“A cello’s soul is the resonance that makes it unique: how it was made, when it was made, who’s played it. Mine may be who my parents were, what I know about life, who I love and have loved. All that makes my bones resonate… it’s an endless well of information.”  -Ben Kingsley




I play a Hornstiener cello that was built in the Bavarian Alps about 180 years ago. I inherited the cello from my father, George Mulfinger, after he passed away in 1987. My Dad was a Science professor, author, and cellist par excellence. While he was playing with the Syracuse Symphony and Krasner String Quartet, he came across a gorgeous-sounding cello at a music store in New York City. Apparently, a lady had brought the cello in, having found it amongst her deceased grandfather’s belongings and wanted to get rid of it for some quick cash. Mom and Dad bought it on the spot. The cello was a clear answer to their prayers. Why the name Murgatroid? Well, family rumor has it that Dad gave his students the honor of choosing a name for the cello and “Murgatroid” is the name they came up with. (Hmm maybe I should be taking suggestions for a middle name?)

Growing Up with the Sounds of Murg

My ten siblings and I grew up with the sound of Murg resonating through the house. We fell asleep at night with the soothing sounds of Murg floating up the stairs into our rooms. When I hear Murg, I can feel the warmth and safety of Dad being near – steady strength in the booming bass and the shimmery tenderness as it soars up the a-string. There is soul and vibrant life in the resonating wood. The resonance of Murg tells me haunting stories from ages past and pulls the heartstrings that inspire my future.

My Dad began giving me cello lessons when I was 9. He passed away when I was 13 after a short battle with cancer. We were devastated. For more than a year after he passed away, I wasn’t sure if i was allowed to touch the cello and I was too afraid to ask. It was sacred. Nobody ever touched it and nobody talked about it. I continued practicing on my junky student cello with the goal of becoming “worthy” enough to even ask about it.

Fast Friends

I had a concerto competition in 9th grade which I had practiced like mad for. I finally gathered my nerve and asked my Mom if I could use Dad’s cello. To my surprise, she gladly agreed! I remember pulling Murg out of the case for the first time since Dad was gone and feeling nearly limp with both sadness and awe. But as soon as my bow touched the string, I heard that familiar sound and felt the comforting tones resonating through my entire being. I suddenly realized that I was bringing Dad’s voice back. It could be my gift to my family to keep his voice resonating through the house! Murg and I became fast friends. The competition resulted in my playing the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto that year with the local youth Symphony. That was the beginning of our journey together.

Murg and I have seen a lot together – we’ve been to France, England, Canada, Mexico, all over the US, back to Germany to live in his birthplace for awhile, and now we live in Greenville, SC where he lulls my own little ones to sleep at night. Murg’s sound is uniquely sweet and warm. Once, when I was living in Berlin, I had a very well-known cellist (who plays on a half-million dollar cello himself) ask me if I would ever consider selling Murg. He was taken with the sound and was willing to pay whatever i asked. I thanked him for the compliment and told him the cello was simply priceless in its sentimental value.


Its always been a tad scary, if not completely freaky at times being in possession of this family heirloom. You’ve got to understand that I have 10 siblings who treasure that cello at least as much as I do, and who each have sweet childhood memories wrapped up in the sound of it. For years I’ve had nightmares of something terrible happening to Murg. I would wake up in a sweat with horrible visions of splintered wood and…whew. It was only a dream. But then one morning I didn’t wake up from the nightmare. I was in a wild hurry trying to get to school on-time to teach a lesson. I put the cello case behind the minivan, then went back inside to get the keys. As I backed out, I felt a bump and heard a screeching sound like something dragging on pavement. To my horror, I had backed over Murg! Too scared to look, I ran inside and called my mom. Her gracious response was “Its only a cello. Just be thankful it wasn’t a person!” She quoted a verse about being strong and told me to go out there, get the cello, bring it inside, and go teach my lesson.


Mike Weems, an amazingly patient and skilled luthier, took the splintered cello and began a restoration process which took several moths. After many long months, and a few more months of breaking it back in, I began to perform again on Murg. To my surprise and delight, his voice gradually came back even sweeter and richer than before! A conductor who knew the sound of Murg well from his many years of collaborating with my father, heard our first performance back. He called me immediately afterwards to tell me how amazed he was at the sweetness and the fullness in the sound. It was then that I realized the deeper spiritual truth that God was trying to teach me. I was broken and crushed inside by the weight of grief, hurt, and my own wrong responses. I knew the Master Luthier was waiting and wanting to restore me. I knew He wanted my life to sing with the fullness of His beauty, His love and His strength. But I would have to yield completely. I would have to let him take me completely apart, put each piece back together where He wanted it, and strengthen every splintered joint with Holy Spirit strength. It took years and more crushing, but now I can say with a deeply thankful heart that I finally yielded completely, and that the eternally patient, infinitely skilled Master Luthier is doing a beautiful restoration in my own life.

The other day I was driving down the street with my daughters. Out of the blue, my daughter, Isabelle (who plays cello), asked me if she would someday inherit Murg. I had actually never thought of it and couldn’t get over how wonderful the thought was. Yes, Isabelle! Lull your babies to sleep with the sound of Murg. (And go ahead and give him a second middle name too!)

This is the the case my brother, Mark Mulfinger, painted after Murg’s restoration. He laughs and says it is “gloriously redundant”. I agree :-).