Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Virtual Thank You

Typical. Something astounding happens and I have writer's block. But this piece has to be written. I've poured frustrations and heartaches in this blog, so now I think my God deserves some credit for the wonderful blessings He has bestowed upon me and my family.

Last Saturday, four members of my family performed in a piano recital held in our living room as a special gift for our priest-friend who is going back to his homeland after six years of mission in the Philippines. Eight people aside from our family were invited. My siblings watched us online from three countries (more like continents) - Australia, US, and Germany.

It was a spectacular, fantastic, and intimate night, a celebration of music, family, and friendship. This post will not do the event justice, I am sure of it, but it needs an entry here, after all that's been said and done here through the years.

It all started when I asked Fr. Geoffrey what gift I could give him for taking good care of me pastorally for the past four years. A few weeks later, he told me that he had given it some thought and he wanted a piano recital, with me performing. I laughed at his ridiculous idea, and even told my mother about it.

My mother, THE piano teacher, asked me, "Why not? Why don't I play for him too? I will ask your nephews if they want to join."

Now, my mother had been teaching piano for almost 44 years, but had not herself performed publicly after graduation, except for the occasional duet with a student, due to the rigors of raising five children. Instead, she concentrated on teaching her students and preparing them for their annual recital. Last year, she slowed down and became semi-retired. Thus, with more time on her hands, she was able to review her pieces from when she was at the Conservatory of Music. She also read somewhere that playing the piano helped to avoid Alzheimer's disease. With Mama's playing, we could tell she was in no danger of contracting the disease.

My nephews, as blog readers would remember, are gifted children. Videos of their recitals have received thousands of visitors on YouTube. They are multi-talented and handsome, and anything that they do would be much appreciated.

I was the weakest link, being out of shape and out of practice for more than a decade. BUT I was the link, and I knew I had to play my part. With barely three months to prepare, I reluctantly chose four pieces I could play decently and practiced as much as I could, given work and other responsibilities and excuses.

I grew to enjoy the preparation, nerve-wracking though it was. My parents and I made up a very short guest list. Together with my brother and sister-in-law, we planned the little party's details, adding our signature touch to everything from the Programme to the live webcast. I particularly loved practicing a Mozart symphony arranged in four hands, with my mother.

As the date drew closer, I was as excited as a kid who prepared a surprise for her dad on Father's Day. I gave the guests, and the guest of honor, hints as to what was ahead, but could not reveal everything lest they raise their expectations. It was better for them to think that they would politely sit through a family's puny efforts at entertaining, than to look for world-class performances from a tiny living room.

I was looking forward to the night because I wanted to listen to my Mom's playing, and wanted to see other peoples' reaction to it. She was our family's secret treasure, and it was high time that her gift was shared to others. At 66 years old, my mother could still play brilliantly. She chose pieces we grew up with, and so it was like playing our family classical soundtrack album.

When the day came, I prayed to God, thanking Him for the blessing of music, family, and friends, and asking Him to help us all perform as much as the talents He gave us could allow. I prepared for dinner with a nervous-excited air. My sister-in-law took care of the kitchen as my mom and I were conserving our energy and honestly could not think of anything else than our pieces.

When our eight guests arrived, they looked normal. I wanted to say, "You have no idea what's in store for you! " Mama and I could hardly eat. It took a while to set up the live webcast to the three continents, but once the last country (Team Australia) went online, we were in business.

The first performer, Miko, was running a fever. A few hours before the "show", he had a nosebleed. He decided to forego the dry run in the afternoon and stayed in bed. He said that the show must go on.

After greeting all our guests both local and international, I gave a brief introduction to the recital cum despedida, and then Miko stood up to play. This is the flow of the program. The kids did not play simplified versions, but the real thing.

Canon in D Major (Pachelbel)
Miguel del Rosario

By the Sea (Posca)
Miguel del Rosario

Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven)
Luis Gabriel del Rosario

Sonata in C Major (Mozart)
Luis Gabriel del Rosario

Rondo alla Turka (Mozart)
Luis Gabriel del Rosario

First Waltz (Durand)
Atty. Laura C.H. del Rosario

Two-Part Invention No. 8 (J.S. Bach)
Atty. Laura C.H. del Rosario

Two-Part Invention No. 13 (J.S. Bach)
Atty. Laura C.H. del Rosario

The Poet's Harp (Mendelssohn)
Atty. Laura C.H. del Rosario

Symphony No. 41/ Jupiter (Mozart)
Mrs. Lourdes del Rosario and Atty. Laura C.H. del Rosario

Liebestraum (Liszt)
Mrs. Lourdes C.H. del Rosario

Romance (Rubinstein)
Mrs. Lourdes del Rosario

Malaguena (Lecuona)
Mrs. Lourdes del Rosario

Autumn Leaves
Mrs. Lourdes del Rosario

Etude (Chopin)
Mrs. Lourdes del Rosario


The audience said that Miko made the sound of waterfalls on the piano. In my opinion, the night for Luigi was a career high, for he looked like a little virtuoso pianist, without any awkwardness or stage fright. I was the nervous wreck who made a mistake every other measure. I could see the guests on my peripheral vision and it did not help at all. I kept telling myself to relax, that it would soon be over, but my fingers acted as if possessed and just had a mind of their own, reacting to my palpitating heart. I was only able to breathe when my duet with Mama started. Somehow I was able to break into a smile, finally, and to enjoy the night.

I briefly introduced the next pianist as "And now, My Mother."

When she started playing, the audience was stunned into silence, one could hear a pin drop. I beamed as I panned their faces - jaws were opened, eyes were widened, and tear ducts were activated. Such is the reaction when the unexpected happens, when people encounter true beauty. Talent and skill combined into an artist's level is a reminder of the Divine, the Creator of music and all that is grand. My mother played the piano like she had never done during all my years of existence. She was an angel of music, with finger strength just as she had when she was a teenager, attacking every piece with the emotion that it was due. My father did not know whether to sit or to stand, he was so beside himself with joy.

The burst of applause was defeaning. People stood up to hug her, thank her. I could hear "Bravo!" "Fantastic!" and "Encore!" everywhere. Our living room was transformed into a little piece of Heaven. What a moment.

We played one piece each as an encore, Mama and I, and both were written by Filipino composers. The air turned from simple to majestic, from ordinary to divine. I was no longer myself, and we were no longer in my house. We were transported into a land of creation, a garden of Eden, where gifts are poured out in grand proportions, and where hearts respond to receive them in full.

We had to end that recital, and resume talking and eating, but we all were glad to be part of something so special. We cannot upload the videos at Mama's request. In time, who knows, people might convince her to play for a bigger audience.

That night gave me strength to face the ordinary, simple, and routinary life that awaits all of us. It is a life seasoned with occasional magic that reminds us, reminds me, that there is something greater than all of us here. Somewhere, there is a God who ordained everything to be beautiful and perfect, and we will get there. We know because we have fantastic glimpses of Heaven once in a while, and we take what we can in our empty cups, and try to drink from them, only to find out that the water never runs out.

We are not ordinary. We are not the same. We are children of a Loving, Generous, and Present God, no matter how old we seem, or unworthy we feel.

For everything is Gift.

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