Crazy 88’s

Crazy 88’s

I just got home from playing for the Tremper High School Christmas Concert . . . and I wish that I thought to charge Polly by the note – because I ended up playing a blizzard of notes tonight.  Between “The Lord is my Light”  “Sing we now of Christmas”  and “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” I was really burning up the keyboard and having a ball.   And wonder of wonders,  I even managed the wild page turns in Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.”

And then. . .  in one of the slowest, gentlest, and easiest accompaniments of the night – “O Nata Lux”  – which also happens to be one of Polly’s very favorite pieces –  I hit a nasty clinker in the left hand which made me want to stop playing, stand up, and yell “Cut!   Take Two!”   But instead, I just gritted my teeth and kept playing,  but for the rest of the piece (and for the rest of the concert)  I wished with all my heart that I had one of those magical remotes where you could hit rewind and relive an unfortunate moment that you’d like to have back.   And what’s worse,  tonight’s concert was recorded – and that means that years from now,  when people take out their Tremper 2009 Christmas Concert CD and play this particular piece,  they will be regurgitating my nasty little mishap.

Maybe I’m reminded of what Marshall and I did back in college when from time to time (when we were in a mischievous mood)  we would listen to an earlier recording of Luther’s Messiah – one made before we were students there – and gleefully replay a couple of unfortunate moments.   One was at the end of “Every Valley” when the tenor sounded  like a pheasant caught in a bear trap (he would have been fine had he stuck to the written score, but he got in trouble when trying to sing some high ornaments at the end of the aria.)  Another was during “He shall feed his flock”  when the alto sort of cracked on one little eighth note but it was enough to change a ‘g’ to a ‘g-flat’,  which in the middle of a rising melodic line was like the world’s biggest zit  on the Mona Lisa.  We would put on the record and listen to those two moments over and over, snickering like two junior high kids.   (It just occurred to me that I probably should have asked Marshall before using his name in this entry- so maybe you should pretend it was just me, and that Marshall was sitting on the other side of the room,  glaring disapprovingly. )    The point is that those innocent little mistakes are preserved forever on that LP – and my ham-handed left hand error is similarly preserved for all time to come on tonight’s CD.   And someday,  if one of tonight’s singers gets a laugh out of replaying my mistake over and over, ad infinitum,  I will have no cause for complaint.  I deserve it.

Anyway,  aside from that little left-handed smudge it was a good night, full of superb singing – and the best part of the night for me was hearing Polly’s top choir sing my song “Great and Glorious Light”  so skillfully – and so joyfully.  Over these last four or five years,  I think one of the greatest professional and personal pleasures of my life has been in collaborating with Polly’s top Tremper choir in various songs of mine-  “Strike the Rock,” “Strength,” “Keep a Runnin’ for the Prize,”  “Winter and the Rose,”  “Pace,”  and this year “Great and Glorious Light.”   I can always count on them giving their all and singing well –  but what means even more to me is their enthusiasm.  I don’t know if I am ever going to get around to sending any of my pieces off to potential publishers . . . at the rate I’m going, it will never happen . . . and even if I do end up submitting something,  who knows if anything will ever actually end up in print. . . but no matter what ever happens with that,  I have already tasted the sweet pleasure of having these young  singers like my songs.

It’s almost enough to help me forget tonight’s nasty mistake in the left hand.

Almost.

pictured above:   I snapped this picture while standing offstage between sets during tonight’s concert.  Polly’s women’s choir is walking onstage.