A triangle rounds out the holidays

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Our oldest son, Payton, was chosen to play the triangle in the winter concert when he was in first grade.

Very small and shy at the time, he was rarely in the spotlight. Being the triangle player could prove pivotal for him. Perhaps kindle a musical ember, put him onto a trajectory of success, and self confidence. A defining moment.

I wasn’t going to miss this photo op.

The triangle: A simple and fun instrument, and a nice addition to any holiday song.

When it was the first graders’ turn to take their places on the on the stage, I made my way to the front of the multipurpose room, big Nikon D50 in hand, and crouched down so as not to block other parents’ views.  Payton, being so small, was in the front row. I took in the concert with one eye opened wide and eyebrow arched, through the little window on the back of the camera. My finger tingled in ready position on the shutter button. When but in first grade does someone actually play a triangle?

If the violin is the mayor of the orchestra, the trumpet the town crier, and the clarinet the beauty queen, the triangle is the village idiot. Cute, sure, but never taken seriously. Just one notch above the spoons. Seemingly, anyone with a pulse can play it.

I did not capture an action shot of Payton playing the triangle. Because all told, it was one solitary note – it happened in second, before my brain could tell my finger to push the button. I hadn’t considered that he would need to only strike it once. I’m not sure what I was expecting – a triangle solo jam session? It was the beginning and end of his triangle career.

At the conclusion of the holiday performance, Payton was still small, and still shy. But yes, a little prouder.

Thanks to the internet, I have since learned that the simple instrument is used for more than elementary school holiday shows and calling someone to dinner. The triangle it turns out, is worthy of more respect than it receives.

Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven all used it. In more modern times, John Deacon of Queen played the triangle in live performances by hanging it from his microphone, and Joni Mitchell uses it in the song, “Big Yellow Taxi.”

My personal favorite bit of trivia: the triangle also provides the trademark percussion during the opening bars of Henry Mancini’s famous theme for “The Pink Panther.”

In the same vein of not judging a book by its cover, we can see that indeed the triangle stands tall among percussive giants such as the xylophone or glockenspiel. It is a wonderful instrument because it is not intimidating, complicated, or heavy. And, one doesn’t need to find a private triangle teacher or pay for expensive lessons.

This year the triangle will round out our holidays nicely. I decided to buy one for Wyatt, who is seven. But I have a feeling all our kids, including now fifteen-year-old Payton, will be fighting over whose turn it is to play it.

Why not join me? Consider giving the gift of music (as well as a first geometry lesson) to a child you love this holiday season.

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