Thinking Out Loud

January 22, 2021

Maintaining Our Position

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:00 pm

In a symphony orchestra or string orchestra there are more violins than anything else.

Why should orchestras be censored?
There’s too much sax and violins.
(Sorry about that one.)

There are actually two parts written, 1st Violin and 2nd Violin and players are generally paired to share music, with each pair called a desk. So if I tell you someone is playing 2nd Violin, 2nd desk, you know where to look for them.

When it comes to playing the violin, I recognized that I was never going to amount to anything. My bowing technique was wrong, and I could never find a shoulder rest (pad) that I was comfortable with, meaning I was somewhat supporting the thing with my hand. That’s not how it works. Ideally, the player should be able to support the instrument with their chin and if you apply some downward pressure they ought to be able to resist that, within limits.

Plus, I was always dabbling in other instruments. For me, the violin was a ticket to learn more about music in general, orchestration, rehearsal techniques; and a ticket to go on the best school trips ever, including London and Paris. I played the Bb Baritone in a junior band at church and because it uses the same clef and the same fingering as a trumpet, also played my dad’s trumpet at home. Dad also had a Hawaiian (steel) guitar, and owned a number of mouth organs. My best friend in my late teens and early 20s was a bass guitar player, and every time he walked away from the instrument at his home, I would pick it up and began teaching myself.
(I was destined to be a music generalist, not a specialist.)

I ended up playing viola in the church orchestra — and this was Canada’s first and only megachurch, so a pretty decently sized group — because they short players. The viola uses the alto clef (which looks like a letter “k”) so I taught myself to play in 3rd position, move over one string, and pretend it was a violin. I did a summer of cello. I took an option at school and learned guitar. I know the positions to play a scale on a trombone. I was one of the first people to buy a Roland Synthesizer when they became available. (We just learned, when my son took it apart, that it was the #22 produced instrument in its model.)

My lips have never touched a woodwind instrument.
(There’s a whole other essay in that somewhere, but it will have to wait.)

My friend Mark in high school was much more studious when it came to his violin playing. I think he ended up being concert master (1st Violin, 1st desk, outside position; it’s a pretty big deal) but I’m not 100% sure of that. He supplemented his high school music with private violin lessons from the same person I did, but I’m sure that teacher would have gladly substituted my weekly visit with Jehovah’s Witnesses or an Amway salesman.

Mark’s mother would always say, “The boys need to work hard to maintain their positions.” It got repeated enough times that it worked its way into our home, and my mother would say, “You need to work hard to maintain your positions.”

The idea is that you had to keep practicing, or the next time the seating arrangements were shuffled, you could find yourself pushed back a desk or two, or worse, transferred to the 2nd violin section.
(Canadian/UK readers: Think federal or provincial cabinet shuffle. It’s not dissimilar.)

“Work hard to maintain your position(s)” became a mantra.

At this point the devotional writer in me wants to invoke a Bible passage comparison, but I can’t decide between

Therefore, since the promise to enter his rest remains, let us beware that none of you be found to have fallen short. (Heb. 4:1 CSB)


For it is impossible for those…if they fall away, to renew them again… (Heb. 6:4,6 NLT, severely cut and paste edited for the purpose of proof-texting)

Here’s the point.

When you get older things from your younger days come back to haunt you, and I find myself repeating Mark’s mother’s words, “We have to work hard to maintain our position(s).” Usually when I’m saying this I’m just blathering on because I’m socially distanced from everyone, under a stay-at-home order and the only time the phone ever rings is someone trying to sell us air duct cleaning. (For the record, we use electric baseboard heating. Just sayin’) 

But we do need to persevere or we can slip backwards in the things that matter most.

Maybe a better verse would have been:
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (I Cor 10:12, NKJV)

Anyway, I just thought someone needed to read this. Or I needed to write it. Or something.

Related music: Steve Taylor and Sheila Walsh singing “Not Falling Away” (studio version, 7:43) 

Actual devotional link: Each one of us at any given minute, hour, week, day, month, year… is either moving toward the cross or moving away from the cross.

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