Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alison Whalen's mystery

Alison Whalen, violinist, cellist, and painter, recently sent me this story and I am very pleased to pass it along (almost) verbatim. The violin shown here is the subject of this fascinating mystery.

“I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, but I've been living in California for the last three decades. Several years ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I moved back to Buffalo for four months to be with him during his last days. One Sunday morning after his hospice nurse arrived, I decided to take the morning off, and headed over to my favorite old haunt, the local flea market. While en route, I suddenly remembered a dealer there from whom I used to buy wonderful paintings many years ago, and I decided to look for him on the off chance that he might still be doing business at that flea market. Amazingly, I found him, still in the same location, and I saw that he had three violins in his booth. The first two were nothing special, but when I opened the lid of the third case, I found an instrument with a beautifully timeworn patina. Even though the inner label was long gone, I got that special little zingy chill that told me I'd found a treasure. Her tailpiece was inlaid with a mother-of-pearl bird on a branch, and when I turned her over, I was surprised to see my initials - A.W. - carved into her back. I took the bow to her, and the tone that emerged was dark and rich like melted chocolate. After awakening from a long hibernation, she had quite a bit to say, and I fell instantly in love with her.

After a bit of half-hearted haggling, I wrote a check and took her home, excited to show my dad what I'd found. We were sitting on the couch, and as I passed the violin to him, I noticed more carving along the reverse upper bout that I hadn't previously seen. Closer examination revealed the name 'A. Whalen.' My first initial and my last name!

Some folks may write this off as mere coincidence, but as a firm believer in the threads that guide us through our destiny, I know better. 2500 miles from my home, this violin was waiting for me. A whim directed me to a favorite flea market where I searched for and found a dealer whom I hadn't seen in 10 years, and he just happened to have a violin bearing carvings of my initials and my name. This connection was meant to happen. This violin perfectly suits my playing style. The minor keys reveal her soul, and it's as though she's always a hair ahead of me, somehow intuitively knowing exactly what I'm trying to express, no matter what I'm playing. I call her my gypsy girl, my serendipity. She may not be worth a fortune at auction, but to me, she's priceless. By the way, my dad was a professional magician. He used to tell me that I had magic in my DNA, and that my life would be filled with unusual occurrences with no logical explanation. I'm glad that he and I had the chance to share this special one. He passed away two weeks later. “ 

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