Janet's Jargon

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chopsticks--Huntley Brown style

I have written before about some of the wonderful musicians I have met over the years, and whom I have been privileged to accompany on the piano. Today was one of those days. But let me back up just a minute.

Two years ago I went to our 50th high school class reunion in Deer River, MN. It was great fun, and a wonderful friend, Marvine Scott, invited Pixi Myers (the friend who drove me there) and me to be guests at their house during our visit. We had wonderful fun, friendship and fellowship. She and her husband were the best hosts ever and made us feel right at home.

One of the outfits I took to wear was an old, but very comfortable black and white polka dot skirt and blouse I had made. I am not sure exactly when I made it, but the pictures from our oldest son Willy's college graduation showed me in the outfit. That was in 1990. I know I'd had it several years before that. But it still looks good, and every time I wear it I get compliments on it.

A few weeks after returning home from the reunion, I was going to wear that outfit to church, but I couldn't find it. I looked everyplace I could think of. I even wrote to Marvine and asked her if I had by any chance left it there. She scoured the house and couldn't find it either. I just figured it must have outlived its usefulness.

It was cold in Northeast Wisconsin this morning, so I decided to get out a brown velour outfit I had, but it was still packed away in the box with my winter clothes. I pulled at a hangar that was caught on another one. It was a purple outfit. As I tugged on it, the purple things fell off, and underneath them was--Voila!--my black and white polka dot outfit. I laughed as I sat on the bed and put it on. Apparently it was going to be a very special day. I could already feel it. I just sent an email to Marvine and told her that she can quit looking for it now.

Today was a concert featuring Don Shire, my trumpeter friend, and Huntley Brown, a wonderful pianist, at the Aurora Free Church in Aurora WI in honor of my very favorite radio station, WRVM, a Christian station in Suring WI, for their 45th birthday. I was looking forward to it with great anticipation and expectation.

Calvin Jones, a wonderful young friend from our little church here, was going to the concert too, so he drove and Joan Carter, a dear friend, and I rode with him. The leaves are turning color and the drive up to Aurora WI to the church was awesome. God's handiwork was at its best, with reds, yellows, oranges, golds, and some green still tucked in between them. We all marveled at the beauty as we drove through the countryside. Again, it declared a perfect day.

When we got into the church, Don Shire was sitting in the entryway, and he greeted me warmly when he spotted me. If you have followed my blog, you have seen what a joy it was to play with him upon several occasions. He is my very favorite trumpet player, and I am humbled at having been able to play with the likes of Don. Besides, he and his wife Kathy have become good friends. I had emailed Don ahead of time to see if he thought there would be a chance to play something with Huntley after the concert, "Even if it's just Chopsticks." He wrote back and said that he was sure I would be able to figure out how to make that happen. I emailed him back and asked him, "You mean you won't even provide a little backup?"

Today was the concert with Don and Huntley playing together. Don quickly introduced me to Huntley after we exchanged a warm Christian hug. "This is Janet Smith, pianist extraordaire, author of--how many now--books, and a former missionary to Venezuela." I couldn't see if I was blushing or not, but I wouldn't be surprised. However, I knew that Don was providing the "backup" I had asked for. Huntley was warm and gracious, and delightfully funny. After we joked a couple of minutes I told him of my request to Don to see about playing something with him, "even if it's just Chopsticks." He was ready to go in to the piano right then and there. I suggested it might be better to wait until after the concert, as there were already a lot of people in the sanctuary. He agreed and said, "We'll make it happen." I gave him a copy of my memoirs, Rebel With a Cause, and he gifted me with one of his CDs. We were both happy campers.

The concert was wonderful beyond belief. I suggest that you go to YouTube and do a search for Huntley Brown. You are in for a major treat. I could practice for 10 hours 7 days a week for the rest of my life and never be able to play like he did. He did tell me that they are working on putting some of his arrangements out in written format though. Maybe, with a whole lot of work, I could sound sort of like him if I had his patterns to follow. Time will tell. Don Shire was just as awesome on his trumpet. Their presentation of the gospel was clear, brief and tender. Don's story of his trip on the Venezuelan rivers brought back such fond memories to me too. I still miss my life there. No, I don't expect I will ever get back there, but a part of my heart will always be there. I still hear from some of the people there, and they are so dear to me.

After the concert, when I approached Huntley by the table with his CDs, he came out immediately and said, "Let's go." We went in to the piano, and seated side by side, we played Follow Me, one of my favorite songs. I thanked him so much for sharing such a wonderful experience with me. I started to get up and he said, "Wait! We haven't played Chopsticks yet." So, I sat back down and Joan snapped our picture as I played the most delightful rendition of Chopsticks I've ever played in my life. Yes, that's us up at the top of the blog. It was truly a day to remember.

So, from the start of the missing outfit to a nice dinner on our way home, to great company, good music, and God's paintbrush on the trees, it's been a wonderful day. I hope you all had one half as good as mine was.

P.S. If you want to see more about Don Shire and Huntley Brown, click on their names to go to their websites.