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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2602927
01/10/17 04:43 PM
01/10/17 04:43 PM
Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,755
England/Switzerland
AJB Offline
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Joined: Oct 2005
Posts: 3,755
England/Switzerland
Missed the Christmas opportunity - constant round of visiting relations and as this will (we expect) be the last Christmas (with a capital C) for one of them I could not in all conscience prise the in-laws away. However, we are back in the Spring.


Currently playing 2017 C212 with carbon fibre soundboard, WNG action. Working on Bach, Beethoven, Grieg mainly.
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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2603038
01/10/17 09:31 PM
01/10/17 09:31 PM
Joined: Jun 2003
Posts: 26,693
Oakland
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Capture as many of your father's memories as you can, Robin. When they are gone, what you will miss most of all from your parents is the knowledge.


Semipro Tech
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2605404
01/17/17 04:11 PM
01/17/17 04:11 PM
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 156
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Redhead1 Offline
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Originally Posted by Piano Girl RMG


A hot tip for any of you looking to play weddings in the near future. Check out Jennifer Blaske's book: Giggin' for a Living: How to Make Money as a Musician Playing for Weddings and Special Events.

Piano Girl fans have been on my back for years to write a manual, but I don't have it in me—I get too sidetracked by the funny and emotional stuff and shy away from anything that could actually HELP players! Jennifer has filled that gap. It's only available on Kindle. Grab a copy if wedding gigs are in your future.the book is generous, well-written, and full of great tips. Congrats, Jennifer! I hope you'll join in here more often. Link is below.

Giggin' for a Living


I am just now seeing this. Thank you so much, Robin! I was definitely inspired by you over the years, not only in becoming a sort of "piano girl" myself, but also because you wrote a book, and I knew I wanted that someday I wanted to write one too.

At least for me, becoming a solo pianist was a little bit of a mystery job: What songs do I need to play? Do they have to be memorized? How in the world do I actually get a job playing somewhere? How much do I charge? Do you have to be famous before you can do something like that? So I liked the idea of sharing my experiences and suggestions for other people out there who must be wondering some of the same things.

Right now I'm getting ready to play for a wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner this Sunday at the GA Aquarium in Atlanta. That will be a new venue for me. It's funny; when I got married, the question was basically, "Which church for the ceremony, and which hotel for the reception?" We had no idea that people got married in dinosaur museums, and aquariums, and zoos -- and who knows where else! smile

Jennifer McCoy Blaske
www.PianoJenny.com


Jennifer McCoy Blaske
Pianist and Author
www.PianoJenny.com
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Redhead1] #2605409
01/17/17 04:27 PM
01/17/17 04:27 PM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,264
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Piano World Offline

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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,264
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
Originally Posted by Redhead1
Originally Posted by Piano Girl RMG


A hot tip for any of you looking to play weddings in the near future. Check out Jennifer Blaske's book: Giggin' for a Living: How to Make Money as a Musician Playing for Weddings and Special Events.

Piano Girl fans have been on my back for years to write a manual, but I don't have it in me—I get too sidetracked by the funny and emotional stuff and shy away from anything that could actually HELP players! Jennifer has filled that gap. It's only available on Kindle. Grab a copy if wedding gigs are in your future.the book is generous, well-written, and full of great tips. Congrats, Jennifer! I hope you'll join in here more often. Link is below.

Giggin' for a Living


I am just now seeing this. Thank you so much, Robin! I was definitely inspired by you over the years, not only in becoming a sort of "piano girl" myself, but also because you wrote a book, and I knew I wanted that someday I wanted to write one too.

At least for me, becoming a solo pianist was a little bit of a mystery job: What songs do I need to play? Do they have to be memorized? How in the world do I actually get a job playing somewhere? How much do I charge? Do you have to be famous before you can do something like that? So I liked the idea of sharing my experiences and suggestions for other people out there who must be wondering some of the same things.

Right now I'm getting ready to play for a wedding ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner this Sunday at the GA Aquarium in Atlanta. That will be a new venue for me. It's funny; when I got married, the question was basically, "Which church for the ceremony, and which hotel for the reception?" We had no idea that people got married in dinosaur museums, and aquariums, and zoos -- and who knows where else! smile

Jennifer McCoy Blaske
www.PianoJenny.com


Hi Jennifer,
I saw Robin's post, immediately downloaded your e-book to the Kindle on my cell phone (so I'd always have it with me). Geesh, at that price it's a no-brainer.

Enjoyed the tips, great stuff for anyone starting out and useful pointers for those who have been at it a while.

Keep on gigging, and feel free to add some of your own adventures to Robin's never ending (and very popular) Let's Talk Weddings thread.

All the Best,

Frank B.
Piano World

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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano World] #2605812
01/18/17 08:10 PM
01/18/17 08:10 PM
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 156
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Redhead1 Offline
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Quote

Keep on gigging, and feel free to add some of your own adventures to Robin's never ending (and very popular) Let's Talk Weddings thread.

All the Best,

Frank B.
Piano World

====================



Thanks Frank! My adventures are not nearly as interesting or expansive as Robin's, but here's something that you might find amusing.

A few years ago I played at this outdoor wedding at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta. (Photo by Paperlily Photography)
[Linked Image]

I had just started using an Ipad app for playing music and had several specific songs on the ipad that they had requested for the ceremony.

I got my keyboard all set up outside and then started setting up the Ipad. Strangely, I could barely see the music on the screen. Oh right -- there was a dimmer setting; it must be turned down.

No, wait! It was already turned up all the way! Then why couldn't I see anything? What was I going to do? I couldn't read it well enough to play. What was wrong with my Ipad?? How would I make it through the ceremony? Help! Help!

Oh, wait.

I was still wearing my sunglasses.

Jennifer McCoy Blaske
Author of Giggin' for a Livin' and Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom
www.PianoJenny.com

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2608025
01/24/17 03:51 PM
01/24/17 03:51 PM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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Piano Girl RMG Offline OP
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Germany
Nice photo, Jennifer! Looks very European.

There are certain advantages to playing everything from memory! My eyes are so whacked at this point that reading anything, with or without glasses, would be a trauma. I do read words when I do a program with stories, but I print out a script with a super-sized font. Then there's the lighting situation. Most bars and lounges are on the dark side. I guess the iPad solution helps with that.

Playing during the daytime means lots of light. Good for the eyes, bad for the wrinkles. Ah well. And i truly wish I had had a little less light on Sunday—just as I had started playing my first set for a quiet, elegant Afternoon Tea crowd, a stout man wearing a kilt and carrying BAGPIPES entered the lounge. Entered is too kind a word—he busted into the room. A man on a mission carrying a full set of pipes and wearing a kilt and a little hat. He exited the room as purposefully as he entered it and I thought, once again, like I was in the middle of a Monty Python sketch.

By the way, the German word for bagpipe is DUDELSACK. One of my favorite German words. Put that in your Dudelsack and smoke it.

Just when I was starting to relax, in burst another Dudelsacker, then another, then another. A total of twenty bagpipers came through, and a dozen drummers. I still don't know where they were going or why they were there, but it was quite the scene.

I am playing for a wedding on the 4th of February. And I have four or five bookings for May, including one couple that wants my concert program (between the champagne reception and the dinner), not just background music! We'll see how that works out. It's at a botanical garden.

Visit my website for details if you live in Pittsburgh, PA, or Charleston, SC and want to attend one of my concerts during my little USA tour in February. Would LOVE to see a few PW friends there.

Summerville, SC Feb 19th
Charleston, SC Feb 20th
Pittsburgh, PA Feb 25th

Sending love from a dimly lit living room in rural Germany.

RMG







Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2608316
01/25/17 10:48 AM
01/25/17 10:48 AM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,802
San Jose, CA
Jeff Clef Offline
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Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,802
San Jose, CA
Twelve pipers piping, eleven lords a-leaping...

