When I was a child I played the violin. I didn't really like the instrument but I had a go at school and was sent home with a note saying I had promise and that buying me a violin might be a good idea. To my surprise, my dad jumped at the idea.
I played quite well. I got a distinction at one exam, a merit in one and a pass in another, but I probably wouldn't have played if not for the sheer bliss it seemed to give my dad. Sometimes he cried when I played. He told me his sister used to play. Her name was Ann. She lived in America and he said she played at the London Palladium. I didn't really believe him.
Dad came from a poor East End Jewish family. Not all Jewish East End families were poor. My mum's family came from there too, but they were prosperous. Dad's lot were not. He and his sister and brother got rheumatic fever as kids as a result of poor housing conditions and as a direct result of that, all three later died of heart conditions. The idea of this poor, sick family being the home of a professional violinist struck me as odd. How did she manage to learn the violin with all of that going on? They wouldn't have had money for teachers. Or instruments. Or the time.
But amidst the poverty somehow two of his sisters turned out musical, Dad told me. His sister Milly was good on the piano. And Ann was professional he said. 'Yeah, yeah, yeah!' he used to say - I have always had a transparent face and I suppose my scepticism showed.
I never met my Auntie Ann - Dad was told he was too ill to fly so we never went to see her, and she was too ill to visit us. But aside from telling me that she played the violin Dad said she was very cultured, and kind and beautiful and modest. She sounded too good to be true.
I did speak to her on the phone once, mind you - this was at a time when international calls were a seriously big deal. Dad seemed to totally come to life when she called. He spoke to her for what seemed like an age and then called out, 'Come and talk to Auntie Ann!'. One by one we did as he said.
When it was my turn I heard a warm, American voice saying, 'Hello darling. I hear you play the violin. That's nice. I used to play the violin you know...' She had a very soft voice and somehow I felt that she loved me. She'd never met me but her love for my dad was so strong that it came right down through the phone to her unsuspecting little niece!
Auntie Ann died not long after that and I have never, before or since, seen a man so distraught as my dad was at the news of her passing away.
Over the years, relatives had told me that Ann was a professional violinist, but still somehow it jarred. How 'professional' was she? Maybe she played a bit but she probably hadn't been that good. Once or twice I did an internet search for 'Ann Muskoron violinist' or 'Ann Muskoron orchestra' but nothing came up.
Then when my mum died not long ago, I found these photos with 'Ann Muskoron' written on the back of each. None of them say that Ann played at the Palladium but somehow looking at them, I can see that she was professional, and I can totally believe that she played at the London Palladium. I can also believe that she was cultured and kind and beautiful and modest.
I can only imagine quite how much being musical must have meant in a family that was struggling as they struggled. And for Ann to earn her living by playing the violin must have seemed like nothing less than a miracle.
I wrote this blog so that if any body else did ever search for Ann Muskoron online, they would find something about her. RIP Auntie Ann. I also wrote it as a very late apology to my dad for not believing him. Sorry Dad. And RIP to you too.