A Fiddle Player’s Gift

When my siblings and I were growing up, we often heard my dad refer to himself as a “fiddle player.” In truth, he was a particular kind of fiddle player — one who’d spent most of his South Side Chicago childhood in lessons and orchestras, who’d played under Leonard Bernstein during his college summers and later kept in a case in our living room a 200-year-old fiddle made by a student of Stradivarius.

This humble touch reflected his awareness that violin playing didn’t put rockets into space or cure cancer (although the latter was something he worked pretty darn hard on during a long, caring career dedicated to oncology). But I think he mostly called himself a fiddle player because when you have a bona fide talent — a true gift — you don’t go around insisting that people recognize it.

Yesterday, a few hours before he watched a couple of NFL playoff games, and about two months before he’ll turn 80, my dad — Ed Filmanowicz — did what he often does: He shared his gift. With Tim Benson on piano, he played parts of a sonata by Arcangelo Correlli, and he played Jules Massenet’s Meditation from Thais about as beautifully as it can be played.

Ed Filmanowicz and Tim Benson wrap up a practice session at St. Paul’s.

I feel lucky now that I brought along a microphone and made a recording of the Massenet that I can share here. I wonder if you’ll react as I did, along with quite a few others who were there at St. Paul’s Church in Milwaukee​. Will your ears feel tickled? Will your insides feel warmed? Or appropriately enough given the setting, will your soul feel touched?

It can be daunting sometimes to relate to a talent that’s miles beyond anything a normal person can hope to touch. But by the time you reach 4 minutes and 16 seconds of the Massenet, perhaps my dad’s playing will leave you with a gift yourself, the message I’ve been hearing from his fiddle since I first started listening (but only recently learned to articulate): find something worthy of your best shot, do it beautifully and share it generously to the delight of others.

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