My dad was a semi-professional pianist all the years he held a corporate job.
One of the more random remnants of his side gig lived in a cabinet where my parents stored sheet music — most of it classical.
It was a songbook with music for maybe a dozen pop hits circa 1977. I can specifically date it because I remember both “Angel In Your Arms” and “Undercover Angel” were in there, and I think “Do You Wanna Make Love” was there as well.
Presumably my dad bought it (or had it given to him) ’cause he needed to learn a popular song on the quick — maybe to accompany a wedding singer, or to please a client who’d specifically requested it.
I never did find out which song in the Book of Mellow Gold he was called on to play. It’s possible that a book of that vintage had “You Light Up My Life” in it, a song that probably everyone who made money playing other people’s music had to slog through at least once in 1977-78.
What’s that got to do with Hope Street? Well, this week’s entry might have found my grandparents and great-grandma — like my dad — adding some sheet music to the family collection.
“Music store” is written in my great-grandma’s precise hand, so I’m guessing it was her errand.
Piano was her only instrument, and she wasn’t buying a new piano. So her trip to the music store must have been for some humbler need — like perhaps buying some new sheet music.
What she bought, I couldn’t guess. I’m sure it wasn’t a songbook of current hits. (A shame, as there was some pretty good music on the radio around that time.)
Still, my great-grandma was closing in on 86 years old as the fall of 1972 began. So the idea of her buying any piece of music she didn’t already have in the house is pretty cool, no matter what it might have been.
I recently heard from a former piano student of my great-grandma’s who said, among other kind things:
I admire the fact that she let me and other students play “modern stuff”—such as tunes from My Fair Lady and Music Man in addition to the usual piano student fare from the masters.
I don’t think my great-grandma was still teaching in September of ’72. But this quote suggests she was willing to acknowledge new and different (and popular) music well into her advanced years.
Who knows? Maybe one of her students opened her ears to something she decided she wanted to play — or wanted my dad to play when he came to visit.
And perhaps the arrival of another autumn found her perched on the piano bench in the family room at Hope Street, silent and attentive, slowly forming the music, one chord or run at a time.