The First Epistle to the Terentians

An Oxfordshire Lad

The First Epistle to the Terentians
Percussion instruments for The Mikado (Photo credit: vxlaCC BY 2.0)

Dear Terence,

Ever since she confessed to loving the triangle, I could not help but suspect she might harbour, also, a secret love for the tambourine—and maybe, even, for other such so-called instruments—so I bided my time, arranging eventually for tickets to Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 2, on some Pretence which I have by now forgotten.

My friend, I should have seen it coming: she was smirking to herself—that same smug smirk you know she’s had since childhood—all the way to het Koninklijk Concertgebouw. Every time I asked, “What?!” she said “Oh, nothing,” and smirked some more. And then smirked again. It was driving me mad!

I barely kept my composure, but I set myself to observing her during the performance. Sure enough, she seemed almost too eager for the first two movements to be over. When it came to the rondo, I caught her stealing furtive glances at the tambourinist during those interminable measures—nearly forty-six seconds—under Conductor Rübato, no less—of the relentless beating of that loathsome “instrument!” Confronting her during intermission, I demanded: “The membranophone or me?!”

If ever you have been on either end of an ultimatum, then you probably know it is a Pyrrhic victory at best. And indeed, it was too late for us, too. Not only did she love the tambourine, she loved all the membranophones, and the membranophonist, to boot!

You should see the two of them now—their many children play exclusively percussion—with nary a musician among them. It makes me sick, albeit not with envy. Her husband is, after all, a mere membranophonist, not even a timpanist, let alone an idiophonist. This fact is not a little bit weird, given her reasonable love for the marimba and kettles; but let us not digress.

Terence, this is—as you know I am fond of saying—stupid stuff. One must stop this aural infection early on. If one fails, it is akin to standing idly by whilst a friend listens to Bartók, or Milhaud (or whomever you do not fancy, you see?) and calls it music: nothing good can come of it. That is all.

I am only joshing, Friend. I absolutely love the tambourine part in that piece!

The rest of this tale is true.

Affectionately Yours,


See also A Shropshire Lad, by A.E. Housman

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