5. Musical Instruments
xxxI was on my way to hear the New York Philharmonic when a woman entered the car of my train and started to play a pianica. I was instantly transported back to the music room of my primary school, where a squad of boys fumbled on the keyboard of their instruments and blew lustily into the creamy white tubing. The pianica, the poor man’s piano. Under the direction of the busty music teacher, whose name I cannot remember, we blew out the music we had also to learn to sing. Humoresque. Sunrise, sunset.
Is this the little girl I married?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?
After music practice, my father cycled me home. Perched on the top tube of the frame, I clicked down the long curving road, which covered up the hip of the hill at the bottom of which we lived.
xxxThe next instrument I learned to play was the guitar. It was the thing to do in secondary school. No more the small music room with its floor of flagstones, always doubling up as a passageway. The boy scouts had their own basement den, in which to pick up the major chords and talk about girls. Kong Nee taught us the Mandarin pop tune “The Flying Ships” and spoke glowingly of the Cedar girl at the last campfire. Lawrence found the chords for “Leader of the Band” played constantly on the radio then, and we all learned it. That was in 1983, two years after Dan Fogelberg released his album The Innocent Age.
xxxI also sang a lot. I loved the Baptist hymnal, and when the church split and I left with the pastor to form Faith Community, I took naturally to the choruses projected on the back of the stage of a cavernous auditorium. Five thousand voices sang “In Moments Like This” and “Jesus, I love You” over and over again, charging the words with the power to reach heaven. Often it felt we did. Eternity, the worship leader murmured, will be spent praising God. I thought I was a pretty good singer. I loved singing, and so I thought I could. Elsa, whom everyone decided sang like an angel, disabused me of that notion. I may still be trying to find a place where that notion holds true.