Playing For Music’s Sake



A few years ago I lived in Ireland for 18 months. It was a wonderful experience that I hope I’ll get to repeat at some point.


One of the beautiful people I met there was the seven years old girl of a family running a local restaurant. I remember one day when I was visiting she asked me if I could join in her tin whistle practice. While I had never played it before, I did play other instruments in my life and I have a pretty good ear, so why not learn something new?


After all, what could be so hard? You blow into the thing, learn where you place your fingers over the holes to get the specific notes and voila!


I had no idea there were so many ways to blow into a whistle, but I definitely could not find the right one. The sounds I was producing were somewhere between skinning and boiling a cat alive.


The little girl was rolling on the floors laughing, while I was getting blue in the face. I could feel my temperature rising by the minute.


“Dad, come here, you need to hear this!” she grabbed him by the sleeve as he was passing through the room.

“Oh honey, I did!” he said, rapidly making himself scarce.


It went on like this for almost an hour.

“Are you having fun?” she asked me.


No, not really. I’m pretty sure I was tensing more muscles than I needed to and my hands were getting stiff. Meanwhile, I still sounded like I was pushing a ramshackle wardrobe.


She was laughing so hard I was afraid she would have a fit.


When I left Ireland, the little girl offered me her spare whistle as a goodbye gift. She wanted me to remember her by just as fondly as she was going to remember our little musical experience.


I was glad I gave her self-esteem a boost.


Upon my return home I continued to play the tin whistle every day in the first two weeks. I wasn’t improving, but my partner became a very active man. Never before did he have so many meetings in the city. Eventually, I had to stop because he said he could no longer take the compassionate looks and sour comments from our neighbours. Philistines!


Three months later, as I was rummaging through the things I brought from Ireland, I found the tin whistle. Already nostalgic by now, I picked it up and played tentatively. Sure, I had forgotten some notes, but surprisingly, the sounds came out as they were meant to be.


Without even trying.


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