Posted by: Marie | January 5, 2012

(617) Life and death, grief and joy

Post #617
[Private journal entry written on Monday, May 2, 2011]

Well, I made it through the rest of weekend in one piece. The second recital – the Sunday afternoon one – went very smoothly. My mom and I wrapped up that second recital with a piano/organ duet – I set one of my digital keyboards to a “church organ” setting for the organ.

Before we played, I talked to the audience a little about how the hand technique used to play the organ is quite different from the hand technique used to play the piano – there is a lot of up and down movement with the piano but a lot of holding the notes (little up and down movement) with the organ. I invited them to watch my hands and pay attention to the minimal movement.

After the recital, I heard one of my students – a seven-year-old boy – excitedly tell his mom that he had heard someone play an accordion! I can see the confusion . . . organ . . . accordion . . . LOL.

Anyway, one of the pieces my mom picked out for us to play was “He Looked Beyond My Faults”. It is a beautiful gospel piece . . . it felt strange to me to be playing a Christian piece when I’m not a Christian, but I figured I can share the healing sound of the music without pushing the message. Besides, that melody was originally known as “Danny Boy”, a traditional secular piece from Ireland.

Photo by Martin Chen

The second piece she selected was “Puff, the Magic Dragon”. When she first showed it to me on Saturday afternoon, I thought she was pulling my leg. When I was a little kid, maybe ages five to seven, whenever we would sing that song in music class, I would sob uncontrollably. I would picture that poor dragon with his head hung so low in heavy grief . . . the dragon’s pain would fill my heart . . . and I would cry and cry and cry.

Looking back, I almost feel sorry for my music teachers back then . . . they had to choose between introducing a piece of American history to her class and avoiding inflicting emotional trauma upon me. It would almost be funny if I didn’t remember how painful it was for me to grieve on behalf of that poor dragon.

And yes, for the record, I’m still the same softy when it comes to imaginary characters . . . I always cry when I watch a sappy movie . . . maybe that’s why I don’t care much for watching movies . . .

Now, as an adult, I am able to hear and/or perform “Puff, the Magic Dragon” without crying. When my mom showed it to me on Saturday, I reminded her about my history with that song and gave her the appropriate amount of ribbing for selecting it (she had forgotten about my history of drama connected with it).

When we performed it, I shared that story with the audience and they laughed . . . especially because most of them are aware of my tendency to get all teary-eyed when my students perform their recital pieces. Anyway, my mom and my duet went very well – the pieces were very pretty and created a nice ending to the recital.

Between Saturday’s recital and Sunday’s recital, we had 22 student performers, five non-student adult performers (the parents who played in the “Ode to Joy” trio, the father who plays by ear, and then my mom and me with our duet) and about 90 people in the audience. It would have been too long of a program to do it all in one recital. It was a smart move to divide the performances into two recitals.

I spend yesterday evening putting my studio back together so things would be back in place this morning for the other business with which I share space. The landlady allows me to take over the entire top floor for my recitals (the other business don’t use the space on the weekends) as long as I put everything back in place by Monday morning. It’s an awesome deal.


Today, I got a call from the mom of my most advanced student . . . he is the one who has been preparing a piece I composed (Pieces of Me) for a competition. When I registered him for the competition, I had to raise a stink because I learned about some additional rules placed on the competition by the sponsoring association (the local music teachers association) on the day the registration was due.

The additional rules had not been written down but I was told I still had to follow them. That is why we had to change his second selection at the last minute – and we changed it to my composition because it was one piece with which he was already familiar. So, the whole deal has been aggravating. I wasn’t sure the student could pull the piece together in that short of a time period.

Anyway, his mom told me that her father passed away over the weekend (he had been battling a terminal illness) and that the family would be spending the upcoming weekend handling his funeral and estate matters. Therefore, her son would be not around for the competition – and he was too upset by the death to be preparing for a competition. She asked me to pull his registration.

So, that’s how that panned out. I’m partly disappointed and partly relieved.


I had an email exchange with my mom last night and this morning. I reported to her:

Bogey (the cat) is improving by the hour. He is eating a bit and drinking water and pee’ing – and he swatted at his favorite toy – a small ball – a few times this morning. So, it seems the worst of the crisis has past and he has a pretty good prognosis, at least for now. What a cat!

Mom wrote back:

Good to hear Bogey is better – I thought of him all day. He will make it now. Cats are survivors.

Sunday was fun – a good group of students and parents. You looked so much like [an aunt] as you were smiling at your kids.

Love you


  1. Glad the recitals went well and the cat is on the improve.

    • Hey, Evan –

      Me, too! Thanks for the good thoughts!

      – Marie

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