mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: piano

a brave new world of music! . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 579_2_2Well yesterday, with a $6 adapter for my Mac laptop that I ordered from Amazon and from watching YouTube videos on how to connect and program my system preferences, I was able to hook up my computer to our large-screen HDMI TV!!

This may not sound like much, but what it opens up for us is the ability to play YouTube clips of pianists playing the piano: in Van Cliburn competitions, in concert hall recitals as well as viewing videos from individual and other websites. Up to now, I thought that ITunes was the limit, being able to listen to sample clips of various pianists and then being able to download a single selection for a nominal fee, make playlists and send them to friends. Now, there are live performances online that haven’t been recorded on a CD that are FREE and can be viewed on a large screen TV.

Since this new arrangement yesterday, I viewed and listened to these performances:

  • Van Cliburn in 1958 live performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto conducted by Kiril Kondrashin (who also conducted recordings with Sviatoslav Richter.) Watching this incredible event nearly brought me to tears.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHbPDDoVXtQ
  • Jack Gibbons, an English pianist that I had not paid much attention to before, playing Charles Valentin Alkan’s “Concerto for Solo Piano” – and I heard inner voices that I had not noticed before in Marc-Andre Hamelin’s two recordings of the same piece. It turns out Gibbons performed it in Carnegie Hall in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this composition! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-YXdfKK4J0
  • Marc-Andre Hamelin performing with Leonard Slatkin playing George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” a favorite since my college days wherein I even fiddled around with some of the jazzy parts on the piano myself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxUHcXUJZgY

Last night, G. and I watched the 1993 Van Cliburn piano competition (2 hours) downloaded from YouTube on our TV screen, enjoying what was, in our minds, the most impressive group of pianists we’ve ever seen on Van Cliburn competition DVDs (the ones where Andre Schub and Olga Kern won the gold medal had a paucity of contestants compared to this group.) Nearly all of the contestants played well. AND, there was more footage of actual piano playing throughout the stages of the competition so that the viewer could gain a sense of individual pianist’s strengths, unlike the fluff piece that just came out on PBS called “Virtuosity,”which was more like a reality show of pianists (how many dresses did you bring with you?) Here’s a link to the 2 hour 1993 Van Cliburn competition video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DevG2ENlTbw

Do you remember the techie in that old James Bond movie played by a very young Alan Cumming who says “I am inVINC-ible” right before the whole place goes up in flames?? Well, (without the flaming out part,) that’s how I feel when I make progress at a snail’s pace in our technology driven world.

I may be a little tardy coming to this technology party, but believe me, I’m staying late!

 

 

 

SO much time . . . so little piano!

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2

Last night, PBS aired “Virtuosity” an hour and a half documentary of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. G. and I were disappointed by how little footage there was of individual pianists playing. Here’s a review I wrote about it posted on Amazon this a.m.

Title: “SO much time . . . so little piano!”

“My husband and I are both pianists and we looked forward to watching this documentary on PBS which aired on July 31, 2015. We are familiar with other films made of this world-famous Van Cliburn piano competition. The repertory requirements are rigorous: many individual pieces, playing with a chamber group if you advance to the semi-finals; and performing a concerto with an orchestra if you make it to the finals.

Human interest soundbites monopolized the hour and a half film as we waited to hear individuals play long enough to be able to discern differences among them as pianists and as musicians. Way too much footage was given to two particular pianists whose facial grimaces detracted from the music they were playing – and there were FOUR separate instances of the same pianist grimacing through a piece that even a third-grader could manage (Chopin’s “Raindrop” prelude that Jack Nicholson played on the back of a truck in the movie, “Five Easy Pieces.”). The redundancy of that Chopin clip illustrates the filmmakers’ naivete while denying us the ability to discern true talent.

So, I guess this was journalism with all the human interest stuff and glitzy film pyrotechnics superimposing images of multiple pianists playing the same piece. Pianists don’t play pieces the same way as suggested by the montage – and we don’t get a chance to hear the differences. There was so little footage of individual playing that it was virtually impossible to glean why the First Prize Gold Medal winner was chosen.

