As a young boy, Pablo Casals was like all boys everywhere. He attended the village school, and enjoyed playing with the other children of Vendrell in all their ordinary games and activities. Casals was an athletic boy, and led all his classmates in racing and high jumping. As with boys everywhere, peer pressure had an impact on his life. By the time he was eight years old, he had become quite a good violinist, and had performed Dancla's "Air With Variations" at a public concert. But the boys of Vendrell made fun of him, and jeered at him as the "blind musician," due to his habit of playing with his eyes closed, and his head turned and slightly elevated. Stung by their ridicule, Casals abandoned the violin, and searched for another instrument. It is an interesting question: Where would cello playing be today if Casals had continued with the violin? To a certain extent, the mockery of children has changed the history of the world.
The young Pablo Casals was proficient with the violin, piano, flute and organ. He also was interested in some of the unusual instruments that were peculiar to his time and place. For example, he learned to play the "gralla," an old Catalonian instrument, short and slender, that looked like the small black plastic "song flute" that some public school systems use in teaching music to children now. It played a scale of whole tones, only, and may still be heard in Vendrell, on Fiesta days
.An odd group of musicians called "The Three Flats," visited in Vendrell about this time in Casal's life. They used all sorts of rare and strange instruments, and mysterious contraptions made of the odd scrap of wood, kitchen utensils, teapots, and whatever came to hand. Pablo was fascinated! One instrument in particular caught his attention. It was a home-made "cello," constructed of a broom handle, and a gourd, and some gut strings. At Pablo's request, his father made such an instrument for him, and in a very short time he was able to play anything on it, and even gave "concerts" for his family and friends. This toy "cello," Pablo Casal's first, he treasured and kept all his life.
Copyright © 1996, 1997 Marshall C. St. John
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