When I was a young girl, my grandfather wanted me to have piano lessons. Growing up in a large family without a lot of money, my father happened upon a “free” baby grand piano. Most certainly it was free because some of the keys stuck or just didn’t play at all. Never the less, it was a start and my younger sister either took lessons, too or just learned right along side me. Before long, we were setting up folding chairs in the basement where the piano remained until that fateful day when it became our bookcase and put on “concerts” for my grandparents, aunts and uncles. They always made us feel like we the most talented pianists alive.
Fast forward many decades and no more grandparents, aunts or uncles to hear me play. Last year I celebrated my tenth anniversary of playing during Sunday worship services on the piano. And I will say, I am actually very happy with my playing. In fact, I love just sitting down and taking a break from my busy day by playing a tune or two. This was not an endeavor I would have seen myself ever doing when I was a young adult either. I didn’t even own a piano until my son was born and then rarely touched it. It was like most pianos – a place to put photographs or a plant, etc.
This all began in late 2009. I was attending the church I grew up in and to my disbelief they were singing “A Cappella” or without instrumental accompaniment! I said to myself, “I can play these old hymns!” As a teen, I would go with my Uncle Bill to many nursing homes and played these hymns. In addition, I would accompany one of my “many” (five to be exact!) piano teachers in that very church many times. I loved playing along side her because the organ was loud and she was an excellent pianist/organist and she would cover my severe nervousness and Mistakes! So that day in 2009, I mustered all of my courage and began “filling in” at church whenever I could attend the services.
Looking back, I wonder what parent doesn’t desire piano lessons for one or more of their children. Being a parent myself, I wanted my children to play the piano. Fortunately, my son learned to not only play but also play very well. Eventually, I began taking my son who played both the piano (and much better than I can ever dream of playing) and an upright bass along with my daughter who played the violin to nursing homes. It was just like old times with Uncle Bill. We would watch the folks there just eat up of every note. And I am not making that up because that is exactly what they would tell me when we were leaving. I believe my grandparents would have been so proud!
When I moved back to NH, I started playing for the church up the street. It all began when John and I went to attend a local Christmas Eve service. Lo and behold, they were singing….and you guessed it – “A Cappella”! So I immediately looked for my reading glasses and without hesitation, headed straight for the piano at the front of the church and accompanied the entire service. Little did I know that I would “save Christmas Eve” as one gentleman told me recently.
In addition, I would unknowingly make it a special night for one small child who was struggling with leaving her doll as the baby Jesus in the manager. When she saw the “Christmas Angel”, aka me with my gold hair playing the piano (her words), she forgot all about her difficulties leaving the small doll in the manger for the night. Ultimately, playing that night just felt right to me, playing for God first, the church second. This decision was not a choice but a calling.
John and I still joke about the “Christmas Angel” part and how John for the first time ever was the “husband of Liz”. That’s when I knew that I, too am a true artist. Although I cannot even draw a stick figure decently or paint a beautiful picture like John Traynor, there are still many types of artists and many types of ‘famous’ even if in a small, country church. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need or want to be famous, congratulated or rewarded for my playing but it became a little ‘funny’ just between John and I.
Does the story end there on that particular Christmas Eve? No way! After that, I started to fill in whenever they needed me to play. However, in time, I am now a regular – twice a month or thrice depending on the length of the month. I am quite comfortable with my playing or duty of “service”. I refuse to take any money but perhaps, maybe a new dahlia tuber to add to my garden collection from one of the church members or anything with chocolate or sugar in it. It’s called “service” for a reason and we all play our part. Does it bring satisfaction or make me feel good about myself, well “Yes”. But honestly, I hope it is ultimately my contribution towards building the “Kingdom”.
It took a lot of courage for me to start playing in front of an audience way back in 2009. As a result of practice, practice, practice, my piano playing is satisfactorily pleasing to both myself and hopefully the congregation. As with anything that we wish to succeed at or become more accomplished, the moral of this story is courage and practice. I see it every day while watching my very gifted husband go to work. I always tell everyone that he is great at what he does firstly because he does have talent and secondly, and most importantly, he practices every day. – THE END –