Perhaps this film was what the Van Cliburn foundation wanted as PR. Too bad they forgot the piano playing that everyone wants to experience in the first place. It was produced by people who aren’t pianists – and I was thinking that if Van Cliburn were still alive, it wouldn’t have been allowed to happen for sure. This film was a true disappointment and a missed opportunity.

preoccupations . . .

view from where I sit . . .

view from where I sit . . .

When you’re limited to how much you can move around, life changes. It’s going on five weeks now since I fell and broke my ankle. Ten days ago from actual surgery. Five days since I stopped taking painkillers that were responsible for insomnia. Still not sleeping through the night. With the inactivity, I’ve discovered that my mood is better when I take short breaks to do light housework, cooking or playing the piano. The operative word in the last sentence is “short.” Right now at 4:10 in the afternoon, there’s a peach cobbler baking in the oven; poached chicken tenders in a dashi broth, ginger root and green scallion cooling on the stove; and sticky rice starting to bubble in the rice cooker. The cooled chicken will be dipped in a light oyster sauce. Along with it, I’ll quickly saute fresh spinach with some garlic and a splash of chicken broth. Some pickled cucumbers on the side.

This morning, I started re-reading one of my favorite books that I spied in the bookcase, “Philosophy Made Simple” by Richard Hellenga. It’s a story about a man whose three daughters are grown, one of them planning to be married, a widower who looks to make a move from the Midwest to Texas to buy and run an avocado farm. That’s right. He meets up with a Russian emigre who owns an elephant named Norma Jean who makes paintings holding a brush with her trunk. He sells the paintings for a hundred dollars apiece as tourist souvenirs. It’s a great little story but I already know what happens in the end. His wife died after having an affair in Italy and returned to him afterwards. In spite of it, he looks for meaning in life by listening to tapes his wife made after she left him. This kind of plot line is why I’ve decided I can’t write a novel myself. Maybe short stories or posts on a blog are all I can handle. My imagination doesn’t spin long enough if you know what I mean.

I’m also not embarrassed to report that I’ve been watching TV crime shows such as “Bones” and “Castle” while lying on the couch most of the day with my ankle elevated “higher than my heart.” I used to brush right past those shows, thinking they were rather diluted and sappy. Well, they are sometimes sappy but surprisingly, some of the plots are engaging and there’s a lot of humor found in both casts. There also seems to be some good chemistry among the actors and what can I say, it’s not the worst thing to do while recuperating. So you see, my life and routine has scaled down quite a bit. If I were sleeping and waking up rested in the morning, I’d be a lot happier. I’ve weaned myself off of Vicodin and Tylenol, each of which contained acetaminophen which can harm your liver. Just an aspirin a day is all I’d like to take for inflammation and pain.

One idea I came up with the other day was to use some brown and dark blue Marimekko remnant material that resembles piano keys to hand sew covers for the bolster cushions I use to prop up my knees when elevating my ankle. Why stop there, I thought to myself? Two more Marimekko remnant pieces won on eBay later (loden green, brown, cranberry stripes) I’m thinking about covering the large cushions and making a dropcloth for the bamboo telephone bookcase. Maybe our home will be wall-papered in Marimekko patterns by the time I’m on my feet again!

Although there’s plenty of visual stimulation in this great room that combines our kitchen and living area, I’m hoping that the Marimekko graphics will tie things together visually. At least, it’ll give me some hand sewing to do during the weeks between casts. The sutures are to be removed a week from now and a new cast put on for an additional three weeks. By the beginning of May, I’ll have a better idea of whether/when I’ll be able to put weight on my right ankle.

Meanwhile, G. continues to carry the household load by going to the store with my annotated shopping lists, helping me up and down from room to room, washing dishes after all our meals. We’re more than grateful and happy to get through this together.

And so it goes today.

to do list . . .

ball mumsSome might consider this hiatus of waiting for surgery and then recuperating from surgery to be a time of waiting. Not so, I say to myself after returning from my pre-surgery exam yesterday.

