Ch.186 A Joyful Musical Memory

Ch.186 A Joyful Musical Memory

January 2023

          Last night I watched a PBS special show about the singer and pianist Roberta Flack. Her breakthrough song was entitled “The First Time I Saw Your Face.” I went to YouTube to listen to it. The first two lines are: “The first time ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes.” Those lines brought me back to the first time I ever saw Pat’s face, when I was 18 years old. Sixty years ago. We had each won National Merit Scholarships to Macalester College in St. Paul, and Time Magazine was doing a photo shoot on Macalester’s success in getting Merit Scholars to come there. I still recall the moment I saw her. I can’t say I thought the sun rose in her eyes, though, nothing that romantic. But I sensed that she was special when she smiled. Two years later we began dating (In between, she dated another Merit Scholar from the same photo shoot).

          After listening to Roberta Flack, I gravitated to Allison Krause as she sang “You Say It Best When You Say Nothing at All,” a song that triggered memories of Pat’s last days, when all we could do was hold hands, when that was how we could still share our love. That memory was bittersweet, of course, and I was overcome by a wave of sadness. By then it was almost midnight, and I faced the prospect of going to bed lonely.

          Fortunately, I noticed on the YouTube option list a piece played by a fiddler named Natalie McMaster, an exceptionally talented individual who plays music that originates in her Cape Breton (Newfoundland) homeland. McMaster had appeared once in Eau Claire, at least fifteen or twenty years ago, and Pat and I had gone to see her perform along with three other fiddlers from different regions of the world. Cape Breton fiddling is fast, playful, and captivating. Last night I watched McMaster and another fiddler play together for at least fifteen minutes straight while their audience laughed and kept time with their hands and feet. As they played, I remembered Pat and I laughing and smiling when McMaster began fiddling that night in Eau Claire. And soon I was smiling and keeping time to the music again.

          If you want to hear some joyful fiddling, search You Tube for Natalie McMaster and Mary Frances Leahy at Red Shoe Pub.