Hi, welcome to the first of many blog posts for Piano Dance. The purpose of these articles is to enhance your interest in the stories featured in my book, by providing more of the interesting “behind the scenes” information. If you have not yet read Piano Dance, I recommend reading the book before reading these posts. They will make a lot more sense if you have the background of the original stories. You do not need to finish the entire book before reading these articles. You could read each article here after reading the designated chapter, as each article will relate to the theme of that chapter in the book. For example, this article will tell a little more about my music teacher’s positive influence, related to Chapter One. After all the chapters of the book are embellished, I will post new stories that were not completed in time for publication of the book.
Our first story, of course, will be about Mr. Grubb, the subject of chapter one. Mr. Grubb was the product of an era long before our present day; a time that was much more formal. He always wore a black suit with a white shirt and tie for the lessons that he taught, and he always taught in an imposing manner with his deep bass voice. It surprised me, then, when he invited me to a Sunday afternoon party at his house in southern Delaware. A number of musicians and poets were there, having fun playing four hand piano, improvising uptempo jazz and ragtime music. One time, Mr. Grubb played the treble hands while Ronny Davis, the poet laureate of Delaware played the bass. People were laughing and applauding as they finished. As Mr. Grubb got up from the piano, he noticed my astounded expression at seeing a playful side of him that I had never seen. In answer to my expression, he came over to me, leaned over, and said very slowly and distinctly in his deep, resonant voice, “The sign of a misspent youth.”
For years, Mr. Grubb had been working on an opera. Ronny Davis had written a libretto and Mr. Grubb was working on the music. They completed one beautiful aria for the soprano lead, and Mr. Grubb had my mother sing it at a recital at the Wilmington Music School. Mr. Grubb was concerned that the melody might be stolen if there were a recording, so he had me turn off the tape recorder just before Mom sang the aria, and turn it back on for the rest of the recital. As a result, we have a recording of all the rest of the recital, but not the most beautiful part.
Years later, when I visited Mr. Grubb at his retirement home in Camden, Maine, he was still working on the opera, although Ronny Davis had already passed on. Mr. Grubb was not making much headway, as writing did not come easily for him. He died a few years later, and I did not hear what became of the opera score. I suspected that it was just lost in a pile of other paperwork. For years I thought that was a sad ending, but not when I got older. As I aged, I discovered that life is not like a short story that gets tidied up with a bow at the end. At this later stage of life, the process is more important than the result. It is very useful for a senior citizen to always have a project to work on. That way, one is always involved more with living than with dying. Mr. Grubb had a happy and productive life, and he always had the satisfaction of being engaged in a creative endeavor.
Many years later, I received all my mother’s music after she passed away. As I went through the many pieces, I found a handwritten copy of Mr. Grubb’s aria, “If Love be Sin”. I was delighted, because I thought it had been lost. Mr. Grubb had inscribed it to my mother, saying,”Odessa (Delaware) – March 23, 1966. Dear Winnie: It is my hope you enjoy this as much as the writer – LWG.”
I played through it on the piano, and it is as beautiful as I remembered. I don’t know what to do with it, so for now it is in a small pile of music on my piano, and I play it for myself from time to time, remembering two wonderful musicians who made an outstanding contribution to the amount of joy in my life.
I do not have a recording of the aria, but you can get a sense of the beauty and extraordinary range of my mother’s voice on this recording of O Holy Night from a New York radio broadcast from the 1940’s. There is some wavering of the tone due to the warping of the 78 rpm record. After playing the recording, just push the back button to return to this page. To listen, just click on this LINK.
Chapter 28 tells of the extraordinary achievements of Maury, a friend of mine, who was in my class at piano tuning school. Maury is not his real name. In Piano Dance, for most of the people who are not famous, I changed the names to respect their privacy. The one exception is Kelly, the piano teacher in Chapter 32. He gave me permission to use his actual name.
I had lost track of Maury over the years, so I searched the internet to find a way to contact him, in order to ask if he wanted me to use his real name in the book. I read through numerous postings on the internet and found an old phone number. I called it to see if he still had the same number and he answered the phone, as he was standing on a street in Mexico. We had a great time catching up on the last 40 years, and he agreed to read this chapter about him. I gave him the opportunity to refuse to have his story published, as well.
After he had read the chapter, we talked on the phone. His reaction was, “I can’t believe you recalled so many details about my life.” I said I found it pretty easy, because it was so interesting. I asked him if I got anything wrong, and he said I got some of the things out of order, but the only thing that was inaccurate was the color of the shoes he wore when he conducted the jazz band in Sanders Hall at Harvard. He recalled that although the group was called, “Composers in Red Sneakers,” he wore purple Converse Allstars when he conducted. Then he said an interesting thing. He said, “It’s not important that every detail is actually accurate. The important thing is that all this is your memories. That is what is important.” I appreciated that advice. As a result, you will find that the story in Piano Dance still has him dressed in red sneakers, not purple.
I asked if he wanted me to use his real name in the story, and he declined. I accepted that and didn’t ask why. I didn’t want him to feel like he needed to defend his choice. For one thing, he hadn’t read any of the other stories in the book, so he couldn’t know whether he wanted to be part of something of unknown quality. Also, we all know now, that privacy is a big issue on the internet. So I don’t know the answer, and I’m willing to live with the mystery.