Thursday, October 28, 2004

A new take on the Partridge family...

When I was a child, my two oldest brothers took piano lessons for a few years. Otis is almost ten years older than I am, and Glen is almost five years older. They would be spirited off to lessons at some woman's house. I cannot recall her name nor do I have any idea where she lived in my hometown of Brooklyn. What I do remember is finding an out of the way place to sit and listen when they practiced playing. We had an old white upright piano in our living room with a triangle shaped metronome that I was fascinated with everytime I set it to rocking. As I recall, Otis stopped playing the piano soon after the lessons ended and took up the electric bass guitar. But Glen went on with piano playing and singing and eventually pursued a music degree at a small college just outside of New York. The song I remember best is Moonlight Sonata. I would sit in the shadow of the dining room table and close my eyes, imagining myself in the moonlit fields on some summer night, lying down in the grass and gazing at the stars above. I dreamed of holding some handsome young man's hand as we both fell under the spell of the full-faced moon that above us seemingly just out of arm's distance. There is something about that song that thrills me to this very day. When I came of age to learn the piano, my father took a weathered copy of that red John Thompson Beginning Piano lessons book, opened it to the first page, sat me down on the bench, pointed out middle C, and I was on my way. I picked my way through that book for months. Then I pulled out our own church hymnal and started to pick my way through that book. I actually got to be a decent little piano player. If our church organist was absent and the substitute organist was unavailable, and if absolutely no one else on the church property could distinguish between the treble clef and the bass clef, then I would play the piano at the Sunday evening services at church. For some reason, I took to the songs with flats; the more flats the better. However, if there were any sharps at all, I could bumble and fumble my way through, but it was always a disaster. I played piano all the way through junior high school. But once in high school, I joined the school choir and never returned to playing the piano regularly. Until we got our little electric piano/synthesizer/karaoke machine thing, that is. We purchased it several years ago when Kristiana tried her hand at learning the piano. She never developed any serious interest in it, but we had already bought the machine thing and weren't going to take it back. For the record, I hesitate to call it a "piano." It's like referring to Coffee-Mate as "cream;" it's just not the same thing. Anyway, tonight I pulled out the hymnbook I shoplifted from the church many moons ago and flipped through it for a few minutes before I found my favorite section. (By the way, is it really stealing if it's meant to build our faith and family togetherness?) I love Christmas music. I have always wished it weren't relegated to the two weeks before and after Christmas. So I extend the holiday music season in our house by picking through "O, Come All Ye Faithful" and "Silent Night" and "O Holy Night" and several other old favorites from late October through late January. Tonight was the first night of the holiday music season in our house. I thumbed through the familiar carols seeking out songs with flats. As I got warmed up, Steve and the kids recognized the tunes, gathered around the machine thing, and began to sing. Well, Daniel started off by choosing a single key all the way at the end of the keyboard and pounding it over and over again, much to the consternation of the rest of us. After I threatened him with an early bedtime, he took up his proper role as high tenor among us and off we went. Singing carols. Laughing. Yelling out favorites. Bumbling through the songs with sharps and plodding through all the ones with flats. I will definitely have to practice when they are out of earshot. And from now until the end of January, on any given evening the Henderson-Belsitos of Charlotte, North Carolina, will enact our own special rendition of the Partridge Family Sings Christmas Songs. I guess it's best not to compare ourselves to that cloyingly cute clan of polyester wearing, groovy feeling, traveling minstrels. In our very own right, we're a curiously clad, oddly matched, well meaning gaggle of geeks with not much musical talent between the four of us. But we do love our Christmas carols. By the way, just so that I don't come across as totally insane, our Christmas tree won't go up until just a week or so before Christmas. I'm most definitely not one of those people who keeps the fake icicles hanging from the front porch all year round. Do those people think that no one notices them hanging up there? We once went to look at a house for sale during the summer, and they had their Christmas tree up in the living room. The very apologetic real estate agent said that they like it so much they just keep it up all year round. The house, by the way, had been on the market for about a year. Hmmmmm... Anyway, happy holidays!

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