Music is the window of the soul which radiates to other souls, whether it be Gregorian Chant that inspires prayer or Rock that triggers a trance or Classical that brings inner peace. Here are the stories of two musicians.
eastwind journals, October 12, 2021
By Bernie V. Lopez, email@example.com
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DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES
Back in the 1960s, I was a member of the Ateneo College Glee Club. We were on a concert tour. In Davao City, we had an unforgettable experience. After a sumptuous dinner at the home of our hostess, she introduced her six-year-old son and boasted that he could play the piano any tune he heard for the first time on the spot. She said the boy had no music training at all.
Our pianist, the late Willy Cruz, said, “This I have to see.” To test the boy, he picked a glee club song with complex chords and transitions. The boy listened intently. After we sang, we were amazed that he indeed played the tune in a straight forward manner, hardly looking at the keyboard, staring at us who crowded around the piano.
Willy said that his rendition was a bit crude because he had no piano schooling, but that he got all the chords correct. He had a fantastic photographic memory, that he got all the complex chords and transitions. Willy added that the boy could translate the tune quickly from his ear to his photographic brain to his fingers to the keyboard.
After he played with a resounding applause, the boy got a hat and passed it around. So, we ended up giving some donations, which we did not mind. But I thought it was bad training to make the boy play for money and encourage ‘mendicancy’. He needed to have a special teacher, because ordinary teachers might just destroy his supreme talent. I wonder where the boy is right now after 40-odd years. Was his talent wasted by people around him who knew no better? I never heard about him again.
NEW YORK CITY
In the 1970s, I lived in Chelsea, New York City. As an amateur without music schooling, I initially played the guitar by ear, then learned to translate guitar chords to the piano keyboard.
I decided to buy a piano. I found a good buy from the classified ads, an antique built in the 1920s. It was a piano that could play its own tune based on a thick cardboard full of holes (I forget the name of this piano). All one had to do was crank it up and it played nice tunes based on ‘cardboard songs’. It was then converted to a regular piano. I bought it for $200 which was a steal.
I looked for a piano mover. That was how I met Peter, a tall German who migrated from Munich, a piano repairman, mover, tuner, and player all in one. I asked if he could maneuver a piano through the narrow hall of my street-level pad. He said, “With eyes closed”. He moved pianos alone. He used a heavy-duty roller where he placed the piano vertically. To my amazement, he did it with absolute ease. I noticed that his right hand was bigger than his left from tuning pianos. After tuning, he gave me a solo concert free and played Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin.
Peter and I became close friends. He was an acclaimed concert pianist in Munich turned ‘hippie’ in New York, living in a big truck. He went around picking up discarded pianos at street corners, repaired them in his truck, and sold them at a good prize.
Over beer, I had an idea. We could bring his small portable piano to Washington Square Park, where all types of musicians played for money.
As soon as Peter played a Bach piece at the Square, we attracted a big crowd instantly. I grabbed Peter’s giant hat. As he played on, moving from Beethoven to Mozart, I moved around the crowd with the hat. As soon as it was full, I put the money in my backpack, and went back to the crowd. We collected about $500 on our first day, mostly $1 bills, doing six sets of 30 minutes each. There were a few $20 bills from those who could discern a true concert pianist. I told Peter to stop repairing pianos for a living and just play at the Square. He did for a while, with me as his cashier. Then he disappeared and I never heard from him again.
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Author’s Credentials. Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo University) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN, ex-TVS Tokyo) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.