Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Music & Life

All my life I remember loving music. Some of the memories are vague because of the passage of time. Others are vivid, maybe they were more firmly imprinted in my mind because of the sheer terror of the situation. Other memories offer comfort, peace.

When I was very little, two or three, before we moved to Roanoke, my parents were evangelists and traveled pulling a house trailer all over the Southeast and southern Texas. They did the music for the services for two weeks and then moved on to another place. Camp meetings and revivals, except for the few travel days I was in church every night.

During the travel days we would go down the road and to keep me occupied we would play games. Since I could not read, we couldn't play the "license plate" or "signs" games so my mom made one up. She would tap out a song on the dashboard of the car, no tune, just the taps of the words in the right rhythm. Most were hymns or choruses as that was what I knew. I would guess the title. She said that I was quite good. In church every night? I ought to be good.

After the services they would play with me in the trailer before bed. What did I want to play? Church, of course, I knew nothing else. I was in charge of the service. "We will now sing a song," I said, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." I did the preaching as well and my topic for the evening was "Goldilocks and The Three Bears". Then it was time to pray. That week we had been with a preacher who always knelt down to pray. He would get into the prayer in earnest and start pounding his fist on the altar. So, I made my mom and dad kneel down and I did too. Then with my little fist pounding on the floor I prayed, "Oh! Lord! Take away our old sins and give us some NEW sins!!" I guess I figured that if God took something away He would have to give us something to replace it. The theology wasn't quite right but the intent was good. Mom has told me that it was all they could do not to laugh.

Music continued in my life after we settled down. I had a little record player with the small 78 rpm kids records in bright colors of blue, yellow, red and green. I started piano lessons when I was seven and took for several years. I have previously told how I felt about the piano recitals and the terror associated.

When we moved to Gary, Indiana I started taking violin lessons. My father's aunt Deliah (pronounced deel-ya) had a violin and very bright red hair. She was the only one in her family who played so she gave it to me as long as I took lessons. I could read music because of the piano and I have a pretty good ear, so the hardest part was learning finger placement and getting the bowing down so that it would not squeal and sound like fingernails on the chalkboard. This latter feat was something that my mom never was able to do when she decided to take violin as well. Even twenty-five years of music and piano training did not help her correctly bow and her practices sent all of us running from the house, screaming and holding our ears.

After I had taken for a year or two I was drafted to play the offertory in church at Christmas. At the time the church building was still under construction so services were held in the big basement under our house. A small platform had been built at one end and here the pulpit and piano were placed. Folding chairs made up the pews. Before the service I practiced with my mom who would accompany me on the piano. It was great. I tuned the strings and then (here comes the fatal error) I LEFT THE VIOLIN ON TOP OF THE PIANO. When it came time for me to play, I went up, took the violin and waited for the introduction. The song was "We Three Kings". I knew the first moment I touched the strings that something was very, very wrong. Mom did not hear the problem and forged ahead.

It is amazing what can flash through your mind and what information you can process in a microsecond. The vibration from the piano had distuned (yes, this really is a word) my violin. Since mom was continuing to play, all I could do was make a shift of my hand and play by ear. Fortunately, all the strings seemed to have gone out of tune in the same direction and of the same degree so I played the same finger placements but with a shift. I made it through. That may have been the last time I played in church. I know it wasn't very long after that I decided to give up the violin. I love to listen but not play.

So now I think I am finally old. I like the old things like classical music, old hymns, golden oldies and even elevator music. The weirdest thing happened the other day when I heard the Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian" on the radio; at the end they called it a "GOLDEN OLDIE". Now I know I'm old.

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