Monday, July 29, 2019

Grandpa Lange's Violin

I wonder how many of my Lange/Jennings first cousins remember visiting Uncle Herbert and Aunt Iva at their house on Little River and seeing Grandpa Lange's violin framed and on display in their living room? I do. And I was always struck by how well Aunt Iva could incorporate cherished family heirlooms and photographs in her well designed rooms. When I saw the Grandpa's violin, it was the first time I knew he played another musical instrument besides the trumpet.

I don't know when Grandpa started playing musical instruments, but this photograph was taken in Essen, Germany, where he worked for five years -- from 1906 to 1911 -- before immigrating to Canada.

Gustav Lange, middle row third from left; personal collection

After arriving in Winnipeg, Grandpa met and married Wilhelmina Schalin. They moved to Michigan and then bought a farm in Maryland in 1919. While living there, Grandpa played in an orchestra at a movie theater during the silent picture era and played the trumpet in a marching band.

Recently, I asked my cousin, Paul, about Grandpa's violin. Paul sent me a photograph of the instrument as well as the information Aunt Iva had been able to discover about it.

Grandpa's violin; courtesy of Paul Lange

Aunt Iva said Grandpa gave Uncle Herbert the violin in the early 1960s when he and his family were visiting Grandpa at the farm in Maryland. (Grandpa died on 23 December 1963.)

Inside the violin is a label that reads: "Copy of Jacobus Stainer, Made in Germany." Also, on the backplate at the top of the body "Stainer" is stamped. Jacobus Stainer lived from 1617-1683 and his violins are very valuable but few have survived. Two were acquired by the Smithsonian. It is also known that Stainer never stamped his name on the violins he made. So it is likely this is a copy of Stainer made at a much later time period.

Two friends of Uncle Herbert and Aunt Iva's were accomplished violinists. They both played Grandpa's violin and said it had a beautiful tone.

There must be some musical talent in the Lange genes. Grandpa's younger brother, Friedrich, signed up for the army band when he was drafted into the Polish Army in the early 1920s. He had never played a musical instrument before, but thought the band would be easy duty. While in the Army he became so proficient at playing the French Horn, he played at weddings after being discharged.

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