Once there was a kingdom where music was highly valued. There were concert halls in every town, where orchestras, folk bands, choirs and clog dancers regularly gathered to rehearse, perform and appreciate each other’s performances. (Every type of music was welcomed, except for the ukelele, the playing of which carried the death sentence.)
The monarch revelled in the musicality of all her subjects, but nurtured a particular passion for the violin which was, she claimed, the pinacle of music. When she had ruled for a significant number of years she celebrated with a decree that every one of her beloved subjects would be able to make their own violin, and would be able to join the royal violin ensemble to play annually at the monarch’s birthday celebrations.
The decree went out to every town, as did a series of boxes and packets containing wood, glue, varnish, strings and tools. The kingdom rejoiced. Composers turned to writing violin music. In every town hall a room was set aside as a violin workshop.
For a few weeks the workshops were full of people sawing, planing and sanding. Planks were cut and ruined, glue splodged on, and barely one playable violins was made. Most people gave up. They had too many other things to do: work, shopping, cooking, looking after children, finding a spouse. They would have liked to have made a violin, but they simply didn’t have the time.
But there were a few people who did have time. They had parents who had prospered by thinking mainly of making money, and had never sung in a choir or played in an orchestra (and certainly never joined a folk band). The children of the prosperous had no need to work, so they took over the violin workshops and made violins for themselves. Sometimes, they found a talented violin maker and paid them to make a violin, claiming, quite reasonably, that as their money had released the violin maker’s time it was their money, and thus they who had made the violin.
A year passed and the royal violin ensemble was assembled and rehearsed. It appeared at the celebration of the royal birthday looking very smart in its red coats and gold braid. As the monarch entertained her guests at the birthday dinner the ensemble played one of the new pieces for violin.
The ensemble was adequate. Everybody knew that, but nobody said it.
Every year the ensemble played at the birthday celebration. Monarch replaced monarch, violinists handed on their positions to their children, who had less interest in playing the violin than their parents. Finally, the performance was so bad that the ensemble was excused playing: it was sufficient that they attended with their violins. Very soon, even that burden was removed as each member of the ensemble was given a gold badge, in the shape of the violin, to be worn at the birthday celebration.
In the rest of the kingdom no one played the violin and all the new violin music was eaten by mice or used as pie cases.