Thursday, February 21, 2008

My 15 Minutes

When I was chatting with my former classmates last week after the funeral, one of them asked if I still played the piano. I had to admit that I don't do much of that any more. It was one of the things I was known for in Smiley. I played for the church at just about every service for six or seven of our nine years there (not that they remembered to even so much as mention me in the church history that was distributed at the recent anniversary doings - and not that I'm bitter about that, but they listed people who had played once or twice, so what gives?). I played for all the baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies, both Junior High and High School, except my own for five or six years. I participated annually in Mrs. Bell's student recital for nine years and in some of her Christmas programs. I played for the combined Christmas contata, The Messiah, one year when the churches from Nixon and Smiley joined choir forces for the season. For about three years I was on call for funeral services where no other musician could be found. I played a lot of piano (and sometimes organ) in Gonzales County.

I now have an electronic keyboard that I play when I get a sudden need to tickle the ivories. I have a really nice piano downstairs that was the first piece of real furniture that I purchased after I got a job, but the only times that I have to sit down and make music are when other folks in the house are asleep. With my little electronic keyboard upstairs, I can reduce the volume and play to my heart's content. I must admit, however, that I generally end up piddling with the sound effects and make very little actual music. Add to that a chronic upper back issue that starts making its voice heard after a half-hour or so and I don't spend much time sitting at musical keyboards these days.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I stopped at the Gonzales Public Library on the way home from the funeral to make a start at a project that I intend to continue. My father wrote a regular column for the Gonzales weekly newspaper and none of the columns had been retained in the family archives. I could remember one of the last ones clearly, as it concerned my initial trip to Mary Hardin-Baylor, so I knew the approximate ending date of his column would be just after we moved to Bastrop. I hit the microfilm for the year 1972 and started my search. I ended up with twenty or thirty of his columns in my first session and my hope is that I will be able to get all of them before this year is out.

My project had some other benefits. I found articles where he had resigned as pastor of Smiley First Baptist Church. I found articles about my class's graduation. And I found a mention about my final piano recital, the one I don't remember much of because I entered a state of fugue for the duration.

Gonzales Daily Inquirer
May 17 1972
SMILEY--Mrs. Lloyd Bell announces two piano recitals to be given this week. Cindy Wilcoxen will have a solo recital on Friday night, May 19, at 8 p.m. The remainder of Mrs. Bell's students will have their recital on Saturday night at 8 p.m. These recitals will be held in the school auditorium and the public is cordially invited.

Well, it's not true that I don't remember it. I played a Chopin Etude, three Beethoven sonatas, and an encore of Pine-Top's Boogie Woogie. I was not happy about it, because it was not my idea to have a Senior recital. It was Mrs. Bell's wish and my parents backed her. I was an enforced participant. Still and all, it was an experience and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were folks in attendance other than Mrs. Bell, her students and my relatives. I could not find the picture of Mrs. Bell and me together, but I did find one of me and the piano that night.

This reminds me not only of that night, but of the reason why I bought a Sohmer piano for my own (it is the walnut twin of the one in the picture, a loaner for the recitals from a San Antonio music company). It reminds me of the Beethoven bust that I coveted. It belonged to Mrs. Bell and I would love to know who has it now so I could steal it. It reminds me that once upon a time I had the standard big hair of Texas debutantes. It reminds me that once upon a time I had the ability to play Chopin and Beethoven without stumbling. It reminds me of piano lessons and Mrs. Bell. It reminds me that Smiley High School had an auditorium that would hold just about the whole town on graduation night (it has since been carved up into class rooms). It reminds me that my mother made many of my clothes in those days, including the evening dress of silver and lilac brocade I have on in this picture. Memories.


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