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  • Joni Topper

Piano Players

We were gathering for the evening service. The day was hot yet the temperature in the open sided tabernacle was as cool as a welcome drink of water. There was little decoration here, just a piano and a microphone. For some reason I was one of the first to arrive each evening. Perhaps I was driven there with desire. Desire to hear the piano, to feel the presence, the possibility that dwelt in the notes hanging with passion and simplicity in this place. The somewhat difficult walk up the rugged path to this hilltop place of worship discouraged these able-bodied kids from getting in a hurry. Maybe because when they arrived, their sense of proper behavior would kick in. Their follies would need to cease. This place was for worship and honesty, not horse play.


Playing the piano was a young man about twenty years old. His talent was certainly not the draw. He was not so much accomplished as he was reliable in his playing. No doubt whether his voice ever uttered a word of praise, his hands gave up nothing less.


This was a common unpretentious gathering of teenagers. They were born in the late 50’s or early 60’s making them the generation referred to as baby boomers. In these times they might go to a camp of some sort during the summer. Most were not going to spend their entire summer hopping from one camp to another. This week would be a special event in their lives sure to leave a lasting impression. There were no cell phones. There was no information overload.


Being 18 years old I was hardly older than the participants here. The piano player at this outdoor cathedral changed me. His heart of service touched mine. The music mattered.

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A husband wife team came to play duet pianos in Odessa Texas about 35 years ago. Their pianos were set back to back. The appearance was that although there were clearly two pianos, they would function as one instrument. The concert was in the basement of the Family Life Center of First Baptist Church. How two grand pianos had been moved to the basement was bewildering.


The balance of their music was as beautiful as the picture of this man and woman. Commitment to their talent was realized in their impeccable program. The music they played was difficult. I found myself wondering if they had written the music themselves because of the seamless presentation of their melodies. The concert ended with “Evergreen” from A Star is Born, the perfect ending since my companion was my soon to be husband. The music mattered.

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My husband came home from a funeral with a story of an elderly black woman. His purpose in attending this funeral was assisting the funeral director. The service was in a small church plopped right in the middle of a cedar break. The community is a freedmen’s colony established in 1865 by families who gained their freedom at the end of the Civil War and is named Peyton's Colony.


As the funeral began family members asked if someone could play the piano. No one volunteered. Finally, an elderly lady said she played years ago. She would give it a try. She sat down and used one finger to pluck out a tune. Shortly, she added another finger. Soon her stiff little hands had come to life with music and rhythm. The building was filled with vibrant tunes as the mourners found solace and meaning in her gift of music. Offered simply because she could. The music mattered.


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