Last night, for some reason, I found it hard to fall asleep and so my mind wandered around and about to take stock and to reflect about what I want or need to do with my time. First of all, I’ve gone through the exercise of putting my affairs in (better) order, talking with my daughters and husband about how they may help each other after I’m gone and going through what I would like each of them to have and also feel free to swap at will. Who knows, I might last a long time after this, but that very intimate task is done, at least a template is in place and can be tweaked every so often. That’s a big load off my mind.

So last night and today, I’m thinking about what I would like to take note of during this chunk of the year while I’m getting back on my feet. Here’s a to-do list that I’m thinking about right now:

1. Be sure to hydrate (drink lots of water) and cut down on bread, butter, potatoes and sweets so that I maintain the weight I’ve lost so far and don’t hapzardly gain a few pounds. Eat more fresh salads with the yummy dressing that I make up ahead of time (garlic slices, olive oil, Marukan seasoned rice vinegar, fresh lemon juice, a little sugar). Handful of mesclun and baby arugula, sliced large fresh mushrooms, ripe pears, marcona almonds, goat cheese. . . like that. It’s so easy to fall back into eating heartier (and higher calorie food) just because it’s tempting to do during this fallow period.

2. Read about recipes and preparations for ramen noodle broth; fixings and condiments; same for soba noodles. Read my Japanese Farmhouse Cookbook, Momofuku and Ivan Ramen Noodles to introduce new dishes into my cookery menus; cold salads and condiments on the side. I love to cook and while I’m slightly limited now, I can still reframe and renew the ideas I’m used to cooking and slowly introduce them into the mix of what we eat.

3. Read lots of books that I enjoy, not what I think I should read. I still have “War and Peace,” “The Tale of Genji” and “Remembrance of Things Past” in the bookshelves, the bindings still tight. I mean, I know I should read “Anna Karenina” but her plight is somewhat dated and I’m not interested in swimming in such deep literary waters. I’d rather dip my reading toes into more enjoyable fare: perhaps Mona Simpson’s new novel that is due out in mid-April. I am still catching up with Lorrie Moore’s “Birds of America” anthology of short stories before I venture towards her new book, “Bark,” which, in the NY Times Book Review sounded like an extraordinary effort towards using puns around the word “bark”–which, if you must know, don’t interest me that much. Lydia Davis, who won the Booker prize for her short stories last year is a writer from Northampton nearby and fun to read every once in awhile.

I used to love to read mysteries and may embark upon re-reading some of the Georges Simenon mysteries which I heard were being re-printed; fun to read about Inspector Maigret and his wife while he solves crime all over Belgium and France. I also enjoyed the Dorothy Sayers series of Lord Peter Whimsey mystery novels. Maybe when I try them out again, they will seem dated, but we’ll see.

4. High on my list is to play the piano with my wheelchair drawn up to my Steinway piano named “Victor.” There’s tons of Bach that can be read without the use of pedal ( my right ankle is gonzo right now.) One of the oscar-winning documentaries was a half-hour film called “The Lady in Room 6” which is about the oldest living Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz Sommer, who died at the age of 110 two weeks ago. In it, she can be seen joyfully playing Bach Inventions on her Steinway upright piano. She has enormous hands and plays with a calm and sprightly musical aspect. While she was incarcerated in the camps, she took it upon herself to learn the complete Chopin Etudes, very difficult pieces for a pianist. I figured if she could do that, the least I can do now is to learn some new repertoire myself while I’m recuperating. So that’s an inspiration. Take a look at the film if you want some perspective on how nothing matters except love and music.

My own piano to-do list includes sightreading pieces and excerpts from Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Books I & II, Inventions, Italian Concerto, Fantasie,  French Suites, English Suites, Partitas; Chopin concerti; Brahms concerti; Beethoven sonatas, Rachmaninoff Preludes; Scriabin Prelude, Op. 11, number 11. It might be good exercise for me to play everyday at intervals and use my back, arms and hands.

