A STORY OF ELATION IN ECHTERNACH, LUXEMBOURG
The violinist onstage, the world renowned Daniel Hope, took the applause. As it gradually died away he raised the instrument to his chin and an expectant hush descended. The opening notes of Brahms’ Violin sonata No. 1 in G major, op. 78 quietly soared from the sliding bow. The piano accompaniment joined in. The duet drifted over the silent audience inside the Trifolion’s main auditorium.
Éléonore Thill sat enraptured in the front row. She focused on the nimble fingers caressing the strings along the neck. They moved effortlessly, holding and releasing, dancing to the rhythm that the bow played. She knew some Brahms. She had played violin on this very stage, but only in school concerts and never to a full house.
When she had accepted her place at the Echternach Music School she thought all she desired had been fulfilled. She had moved to the large town from the small village of Hachiville in the north, where she was born. Her parents could not afford to accompany her so she moved in with her Aunt. In Hachiville she was a star among the population of two hundred people. Her precocious skill with the violin was seen and heard every evening. She was the main attraction at all the social gatherings. Echternach was no monstrous metropolis, but the school alone had five times the population of Hachiville.
The bright-eyed ten year old who had started at the school was six years older now, and six years wiser. She had become used to being judged proficient if unspectacular. A career as an orchestra player was what her teachers saw for her, perhaps part of a quartet if she gave herself fully to the art.
It was not through lack of desire that Éléonore always ranked just below the very top students. In her heart she knew she was producing all that she was capable of. There was nothing more to give. Only the very top, less than one percent, would end up like Daniel Hope, travelling the world, playing the great venues as a solo artist. The other requirement that Éléonore lacked was the look of a true musical genius. Though others tried to tell her appearance didn’t matter, she knew it held her back. She was not slim, she was not tall, she was not elegant. Her features were not balanced, her hair was not flowing nor shining. Daniel Hope stood on the stage, his body moving gracefully in synchrony with the music and the instrument. Éléonore could only dream of replicating such movement.
As the beauty of the notes floated over her, Éléonore allowed herself to picture Carnegie Hall packed with New Yorkers desperate to hear her command the instrument; or the Weiner Musikverein in Vienna; or the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall at the Bolshoi in Moscow. One day she hoped to finally travel outside the borders of Luxembourg and see these places for herself. For now, her dreams were based on the performances she could glimpse from the internet.
The final notes of the sonata faded away, faintly echoing across the hushed room. The applause began to ring around Éléonore. She joined in. The ovation grew and those around her stood on their feet. In her dreams she had stood on those famous stages, taking that applause. Now she unlocked the brakes on her wheelchair and swivelled down the narrow aisle. Some glances were thrown her way as she wheeled away, she felt the heads turning to look at her as the applause petered out.
She no longer cared. Just as when she had been a small child in Hachiville, music was her escape from the crippled body she had been born with. Strangers could stare all they wanted, inside she was alive. One day she may get the chance to play at the Echternach International Music Festival, or she would not. So long as there was music, Éléonore Thill would do more than survive. She would live.
Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.
Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s a trip to the International Music Festival in the town of Echternach, Luxembourg – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.
Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.
For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.