The Story of the Little Boy
Who Loved the Organ Grinder
The picture on this page is of the house wherein a great composer was born. Of course, one is not born a great composer. He has to become that. So, at the moment this story begins there is, within this house, a little boy quite like any other boy. He loved to play and to make a noise and to have a good time. But most of all—what do you think he loved?
The hand organ played by the local organ grinder!
Whenever the organ man came into the village of Roncole, in Italy (where Verdi was born, October 10, 1813), he could not be kept indoors. But he followed the wonderful organ and the wonderful man who played it, all day long, as happy as he could be.
When Giuseppe was seven years old his father, though only a poor innkeeper, bought him a spinet, a sort of small piano. So faithfully did the little boy practise that the spinet was soon quite worn out and new jacks, or hammers, had to be made for it. This was done by Stephen Cavaletti, who wrote a message on one of the jacks telling that he made them anew and covered them with leather, and fixed the pedal, doing all for nothing, because the little boy, Giuseppe Verdi, showed such willingness to practise and to learn. Thus the good Stephen thought this was pay enough.
Here is a picture of the little piano. In Verdi's language (Italian) it is called a spinetta.
It was on this spinet that the little boy discovered one day a wonderful chord, for so it seemed to him. It was this:
The tones delighted him and he pressed the keys over and over again to drink them in. But the next day when he sought again the keys which made the lovely sound, he could not find them. This made him so impatient and finally so curious that he began to break the spinet to pieces with a hammer. Fortunately the noise he made brought his father into the room and the spinet was saved.
When Giuseppe was making his first attempt to find beautiful chords on the spinet he was, as we have said, seven years old. That was in 1820.
When he was ten years old (what year was that?) Giuseppe became organist at the old church of Roncole. Truly a little boy for so great a position! One day he scratched his name on the woodwork. Here is a picture of the organ:
ORGAN AT RONCOLE
Come back this Wednesday for Part 2!