And Today in Wedding History:

1858 – The Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn is played at the marriage of Queen Victoria's daughter, Victoria, and Friedrich of Prussia, and becomes a popular wedding processional.

And, as if by some eerie cosmic coincidence, eighty years later, down to the very day [in 1938], Etta James was born, singer of the quintessential wedding song, "At Last."

This is why the date is printed in gold, on every document generated in the wedding industry.

Last edited by Jeff Clef; 01/25/17 11:03 AM.

Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2612073
02/06/17 08:40 AM
02/06/17 08:40 AM
Joined: Aug 2016
Posts: 8
4
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Hey I just want to ask the performers here, are solo piano gigs in less demand where you are?

I used to play gigs on and off at hotels, restaurants etc but it just died down. i'll play the odd holiday party but my heart isn't much into it now. some of the offers are so rather insulting and people are basically paying less than what a good teacher would make hourly!

i did have a good NYE gig offer but wasn't in town so didn't do it.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: 4Fingers] #2612718
02/08/17 05:21 PM
02/08/17 05:21 PM
Joined: Feb 2010
Posts: 156
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Redhead1 Offline
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Originally Posted by 4Fingers
Hey I just want to ask the performers here, are solo piano gigs in less demand where you are?

I used to play gigs on and off at hotels, restaurants etc but it just died down. i'll play the odd holiday party but my heart isn't much into it now. some of the offers are so rather insulting and people are basically paying less than what a good teacher would make hourly!


I'm in the Atlanta area and not aware of any hotel gigs. There are a few restaurant gigs that I'm aware of. I played at Von Maur department store for a while and enjoyed it very much and learned a lot, but the pay is horrible and they treat you like a store employee. You even have to clock in and out!

My gigs are all private parties and weddings, which pay much better than restaurants anyway. I don't play anywhere for under $300.

I get about 80% of my gigs from my website and the other 20% from past customer, wedding planners, or venue referrals.

Jennifer McCoy Blaske
www.PianoJenny.com

Author of Giggin' for a Livin' and Confessions of a Wedding Musician Mom


Jennifer McCoy Blaske
Pianist and Author
www.PianoJenny.com
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2613690
02/12/17 03:29 AM
02/12/17 03:29 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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Piano Girl RMG Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
I live in Germany, where we celebrate live music by providing multiple platforms for concerts, recitals, etc. But the concept of "background" music seems difficult to grasp, mainly because Europeans are taught, in early childhood, that music should be respected. The concept of talking while someone is playing is foreign to both musicians and audience.

Due to my "American" sensibilities and my skill at blending into the ambience of a room full of chatting wine-sippers—I have found a niche for myself. There are a few others doing the same, and with great success. My current place of employment boasts live music seven days a week and keeps five musicians gainfully employed. The guests love it and so does management.

My hotel is a small, privately-owned hotel with an on-site director who is in the trenches with me every weekend. He sees, hears, and experiences what I do first hand. In the big chain hotels, the director is usually stuck in an office somewhere, a slave to corporate F&B rules about budgets. I spent 7 years at the Marriott in Manhattan and could count on one hand the number of times I saw the GM.

So that's my advice—if you want to do hotel work, seek out the little boutique places and offer some flexibility. I "invented" the jobs I've had in Germany by scoping out places and convincing management of the beauty of solo piano and the value it would bring to their establishments. I know that sounds cheesy, but, well, it's true.

In wedding news: My wedding last week was delightful! Everyone was pregnant! The bride was ready to burst and looked beautiful. And it seemed all her friends were either pregnant or toting babies. The receiving line was right next to the Steinway (loved that!) and I got to watch the parade of well-wishers. One well-wisher carried a screaming two-year-old named Timmy. Timmy wanted to be ANYWHERE but in a five star hotel. His mother gave him a cracker in an attempt to stop his screaming. Timmy spit the cracker at the pregnant bride. I was grateful the cracker detritus did not land inside the piano.

In these situations I usually open the piano full stick, to avoid having people use it as a cocktail table. All that champagne, all that hugging—people see a flat surface and they put their drinks on it. Makes me crazy. So I open the piano. But at this wedding, one woman put her drink down INSIDE the piano, on the harp. I almost had a heart attack. I leapt up, without resolving the cadence, and snatched the glass. One of the waiters fetched a cocktail table for her and that was that. Lord have mercy.

By all means—you aspiring wedding pianists should check out Jennifer's site. She has done an excellent job of telling perspective clients exactly what they want to hear—it's friendly, transparent, and to the point. I use a different approach. Most of my private party clients come from concert audiences or (sometimes) my hotel guests. I don't advertise myself as a wedding pianist, even though I'm happy to play weddings. It all works out.

Headed to the USA tomorrow. Hope to see some of you in Charleston or Pittsburgh! Go to my website for details.



Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2618182
02/26/17 12:30 PM
02/26/17 12:30 PM
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,802
San Jose, CA
Jeff Clef Offline
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Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,802
San Jose, CA
There is not a chance that Nancy Reagan did not recognize "Nancy with the Laughing Face." If she 'failed to recognize' it, it is because that is the maximum acceptable snub the First Lady could offer, while in office, to a daughter of such as Frank Sinatra.

We'll just let that speak for itself; I have no personal opinion on the matter.

We now return to the program in progress, "Let's Talk Weddings."


Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2622898
03/12/17 04:18 AM
03/12/17 04:18 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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Piano Girl RMG Offline OP
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Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
Here you go: Part One of Peripatetic, Poetic, and Chic. I am back in Germany now. Here's a little essay about my adventures in South Carolina. Clef, you'll have a field day with some of this. Sending love to all of you!

LOW COUNTRY BOIL

Chickens and Antiques

I arrive in Charleston, South Carolina, on a balmy February evening after a fifteen-hour travel extravaganza that has led me from Frankfurt, Germany, through Detroit, and into the cushioned arms of Low Country hospitality. I'm here to play a couple of solo piano concerts. My host, a southern gentleman who works as a church organist, concert promoter, and hotel pianist, greets me at the airport. His name is Tom Bailey. I know from emails and phone calls he is neither an ax murderer nor a Trump supporter, but still, I worry. I'm tired enough that most of my trust issues evaporate into the salty night without a second thought as Tom, a dapper guy in a gorgeous suit, grabs my suitcase. We hop in his Nissan, and away we go.

Tom and his partner Steve live in Summerville in a rambling home they share with two dogs (Loopy and Buster) and twenty chickens. The chattering chickens reside outside and pretty much never shut up, but I could sleep through anything at this point. I have a glass of wine, tour the labyrinth of chicken-themed, antique-filled rooms, and head up to the guest suite where I fall into a four-poster bed and dream of Pat Conroy and roosters.

To avoid performing with jet lag, I've arrived in Charleston six days before my first concert. Other, more seasoned artists don't fret about travel fatigue, but I'm approaching my sixtieth birthday and I function best when my head is not dropping onto the keyboard.

Tom Bailey fills my pre-concert days with cocktail parties, dinners, and "meet and greet" sessions with fans and friends. He has created a minor buzz about me, so I get star treatment. This is something new and different, but I go along with the program and soak up the love. Being a sponge is fun. I eat too much and drink too much. I have cramps in my cheeks from smiling.

Note to my liberal friends: At no time during my stay does Jeff Sessions jump out from behind a potted palmetto. South Carolina might be a red state, but the citizens of the greater Charleston area, at least the ones I meet, are a civilized mish-mash of black-white-old-young-straight-gay-jewish-christian-muslim-happy.

It seems I have once again found myself in an American Bubbleland. I'll take it.

