Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Friends ~

Because this is Thanksgiving week I am not going to look beyond my backyard for wonderful musicians. I am, instead, going to tell you about the ones I personally know right here locally. The names I am using are not "real names" as I have not asked for permission from my friends.

Sam, a funny, talented man who was a Marine Band trumpet player. He plays upbeat happy music and adds a lot of improv ala trumpet style. He can sit and play from memory, or read music. He has a wife and extended family and like most of us, they come first.

Avis, like many of us, a widow who began taking lessons from a pro, but when she heard of the Lowrey program, she changed over. She is dedicated to keep improving, likes a challenge in her choice of music. She is unassuming and genteel and her music reflects her beautiful personality.

Gloria, a former dancer, puts energy into her music with pedals, and chooses a lot pieces which have a strong beat. Her choice of music is, to me, quite opposite of her quiet demeanor. She was thrilled - yes, she really was - to be able to upgrade her instrument. She holds a full time job and still makes time for us one day a week. A valuable message to people who "think" they don't have time to put into music. Or some other hobby they would enjoy.

From time to time, being a group of seniors, we lose someone very dear to us. There was Susan. She loved organ. She would select a song, work on sounds and chords on an organ which, while high end in its day, was old and "different" from the current models. She seldom complained that she couldn't get the sounds she wanted. She was a willing contributor to events and could be the life of the party at lunch. She came in one day and announced that she had cancer, and would fight it and beat it. But, alas, it was not to be. To the end, she felt "Thy will be done ----". Once she said,
"I said, 'if there is a plan to this, God, I am not getting it.'" It was so typical of her. She had a good marriage and a loving family. She also had a loving group of music friends. We don't forget.

There is Carl. Carl has health issues but in spite of them, he is a vital part of our group. Always willing to help, goes the limit to make things work, loves his music especially country. This man bought an organ some time ago. When we needed an organ to take around to outside venues to play, he bought a cargo van, adapted his car to haul it, put handles and wheels on the organ, took off the pedals so they wouldn't get broken, and willingly totes it around in good weather so we can entertain others. This is a very special man.

Look at Ruby. She has never had music, loves it. Came in to the program at the beginning and has made steady improvement. But - she is never happy with her progress so she is always talking of "starting over again." She plays with her whole body, heart and soul, and tries to hard to get perfect sounds. Unfortunately, most of us have different organs than the one at the studio where we have "playing for friends". Ruby, most of all, laments the difference between her instrument and the studio model. She is determined, a bit dramatic and comedic which adds another dimension to our group.

Paul has the smallest Lowrey organ of all of us. How he gets the beautiful arrangements and emotional nuances into his music is a mystery to me, but it proves that even a small organ can be used as a practice instrument. Paul drives an hour or more to come to our Thursday "class" and "playing for friends". He is an asset to our group with his quiet sensitivity. He has a delightful wife who sometimes joins us just to listen. It is always nice to get to know the "other half." The group as a whole would like to see Paul get a bigger organ with more options, but hats off to him! he makes the one he has work and translates his arrangements to the studio model beautifully.

Grace is one of those people who claims not to play well, not to read music, not to be ready. Yet she comes in with a book, plays a well practiced piece with sometimes embellished fingering. I should be so competent. She has a husband who joins her occasionally at the studio. They are "big band" devotees and he can tell you who play what with which band and probably what year and where. It's great to have that kind of memory for detail is a great asset.

Carol is a recent widow. She, like many of us in that situation, turns to music often in quiet times at home. She is a multi-talented person who has many interests and a lovely family but she finds time to put into arrangements. Her preferences are - well, I'm not sure she has any. She plays many different styles and works at getting them right. Like everything she does, she is particular in detail. Thoughtful, sensitive and generous, Carol is a strong supporter of the program and "gets it" when it comes to making it work. Her input on improvement is sound and practical. And her playing reflects her personality.

There is a man in our group, I'll call him Frank. He is a retired service man, with his wife has raised a nice family. He came into the program with absolutely no music in his background, but the organ fascinated him. Today's organs are fascinating instruments. Frank is a technician. I find his style interesting because it has evolved before my eyes. The first time I heard him play at a "graduation" I thought he would probably drop out before another session was over. Like his neat organized lifestyle, his music is uncluttered; the tune is always evident; his playing is what I would call precise. But - he constantly improves and reconstructs his arrangements of previously performed pieces. And, he admits to wanting to add "frills" to his playing. Frank is dedicated to keeping the group together and promoting the program in order to bring in new people to that end. He has a mid-sized organ and longs to be in a position to upgrade. He has a great sense of humor, a quick tongue, and a willing heart.

A ninety year old lady had been a piano player. She came in to the program, spry and energetic, transferred her piano talent to the organ, and delighted us all with a rendition of Autumn Leaves, piano run and all. She also played Clarinet Polka for memory, a feat I cannot play with music in front of me. Like most of us, there were pluses and minuses in her life; a grown son with developmental disabilities in institutional care; an important friend who passed away leaving her sad and lonely. He death made her more financially safe, but caused her to lose her subsidized housing, which forced her to move from a neighborhood she was well settled in. But that legacy also allowed her to have an organ. This wonderful lady had to give up coming in because at nearly 96, she became unsure of how well she was driving, and gave it up. She would be an inspiration to any one who thinks they are "too old" to begin something.

I met another 90+ year old one day and said, "I don't see you a the organ lessons anymore. How come?" and she said, "Well, I might come back later, but I have been playing golf on nice days. Have to do that, you know , while we can. We can play the organ on rainy days. But we can't play golf!" She did add that she still played and hoped to come back. She did not, and I saw her death in the paper several months later.

No so local there is a man who played accordion, and maybe other instruments I am not sure. He took to the organ around the time he retired and in my opinion, there is no man I know who enjoys the experience like this man. He is always exploring possibilities on the organ, always coming up with great arrangements and shares them willingly. He wants to be a "total organist" so is working on full pedal accomplishment (with the tutelage of his talented organist wife). He watches and learns from pros and is not shy about asking questions of them. That's the reason he is so really, really good and so really, really interesting. He's no in my backyard, but I count him as valuable friend in music.

The people who play hobby music are special, each and every one of them. Getting out with others makes people "keep themselves up" and "keep their minds sharp." No one knows what tomorrow will hold. No one can be sure the people they are with today will be with them a week from now. But if you find a group of people who share something you love it will improve your life immeasurably. You cannot be unhappy and be involved in music, and when you are a senior you don't have to prove anything, you don't have to have someone telling you to practice, you don't have to have someone saying you aren't playing it the way it was written. Especially with hobby organ, you are the maestro. Play it your way and let the "musicians" in the organ follow you. Lead them wildly into a polka or quietly into a lullaby. Play a romantic piece while you reminisce a long ago dance; play a march and watch the drummers swing their sticks and the trombones pump their slides.
Sing along, add your own fills, pause and play it another way. Enjoy to the max.

Keep a song in your heart and keep the music playing.
(That's getting a bit trite. I might be changing this blog in the New Year. Any suggestions?)

Janice (if you don't want to blog)

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