This was the very first instrument that I ever played -- not the particular one that is currently lying on my floor, but a wooden variant.
This is the one instrument from my past that I can still pick up and play quickly and easily. At this time of year in particular I like to bring it out and play Christmas tunes. There's just something about that breathy sound that seems apt to the sense of the season.
I am nervous and my glasses keep sliding down my nose, slick with perspiration. My fingers reach and stretch to cover the holes at the bottom of the long wooden instrument. Today I am playing alto and it's always harder to play this one because, long as my fingers are, my hands are still small.
There are six or seven of us on stage, half of us playing melody, the other half the harmony. The threads of sound twine around each other, building up in a crescendo to forte, fading away to piano.
My littlest brother is down there in the front row, staring up at me with a small smile. He doesn't know much music yet, but he thinks it's pretty and he's happy to see me up there.
I miss a note, try not to wince and catch my place, eyes scanning the sheet of music in front of me desperately. Ah ... there we are.
We finish with a flourish, wait for the applause and then start the next piece, shuffling about a bit as different people trade soprano for alto, melody for harmony and so on.
My favorite tune is a moreska .. a little dance ditty that starts out slowly and builds up over and over until the fingers fly in a regular blur of motion.
Many years later, I will play this tune at SCA events, racing against the dancers and smiling over the mouthpiece of my instrument with twinkling eyes as I did for my brother on a cold winter day in a crowded auditorium.