***

My Funny Valentine

On Valentine's Day, Tom—who knows a million songs and plays them all with bouncy bravado—works the Swamp Fox Room at the Francis Marion Hotel, a five-star joint in downtown Charleston. Steve and Tom have invited three pianists—Nancy, Hermeine, and Patricia— to have dinner with me. They are stunning, aging, and funny; they are also kick-ass pianists. After dinner, Tom invites them to play. I listen in amazement as Hermeine romps through a version of "Embraceable You" with a Brahms-y rolling left hand that sounds like the tide. Wow. Hermeine plays more notes in four bars than I play in an entire set. As I take my turn at the piano I feel an inkling of impostor syndrome creeping under the collar of my stretchy black travel dress.

I play tinka tinka and hope my minimalistic approach will carry me through. Hermeine, Patricia, and Nancy are Charleston's Golden Piano Girls. I feel like I've known them forever. That's the nice thing about the Musician's Club—we're family, even if we're meeting for the first time. I'm in a party of seven, and five of us play the piano. Among us, we have three hundred years of stories.

How many pianists does it take to play "My Funny Valentine?" Evidently, all of us.

***

Miss Emily

Emily Remington, as far as I know, is the world's most senior Piano Girl. One hundred years old and still snappy! After turning down the volume on her Vladimir Ashkenazy recording (more Brahms), she greets Tom and me in her apartment. We happily sip afternoon cocktails, eat crackers and brie, and trade tales about the music business. Miss Emily, appalled by the current political situation in the USA, reminisces about the choirs she conducted in 1962, one black, one white. After Kennedy's assassination, she fought to integrate the choirs and have them sing together for his memorial. A teenage Jessye Norman was a soloist for the performance. Tom says that Miss Emily, fearing the hatred of white supremacists, stood in front of Jessye during her solo to protect her from crowd violence.

"To think we've returned to such awful thinking," she says. "It depresses me."

I remind Miss Emily of Carrie Fisher's brilliant comment: Take your broken heart and make it into art. "That's what you did, Miss Emily, back in 1962," I say. "And other artists will follow in your footsteps."

"At least we still have that," she says. "Music."

We discuss musician wardrobe malfunctions—she once had a strapless dress fall down while conducting a symphony orchestra—and I lament about my failure to find a strapless bra that hoists the twins to a respectable height without cutting off my oxygen.

"Well, I have a gift for you!" she says. She stands up, and with the aid of a walker, cruises into her bedroom, where she reaches into the top drawer of her lingerie chest and pulls out a black strapless bra. "Here," she says. "Take it. My strapless bra days are behind me."

I like that she had that bra at the ready, as if she was willing to slip on a slinky sequined dress, grab her gig bag, and hit the boards running. One hundred years old, and still thinking like a Piano Girl.

Note to opera buffs: Jessye Norman sang to Miss Emily on her 100th birthday.

***

The Cape

Tom and Steve take me to a vintage clothing shop and buy me a full-length velvet cape with a red satin lining and beaded shoulders. Perhaps my nun-ish wardrobe has disappointed them, or maybe they are hoping I'll make a Liberace entrance at my concert on Saturday.

"Tom," I say. "I don't think I can wear this while I play." I yank the jeweled clasp that pinches the fat on my neck and threatens to strangle me. Death by beading.

"No, no," he says. "You walk onstage and then drop the cape dramatically next to the piano before you sit down. Fabulous!"

Tom and Steve are fabulous. I now own the cape. I wonder if it has super powers. Sure, Liberace liked his capes, but so did James Brown and Batman. I am in good company.

Note to soul fans: James Brown, born in South Carolina, employed a "Cape Man." Cape Man's soul function was to run onstage when Brown was collapsing from excessive emotional exertion and too many hip thrusts. Cape Man would dramatically place the cape on Brown's slumped and twitching shoulders, thus bestowing Brown with enough energy to go on with the show.

I am currently taking applications for my own personal Cape Man.

***

The Surprise

I am sitting with Tom in a Summerville restaurant called Oscar's. He tells me we are meeting "some agent" for lunch. I go along with the program because at this point I'm on remote control and know that anyone Tom introduces to me will be funny, smart, and entertaining. Even an agent.

Tom tells me about his funeral gigs. Sometimes he plays three or four funerals a week, in addition to his hotel and church jobs. When I ask him if the funerals get depressing he says: "No. The organ is in a closet and I have a video feed of whoever is conducting the service. No casket viewing, no grieving people—I just go in my closet and play the gig. Sometimes I take a sandwich with me."

This morning, while Tom was playing in his funeral closet, I called Robin Spielberg, my piano BFF, just to check in and tell her what's going on. She would love it here! Robin lives in rural Pennsylvania and I could tell she was in a vehicle so I asked where she was going. "It's a trip to nowhere," she said. It's been almost ten years since we've seen each other, even though we communicate daily. Busy, busy, Piano Girl lives. I miss her.

The server asks about our drink orders. Wine or no wine? With all the socializing and bar-hopping the week has turned a bit hazy around the edges, but that's a good thing. I'm often accused of exaggeration (I like to think of it as a gift for fiction) and I'm sure no one from my real life will believe the things I've been experiencing in Charleston—the chickens, Miss Emily, the cape, the way Charleston teems with musicians and gigs . . . I order the wine and chat with Tom about the piano business and funerals, waiting for "some agent" to show up.

Surprise! In walks Robin Spielberg and her handsome husband, Larry, who actually is a talent agent (one of the good guys). Knock me over with a feather. How Tom and Robin managed to keep this a secret baffles me. I usually sniff out covert activity weeks before it happens. Ask my children. In the spy versus spy game, I am queen. Not this time. I have been out-played by two piano players.

We squeal, we cry, we are a surprise-party cliché. We order more wine. Spielberg is beautiful and full of life and understands so much about what I do for a living. She is here and I am over the moon happy. The first thing I do when we get back to Tom's house is show her the cape. She agrees: It's fabulous.

The next day we drink dill-pickle flavored Bloody Marys, eat a little lunch, then go to a dress store and buy matching southern belle evening gowns. On sale. Now I have something to wear with the cape. And the bra. And if anyone ever calls us to do a two-piano show, we're all set.

***

The Concert

The first concert takes place at St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church in Summerville. Tom runs a series there, called Third Sunday at Three.

Steinway has provided a gorgeous Model B. It sits front and center under a glorious (but gruesome) mosaic of Jesus on the cross. I'm not sure this is the appropriate place to tell stories about my life as a cocktail lounge pianist, but I'm here, hundreds of people have shown up and I figure I've got enough spirituality in my music to make up for my atheist tendencies. Live and let live and all that.

My dressing room is the priest's vestry. Forget about the cape! Robes and scarves in glorious colors hang in the priest's closet. And look at those rosary beads. This is bling city. I'm suspicious of most organized religion, but I've always been a fan of Pope-wear. I'm temped to borrow the lime green cassock for my entrance but Spielberg talks me out of it. Look at us: a Jewish gal from New Jersey and a Pittsburgh atheist with German residency hanging out in the priest's vestry of a South Carolina catholic church.

Ah, music. The great unifier.

We gaze at the special sink for holy water but we do not drink.

The concert goes well. My hands are cold for the first chunk of music (the vestry was chilly) but I recover and warm up for the rest of the program. The audience rolls along with me, laughing when they're supposed to. I read my story about playing an endless version of the Titanic theme at a private party in a German castle, and Tom sits in at the piano for me and provides the perfect soundtrack. People here love him, and because they love him, they accept me.

I sign a lot of books and CDs and head to the post-concert shindig at Tom and Steve's home. Eighty people show up for the party. Tom has hired service staff and a pianist. The food is plentiful; the bar is well stocked. They serve a Low Country boil called Frogmore Stew, which I am happy to report does not contain frogs—just giant shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage. Maybe it should be called Frogless Stew. I drink a goblet of wine and pose for photos. I'm starving, but I can't very well eat corn on the cob while I'm having my photo taken. That's a little too Ellie Mae Clampet, even for me.

Note: Posing for a cell phone photo takes three times longer than posing for a real camera, especially when senior citizens are involved. Commonly heard phrases include:

It's all black.