5. I have four big balls of Noro yarn left over from three vests that I made for a family up in Minneapolis. I think I’ll use a new criss cross pattern to make a piece of some sort for myself to commemorate this happening in my life–something nice to look at and also to keep warm in while reminding myself how lucky I will be to survive this Spring of 2014. It will be fun to figure out how to do it out of the remaining yarn that I have to work with. I gave the spectacular multi-colored vest with patchwork pockets to one of my daughters last weekend. She looks terrific in it and although in my mind’s eye, I thought I would make it for myself, it’s too colorful for my little brown wren personality so it will be perfect for her to wear when she’s teaching her French classes. When she returns next week for a visit, we’ll take a photo and post it.

That’s as far as I have gotten today. Little by little enjoyable things to do. That’s one of the lessons I am learning too: to be more patient, to take care of myself as only I can, and to enjoy something each day.

new things . . .

QUEEN ANNE'S LACE

It’s so much fun learning about new things from friends and vice versa, isn’t it? The other day, L. and I took a ride in the middle of a Thursday to a family-run farm nearby, about a half hour drive to Concord, MA. It was so much fun to show L. the unmarked little secret place to buy organic eggs on the honor system (she took a photo of the entrance with her camera.) and then to go back for a cup of hot dark coffee, and homemade scones in a new flavor: pineapple and coconut. L.’s eyes got big as we munched on the delicious scone. Then she put more into a bag for her family to eat later. We stocked up on Vermont Hubbardston blue cheese which is a chevre with a smoky blue cheese flavor that is heavenly when allowed to come to room temperature and it’s slightly runny. I have been known to eat a whole (small) wheel in the evening while eschewing dessert! It’s BETTER  than dessert!

Today, she wrote to me that the eggs were “eggs-traordinary”, the cheese was delicious as were the homemade scones. We have both been enjoying apple-mixberry pies and other fresh vegetables we found at the farmstand: eggplant, kale, salad greens. Going to the farmstand together also allowed for time to discuss our new joint endeavor called, “musical notes outreach,” a program for the elderly in nursing homes, assisted living residences and hospice. Our mission is simple as can be: “We want to make you happy by providing the sound of music.” Simple as that. L, because she has worked in the elder care community, knows activity directors in local venues as well as people in charge of palliative care in the neighborhood. Thanks to her efforts, we have two of our first bookings in December and are looking forward to introducing the program and seeing how people respond to it to see what they enjoy most. A menu of classical, Windham Hill and other songs will be offered.

When I played Bach’s Prelude in C major, both L. and I immediately agreed it would be a wonderful, simple piece to open each program. We might follow it by playing Charles Gounod’s “Ave Maria” overlay as a duet with the Bach Prelude. I’m thinking of playing the melody of the “Ave Maria” and then ask if they’d like to hum along while I play it again with the Bach Prelude accompanying it.  Our closing piece for each program will be “Devotion” by Liz Story. Along the way, there may be some Chopin Preludes, “Clair de Lune” by Debussy and some crowd pleasers like “You Raise Me Up” and some Windham Hill songs like “All For Us” that are simple and touching in their simplicity.

Here is a link to a wonderful Youtube clip by Bobby McFerrin singing the Bach Prelude with the audience singing the Gounod “Ave Maria” along with it. Just wonderful. I hope you’ll have time to play and enjoy it. Also included is a link to the song, “As For Us” which I’ve always loved, listening to it on a Windham Hill CD in the car. I couldn’t find the music score, but have jotted down the main progression of the piece by ear from the Youtube clip and am will include it in our programs.

So there is a lot of “new-ness” going on and it’s also a lot of fun. New friends, new music, new ways to play music. Stay tuned for how it goes in December with “musical notes!”

VICTOR

the sound of music . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 583_2_2This post is not about the movie, the play or the book, “Sound of Music.” What it is about is what happens to the human spirit when the sound of music is heard live, in person, in the presence of the music being made, heard and then falling away.

