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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A musical weekend (Part 2)

This particular Sunday morning was full of expectations. I am usually the pianist at our little church in the woods in Northeast Wisconsin. Today would be an exception, for the most part. Our church has been actively involved with Don Shire, a trumpeter extraordinaire, for about three years. During that time I have gotten to know Don quite well. He was scheduled to be the minister today, in the absence of our regular minster, Dave Pompo, who with his wife Toni is in Brazil for a 6-week ministry trip.

Last year I got to play a number with Don. This year we were going to do another selection. We had e-mailed a couple of times on the plan. He suggested "He Lives!" in the key of concert B flat, with me doing a short intro, doing the first verse together, then me doing the second verse, then doing the third and final verse together, with me watching him carefully as he slows it down on the end of the chorus. It sounded pretty do-able. I practiced it some, and we were to meet a bit early so we could run through it once. It went pretty well.

I asked Don if he wanted to do the prelude and the offertory or if he wanted me to do it. He said he would prefer that I do it. I did the prelude I had practiced a bit, a familiar arrangement of "It Took a Miracle." When I finished it, the leader of the opening exercises came up and asked me if that was all I had. I said I guessed I could do another song, so I played "If You Want Joy, Real Joy, Wonderful Joy." I had only gotten past the first two or three notes when I heard Don's trumpet join in, from where he was sitting with the congregation. It was as if we had rehearsed it.

The first selection he played was our duet, and it went quite well--except for one minor detail. He had told me to watch him at the end, when he slowed down. He was up on the platform, and I was lower than he was, but the piano was still high enough that I could not see him at all. Still, we seemed to blend fairly well, and ended up at the same place at the same time.

Following the service, we had a fellowship dinner, so he got a chance to mingle with the regulars, then we headed for Crivitz, where it was our church's turn to spearhead the service at the nursing home. Don had graciously agreed to go along. We talked about the music and agreed that we would just "wing it" and play together. It would be a lot of the old familiar hymns from bygone days, which we both knew well. On most of them, as he told stories about different hymns from his life, he would leave it up to me to strike the key and play an introduction, then he would join in. Only once did I get in a key that was too high to sing as I played the second verse, so he asked me to lower it a bit, which I did. Then he told about his mother when she was very ill, shortly before her death, when she called him late at night and asked him to sing with her. He began to sing "Through it All." He acted a bit surprised when I began to play it; little did he know that is one of my favorite hymns.

During the program, he stopped and thanked me for my playing. He quoted Bill Pierce, a now deceased radio host I had listened to for over 50 years and a great trombonist, and whom I had e-mailed shortly before his homegoing. "Bill Pierce once told me that any musician is only as good as his accompanist. I have a wonderful pianist today. No matter what I play she can join right in, in any key." And he led them in a round of applause--for me! I was flattered, of course, but I was also humbled. I count it a great joy and privilege when God allows me to play with some of the great musicians I have been honored to accompany. Today was definitely one of those days. Don always says, when he receives applause, "Give it to Him." I feel the same way. I have been blessed to be able to entertain and (hopefully) inspire people through my music. If God gives us a talent of any kind, can we do less than use it for Him?

And this evening, after a very long but very good weekend, I turned on my very dear friend, Martha Reed Garvin, for her radio program, "Musical Memories." She was doing songs about holiness. It brought many memories for me, as she always does. I spoke to Martha on the phone this past week and we had a delightful time reminiscing about so many things, as we always do. It seems like we have known each other forever. I love it when "new friends" become almost immediate "old friends." Martha and my friendship is one of those.

When her program finished, I came to share these memories with all of you. But before I did, I popped a CD in my computer. It is Martha's son Brad's "Called Unto Holiness." Yes, you have heard me mention Brad here before too. He's that big tall handsome singer from the Metropolitan Opera who pops in at my radio program, "Marketing for Fun and Profit" and lets me join him in a couple of Christmas songs every year. Can it get any better than that?

Anyway, I hope there is a song in your heart tonight. Mine is full to overflowing.

Oh, and in case you want to get a taste of the fun, check out Don Shire, Martha Reed Garvin and Brad Garvin on You Tube. You can also see more about each of them on their websites: Don, Brad, and Martha. I know you won't be sorry you did.

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