Thoughts from a Musician's Heart


OUT OF THE DEPTHS by Alana Carithers

As I entered the room, I saw several dozen violins laid out on tables. The instruments were beautiful: some with deep scars, some in pieces, others yet unplayable and unrestored, but many begging to be played and to sing.

This was my first encounter with the Violins of Hope, a collection of instruments which arrived in Richmond last summer. This specific collection of instruments, begun by Amnon Weinstein, an Israeli violin maker, has been collected since the end of World War II and most of the instruments belonged to European Jewish families and musicians of the Holocaust.

As I looked around at these beautiful instruments that I had been given the privilege to play, I was amazed, awestruck, sad, and yet hopeful. I wished for a minute that each instrument could speak and tell of the things it had seen and the places it had been. Words at this moment were inadequate. I carefully reached down and picked up the first violin, which had been silenced yet again during the Covid pandemic. The first notes were choked, but with each stroke of my bow, the instrument began to sing.

I played them all, enjoying the beauty of each sound, the difference of each tone and the look and feel. Whose hands had played this instrument before me? I finally chose the one I wanted to play and was given the story by Avshi Weinstein, the grandson of Amnon, who continues in his grandfather’s work. I had selected the “Freedman violin”, which had belonged to two sisters who were separated from their parents and the violin and then eventually reunited. (that is the very short synopsis of the instrument’s story). I was privileged to play this instrument for 3 months and 5 different concerts. It became part of my story and my musical history.

What a humble privilege to bring music back to life from one of the darkest times in world history. As I pondered the instruments my mind drifted to Psalm 130 where the Psalmist writes,

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,

and in his Word I hope;

My soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the LORD!

for with the LORD there is steadfast love

and with him is plentiful redemption…”

Out of the depths indeed came the cry of these instruments. And out of the depths I want my heart cry to be that my HOPE is in God!

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