It didn't click.

Where do I push?

It's all fuzzy.

***

The Medical Emergency

I go on the veranda to have my photo taken with a guy named Chris, just as Miss Sarah, a retired volunteer librarian using a walker, struggles to get down the steps. Miss Sarah is elderly and has just had a knee replacement. Miss Sarah's husband takes her walker and his own cane and tries to follow her down the steps. He is also carrying multiple copies of my books—way too much stuff for a nonagenarian on a staircase with an opiate-impaired wife.

I grab Chris and we get hold of Miss Sarah just before she takes a dive. I'm in front of her; Chris is behind her. We get her down the steps, but she is dizzy and nauseated and ready to toss her Frogmore cookies. I know this feeling all too well. It will pass, but her advanced age calls for something more proactive than a reassuring pat on the back. I don't want anyone, especially sweet Miss Sarah, going down for the count on the night of my big event. Piano Girl Program Kills Popular Librarian is not a headline I care to see.

"Tom!" I yell, after running back into the house. It's hard to find him in this French-farce maze of rooms. "Miss Sarah needs medical attention. Call an ambulance!"

"Who?"

"Miss Sarah! Miss Sarah! The librarian! On the veranda!"

I feel like I've been dropped into the second act of a Tennessee Williams play. I'm even developing a slight twang.

The paramedics come, a little too slowly for my taste, but hey, it's the south. Miss Sarah is fine—she has experienced an opiate-induced blood pressure drop—and will be delivered back to her rehab facility. One of her fellow librarians asks me to sign Miss Sarah's books before they drive away. This should be the last thing anyone is worrying about, but who am I to argue? I love this woman. Get well soon, Miss Sarah!

I glance at the waiting paramedics and scrawl my signature as quickly as possible. I never get that photo with Chris. But I do snag some corn when the crowd thins out.

***

The Ultimate Music Machine

Steinway & Sons Charleston and BMW sponsor the second event, held at a sleek and shiny BMW showroom on the outskirts of the city. David Vail, Steinway Director, delivers a Model "D" for the concert. I'm more comfortable here than I was yesterday at the church. For one thing, I don't have Jesus hanging over my head for the comedy portion of my show. And I prefer my audience in chairs rather than pews. Tonight's audience is close-up and a little punchy from the cocktail reception. The cars on the periphery of the stage area, in gleaming shades of powder and pewter, look pretty and powerful.

Perfect.

Miss Emily, our resident centenarian, wearing a festive zebra-print frock, perches in the second row with a glass of wine. She missed my church gig yesterday because she produces her own concert series at the senior residence where she lives. When I'm introduced, I bow at her feet in tribute. Then I wonder what kind of bra she is wearing. This woman knows her undergarments.

I glide through the show, marveling at the instrument in front of me. I can't play a wrong note on this piano—Steinway technician John Krucke has groomed it till it sings. I could stay here forever. But I don't because the show is over and we have dinner reservations and I'm hungry.

Before we leave I talk to audience member Charles Miller, the organist who jumped in to accompany President Obama during his unanticipated "Amazing Grace" moment at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church memorial service. I watched that ceremony live from Germany, and although I was weeping, I remember noting the amazing grace of that amazingly graceful organist. He overcame his grief, did his job, and lifted all of us to a better place—a beautiful moment in a tragic setting, buoyed by the bravery of one musician.

"You are my hero," I say to Charles after my concert. "I'm curious. What key did Obama sing in?"

"He was between E and Eb," says Charles. "But I pushed him down to Eb."

Wow. No cape necessary. While I'm talking to Charles and signing books, a hugely talented fourteen-year old named Caleb sits down at the "D" and starts playing Bach. My God—this room is swollen with music. Caleb balances at the beginning of his career; Miss Emily has leaned comfortably into the end of hers. The rest of us stand somewhere in the middle, grateful benefactors of our musical pasts, protectors of what's to come.

Is everyone in this town a musician? Seems like.

It's time to move on. Thank you, Charleston. You have plenty of music in your fine city, but you've welcomed me as if you can never get enough. Your southern charm took me by surprise.

Next stop: Pittsburgh. But first, let's eat.

Note to music fans: The former mayor of Charleston, Joseph Riley, set out to make Charleston a world-class city by focusing on the city's vibrant cultural life. It worked. Music is everywhere and venues—both large and small—are full. The current mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg, is a jazz pianist.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2623371
03/13/17 03:13 PM
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I wanted to pop in for a minute and let you guys know that Giggin' for a Livin' (see link below) is finally available in paperback! I don't particularly like ebooks, and I know I'm not the only one. smile

(Also, if you're one of those people who are anti-Amazon, it's also available at iBooks/Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.)

Happy giggin'!
Jennifer

Originally Posted by Piano Girl RMG


A hot tip for any of you looking to play weddings in the near future. Check out Jennifer Blaske's book: Giggin' for a Living: How to Make Money as a Musician Playing for Weddings and Special Events.

Piano Girl fans have been on my back for years to write a manual, but I don't have it in me—I get too sidetracked by the funny and emotional stuff and shy away from anything that could actually HELP players! Jennifer has filled that gap. It's only available on Kindle. Grab a copy if wedding gigs are in your future.the book is generous, well-written, and full of great tips. Congrats, Jennifer! I hope you'll join in here more often. Link is below.

Giggin' for a Living

Last edited by Redhead1; 03/13/17 03:14 PM.

Jennifer McCoy Blaske
Pianist and Author
www.PianoJenny.com
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2631465
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Greetings! I have been remiss in posting but perhaps I can make up for it.

Two stories.

1.
A famous rapper and his Persian bride celebrated their wedding at the hotel. I was not hired to play for the wedding, but provided residual music by playing my regular Afternoon Tea gig while the wedding guests gathered in a nearby room for champagne. I have never seen such beautiful dresses. Iranian women win the prize for glamour and elegance. Really, really beautiful

I had a lovely little group of tea-time listeners that day, including a couple who had come in to talk about music selections for their own wedding in May. From the corner of my eye I noticed two very large men carrying huge bass drums loitering in the lobby. With them was a little guy with a pungi, one of those double reeded snake charmer instruments.

On a break I went to the band and said, "Look guys, if you're going to play, give me fair warning so I can take a break." I've been in plenty "battle of the band" situations and I know how to lose gracefully. Two bass drums and a pungi? I think not.

I went back for my final set, and was right in the middle of a delicate arrangement of the "Theme from Romeo and Juliet" when BAM BAM BAM, the band not only started playing but proceeded to parade through the tea lounge with the bride, groom, and entire wedding party marching behind them. So much for the warning. As loud as those bass drums were, I can tell you that nothing—nothing—can compete with the volume of the pungi. Snakes are not charmed by this instrument, they are assaulted and tortured into a coma. Bagpipes on steroids.

That said, the parade was immensely entertaining for my guests, much more so than my subtle interpretations of all too familiar love songs.

Wedding exotica, right in my own backyard.

2.
I have been in the music business for 40 + years. Never have I been forced to slap the hostess on the head because her hair was on fire. This happened two days ago. A group of Americans from Louisiana were visiting us at the hotel. They booked a private dining room for dinner, selected a wonderful menu, and hired me to play background music. The Steinway was placed on one end of the room with a large tree-shaped candelabra on the floor a few feet away from the piano. It looked stunning.

Normally in these situations, no one talks to me—they ignore me and get down to the business of enjoying their wine and gourmet meals—but this American group was chatty. They were in the television business and had read about my NPR/PBS connections and wanted to hear all about Marian McPartland and Mister Rogers.

The hostess of the party approached the piano. I hadn't yet begun to play and we started an animated conversation about PBS and Trump's cuts to the NEA. The hostess got excited and backed into the candelabra.

