as the house we live in, let alone where I stay when I am at the house. The room instead is quite basic – there are rectangular windows at the top of the walls. There are different areas for different instruments and players. It is a large room, but not at all inspiring. I never feel cheerful there. Instead, I feel that a lot of people are tense, or perhaps excited, which is good, but very tight, that’s how I would best describe it.

We all go onto the stage from this room. Before, when we’re in the room, I notice a lot of fidgeting, tuning, touching, stroking, and nervousness. Usually when the musicians leave the room they go onto the stage in front of quite a lot of people, which no doubt explains some of the earlier twitching, and fidgeting, all that. Samuel, however, is as calm as ever. Something about “what I can’t see can’t hurt me…”

Samuel has someone bring him to me, which is after they put me on the stage. There are four bass cellos, occasionally more, but usually four of us. We are almost always at the top left side, behind and above the violins.

The violins play more than us, which bothers me. I don’t understand why we aren’t in just about everything, but often enough we blend into the overall sound. The smaller cellos seem to play more notes, but Samuel has excitedly told me we are soon to play Beethoven’s seventh symphony, which means a wonderful passage during the second movement. Also, the next weekend we are to play Bottesini’s Reverie.

It isn’t worth being shy about it: I like being known and heard, more so than just blithely fitting in, although I do that as well as I can, I also admit to some level of envy for the lead cello. She gets more solos than the rest of us, and her musician is really dramatic. She is great to watch. I am just too big and hulking for that, but on occasion Samuel takes me to play jazz and blues. That is so different than on this other stage. He will actually spin me around! He slaps at me, I swear. It’s funny! He makes utterances to no one in particular, whereas on stage with the orchestra, he is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, if you had a pin and dropped it.

I digressed, sorry. Keep in mind I am so used to playing the music as it is written, as it is composed, and so conversation like this is a relief.

Gordon is a constant, did I say that? Since he now feels comfortable to be close to me, and has befriended me, I notice that when Gordon is not around, things feel incomplete to me. I like Samuel’s company very much. I know he likes me for who I am, and for what I am, and not just because I make sound when he is at my side. I like it best though when all three of us all together.

After the performance this evening, I was left lying on my side. It is good to rest, but after awhile I do long for some kind of dialogue, to be playing, and to be upright. Patience is difficult for me. Gordon will, on occasion, bark at me as if I can get up and scamper around with him. Would that I could!

I realized I would not be going home. Transporting me is no easy feat. Since we are here tomorrow, Sunday, I remained. The lights dimmed in the auditorium, but there was still enough light for me to see.

For the second time in two nights a man was sitting alone, not in the front row, but a few rows back. He sat looking at the stage, on occasion came up to it, then onto it, at which point he looked out at the audience. He muttered a bit to himself, and wrote on paper When he approached me I was taken aback.

“Tell me large bass, have you ever tackled the works of Giovanni Bottesini? Would you like to take a spin, hmmm? Dizzying? Mystifying! But, look at you, lying so quietly, so perfectly balanced. To think of all that is there, inside you, bursting at the seams, and yet you alone cannot bring it forward. This piece I am composing, you will soar my friend, absolutely soar! It is in part with you in mind that I am composing it.”

He then knelt down, put his right hand on me, and felt my curvatures. He touched my strings. Bow was not with me. Samuel had taken her home so I was left to my own devices.

“I should be done in a matter of weeks. We will meet again. Won’t you be thrilled if it is you who plays this piece?”

With that the man left the auditorium. How it is he was even there, at such a late hour, and alone, is unknown to me. But, I found out he is indeed of great importance.

His name is Ludwig Hegner, He passed nearly 100 years ago! By God, I wish I could talk to someone about him, but I don’t think anyone would believe me. He really does come to visit, he did come to visit me, three more times during which he talked about a piece just for me and the piano, called Fantasie… Fantasy on a song by Franz Abt. Truly, I had no idea at any given time what he was talking about. I just knew he was committed to composing this piece, that I would be front and center, that at times only I would be playing, that I would stand out, that I would be challenged by the task, and that my musician would be challenged… that it would bring tears to the eyes of at least some, and particularly this gentleman, Ludwig.

The day of the performance arrived, after a great deal of practice, and after Samuel exclaimed many times, “This is such a golden opportunity! Do you realize how much attention we will get? Do you realize the acclaim that may be ours?”

I never once heard Samuel express any fear. Never once did he say “Can you imagine if we flub this up, how humiliated we will be?” It was always positive, it was always only how well it would go.

“We will be brought to the front of the stage, adjacent to the piano. Everyone else will sit with hands folded, instruments at their sides, and the entire auditorium will hear us. Just us!”

Amidst all the commotion, Gordon never changed. Whether it was a day of work, or a day of staying home, or a day of visitors, or a day of movement, Gordon remained very constant. He came to sleep aside me night after night, but never during the daytime during which he almost always is with Samuel. I learned that he slept next to me because Samuel asked him to. When Samuel woke, some times in the middle of the night, he would call out and Gordon would immediately go to him, but would soon return to my side.

The world is a very unique place, isn’t it?

We were to perform Hegner’s “Fantasie” four times – Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. We are in fact the opening piece. No one else will be on stage, except for the piano and me.

In that room, the one I mentioned above, with all the fidgeting, all the nervousness, all that, what I kept hearing were people wishing us well, and “break a leg!” An odd expression indeed… But, I knew Samuel was very excited, that his heart was very full. I could feel it when he pressed against me.

They placed me slightly to the right of the piano, at the front of the stage. The pianist came out first, and there was polite applause. Then Samuel was brought across the stage to me, and the applause became quite pronounced. He was very well dressed, more so than usual. He wrapped his hands around me. He took a very deep inhale. I heard, I think I heard him say, “My word, my God in heaven…”

We played the entire piece… I remember all of it, but it seemed like it went very, very quickly.

Samuel can hear, but he cannot see. So he cannot see that they are standing. They are standing and applauding. The audience is very emotional. We are getting plaudits, as is the pianist. I can see off stage many of the musicians, many of the persons I often see there, in that room, and I can see Gordon as well. All looking at us, smiling, nodding,

I can see it, I can hear it.

Well, this is damn glorious! I would like to talk to Gordon about it before going to sleep, if I am able to sleep at all tonight….

But, I will remain in the Hall, no doubt on stage. When I next lie down near Gordon we will talk in our own way.

I saw Ludwig just now. I saw him in the audience, but not seated. I am not quite sure that I understand just what is happening. I just know that this is very unusual. Samuel is smiling broadly, and now holding bow in the air.

But this Ludwig fellow, he no longer is anywhere to be seen. Samuel would not have seen him anyway. Perhaps that is how it is supposed to be.

Oh, wait, there he is! There he is… I see him in Gordon’s eyes!