Drawing Inspiration

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Our friend Irwin Cohen captured this beautiful moment yesterday in Central Park — a mother duck giving dad the day off.

Monday, June 19, 2023. Nice weekend in New York, lots of Sun, some huge masses of clouds with many greys, and very quiet in the nabes. It’s the first of Summer weekend. That was fast, no?

A Father’s Day outing for the Hirsches in Connecticut yesterday including Father Hirsch, son Jeff, and grandson Alexander. A beautiful day for all.

More inspiration. With this website being “commercial,” we get a lot of mail that is strictly ads and promos. But along with our personal messages we get the news of the day and communication with all of our contributors and website business; as well as public announcements from charities and film and lecture engagements. 

It can get numerous at the height of the “social season” which accompanies the business calendar. But it’s all interesting just to see the expression of philanthropy throughout. That’s all good news in one way or another. 

Then there are the occasional announcements that just draw my attention. For example, I received this more than a week ago and the event (concert) itself had already been performed. I wondered why this announcement was sent post-performance.

Alexei Tartakovsky (photo credit: JPB Photography)

Then I came upon it in my notes again yesterday. It was a closeup photograph of the pianist looking over the keyboard while in a performance moment.

Alexei Tartakovsky One-night only Performance
Captivates Piano Masters and Audience
at the Kaufman Music Center, Merkin Hall

The site of a master brought up my long ago relationship with the Piano. It started early. When I was a three-year-old and living with my parents and one of my mother’s sisters and her husband. She’d play the piano and people would sometimes stand around her and sing. 

This was in the early 1940s, the time the US was about to enter the World War II. The piano was a commonplace piece of furniture in millions of homes and preceded electricity in lighting up people’s lives. Usually an upright, some even had a piano roll facility which were pre-electronic recordplayers. And in many a town and city mid-century there were at least five or six piano teachers, all of whom operated out of their domicile.

As a young boy by age six I was interested. It was a time when there were still lots of social remnants to the pre-Automotive  Age. The piano was one of them. In any ordinary neighborhood or farm across America, there was often a piano. Usually a brown upright. And back in the day before the era of the television, at public and private parties there were frequent times where people danced and sang, and the piano accompanied a whole way of life that basically no longer exists.

I had a couple of aunts, sisters of my mother, who both had pianos in their homes, and when we went to visit, they played and sang for dear ole Dave. I was forever enamored with the keyboard.

My mind was more on train sets than pianos this particular Christmas morning.

At that tender age, five, six, seven, I’d sometimes imagine myself “playing a song” on my pillow as the keyboard before I’d fallen asleep. I must have been singing along too. By the time I was ten, I wanted a piano and I wanted to take piano lessons. 

I had an old (but good) upright acquired from our druggist Mr. Crotty for $35 out of my school savings account — another thing you don’t see in America anymore — the suggestion of having a weekly bankbook saving provided by the school teacher.

The teacher I wanted was Mary Furber Anderson. I passed her house daily for years on my way to and from school.

Teacher of Pianoforte it said in black lettering on the white frame sign next to her front door.  That serious sign gave her a special image in my head. I didn’t know the word then, but it was “class.” She had class. 

She was probably in her fifties, which at the time was very old to this 10-year-old. And she had the physical presence and authority of an opera diva. She also had two highly polished black grand pianos side by side in her living room. The fee was $2 for a 30-minute lesson.

She was a very nice lady sitting next to me on the music bench, showing me how. She always had anecdotes to keep my interest. Adults who actually spent time talking to the young (I was nine or ten) were always impressive. More than once watching me during an exercise, she’d gently take my right hand from the keyboard, holding it up and saying, as if in awe, “You have the hands of Franz Liszt.”

Franz Liszt’s and Student’s Hand | Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

I didn’t know who Franz Liszt was at the time (although I looked it up right away when I got home), but I knew just from her expression, very serious, she meant it. Or, I believed her.

All of this came back to me looking at that announcement of Alexei Tartakovsky’s one night only concert at the Kaufman Music Center at Merkin Hall. It occurred to me that I’ve always had a piano wherever I’ve lived all my adult life. I had two grand pianos (one belonged to a friend) when I lived in LA, and thereafter here in New York.

Before I lived in an apartment I played very often for awhile after dinner. I tried it in the apartment but because I could hear another neighbor playing a piano, I never wanted to bother my neighbors with my “talent.” The boy did not grow up to be a pianist. As much as I love to play — especially popular American songs circa pre-rock and Broadway (and I like to sing too) — I don’t want to drive a neighbor crazy with my melodic noise. So I’ve got out of the habit, except for rarely.

Nevertheless my love of music, all kinds of music remains. And so, in closing my tale of the piano, I am including a this 4-minute video on YouTube of the brilliant Byron Janis playing “Toccata” on the Ed Sullivan Show May 9, 1965. There it is, at least to the imagination, what’s possible!! Astounding and a real thrill!

Click above to watch …

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