Every congregant at Christ Presbyterian Church in Goodyear is blessed to have a piano player like Paul Tipei. Jake and I knew this our first Sunday there, directly following the doxology. Paul was born in 1987; he’s from Romania, but he currently attends Arizona State. I’ve asked him to play in our wedding, and this past Sunday, he played a concert at our church, featuring Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21.
Have you ever heard Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21? If you haven’t, you should hear it—right now, by heading to YouTube. Go on, head over. You can play it in the background while you read. Granted, these things are always better live, and Paul did a stellar job on Sunday (even better than the YouTube version). But the concert Sunday did so much more than make me pray for Paul’s availability on November 12. It made me remember classical music.
How could I ever forget? ME! I used to listen to Chopin constantly in high school. Some nerds in the science community said it made studying more effective. That’s how it started—I wanted to be better at school. Soon, the random Chopin CD (I think it was his etudes) served as a distraction. I stopped studying, closed my eyes, and listened to the music. Switch gears, right now, and stop listening to Beethoven. Listen to Chopin and my personal favorite, Etude Op. 10, No. 3. I tried taking piano lessons as a child, and I hated them. Yet, I loved the sound of someone else playing piano. I still do—always will—but I’ll get back to that in a moment …
Also when I was in high school, my crazy Uncle Barney used to take me estate sale shopping all over Toledo. We discovered some wonderful finds, but more importantly, we connected. Barney and I were very much alike, artistically and musically. He introduced me to Giacomo Puccini—Italian composer of Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, and Tosca. Think you’ve never heard his music? When you’re done sobbing over Chopin, listen to O Soave Fanciulla! Not only was this the song obsessed over in 1987’s Moonstruck, but Jonathan Larson used Puccini’s chords in his late-nineties iconic musical, Rent. I literally rock out to this whenever I’m upset. I crank it up, because you can’t be sad when music is so lovely.
Back to piano … I didn’t fall in love with jazz piano until I lived in Charleston, SC. At Charleston Grill, I used to go see this drummer, Quentin Baxter. Quentin was an impeccable jazz drummer. You couldn’t help but stare at the guy, and he often had an entourage of equally talented musicians to surround him—namely, several jazz piano players. (You can hear a sample of the music when you click on the Charleston Grill website.)
I spent many a late evening sipping cocktails and ignoring friends at the Grill. It’s what really good live music does; I go away to my own little place, where only the music can touch me. This is why I still sing the blues. When I sing Billie Holiday, I go to that quiet place, too, and nothing reaches me there—no worry, no stress, and no anxiety. It’s just me and the music.
Have you heard enough music for one day? Do you feel highbrow, with all this classical music, opera, and jazz? Well beautiful music ain’t always classy. An epic song (that I’ve written about before) comes from Band of Horses. It’s called “The Funeral,” and most recently, you saw it in the trailer for Oscar-nominated film, 127 Hours.
My little bro’s music kills me every time, too. He’s writing a song for the wedding, and I know it’s going to break me. Seriously, I can barely hear his music without getting teary. Here he is singing his song “Desert Breeze.” (See, I’m almost crying again. DAMN IT.)
Music doesn’t have to be classical to be respectable. It doesn’t have to be Italian opera to lift you up and carry you away. It doesn’t even have to be live (although it helps). It just has to reach you, where you are, right now, and make you move—inside or out. What have you been listening to lately? What should I know about?