The Boy’s New Cello

This past Monday we took a day trip to Ottawa to visit the Canadian Museum of Nature (or “the dinosaur museum,” as the boy calls it, but he also calls the ROM the same thing so it’s city-dependent) and we’re very impressed with the renovations. The new Queen’s Lantern in the front is surprisingly beautiful for a modernist structure of metal and glass, housing what they call a butterfly staircase (which is essentially a divided staircase that goes up two different ways from floating mini landings) and the whole thing is actually suspended, not built on the lower part of the tower so as to avoid placing weight on it (the reason that the plans for the original tower had to be abandoned). It was a beautiful day for a drive, too.

The other reason we were in Ottawa was to see the 1/8 cello I’d seen listed on Kijiji a month ago. I told the gentleman who listed it that if he sold it in the meantime I would completely understand, but he kept it for me against several other inquiries. He was so kind that I’m very grateful the cello was in great condition and we could buy it. It’s thirty years old; he bought it long ago for his daughter who played it for a year before switching to piano, and he’s kept it all this time, hoping that he’d eventually have grandkids who would play it. He and his wife are selling their house (which was a lovely older semi-detached cottage-style house dating from the 1940s, I think, and if we were in the Ottawa area it’s just the kind of place we’d love to move into) and it was finally time for them to let the cello go.

It’s in very good condition for something that’s been stored for thirty years. There are a couple of cosmetic scratches, but other than that it’s very sound. The strings are dead, dead, dead, but I tuned them as best I could and the boy had a go at it to see how it felt, and the tone wasn’t bad. It will need new strings and bow, as I expected, and the tuning pegs may need to be reshaped (although I got them to stop slipping with a couple of dabs of peg dope — yay, I finally got to use the stick of it that Emily sent me!). I don’t doubt my luthier will want to reshape the bridge, too, because it seems very thick and heavy. The endpin is clunky and dates back from before the fashion was to be as light as possible, so it may be replaced at some point too. It desperately needs a new case, as the bag it’s got is vinyl backed with some sort of mohair-like man-made material that shreds onto the bridge and doesn’t open very well. But the instrument itself is in great shape, and all these other little things can be done one by one, starting with the strings and case, since we’re still using our teacher’s tiny Twinkle bow. And seriously, when one was renting at $170 for two months at a time, this will still come out cheaper only four months down the line. (I’m not kidding: this cello cost $150; updating the accessories will cost about $300. The only local 1/8 listed is $850. New, we’d be paying $1400.)

Most importantly, I asked him if he liked it, and he thought about it seriously before saying that he did, and that it felt comfortable. Did he want to buy it, I asked? Yes, he said firmly, he rather thought he did, which charmed the seller and his wife. So his decision was final, and we paid the gentleman, and the boy now owns his own cello.

(Oh, the forehead in the photo? He walked up to me this morning and said, “Mama, I want you to draw a maple leaf with a lightning bolt on it on my forehead.” “We have no face paint,” I told him. “We can use marker,” he replied cheerfully. Oh, no, we can’t, I thought darkly, because his so-called washable markers have proved decidedly non-washable lately. “Let me Google facepaint recipes,” I sad, and found one that I kitbashed (cornstarch, flour, honey instead of corn syrup, hot water, food colouring), outlined a maple leaf in eyeliner, and painted it in. In related news, we were awoken early this morning by the boy burrowing into our bed, where he proceeded to sing the national anthem to us.)

More recent good news:

– My largest freelance cheque arrived the day after the mail started moving after the government’s heavy-handed back-to-work legislation, so we have money again. For a limited time, of course, because now I get to throw money at utility bills that have been piling up, car insurance and registration, and reno materials, and cloth diapers, and obviously 1/8 size cello accessories that cost the same as full-size ones, a fact that I find extremely unfair… but this is what it was earmarked for, so I’m just thankful I’ve got it. (Which reminds me; I need to call QPIP and struggle through the red tape of initializing maternity benefits for a self-employed entrepreneur. Pray for me.)

– HRH and his dad finished laying the floor in the attic yesterday. This is huge, because it means all the other steps can happen.

– Tonight is the annual Canada Day concert given by the Lakeshore Chamber Orchestra, and although I’m still not feeling fully prepared (the inability to remember if I’m supposed to be playing A flats or sharps is one issue that comes to mind, and no, looking at a key signature doesn’t help much on the fly). Also, we suddenly have a full brass section, part of the magic of hey-it’s-the-week-before-the-concert. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a gorgeous day for Canada Day festivities, too.

– I hit 35 weeks yesterday, and am still very proud of the Owlet for hanging in there. One more week and my hospital will deliver her without stopping labour or transferring me to Ste-Justine for imprisonment. (Just kidding, Ste-Justine; you are a remarkable hospital, and I love you and your staff and everything you have done for us in the past, but I really, really want to work with my own hospital of choice for this delivery.) She is getting really cramped for space and I am near the okay-enough-of-this point, so any time as of 7 July is a go. We are not committing to a date, but we suspect the third week of July.

– My cousin and his family stopped by for the afternoon on Tuesday on their way to Nova Scotia and we had a wonderful time with them. I hope they stop by on their way back in two weeks, but I think they plan to drive straight through.

Right; time to give my music one last once-over in the hopes that anything that hasn’t yet stuck manages to make its way into my brain, then pack a sandwich and snacks and stuff to eat after warmup and before the concert, otherwise I will fall over dead around eight-forty-five.

3 thoughts on “The Boy’s New Cello

  1. Lu

    First off, good luck with the maternity stuff … holy smokes! I wish you no battle.

    Second, the concert was LOVELY as always.

  2. sarah

    I know this is crazy, but are you finished with the cello :D we are in need of an 1/8 and rental as you know is expensive :D

  3. Autumn Post author

    Hi Sarah! We’re still using it; he grew into it, and it fits him perfectly right now. I know, rental is insane, isn’t it? There are a couple of resources I used when I was looking to buy secondhand. The first is the listing at Suzuki Montreal (there aren’t any listed currently, but keep an eye on it!). The other is, widening your search to Quebec City or Ottawa (which is where we found ours), as a one- to two-hour drive can be worth it. And you can always contact local music schools or teachers, too, asking if they have any families who are looking to sell their smaller instruments, as they aren’t always traded in if the next cello is purchased privately. It took us about six months to find ours. Good luck!


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