My father’s Mason Hamlin piano was one of the greatest loves of his life. Never can I remember a time when he wasn’t playing the piano at home or church. I remember the day Dad’s Mason Hamlin replaced our old piano in the living room. This piano was decent, an upright with full length strings, but the Mason Hamlin was glorious. Given a place of honor in front of the picture window, it filled the room with its magnificent presence. By my college years I was the only one of my siblings still playing the piano. My sister had by then transferred her affections to the flute with results that make us proud of her to this day. My brother had long since given up on playing the piano (and a few other musical instruments), his efforts limited to playing a few opening bars of the “Moonlight Sonata” when he felt like teasing my father.
While I really enjoyed playing the piano, I was always a reluctant and nervous performer. I remember with clarity my first formal recital during my senior year of high school. Mrs. Cotton, my piano teacher, chose a rather ambitious piece (whose name I can no longer remember–one of the lesser known Russian composers) for adjudication. To say that I was apprehensive, would be to state the obvious. About two pages into the piece of music (it was required that it be played from memory), my mind went blank as I approached an extremely complex run. I made a start at it hoping that the hours of practice would pay off and memory would kick back in. Didn’t happen. An abrupt stop and a face burning with embarrassment was met by the kindly faces of the judges gently telling me to start over, which I did. This time I was able to finish without difficulty. As I recall, the judges were encouraging in their remarks.
During college years, I continued to study piano sandwiched between my nursing classes. Finding open practice rooms was a continual challenge competing against music majors with greater need of them. Playing the piano became a means to soothe my soul rather than any serious academic pursuit. I remember one such time, after a rather painful break up with a boyfriend, sitting on the piano bench at home playing the hymn, “Day By Day.” My father came, sat next to me, and began to improvise (something he was very good at) as I played. My father’s sensitivity to an aching heart was conveyed via his music. He never had to say a word. I knew how much he loved me and wanted to comfort me through our shared love of music and his piano.
This trip down memory lane was triggered by a concert which my husband took me to in order to celebrate an upcoming birthday. I discovered the music of David Nevue a little over a year ago after hearing his music as background for a blog I was reading. After a bit of research, I found he was the composer, and have been a fan ever since. My husband found out that Mr. Nevue was going to be in Houston for a concert this past Friday evening and secretly bought tickets. As we made our way to dinner and then the concert, my husband and I discussed music, but more specifically, how much we loved and missed playing the piano, something we both hope to take up again some day.
It was a wonderful concert, filled with many of the pieces I have come to love, and introduced me to a few as yet undiscovered ones. As we sat in the audience, I was reminded of my father. Mr. Nevue played the piano with the same love and skill as my father had. Many years before he died, my father recorded a CD of his piano renderings for the family called, “Songs In My Head–Piano Improvisations.” Being able to listen to him play, even though he has been in Heaven for almost seven months now, is a real comfort when I find myself missing him greatly. Once again, my father’s music soothes the heart as it did in those younger years. As I listen to his CD, I can see him sitting at his beloved Mason Hamlin, playing “by ear” those favorite hymns which always filled our home with music.
You see, even though my father is gone now, the legacy of his music lives on in my heart as does his passion for this piano. His Mason Hamlin is a constant reminder of the man who had music in his soul and the hand of God on his life.
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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If you are interested in the music of David Nevue: http://www.davidnevue.com/