Whoosh! The hair on the back of her head went up in flames. She looked like something out of a Harry Potter film. She had a lot of hair and, amazingly, did not notice she was on fire. What she did notice was that her pianist, yours truly, began to frantically slap her head. She probably thought she was being mugged right there in the five-star splendor of Cologne's swankiest hotel.

No injuries. I sat her down on the piano bench and brushed the charred chunks out of her hair and we had a good laugh. The smell of burned hair wafted through the entire first floor of the hotel. the party continued.

All of this happened before I even started the gig.







Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2631670
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Recalls Theo's line at the end of the first Die Hard movie:

"If this is their idea of Christmas, I *gotta* be here for New Year's!"


[Linked Image][Linked Image]
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"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing."

-- Florence Foster Jenkins
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2632705
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"... I sat her down on the piano bench and brushed the charred chunks out of her hair and we had a good laugh. The smell of burned hair wafted through the entire first floor of the hotel; the party continued."

The last line in the last chapter of your next book? What, or who, could top that? Ever?

The same story could also provide the title: ; the party continued.


Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2633264
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Ha! Yes, Clef—as all this was happening a big part of me was thinking, story, story, story.

The party always continues, which gives me hope for the world.

Happy Easter—Happy Passover. I bet that woman with the rabbit hat shows up tomorrow at my gig.



Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2640899
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My new essay. I know—It's long. But I feel like it's important for those of us who play in hotels. And for those of us who appreciate live music.

I'll Take Manhattan

My taxi from JFK into Manhattan sits in traffic outside the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Every few minutes we creep forward a few feet. A pale blue sky frames vibrant billboards that advertise luxury condos and cosmetic dentistry.

Concrete, steel, cranes. The only humans I see are stuffed, like me, in cars—their tiny heads bowed to check text messages. Maybe they are praying.

I lower the window and a warm February breeze, greasy and choked with exhaust fumes, teases me with the promise of something better on the other side of the river. Lunch?

If we moved any slower we’d be going backwards.

New York City doesn’t play nice with musicians. It never has. When I moved here in 1980, at the age of twenty-one, I knew the city’s reputation for eating its young. Still, I showed up and managed to claw out a successful career for myself. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t care. Manhattan, a strutting, strung-out, skulking bad-boy in a distressed leather jacket, hypnotized me. Now and then I snapped to my senses and considered leaving, but the bad boy, aware of my displeasure, would toss a half-full swag bag in my direction and convince me to stay put. The stench of ambition wafted up Madison Avenue and lulled me into a state of contented numbness. I probably stayed longer than I should have.

I played the piano in hotels that offered live music as a swank perk for their five-star guests. Hotel musicians like me—the ones who caught the swag bag lob—had decent health insurance, a pension plan, and enough money to cover rent, an occasional new pair of glitzy shoes, and countless diner breakfasts. Note: Over the course of fifteen years I may well have consumed two thousand plates of poached eggs on toast. Coffee, regular.

Those years were terrible and wonderful and dramatic. And fun.

I left in 1994 at the age of thirty-six. I flew away, victorious, with a been-there, done-that attitude that carried me to Europe with a bassist husband and toddler son. I felt strong and lucky. I had survived an eating disorder, too much Valium, serial dating, and aching loneliness. I had also fallen in love, polished my music skills, and learned how to say no with confidence.

Countless people—some of them beautiful, some of them crazy, criminal, or worse—had passed my piano over the course of fifteen years. I played. They listened. They ignored me. I played some more. Back then, music floated through the lobbies, restaurants, and cocktail lounges of upscale Manhattan hotels. The piano soothed, entertained, and reminded guests who were paying too much for a Manhattan hotel room that a nice song can mean more than a double shot of Ketel One Citron and a bowl of salty nuts.

I’m returning to the city this afternoon on the heels of a small East Coast concert tour. I won’t be playing in NYC, but hope to visit friends, infuse my drowsy spirit with the city’s energy, and hear some music. Two decades after I started a calmer, more creatively productive life in a foreign country, I want to see what I left behind.
This tunnel is taking forever. What was that movie back in the eighties? C.H.U.D. Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. Why do I remember such things?

At last. We come up for air.

Gramercy Park. I did a couple of shows at the Players Club in 1984. Nice place.
I could live here again, I think. No I couldn’t. Yes I could. See. This is how the bad boy gets you—he makes you drive through a stinky, gloomy tunnel thinking you’re a C.H.U.D, then waves a couple of brownstones and a Ginkgo tree in your face and tempts you back into his tattooed arms.

***
My husband, John, will arrive later this afternoon. Our good friends Norman and Ellen, the kind of hip, warm-hearted, smart people you’d expect to meet in the world’s most sophisticated city, will host us for the next three days. Their Fifth Avenue, window-lined apartment (with guest suite!) has offered a welcome refuge to many of their artist friends over the years.

John shows up, as fresh as one can be after a nine-hour flight from Berlin. In the last five days he has been in Maastricht, Bielska Zadymka (Poland), Berlin, and now, Manhattan. I have been in Charleston and Pittsburgh. He wins.

John and I haven’t seen each other for three weeks and we’ve got a lot to talk about. The last time we were in New York together without kids was twenty-five years ago. We walk a couple of blocks to the Knickerbocker for dinner, a place where John used to play duo gigs with some of the greatest pianists in the world. The place is packed—but there’s no music. The grand piano sits in the corner covered with mid-priced bottles of liquor. I can hardly see the top of the instrument. A baby stroller the size of a Hummer is parked where the piano bench should be.

The food is great, the wine is fine, but where’s the music? Oh, right. It’s back in Bielska Zadymka. Or Charleston.
The next day we visit the new Whitney, and walk the entire length of the Highline. We meet a street poet named Mary, who improvises a poem for me on the word of my choice. I choose “John” and she goes to town:

When he’s gone,
There is no dawn,
That’s the way you feel,
About your John.


I love the 34th Street grunge-themed Greek diner where we have lunch. It reminds me of a place on Eighth Avenue where a street person once blew his nose right into my friend’s plate, then, when he recoiled in disgust, grabbed his BLT and ran out the door.

I’m not sure why I’m nostalgic about health department violations and street poets.
We walk and walk and walk. Later we meet Norman and Ellen for dinner at Joe Allen, where—much to Norm’s delight—one can still order warm fudge cake with coffee ice cream.

Norman and Ellen head home. John and I begin our evening tour of places where we used to play. We stroll through the pedestrian park that used to be Times Square. It feels familiar, but slightly off—like a cheesy waltz version of a piece meant to be played in bashing, odd-meter time.

Where are the cars? Why does it look like Las Vegas?

We enter the circular band of elevators at the Marriott Marquis, and run around trying to find an available lift to take us to the eighth-floor lobby. I played here for seven years, starting in the mid-eighties. Eventually Marriott management replaced me with an awful-sounding player piano and a tuxedo-clad crash test dummy.

The dummy and the piano have vanished. I walk to the middle of the Atrium Lounge, stand right where the piano used to be, and look up. I remember the waitresses in their casino-inspired, organ grinder’s monkey costumes, the greeter who had a dwarf phobia, the breakfast buffet on top of the piano, the ladies’ room attendant who sold me evening gowns from her “shop” in the handicapped toilet stall, the stalkers, the moguls, the hookers, the stars.

But mostly I remember music. Seven years of solo piano—that’s a lot of notes. The current silence fills the lobby with despair. It seems hollow and pointless here—like a hospital cafeteria trying too hard to be cheerful.

Onward. We wait for an elevator, but give up and take the stairs.

***
Next stop, the Algonquin, Dorothy Parker’s former residence and home of the famous Round Table. The Algonquin, renowned for its literary history, also hosted New York’s finest cabaret stars. I spent many serene evenings in the Oak Room, listening to John accompany Susannah McCorkle. The Oak Room was Manhattan at its best. You could order a martini, listen to some Gershwin, and slip into your most divine self.