A few days ago, I received an email from some old friends of mine with whom we had lost touch. We would say we would get together soon but somehow never managed to. You know how that goes. In any case, they wrote to me to ask a favor. A neighbor of theirs was planning to celebrate an 88th birthday for their father who was visiting them from out of town. It turns out that 88 is also a magic number for the number of black and white keys on a piano keyboard. The birthday celebrant loved classical piano music, and my friends wondered whether I would play some pieces for him as his “birthday gift.” They also wanted to make a gift of some sort made out of old piano keys, which G., my husband who is a piano restorer, brought over to their house yesterday to play around with.

In the meantime, we had to hustle because it turns out that the favorite piece of this classical music lover was Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.” If you are familiar with it, you’ll laugh out loud like I did because:  a) it’s very difficult; and b )it’s written for piano and orchestra. Undaunted, G. found a reduction (simplified) version of the score at the Holy Cross music library aided by a piano friend who is on the faculty there. Even with the score easier to see, it is still hard to read and play, given that it is written for five flats!

This is Tuesday and I’ve put together a tentative program according to the Juilliard model (baroque/classical/romantic) in that order: Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Practicing yesterday, I noticed that although I hadn’t played or practiced in quite awhile, that I felt both stronger and freer while going through the pieces.

This afternoon, G. will tune the piano that hasn’t been serviced for awhile and meet the fellow who will be congratulated on Thursday evening, although he probably doesn’t have an inkling of all these surprises in store for his birthday.

Thursday evening: The party was a hit! Chuck spoke about the first time he heard the Rachmaninoff Rhapsodie on a Theme of Paganini when he was twenty years old in a church during World War II. His relating the story after I played the piece brought the experience full circle–and so I did a reprise of it for him. When I asked him if there was any other piece he’d like to hear, he shook his head and said that he was happy with the program and with hearing the Rachmaninoff piece live. Now, there’s a rarity–someone who is satified and knows it.

What a great treat to be able to play this music for him! I’m grateful for the invitation to participate.

” a room of my own” . . .

in a room of my own . . .

After weeks of inertia, I finally found a way today to make some sense of the boxes of stuff in the plant room. Previously, I had been shuffling things from one end to the other because there wasn’t a good place to store things. Last week, I purchased some big plastic bins with snap on covers at Staples. Today, I stored all the CDs (and tapes!) into one, documents in another and slid them under the harpsichord where they don’t look great, but at least they’re out of the way.

I had been thinking for a long time to dig out one of the old 22 inch monitor screens that I had used for work and make up a writing workstation with a keyboard and mouse. Needing a cable adapter to hook up the monitor to my Macbook Pro, I ordered one at Amazon.com which arrived yesterday. I opened the package gingerly in case it didn’t fit, but lo and behold, it did! And it also had a six foot cable, not just the four inch one that would have been so easy to get instead. Then, G. kindly offered up the keyboard from his study desktop and found me the tiny mouse that I had used (and loved) while I was still slaving away at my clinical operations job a few years ago. He found another keyboard which finally worked on his computer after it was rebooted. (When in doubt, reboot, right?)

The orchid shelf needed tending so I washed it off and trimmed the plants, staging them in a way so that there was some work surface next to the early gateleg table I had decided to use for my writing table. A fat and happy Buddha found a place to sit next to the lamp. By this time, I was on a roll, so we put the old Bose system on a stand in back of the table and hooked it up. Soon, sounds of Mitsuko Uchida playing Mozart Fantasies floated through the room. We beamed at each other in satisfaction for cobbling together old computer stuff that was lying around to make this new little space for me.

Golden floss from dross, as they say.

I marveled once again at the endurance the orchid blooms have demonstrated–they first flowered right after Christmas, and here it is now almost mid-June! Just amazing. And how fortunate we are to be able to make yet another place for ourselves in this beautiful old house. Lucky we are, indeed: we give thanks everyday.

before and after . . .


