Marcy Chapman burst into the house. “We’re going to have our own orchestra!” she exclaimed.
Her older sister, Ann, looked up from her ironing. “Your own what? Marcy, what are you talking about?”
“Our own orchestra!” Marcy repeated. “It’s my teacher’s idea. A lot of the kids in my class take music lessons. If we’re good enough, we might even play for the PTA meeting!”
“What will you do?” her sister asked. “You don’t play an instrument.”
“No, but I could learn,” Marcy said. “Maybe Mama will let me buy one and take lessons.”
Ann shook her head. “Marcy, there’s no money for an instrument or lessons, and you know it. Don’t even ask Mama. It’ll make her sad to think that she can’t afford to buy things that the other children have.”
Marcy swallowed hard. What Ann said was true; there was no money for extras at the Chapman house, and a musical instrument and lessons were extras. Marcy went to her bedroom and changed her clothes. I have to be in the orchestra somehow, she thought. Maybe Grandma Hinkle has an old instrument stored in her trunk! She has all kinds of things in it. Anyway, it won’t hurt to ask.
Marcy hurried next door. Grandma Hinkle wasn’t really Marcy’s grandmother, but everyone in the neighborhood called her Grandma. She was friendly and nice and always had time to visit, especially with children.
“Come in, Marcy,” Grandma Hinkle invited. She held a large blue vase in her hand. “I’m just finishing up my latest creation. How do you like it?”
“It’s beautiful,” Marcy said, admiring the fancy design. Grandma Hinkle’s pottery was famous all over the state.
Grandma Hinkle frowned. “Is something wrong, child? You don’t look very happy.”
After Marcy had explained about the orchestra her class was forming, she said, “But I don’t have an instrument, Grandma Hinkle. I was hoping that you might have one in your special trunk that I could use.”
Grandma Hinkle thought for a moment. “Let’s see. It seems that I did have a violin … No, my brother took it years ago so that his little girl could learn to play. My, I hadn’t thought about that violin in years.”
“Thanks anyway,” Marcy said, heading for the door.
“Don’t go, Marcy,” Grandma Hinkle said. “I don’t have an instrument, but I do have some milk and cookies!”
Marcy smiled. Grandma Hinkle made delicious cookies. “I was waiting for the cookies to cool before I frosted them,” said Grandma Hinkle. She set a bowl of icing on the table and handed Marcy a knife. “They’re cool enough now, so why don’t you start frosting them while I get the milk.”
As Marcy reached for the frosting, she accidentally touched her empty glass with the knife. It made a tinkling sound, almost like a small bell.
“Is someone at the door?” Grandma Hinkle asked.
Marcy laughed. “No, that was my glass. I accidentally hit it with my knife.” Marcy tapped her glass again, reproducing the pleasant sound.
“Isn’t that pretty!” Grandma Hinkle said while she poured a glass full of milk for Marcy and a half-glass for herself. “I wonder if I have a musical glass too.” She tapped her own glass lightly with a knife. “Yes, I do!”
“Yours sounds lower than mine.”
“Try yours again,” Grandma Hinkle suggested.
“It sounds different now!” Marcy cried. “It’s much lower. It’s even lower than yours.”
“That’s because the glass is full of milk,” Grandma Hinkle replied. “Drink some milk, and the tone will be higher.”
Marcy tried it. “Yes, it is higher!”
Grandma Hinkle nodded thoughtfully. “I recollect now that my brother played songs on glasses when we were growing up. He lined up eight glasses and filled each one just a little fuller than the one before it. He worked on them until he had them going right down the musical scale! It was like having a real instrument—except that he’d have to empty the water out at suppertime so that we could use them at the table!”
Marcy’s eyes got big. “You mean that he could actually play songs on the glasses?”
“Oh yes,” Grandma Hinkle replied. “Of course, some glasses sound prettier than others, and—” She stopped and grinned at Marcy. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Maybe I could use glasses for my orchestra instrument!” Marcy exclaimed. “Is that what you were thinking?”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Grandma Hinkle replied with a chuckle. “Let me get some more glasses and water, and we’ll set to work.”
She put eight glasses in a row, and Marcy poured a little water into each one. It took a long time to get the scale exactly right, but they finally did it.
“To help you get started,” Grandma Hinkle suggested, “let’s give each glass a number, making the fullest one one, and so on. I’ll write some numbers down, and you play them.”
She took a piece of paper and wrote: “1, 1, 1-2-3. 3, 2-3, 4-5. 8-8-8-5-5-5-3-3-3-1-1-1. 5, 4-3, 2-1.”
“Try it, Marcy. Just look at the numbers to begin with.”
Marcy studied the numbers for a moment, then picked up the knife and began to strike the glasses lightly.
“Play it again, dear, a little faster, especially where there are hyphens.”
Marcy did, and her eyes lit up. “That’s ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’!”
“That’s right,” Grandma Hinkle said. “I’ll write out the numbers for some other songs too.”
“May I come over every day and practice?” Marcy asked.
“Yes, and I’ll put a tiny strip of adhesive tape at the correct water level of each glass. Then it won’t take so long to figure out the right amount of water each time.”
Marcy practiced especially hard for the next two weeks. Finally it was time to try out for her class orchestra.
“What are those glasses for?” one boy asked.
“You’ll see,” Marcy told him as she poured just the right amount of water into each glass.
“You certainly have the most unusual instrument we’ve seen so far, Marcy,” the teacher said. “I’m looking forward to hearing you play.”
Finally it was Marcy’s turn. Carefully she picked up the knife and began to strike the glasses lightly. Clear, sweet tones filled the air as she played “Over the River and Through the Woods.”
The class clapped when she had finished.
“Beautiful, Marcy,” the teacher said. “We’ll certainly find a place for your delightful instrument in our orchestra.”