From the album Midsummer Market
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Thomas And The Strange Stradivari
A young violinist who’d only just started
Was scraping away feeling sad and down-hearted.
Each day, though he practised for many an hour,
The sound that he made came out screechy and sour.
His mother said, “Thomas, I really can’t bear it”,
You’ll have to stop playing that fiddle, I swear it!”
But his teacher said, “Please, don’t think me funny.
By the time he’s reached twenty, he’ll be playing for money.”
He practised and practised, and over the years
The screeches and scrapes had long disappeared.
In his twentieth year, like his teacher had planned,
He decided to try for a job in a band.
The conductor said.” Lad, I like how you play,
So I’ll give you a job, but on trial for a day.
You play with such passion and feverish fire,
But that violin’s got a tone like barbed wire.
You deserve something better, so might I suggest
That you get a new instrument, one of the best.”
“I’ll do it!” he said and shot off like a rocket –
Down to the shop with ten quid in his pocket.
The assistant smiled and said, “here, have a bash
On this one. I’m afraid it costs sixty or… fifty for cash.”
The young violinist looked sorry and sad,
For ten quid was all in the world that he had.
“No thanks”, he said, turned and departed,
His orchestral career so suddenly thwarted.
But that night, by chance, he was up in the attic,
Just rooting about when something dramatic
Occurred. He picked up a lamp, tarnished with rust,
And gave it a rub to get rid of the dust.
Whoosh! A genie appeared and said, “If you’re quick
I’ll grant you a wish and be gone in a tick.”
“But if my portable telephone rings don’t be cross
‘Cause I’ll have to rush off and rescue my boss.
His name is Aladin and he has some close shaves
He’s got this new sport exploring down caves.”
Thomas’s heart gave a leap of delight;
He’d had some good luck in the attic that night!
“Oh mystical, magical fairy,
Please will you give me an old Stradivari.”
The genie just stood there a-shaking his head;
“What on earth’s an old Stradivari,” he said.
“But here’s somehing else, you’ll like it I know,
It’s an old violin and it comes with a bow.
It was made by a bloke called Antonio
Who lived out in Italy a long time ago.”
“Once you’ve sat down and fiddled and played a few hours,
You may well discover its magical powers.
It’s got something more than a beautiful sound:
It can make people smile, as others have found.”
Thomas picked up the dusty old fiddle
And played a quick jig with a hey-diddle-diddle.
He played a slow air and made his heart fly,
The sound was so moving he started to cry.
Soon he took up his place in the orchestra, yet
The words of the genie, he chose to forget.
Before long, he gave concerts all by himself:
Just him and his fiddle; nothing else.
And people would travel from miles around
To hear his ringing, singing sound.
Then one night, as he stood on the stage all alone,
He’d forgotten his fiddle had powers of its own.
The curtains drew back and the audience hushed
As he took out the violin, blew off the dust
And started to bow the most beautiful air.
It came from Glasgow, or somewhere near there.
But as things were going quite nicely along,
His violin played a note that was wrong.
He couldn’t believe it, he felt a bit daft,
Especially when up in the gods someone laughed.
As wrong notes go, it was quite a humdinger,
And he was convinced he’d used the right finger.
He coughed, spluttered, went red and then
He said, “I’m sorry I’ll try that again.”
It happened once more and it suddenly dawned
That people were laughing, as the genie had warned.
The giggles had spread round all the four walls,
From up in the gods to down in the stalls.
That’s how the young maestro became such a star,
That kings and prime ministers came from afar,
And whenever his violin made things sound comic,
The applause at the end was quite astronomic.
Illustrations by Hilary James