HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

December 10, 2007
Musings in My Morris Chair

My Career in Music: The Cymbals

Ernest Cassara


At a recent concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Maestro James Levine conducted Bedrich Smetana’s suite, Ma Vlast (My country).  If one doesn’t recognize the title, one surely knows the most famous section, “The Moldau.”  From the opening strains one realizes the Moldau is a river.

I could not help but notice the prominent role of the cymbals in the music.  This brought back memories from as far back as the second grade.  (A hell of a long time ago!)  Our teacher would put on a recording; in those days, a 78 rpm disk.  Most of us kids were assigned to bang together sticks that were somewhat bigger than chopsticks.  I, however, was given the honor of using an actual musical instrument: the cymbals!

The first rehearsals went fairly well, but my banging together of the cymbals wore out the fabric cuffs with which I held them.  The Webster School custodian had a solution.  He cut off the ends of two brooms sticks, embedded screws in them and fastened the cymbals with nuts.

All went well in rehearsals from that point on, I happily clanging the cymbals together.

Then came the evening of our performance, with quite a few parents in attendance.  The others in the “orchestra” banged their sticks together happily, bringing smiles to the faces of the proud audience.  The parents seemed particularly interested in my cymbals, since they were the only real instrument.

What I had never thought to check was the status of the nuts holding the cymbals to the broom stick ends.  Whoops! As I clanged away, one of the nuts came off and that cymbal fell to the floor.  It seemed reasonable to this budding musical genius to get down on the floor, to pick up the cymbal and to search for the wayward nut.

So, there I was on the floor, looking all over for the nut.  I stole the show.  The parents laughed their heads off.  I, however, do not recall that I saw anything to laugh at!

And, then, there was my career at the piano keyboard.  Did I ever tell you about my performance at a recital in the school auditorium, before an audience of parents and our siblings?  Well, that will have to wait till another day!


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