Viola Names

Yesterday I rented a viola from a local fellow who has excellent taste in Christian literature (and seemed particularly generous about letting me borrow a wire music stand once he knew that I also played music for my church), who runs a music store out of his house in the area of Rock Creek, not far from where I work. When I arrived, he was taking care of providing a 17 year old young lady with a cello, and I could tell she was a beginner at the cello, but clearly very musical, and she expressed an interest in using the cello to help her score work, which reminded me of an online friend of mine from the Los Angeles area who had similar musical interests.

One of my many quirks as a violist is the fact that I like to name my musical instruments, like I name computers and cars. Unlike computers and cars, which I give female names to (either some sort of pun on the color or brand or model name, or of a lady I think fondly of), I have tended to give violas male names. I am not sure of the reason for this, but I suspect that in part I consider cars and computers to be generally mysterious and sentient organisms whose will is distinct and sometimes clearly contrary to my own, while I have considered my violas to be almost as if they were an extension of my own character and personality, or of a loyal friend where there is no hint or chance of a disastrous outcome.

The viola that I own, which I have played since I was 13 or so, has been named Harold III for about two decades now [1]. I’m not sure the precise joke about why I chose the name of Harold for my first viola as a preteen, and then updated the number for succeeding violas as I grew in size and skill. That said, from how I remember it there was a combination of some naughty puns to the name and the shape of the instrument in its case as well as a reference to British and Scandinavian history that made the name particularly appealing to me as a boy. I am not sure if I will name this viola, which I have rented on a three month contract for a very modest price (which is the minimum amount of time allowed for rentals). The owner stated a price of around $350 if I decided to purchase the viola afterwards, which appears to be a very modest price indeed, given the fact that my own viola in Florida is worth in the neighborhood of $3000 or so. I suppose I will have to think if a rental is a close enough relationship to give a name, or if something needs to be owned. I suspect the latter is true, so I will withhold from naming the instrument for now.

The larger question, I suppose, is why I would be bothering to rent a viola in the first place, and why at this time. As it happens, I somewhat absentmindedly stated that I was a musician who plays the viola on my registration for the Feast of Tabernacles, and while I have borrowed a viola to play in the past (last year at the Feast, for example), this year the owner of that borrowed viola is going somewhere else. When I was called upon to play a solo for offertory music, though, for the Feast of Tabernacles, clearly I needed an instrument to rent and I needed it soon, because I will need to play at least a little bit to get back into speed before the Feast comes. So, my brethren at church will have the chance to see me play the hymns at church for the next few weeks as I try to retrain my fingers and shoulder to do what they need to do to make a joyful noise in about a month or so, another day in the life of a quirky musician, I suppose.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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7 Responses to Viola Names

  1. Way to go! Hark the Harold; angels, sing!! 🙂

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