The finale of yesterday’s concert was truly incredible- although not because they had three dozen baton twirlers encircling the audience or a laser light show spelling out WE LOVE BOB across the ceiling. No, they actually ended the program rather quietly, with Bob coming out on the stage with his ukulele – all by himself- to sing a wonderful song called “Old Friends.” About halfway through the song, the curtain quietly went up to reveal the dairy statesmen on the risers – and the various guest performers like the other Muggs, the high school quartet, and Caritas took the stage as well to join along on the last refrain. At the evening performance, Polly, Mark and Lorelai came onstage as well, which was neat. For the afternoon finale, the role of special guest was taken by Henrietta Welch. . . a retired music teacher who happens to have been Bob’s middle school music teacher some sixty years ago. Henrietta is now 95 years old, but as feisty and sharp-witted as ever – and Kathy and I are very privileged to be her friend. (She belongs to Holy Communion.) Anyway, it was a truly amazing moment when she walked out on to that stage as the emcee announced who she was. (You could actually hear many audience members “ooh” and “ahh”.) I mean, how often does a 76-year-old musician get to share the stage with their middle school music teacher?
One of her favorite stories involves a day more than sixty years ago when Henrietta asked the class to sing some song in unison- and Bob, not having ever learned what the term ‘unison’ means, proceeded to sing in spontaneously created harmony, just as he had learned in singing with his dad and brothers. And she was mad, because it seemed like he was being willfully disobedient – and that was back in the days when such a thing was unthinkable! Needless so say, Bob learned what the word ‘unison’ meant and never forgot it!
p.s.- Right after the concert, as various well-wishers gathered around, a man in the chorus came up to Henrietta to say hello. He said, “I’m not sure you would remember me. I”m so-and-so and I was the principal at blah-blah-blah.” And without missing a beat, Henrietta said “I remember you. You have a daughter who played violin and another daughter who played the cello.” Just like that – the incredible mind of Henrietta strikes again! I guess this is why she reacted so unhappily one day when she heard me once on the morning show talking with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel restaurant critic Dennis Getto about an experience I had just had when I went to a certain area restaurant with “an elderly lady friend of mine.” She was TICKED that I had used the word ‘elderly’ to describe her and she told me so in no uncertain terms. And just like Bob learned what ‘unison’ meant, I learned that ‘elderly’ refers to an aged person who is ‘old’ either physically or mentally or both. And that term most emphatically did not (not does it yet) refer to Henrietta.
p.s. – I’m glad I snuck the camera onstage with me, because it allowed me to snap a picture of Henrietta and Bob at the end of the program.