Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)
TITLE: The Piano Recital
By Jackie Wilson
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At that particular moment, Jimmy was sitting on his knees, facing backward in his chair, making a face at ancient Mrs. Bellflower, a woman of sweet disposition, but extreme nearsightedness. Little Jimmy’s naughty fingers had just closed around the old lady’s eyeglasses when Mrs. Dunnagan took hold of his arm to turn him back around. Jimmy did let go, but not soon enough. With precision a baseball pitcher would envy, the spectacles shot ten feet across the room, straight into the gorgeous arrangement of gladiolas that Mrs. Dunnagan had just that morning placed lovingly into the huge glass vase she had inherited from her Great-aunt Mathilda. The whole room watched as the glasses sank gracefully to rest on the glass marbles that filled the bottom of the vase.
To their credit, the audience maintained their decorum . . . for the most part. There were a few isolated snickers as Mrs. Dunnagan pulled up her sleeve and plunged her hand down through the flower water to retrieve the eyeglasses. . . and a few throats were cleared as she dried them off and returned them to Mrs. Bellflower.
Pulling herself together, Mrs. Dunnagan led Jimmy to the grand piano, sat him on the bench and stepped away. Totally nonplussed by the commotion he had caused, little Jimmy commenced banging on the keys with no finesse, but great enthusiasm. Twenty seconds later, his artistic debut complete, he slid off the seat and ran smiling to sit on his mother’s lap for the duration of the program.
“Our next performer is Sarah Montgomery. Sarah is a new student this year, but has made great progress. She will be playing ‘The Balloon Song’.” As Mrs. Dunnagan took her seat, Sarah eased herself up on the piano bench. She placed her little hands carefully on the right keys. Five seconds passed. Ten. Twenty. Sarah’s head sank further into her chest as each second passed. The sympathy emanating from the audience was almost palpable as they watched her little shoulders cringe, then begin to quiver. She turned her head just enough to send a glance of desperation in her father’s direction. Reaching her just before Mrs. Dunnagan, he gathered her up in his arms, and toted her quietly down the aisle.
After the concert’s bumpy beginning, things settled down, and the next fifteen students performed their pieces with only minor mishaps - - forgotten passages, a few wrong notes, and one unfortunate little girl whose full-skirted crinoline got twisted sideways, revealing her hot pink undies with white kittens on them. Her playing was a little stilted, as she was distracted by wondering why the six-year old twin boys on the second row were pointing and giggling all the way through her performance.
Next to last on the program, Brucie McGinnis strutted to the piano like a rock star. He and Mrs. Dunnagan had argued strenuously over the selection of his solo, and she secretly hoped he would restrain himself somewhat in his performance. He didn’t. He swayed and rocked like Stevie Wonder. He clobbered the keys with passion, and added a few vocals, too - - a few “oooh’s” and a little “unh”. The crowd loved it, applauding loud and long. Mrs. Dunnagan smiled indulgently, relieved that he hadn’t done the “moon walk” on the way back to his seat.
And finally, the artistic culmination of the evening was Ellie Pritchett. Though she was still very young, the child had exceptional talent. Mrs. Dunnagan hoped that Ellie could navigate the adolescent and teen years, and emerge with her love for music intact and unscathed on the other side.
Ellie began to play Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, each note delicate, but purposeful. The sounds wound over and around each other, weaving a pattern of sweetness, building, growing into a sunburst of joy, then floating gently down in a little pool of ripples. As the audience stood, Ellie smiled radiantly and took her bow.
Mrs. Dunnagan concluded by saying, “All of your children, my pupils, are talented, each in his own way. We hope you enjoyed this year’s recital.”
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