We ask the concierge about music.

“No music,” he says. “Sorry.”

“No music?” John and I respond in unison, a Greek chorus of disbelief.

“Sorry.”

“But this is the Algonquin,” I say.

“New management,” he says. “The Marriotts took over a couple of years ago. Sorry.”

Those damn Marriotts.

“So the Oak Room is dark?” John asks.

“Yeah,” says the concierge, who seems to be doubling as a doorman. “Sorry. Now it’s a conference room. Go see for yourselves.”

We peek inside and gasp. Florescent lighting, a fake wood conference table, folding walls, a beamer. They might as well call it the Plastic Room.

“And the Round Table?” I ask. “Please tell me it’s still here.”

“Yeah,” he says, “but they closed the library bar. Now it’s in the breakfast room.”

“Like Dorothy Parker ever ate breakfast,” I say.

“I used to play back in the Oak Room,” John says to the concierge. “With Susannah McCorkle.”

“God rest her soul,” he says. “I loved her. That ‘Waters of March’ recording is still my favorite.”

“I played that with her a bunch of times,” John says.

A moment of silence for Susannah, for Dorothy, for the confused cabaret and literary ghosts roaming the hotel lobby. Part of the lyric to Jobim’s “Waters of March” runs through my mind.

A stick, a stone,
The end of the road,
The rest of a stump,
A lonesome road.
A sliver of glass,
A life, the sun,
A knife, a death,
The end of the run.


“Hey,” says the concierge. “We still have the Alqonquin cat.”

“That’s something,” I say. “At least there’s that. There’s the cat.” I sound like Mary the poet.

Onward.

***
We head to the Grand Hyatt, where John and I played for years. He worked with a jazz trio in the lobby; I played in the velvet and leather cave known as Trumpets. Back then the hotel was owned by Professional Son and future U.S. President, Donald Trump.

John and I met at this hotel. The Hyatt Corporation had a catchy slogan in the nineties. “Welcome to the Hyatt. Catch the wave.” John and I caught the wave. Twenty-six years have passed. That was a big wave.

We’re not expecting any music when we walk through the glass doors—we knew the Hyatt music policy had ended years ago.

Whoa. If the Marriott looks like a hospital cafeteria, this place looks like a mausoleum. This hotel was never a Mecca of good taste, but now it’s sterile and a little creepy.

Where’s the Crystal Fountain? Where are the crazy lobby people who hid behind fake ficus trees and muttered absurdities at the musicians? Where are the dancers and brawlers and hulking security guards who occasionally belted out Frank Sinatra tunes during the trio’s last set?

Gone.

It’s sleek and sterile and corporate in here, a polished-stone shrine to mediocrity. We walk down the empty corridor to Trumpets, a bar I used to poke fun at for its eighties upscale lounge-lizard vibe. Smoky and slightly sleazy—it was, after all, named after the Donald—Trumpet’s once featured music six nights a week, five to midnight. I spent years at the Trumpet’s piano, finding my musical voice and fending off guys who sent me vague musical requests along with their room numbers.

“Oh, no,” I say when we reach the entrance to the former cocktail lounge. Another sleek, silent, and stupid conference room. It looks like a sheetrock shoebox. Remembering that this is where I fell in love with John, I try to conjure a little romantic nostalgia for the Hyatt—but I come up empty. Sad!

I never really liked Trumpet’s, but this nondescript space is depressing. No fun. I’d much prefer to see a musician, coaxing pretty music out of the Steinway and plotting an exit strategy. Who am I kidding? Just for a second I’d like to catch a glimpse of my former self, the younger, skinnier, goofier model, tossing bouquets of notes to a half-grateful crowd.

Onward.

***
Next stop: The Waldorf Astoria, home to one of the last hotel piano gigs in Manhattan. Tonight, the Waldorf, recently purchased by a Chinese insurance company called Anbang, will close its doors for a three-year renovation that will turn the hotel into a condo residence for rich and famous globetrotters.

My pal Emilee Floor has been playing at the Waldorf for the last nine years. John and I, along with several of my good friends—Harlan Ellis, Greg Thymius, Carole and Emilio Delgado— will be there to send her off in style. A few of the Waldorf’s musicians, past and present, also show up. Daryl Sherman and Debbie Andrews, both of whom worked with me back in the eighties and nineties, wander into the lounge, looking a little wistful. Piano Girls forever, I guess. We may all be twenty years older and a few pounds heavier but we still have closets full of evening gowns, fleeting fingers, and too many songs left to play.

Emilee plays the 1907 Cole Porter Steinway, a gorgeous, blond mahogany instrument that needs a serious, expensive overhaul. It hurts to play this piano, which some of us call the Tendonitis Steinway. The Hilton Corporation, who manages the property, likes to brag about the piano’s pedigree, but they have never seen fit to invest in its restoration. It’s plopped in the corner of the lounge, facing exactly the wrong direction. Emilee, a singing-playing wonder in a purple sequined cocktail dress, does her best to capture the mood of the room.
John and I listen and watch as a sloppy and irritated woman in a too-tight business suit staggers to the piano and begins harassing Emilee. Smiling, Emilee chats between phrases and does that thing that great hotel players know how to do. It’s like watching a munitions expert disarm a bomb. The woman chills out and wobbles back to her Bacardi and Coke.

Emilee conquers the evening with her free-spirited, uplifting vocals and lissome piano arrangements. Her music paints the lounge with light, but the night hangs heavy. We have visited four hotels, three of them without music, one of them about to close its heavy brass doors.

What will happen to the Cole Porter Steinway? I fear the Hiltons, or the Chinese Anbangs, or whoever is running the place will shove it, unceremoniously, into a storage locker meant for cans of lard and bed linens. In three years, following the hotel renovation, they’ll have housekeeping dust it off. An overworked, deadline-crazed, junior interior-designer with no clue about music history will say, “Oh, that’s cute!” and place the piano, un-restored and out of tune, in a nook of the lobby surrounded by velvet ropes. There will be a meaningful plaque.
The piano, silent and stuck without a player in a cone of corporate silence, will become a museum piece. Occasionally, an underpaid Food and Beverage Trainee will use the closed piano as a surface to hold bottles of sparkling wine or a large vase of calla lilies.

I don’t think Mr. Porter, who would have adored Emilee Floor, had this in mind when he bequeathed the piano to the hotel.

“Get that piano in shape,” a modern-day Porter might have trilled. “You spent forty thousand to reupholster those ugly-ass sofas in the ladies’ lounge, the least you can do is fix the damn piano. And hire some musicians to play it. What good is a silent hotel lobby? Get the wine off the Steinway and put it on a table where it belongs. And for God’s sake, lose the lilies. It’s not a funeral.”

Live music has always been a glossy thing. Slippery, almost. It flows into the night like a delicate river and rolls forward into an ocean of collective memory. The loss of music in Manhattan’s hotels might seem inconsequential, but it’s not. The retreat of song marks one more indignity in an era clouded by corporate folly, desensitization, and greed. The river is running dry.

Take note: By discontinuing their music policies, Manhattan hotels have officially insulted their guests—a subtle slap in the face of expense account clients and international tourists hoping for a little New York City enchantment.

You take away music; you take away magic. That simple.

Enough.

Onward.

***
Over the next few days, we see a Broadway play, attend an Emanuel Ax rehearsal at Carnegie Hall, go to lunch with our niece, hang out with Betsy Hirsch at the new (and very corporate-looking) Steinway Hall, visit some Village jazz clubs. Yes, New York remains jam-packed with fanciful things to do and see. But I’ve come to realize that—had I stayed here—my career as a hotel musician would have fizzled and died. I would have found something else to do, because that’s the way it is when you live and work in New York City. You keep on keepin’ on, even when you’re tired and feeling like a C.H.U.D.

l love it here; I hate it here. We leave town on a Wednesday and get stuck in traffic, this time on the Manhattan side of the tunnel. It’s hard enough to get into the city, but I have to fight my own demons every time I dare to leave. I look at my handsome husband and think about our adult kids back in Europe, our home, our lush careers. Fifteen years in New York City almost cracked me, but it pushed me to the other side of who I’m supposed to be.

