Allegro, andante, and d.c. al fine

Published 10:29am Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The pews were filled with grandparents and grand hopes down at Southway Baptist Church last Thursday night, but the air was filled with something a little more like anxiety – the kind that comes poco a poco with piano recitals. Perhaps that’s why the nearer our car got to the parking lot, the antsier our little player became.

“So why did God give us nerves anyway?” she finally asked. I waited for my husband to offer a plausible response, then gave my daughter what I knew would help the most – empathy. I did this in story form, telling her nothing she could do would ever compare with my botched performance of a certain sonatina – a piece I couldn’t remember how to play when it counted but somehow continues to play in my memory four decades later.

And with that bit of encouragement to bolster her forward, my daughter joined the other students in reserved seating near the front of the church. Her dad and I merged with a cheering section right side, middle where I could pretty much see each performer if I leaned forward a little and the kid in front of me cooperated.

First up, a violinist provided not only a lovely rendition of “Amazing Grace” but modeled (and I do mean modeled) the real reason parents like such events in the first place – dress codes. Unfortunately, that’s the very reason many students don’t. In fact, this is one event where peer pressure is actually good, bringing out the best – flowing dresses, tucked-in shirts, shined shoes – in participants. Where else can you see guys sporting seersucker on a weekday?

Next came a series of younger students, including a just-turned four-year-old who had no idea that playing in piano recitals is supposed to be stressful.

Little Marlia was joined at the bench by her very patient teacher, the same one my daughter often tells me never fusses. “First she says I did good, then we talk about my mistakes,” she informed us recently.

Her brother, the one who listens to far too much talk radio, wouldn’t let that one pass, though. “In the real world it’s not always good to be lifted up,” he told her. “Sometimes you really do horrible, and you need to hear it.”

“I have Mom for that,” his sister had counterpointed.

But back at the recital, my husband was tripped up over a grammatically-incorrect song title on the program, a standard called “Boil Them Cabbage Down.”

“Them cabbage? What’s that supposed to mean?” he whispered too loudly, as if I could explain the idiosyncrasies of American folk music. Perhaps that’s why when moments later our daughter managed to make it through her “Clair de lune,” I managed to miss recording the first half of it.

In the end, a round of post-performance mini Blizzards at Dairy Queen would have been enough to cap off the evening, but sisters Sam and Chloe Naeger (the Morningside Music Studios instructors who never fuss) had another grand finale in mind – “The Lovers’ Waltz” for piano and violin. This year they passed on classical and chose to delight patrons with a dreamy, haunting soundtrack instead. There wasn’t a recital-goer there – from the suited-up scale player to the scrubs-wearing dad just off work – who wasn’t mesmerized.

Note to self: Forget the sonatina. Maybe it’s not too late to take up the violin.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at