Some of you know that I’ve practiced the piano for a long time. My teacher, Basil Toutorsky, taught me how to practice: read the notes for the right hand, then the left hand. Look at the phrasing lines, the dynamics and then play both hands together. Study only one bar at a time until you can play it accurately three times in a row before you move on to the next bar. Slow and steady. Rigorous. Then, speed it up a little. Practice with the metronome so that your rhythm is accurate. Once this process has been followed for one page, stop there. Go back over that page until the notes and the playing start to make musical sense. Play the entire page three times in a row without mistakes before moving forward to the next page. If you make a mistake on the third try, start over again. This was the drill.

Fast forward to today where my facility for sight-reading sometimes gets in the way of patient study habits. Lately, I’ve been drawn to pieces either transcribed or composed by Franz Liszt. This is a kind of anomaly for me because my favorite composer is Bach. One Liszt piece is called “Liebeslied” when it was written originally by Robert Schumann as a wedding gift for his wife, the concert pianist, Clara Schumann. The melody and the harmonies are simple and very touching. It is also called “Widmung” for reasons I’m not aware of once Liszt took it, added sections and embellished it with his usual fanfare of rolling arpeggios and movie-like thematic blow-ups. When Van Cliburn won his tumultuous victory at the Tchaikovsky competition during the Cold War, he played this piece as an encore. A young Asian pianist, Aimi Kobayashi who looks to be about eleven years old, also played it recently as an encore in Russia. (Click her name for a link to listen to this piece on YouTube.)

Anyhow, back to practicing, there’s usually a point in time, a tipping point if you will, when a piece morphs from a study exercise to a piece of music. This phenomenon happened to me recently, a couple of days ago while playing this piece. It went from a period of time over several months, reading the various sections of the piece and playing all the notes. . . to suddenly playing it with a more intuitive grasp of the piece so that the music flows on its own.

In a way, I was thinking about this as a “before” and “after” — from notes on pieces of paper that are transformed into sounds capable of arousing a listener’s emotions. Even if you’re not a pianist, don’t play a note, or, if you think you’re tone-deaf and can’t listen to music, you’ll get it when you listen to this music and it connects with you.

Nothing better.

adagio. . .


Here’s an interesting discovery I made after reading a novel by Rachel Cusk, a young British writer. (I seem to have artists from the UK in my frame of reference these days for some reason.) In her novel, “Bradshaw Variations,” Cusk describes a character playing an “Adagio” movement from a Beethoven sonata. Although the sonata is not revealed, I was curious enough from the novel’s description to page through my Henle edition of Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas in two thick volumes. As I did so, I sat down at my Steinway grand piano, named “Victor,” rebuilt years ago by my husband, “G”, and began to sightread through ALL of the Adagio movements. I discovered in the process that they are among the most melodic, beautiful compositions that are contained in this oeuvre (not knowing the plural for the word, “opus”!)

Anyhow, “Adagio” means “slowly.” An apt concept for how to spend days when it is so hot and humid outside (now under the heat dome that the weatherman keeps talking about) and as summer days languish. These gorgeous melodies also serve as a musical antidote to all the cleaning up and cleaning out that I’m still in the process of doing (“simplifying. . .”) I’m even thinking of playing (and possibly recording) a program of Adagios when my birthday rolls around next year, perhaps. Because the tempo is “slowly,” the melodies also offer up an opportunity to make beautiful music while not having to kill oneself technically to keep up at this point in my piano playing life.

To my amusement, I discovered that I was already practicing Bach’s D minor sonata whose first movement is marked “Adagio.” It serves primarily as a chordal introduction to a wonderful Fuge movement.

So, I’m blessedly happy, adagio-ing along and am glad to have discovered these wonderful pieces. And for my money, they put Mozart to shame–the Beethoven melodies meatier, more robust, evoking such sweet pathos. Yum!

how we met . . .


If my husband and I had met when we were younger, we wouldn’t have paid that much attention to each other. I was a goody-two-shoes dean’s list student at an ivy league school. At the same age, G. had hair down to his shoulders and played keyboard in a local rock band that is still well known in this town to this day.