It’s the first of March. We travel under the East River and start our long trip home. Here it comes again, the Jobim song.

It’s the wind blowing free,
It’s the end of the slope,
It’s a beam, it’s a void,
It’s a hunch, it’s a hope.
And the river bank talks
Of the waters of March,
It’s the end of the strain,
The joy in your heart.



Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2641183
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This is stunningly beautiful, Robin. Makes us ache for those days when there was live music, makes us hauntingly aware of what we've lost. A trip down nostalgia lane both beautiful and sad. Jeez, the Waldorf . . . I thought of it as an "institution" that would always be there.

And thanks for the flashback to Susannah McCorkle. Enjoyed her at the Fairmont in SF. And the CD with Waters of March was a companion on many plane trips back when a portable CD player was a high-tech travel companion.

You *are* a remarkable writer, and I'm so glad you've chosen to share with us.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2655017
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Here it is, my friends. The long form, more writerly version of my emergency rescue story.

The Hostess in on Fire

I change clothes in the wellness area of the five-star hotel where I currently perform—trading my basic-black stretchy sweat-pants for a basic-black stretchy evening-gown, and my Nikes for a pair of golden sandals that have been accompanying me on piano gigs for several decades. They are as uncomfortable now as they were the day I bought them, but the bling at my toes reminds me, in a good way, of years I'll never recapture and songs I've long forgotten. Besides, I'll spend most of the evening sitting on a padded piano bench. If I need to make a fast get-away, I can always kick off the sandals and run.

But why would I run? Playing background piano music at an upscale private party offers me a chance to cross into the Piano Girl Zone, a tranquil place where the secure borders between who I am and what I do vanish. I don't always gain entrance to the Piano Girl Zone—technical challenges and Voice of Doom often mess with my head—but I try. On evenings when I remain outside the PGZ, watching the clock and feeling unappreciated, time creeps backwards as I play choruses of songs that never seem to end.

How is it still 8:10? It was 8:10 twenty minutes ago.

I hope to get into the PGZ tonight. I am playing for a group of Americans traveling through Germany. Because they're connected to the television and radio business, they know about my NPR radio shows and my family links to PBS. About sixty guests will enjoy a four course fancy dinner while I provide pleasant dinner music. Nice.

I check the Steinway situated in the far corner of the dining room, standing next to a wrought iron, tree shaped candelabra. Each branch of the tree holds a small votive candle. The effect is stunning—twinkling candlelight in the high-ceilinged, dusky dining room, throwing dancing shards of silver light on the polished ebony piano. Wow. This is really pretty. I count my blessings, flex my aching toes, and wait for the guests to arrive.

Because I've been doing this for forty years, I know exactly how this evening will unfold. The guests will greet me, applaud politely, have some wine, start chatting, and completely ignore me for the rest of the evening. With the help of the human din and the flickering candlelight I will enter the PGZ and float through four hours of doing something I love. I will note each food course as it is served, wonder if I'll get something to eat before I faint at the keyboard, and time my music to accompany the flow of the dinner. Right after the main course (medallions of something with asparagus) and directly before dessert (a study in mango), things will wind down. At the end of the evening a few well-meaning, lubricated guests will compliment my music and I will be grateful that someone was listening. My back will protest but I will play another set for a handful of people lingering over espresso and pralines.

This is how it always goes.

Until it doesn't.

The hostess of the party, a vivacious, curvy woman named Pat Allen, with a lush, Colorado-ish head of hair, sweeps into the dining room ahead of her guests. She runs a company called Premiere Tours, and specializes in planning luxury travel for American companies seeking to reward loyal clients with European elegance. The Excelsior Hotel Ernst is a good match for her high standards.

"Robin!" she says, balancing a glass of champagne in one hand and a handbag in the other. "I am so happy to meet you! I am a huge fan of Marian McPartland and Mister Rogers and can't believe you knew them! We can't wait to hear you play."

American enthusiasm. How I miss it.

Pat is a fast-talker, but she's hoarse after shuffling her tour group through various European cities. She sounds a little like Demi Moore on speed. Still, I'm delighted to talk to one of my tribe—there's something about a straight-ahead American accent that warms my heart.

"Thank you for inviting me to play," I say. "It's an honor."

"I'm sorry about my voice," she croaks. "I have been wrangling this bunch for a few days and I have the worst case of laryngitis. I love that your father was on Mister Rogers for all those years. How cool is that?"

Pat's voice is so far gone that I can only hear every other word. She really needs to stop talking and rest her voice, but she won't take a break.

"Yes," I say. "Who knows what will happen to all those PBS and NPR shows now that Trump has threatened to cut the entire NEA budget."

"Oh don't get me started on Trump," she says.

This particular group of American tourists hails from Louisiana, which leads me to believe they could be Trump supporters. But I am unsure where Pat sits on the spiked political fence. Because of her allegiance to public television and radio, and her exuberance for all things European, I'm guessing she's batting for my team, but who knows? I am here to play the piano, not give speeches about racism, sexism, and fascism. In fact, I should avoid mentioning any of the "isms" and just sit down at the damn piano and play "Skylark" or something. But Voiceless Pat wants to talk.

She offers me a glass of champagne. Do I say no? Of course not. Never, ever turn down free champagne. As I sip, she says: "Trump, Trump, Trump. It's all anyone can talk about. All the Europeans want to know how we could have elected him. Not my fault, I tell them."

As Voiceless Pat grows more agitated with the Trump topic—and who can blame her, really—she steps back toward the candle tree.

Whoosh! The tips of her big hair catch one of the flickering votive candles, and, as quickly as you can say Covfefe, her hair goes up in flames.

Pat does not feel the heat—she has a lot of hair padding her scalp—and unaware that she's on the verge of igniting the entire dining room, continues to rattle on about Trump, Trump, Trump. But with her grating voice it sounds more like Ump, Ump, Ump. The flames shoot from her skull. She looks like something out of a Harry Potter film. I might be slow in most of life's crucial moments, but I am quick in emergency situations, so without missing a beat, I slap her, several times, on the back of her burning head.

"WHY ARE YOU HITTING ME?" Which sounds like: "YY R U ITTIG EEE?"

Voiceless Pat looks puzzled. Possibly she's stunned that her pianist for the evening—who has yet to play a single note—is accosting her right in the middle of a European luxury hotel.

"You're on fire!" I shout. Then I hit her some more.

She tries to say something, but her voice is completely gone, and it sounds like: "H------p-----f."

Finally she smells the burned hair and realizes what has happened.

"Let's blame this on Trump," I say. Her guests, slack-jawed with disbelief and slightly horrified by the sight of their tour guide and party hostess torching herself while the amuse bouche is served, breathe a collective sigh of relief when Pat begins to laugh.

"I always knew I was hot," she rasps. Either this woman has a really great sense of humor or she is the world's best hostess—determined to make sure her guests have a good time even if she has to visit a burn unit before they dig into their foie gras terrine.

"Not bad enough I lost my voice," she shouts, as best she can. "I have to lose my hair, too."

She turns back to me. "How bad is it?" she squeaks.

"Not bad at all," I say. "Here. Sit down on my piano bench. I have a brush in my handbag. I'll patch up your hairdo, pronto."

I brush a few charred chunks from the back of her head. She has a lot of hair. I can hardly see the damage. Lucky for her. If this had happened to me I'd look like Yul Brynner.

So much for the Piano Girl Zone. I am not sure of the protocol for a situation like this. I've seen some weird stuff over the years—a guest who peed in her chair, a dog who howled along to Phantom of the Opera tunes, a man with no arms who sat in on my gig and played the piano with his toes—but in my many decades of playing solo piano jobs I've never had to slap the hostess to extinguish flames shooting from her head. Hostess Flambé is new to me.

