The lights dim. Ben is announced. He takes the cursory bow and proceeds to the bench. For a split second, I scan the hall. There’s Mom…I’ll move over there in a little while and sit with her. There’s my brother and sister-in-law…Ben’s older brother Sam (good, I’m glad he could put aside the normal sibling rivalry and make an appearance)…Granny and Grandpa (the kid’s other grandparents, they are so cool)…my sister and her husband, that’s nice…and…Holy Mother of God! Dad and Ruth? That’s a whole long dramatic story spanning forty-five years of family history, gossip and legend. Suffice it to say, I was a bit unsettled by the potential for misbehavior and family fireworks. And, who are these kids taking up two rows down front?
Nice paper. Good layout and print. A bio? The kid’s got a bio!?!? You got to be kidding me! Harrumph! What will I have to endure this evening? Hey, didn’t you used to wear glasses? When did you get so tall and trim? Man, I need to get out and see the family more often. Dang, boy, I wish I was that handsome when I was 17! You got that tall, dark and handsome curse thing going on! Yup, you’ll be breaking lots of hearts, son.
After the standard performers calming breath before a piece, Ben begins. …and I can no longer breathe. With refined technique, Bach’s Sinfonia No. 1 in C Major is delivered with skill and mastery not seen in advanced college-aged students. From my seat, enthralled, trying to breathe, I watch his face as he visibly tells me what my ears are hearing. On to a Gershwin Prelude and Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor! I am helpless, still trying to breathe on my own, and taken on a ride of exquisite musical emotion, sensitivity and humanity. The others in the hall have faded away. I am subject to the artist’s breath and heart beat.
Beethoven. Brahms. DeBussy. Joplin. During a break I gather my emotions and move over to sit with Mom. “Glad you could make it, Son.” “Me, too, Mom. Me, too.” Ben’s Mom, my sister-in-law, turns around to say hello, leaves her seat and heads up the aisle out the back door.
What’s next on the program? “There Is A Fountain”…Traditional American Melody. I don’t recognize the name. No matter, I have a long-standing affection for American music and I’m sure I’ll like it.
The short break is over and Ben returns to the stage followed by his Mom, Suzie. What the…? When we were in college, Suzie was a magnificent flautist. She was carrying her instrument. It had been over 20 years.
Breathing together, heart beats in sync with one another; the elegant old fashioned American melody made it way through space and time. No flourishing musical technique necessary or proffered: just pure, raw, un-refined human emotion, touch, breath and sensitivity by a mother and her son, music and sight transcending words. I do hope no one else heard me gasp for air. With watery eyes and the occasional sniffle, I hung on every visibly and audible phrase, feeling somewhat ashamed for observing something so tender and personal.
I can breathe a little better now. We’re almost over and Ben is on his final programmed piece. Nice contemporary 21st century offering. Of course, there’s a standing ovation. And, of all things…groupies? Yes, my 17 year old nephew has groupies! That’s who those kids were up front! Am I at a Jonas Brothers concert?
In keeping with proper recital etiquette, Ben took the appropriate bow and departed the stage. The end. I can finally compose myself, right? The crowd doesn’t give up and an encore is called. Now, I’m in the twilight zone. Who has an encore at their high school senior recital? Is that Rod Sterling’s voice somewhere off in the distance.
With showmanship reminiscent of the Ed Sullivan Show, Red Skelton and the Carol Burnet Show, the encore was introduced by his teacher. Under the guise of the featured artist missing the encore because he’s already off to the post-recital reception, another student of the studio was called up to perform in Ben’s place. In a well-executed manner of Ricky and Lucy, the encore underway was ultimately “discovered” and, with punch and cookies in hand, musical mayhem ensued. Filled with spit-takes, excellent joke timing and comedic delivery worthy of the great variety shows, we were taken on a humor-filled four-handed ride through every aspiring pianist’s annoyingly favorite piece...“Chop Sticks”. Now I can’t breathe from laughter, I’ve got a stitch in my side, and I don’t give a rats ass who can see me getting all misty-eyed.
Wow! This kid kicks ass!!!
I do hope Ben will remember his crazy uncle and score me some tickets to see him with the New York Philharmonic. Stage right, please, so I can see your face. I’m the old guy over there moving to the music, catching the waves, riding with wild abandon. I know it will take some years to comprehend just how unbelievable cool it was to perform with your mom. Sweet, man! That rocks!
(My unsettled apprehension about fireworks was much ado about nothing. Everyone behaved themselves. Ben ranked 2nd and 5th in a state-wide competition last week and was courted by 5 big name universities across the country. Baylor University offered the sweetest deal so he’ll be starting there in 8 weeks…and Waco is only a hop and a skip up I-35 so I can see more of his performances.)
- Roger, San Antonio, TX