We were both pianists: I started at the age of three, trained the Lechetiszky method by a renowned Russian pianist, Professor Basil Toutorsky (see basil toutorsky) who had 22 pianos in a mansion on 16th Street in Washington. G. was virtually self-taught, went to Berklee School of Music for awhile and played rock and roll, jazz and rhythm and blues. He didn’t get interested in classical music until he was in his 20’s and then shifted his interest to the complete works of a 19th century French composer named Charles Valentin Alkan. Alkan’s piano works are so difficult that very few pianists can play them. Marc Andre Hamelin, a Canadian pianist, has recorded most of his works. Recently Hamelin composed and recorded his own variations of Alkan’s compositions, if you can believe it.

This is all by way of describing how different and how similar we were at the same time. We both loved pianos. We courted to Alkan’s music played by Marc Andre Hamelin. And we met over a piano.

Although I loved the piano, my professional career was in the field of biotechnology (eggs in one basket). Offered a new job, I had just moved to central Massachusetts to a pristine modern condo facing the lake that ran through the town. When the movers put the piano in the living room, they attached the lyre which holds the pedals but forgot to tighten the surrounding hardware.

I looked in the Yellow Pages and found an ad with a handsome logo of a grand piano with the description, “Specializes in Steinways.” When G. arrived at the door of my new condo, I was distracted, on the phone with someone at the office. I was also not interested in getting involved with anyone, having just gotten divorced from my first husband whom I was married to for 26 years.

When we had a cup of tea after he adjusted the lyre, I said, “Let’s just be friends, okay?” He smiled and said, “We already are.” A few months later, I invited a pianist named Ken that I met at a gallery opening to give a piano recital at my house because I was new in town and thought it might be a good way to meet people. It turned out that Ken had been G’s client for over 20 years. The two fell busily to discussing and deciding what to do to improve my Steinway piano for the recital!

Long story short, the recital took place in May. I had put a deposit to buy the condo on the lake when G asked me to think about renting the 2nd floor apartment in his Queen Ann Victorian house. I thought about it for awhile and decided that if there was going to be a chance for a future between us, moving into the house would tell the tale. If it didn’t work out, I could always move somewhere else afterwards. He and his men helped me move out of the condo and got me settled into rooms with a view in the gorgeous house that he had restored for the past twenty years. During this time, an elderly woman who attended one of our piano groups commented enviously to me that living in two apartments a floor apart was ideal–independence and privacy along with the intimacy of being a footstep away from each other.

One day in August, a month after I had moved in, I walked hurriedly into the kitchen, my arms full of groceries. When I turned around, I gasped in surprise because there, in the living room, was a small vintage harpsichord with cherry keys and applied carving on the legs. To paraphrase what Renee Zellweger said to Tom Cruise in the movie “Show Me the Money”: “He had me at the harpsichord.”

We took our time and got to know each other for four years before we married. Once decided, we wanted to marry privately at City Hall, just the two of us. Flowers were delivered to the shop on the first floor of the house. Wedding rings were Fed-Exed from Tiffany’s. Downstairs, none of G’s workmen in the piano shop suspected a thing.

It was a snowy day and I called the Town Clerk to see if he was still there. We read our own vows and returned home; changed our clothes and still the guys were clueless. G. went out to tune a couple of pianos in the late afternoon while I cooked our wedding supper.

Later in the year, we threw a big party with a formal ceremony for family and friends on May 11th. The only way we could keep track of these two anniversaries was to remember that it was the 7th of March and the 11th of May or,. . . seven/eleven.

G had never married and I had been married for a quarter of a century to someone else by the time we met. Whenever I say to G. that I should have left my marriage earlier due to all the trials and tribulations, he quickly disagrees. He believes, and I concur, that had even one thing been different in our pasts, that we might not have met each other at all.

Timing is everything, it seems, even if it takes awhile. We just celebrated our fifteenth anniversary. Together with the four years we knew each other before we were married, we are going on being together for twenty years. Life is long, and we are grateful to share ours together.