Another Day in Which I Played Piano, sort of…

I’m pretty sure there is an adventure of some kind in every ordinary day. This one was not hard to find. It involved a bit of adrenalin…

On Sunday, I got to play piano alongside a real concert pianist. What an adventure!
Huntley Brown was someone I had not met or heard of, but he was playing a worship service (actually three of them) at our church. He has played for audiences all over the world, including the Summit for the Persecuted Church. He and the pastor were alone at the front of the church when the husband and I came in and took our seats.

He came over to greet us. He had questions.
“Do you play music by ear?”

“Yes, kind of. I can pick out melodies, but perhaps not perfectly the first time. I can follow most chord structures.” I answered him without fear, without apprehension, without suspicion. After all, we were just talking music.

“Well, what hymn do you know? Tell me one.”

I’m getting just a hint of foreboding. “I don’t play any of them often without the music in front of me. I can’t really think of one I KNOW by ear, not really.”

“No, you can do one, which one? Just name one that you like…”

“You’re the one giving the concert. We came to hear you.” (Nervous laughter, greater foreboding. He’s being so nice and encouraging – if I keep refusing, I’ll look really lame.)

“What shall we play? Just pick one.”

I know pretty much any hymn in any hymn book, having played them in one church or another since I was 15. For some reason, my mind was blank and I couldn’t remember the name of a hymn, not one. Oh, wait…

“Amazing Grace.” That was a hard one to think of. Where did I come up with that?

“Okay, do you want to play the top or the bottom part?” He was leading me up on stage to the piano. Apparently this was going to happen so I was trying to get my wits about me.

There were hardly any people in the audience yet. Probably no one would notice what was going on. I took the bottom part. He was between me and the people. I could hide. We played Amazing Grace. It only has three chords but I still got some of them wrong.

“That’s good. Let’s play it again. We’re doing the prelude.” This he said to the man in the sound booth who was doubtless wondering what was going on.

I think we may have played Amazing Grace three times before he asked me to think of another one. Still couldn’t remember anything I could play.

“Do you know What A Friend We Have in Jesus?” I did know that one and we played it a couple of times.

“What else? One more…” I couldn’t get the name of the one I was thinking of but I played the first couple notes of the tune and he took over from there. We finished our prelude with that one.

There were a lot more people in the audience by this time. I could see that they were enjoying him interacting with me, one of their own. The hymns were not the point. My musical skill was not the point. The point was that someone so accomplished in their talent was not afraid to come alongside someone of lesser ability, to be humble and gracious in sharing what they could do, to start a relationship in a small but significant way, to have fun, to encourage. I actually think it was a genius way to demonstrate how a believer follows Christ’s example.

I played piano with Huntley Brown as he demonstrated how Jesus does things. It was a good adventure.

Losing My Voice

I am saddened. Today I decided to consult with a piano repairman about my faithful, long-standing instrument and its recent problem.  It will cost more to repair than it is worth, about $300. I would have thought it was worth more than that – it certainly was in its youth.

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Faithful friend

We acquired this Everett piano in 1974 or 75, I’m not certain of the date. The husband and I were newlyweds and in college. We had mentors, both of them teachers at the college, who were going to spend some time abroad and were selling a lot of their possessions that would be hard to store. We bought their piano and their car.

I’ve had access to a piano my whole life, except for a few years living in college dorms. Now I had my own, in my apartment, to play any time I wanted to. We moved from Texas to California and the piano came with us and survived the distance. We moved from California to Wisconsin and again the piano held up well. We moved from Wisconsin to Florida, with the piano in the trailer. Through all this it never had significant tuning problems, just a nick or two on its wooden surface and a stripped screw that held the music stand.

I practiced my lessons on this piano, as well as wedding music, funeral music, fun music for my kids, and special accompaniments for friends who sang. As my children learned to play their instruments, I learned to accompany them. There were years when I taught my own piano students – many small hands had their first introduction to music on the keys of my Everett. There was the year when I once again took lessons from a college professor, doing difficult music and learning intricacies that stretched my ability. Learning hymns and worship music for churches I worked for was always going on in the background. My piano was a workhorse.

But it was more than that. They say that music is a path to the soul, and I have experienced that connection. The instrument making the music became a voice for my soul. My piano taught me that beautiful sound is more than just pushing the right notes, it is putting emotion into those musical phrases, touching them in a particular way, a familiar way.

My piano has calmed me as I cried, has distracted me in distress, has satisfied my need to create. Although made of wood and metals, felt and ivory, it has become almost like a person to me. A treasured friend and encourager.

We are looking forward to one more move, and I have been paring down in anticipation of having to store whatever we decide to take with us. The piano is heavy. It will not store well, and it is broken. I think it is time to let go, but it is hard, and sad. Yes, it’s a sad day, and there are a few tears… just sayin’.