Perhaps I'm stuck in the middle of a Tom Waits song. The carpet needs a haircut. The hostess is on fire. The piano has been drinking. Not me.

I accept a second glass of champagne and begin my first set. I glance at my watch.

Ah. 8:10. I should have known.

***

(Thanks to Pat Allen at Premiere Tours. A woman after my own heart—when life throws slapstick at you, go with it. Even if there are flames involved.)


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2655026
06/20/17 02:30 AM
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I am glad that there was no permanent damage,

My wife's college roommate had no arms. She can do remarkable things with her feet. I told her about a woman my parents had met who lost her arms to a bear in Alaska, and she said she had met this woman, who was inspired by her, but that it is really something that one has to do from childhood. So many disabled people I have met who have more abilities than people who are not considered disabled!


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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666331
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Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the long silence. I've been working on my new solo piano album. Yes. Another one. I keep telling the people who give me money to do these things that really, they could just play the other 7 albums backwards and the music would feel "new." Truthfully, I am grateful there is still an audience for real music.

Album release date is Nov 26th, my 60th birthday. I could have pulled an Adele and called it "60" but I didn't think that would be the best marketing strategy. It will be called "Home & Away." No, I do not play "Take me Out to the Ballgame."

Speaking of 60, I played for a sixtieth wedding anniversary last week, right in the middle of three days of recording. Five hours of solo piano after five hours of recording. My back was protesting by the end of the night, but the party (for only 15 people!) was really lovely.

My Canon in D improv seems to get played a lot on streaming channels. Who would have thought that my number 1 wedding hit would turn out to be popular in distinctly non-wedding venues. Pre-schools, funeral homes, Dubai shopping malls. Whatever. I'll take it.

Big news coming soon about a "royal" concert of sorts. Stay tuned.

What's happening out there with all of you? Everyone having a good summer?

xo
Robin


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666340
08/05/17 07:18 AM
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Hi robin
Good to have you back posting..... looking forward to more adventures from you
I can see why your variations on canon in D is a hit ....lovely ! I hope you don't mind that I am posting the YouTube link here

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yD2zOb-7Cos


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
" I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666386
08/05/17 11:35 AM
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Hi Robin, welcome back.

Looking forward to your new CD, coming out on our birthday (I'll be 66, eligible for social security but no where near retiring).

Speaking of the Canon in D, I'm playing a wedding this afternoon (started our day at 7:00 a.m. this morning serving breakfast at a historic place where we volunteer, then played for an hour in their Gazebo, next on to the wedding this afternoon.).

When the groom contacted me about playing for their wedding I asked about the music (silly me, I know). He had no idea.
I mentioned a few things, then played some over the phone. He said he'd call back. Turns out she wants the old Bridle Chorus, as in Here Comes the Bride (stifling a yawn here).
I asked it there was a wedding party, he paused, I explained "you know, bridesmaids, best man". Oh, yes two bridesmaids and a best man.
Ok, which music would you like me to play as the wedding party comes in, (silence). Let me suggest a couple, often times the choice is Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring, or Pachelbel's Canon in D, (more silence, followed by I'll have the bride call you).
Next day the bride calls me, I explain the same thing to her, the answer? "I'm sure either one will be fine, but I'm not familiar with them".
Oy, I tell her I'll stop by their rehearsal and demonstrate, I did, she chose the Canon in D.

Their rehearsal was a trip, no organization and no idea what they were doing. Luckily Kathy had come with me, she gently made some suggestions about timing, who should be where when, etc. I should mention this is the brides first wedding/marriage, but the grooms 3rd or 4th.

I will be at the church around 3:15 today (Sat. Aug. 5, 2017) playing while the guests are being seated, then playing the ceremony.
Wish me luck.


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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666590
08/06/17 07:32 AM
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Thanks for the shout-out, dogperson.

Oh Frank, I do hope we get a full report about the chaos wedding. Thanks goodness Kathy was there to take charge.

That amount of wedding disarray only happened to me once. I was 22 and a bridesmaid in a truly spectacular, but awful Catholic wedding. I believe I was dressed as the Pittsburgh version of Scarlet O'Hara, standing in place to begin my sashay down the aisle, when the bride asked: "Where is the music?" It turned out she had neglected to hire an organist. She begged me to run upstairs and bang out something on the huge pipe organ, but I had no clue about how to even turn the damn thing on. At age 22 I was pretty much game for anything, but I was starting to figure out I had to draw a line somewhere.

So we had a silent procession down the aisle. All that tulle and absolutely no music.

Can't help but think that our dear departed Apple would have loved this story.

So give us the play by play, Frank.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666679
08/06/17 04:50 PM
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Yes, it would have been a fine tale for Apple. Even after so many, there is still a lot of juice to be squeezed from that orange. I'll admit, I would have a very hard time choosing between the Hair On Fire story, or Playing the Service for the Dead for a Wedding, which the priest ordered through a regretable mixup. As you have just pointed out, the organ console is far away--- actually on another floor--- and the professional staff usually communicates by mail. And I will add, that when you're way up there amid the organ pipes, that's what you hear. Even a rousing cry of, "No, Apple, no!" would have come, at best, too late.

As for finding new life in an old number. James Taylor remarked, during a concert with Carol King, that he could have made a whole career out of the single number, "You've Got a Friend." Pop numbers can see more action in decades than classical pieces do in centuries, so 20 or 30 years really is a long time for that one. And yet, a single side scan of Wiki to learn the date of composition for the Pachelbel revealed that I had a tiger by the tail:

"...Pachelbel's Canon is the common name for a canon by the German Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel in his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo (German: Kanon und Gigue für 3 Violinen mit Generalbaß) (PWC 37, T. 337, PC 358), sometimes referred to as Canon and Gigue in D or simply Canon in D. Neither the date nor the circumstances of its composition are known (suggested dates range from 1680 to 1706), and the oldest surviving manuscript copy of the piece dates from the 19th century.

Pachelbel's Canon, like his other works, although popular during his lifetime, soon went out of style, and remained in obscurity for centuries. A 1968 arrangement and recording of it by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra gained popularity over the next decade, and in the 1970s the piece began to be recorded by many ensembles; by the early 1980s its presence as background music was deemed inescapable.[1] From the 1970s to the early 2000s, elements of the piece, especially its chord progression, were used in a variety of pop songs. Since the 1980s, it has also been used frequently in weddings and funeral ceremonies in the Western world.

The canon was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo and paired with a gigue. Both movements are in the key of D major. Although a true canon at the unison in three parts, it also has elements of a chaconne...."


But get along there, with you and your chaconnes. We are talking about the big time: Weddings! Funerals! Elevators! Dignified processions of any description whose musical accompaniment may have to stop short at very short notice. I could almost say that Mardi Gras parades might feature the original instrumentation, because the three violins could very well stroll and play. There could be a problem with the continuo, though. So, maybe a convertible, and maybe a float, and maybe a MoPed drawing a pump organ--- ah! I feel a concept album coming on, and I know what picture to put on the cover.

But I think Robin is going to beat us to the market. I don't think we would actually directly compete, and after all, demand has proven very broad since 1680 or 1789, and especially since 1980. Three centuries, and they're still the one to beat. Who would have thunk it.

I've missed you, Robin, and thanks for the very sweet reminder about our lost dear one, Apple. Best wishes to you both, wherever they find you.


Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2666756
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Ah, thanks, Clef, for both the greeting and the Pachelbel history lesson.

Music for journeys—I like that.

Since the Canon in D was not written specifically for piano, I have been courageous in playing it any which way and calling it a "variation." Poor Mr. Pachelbel would probably have a fit.

On my new recording I feature a variation of the Satie Gymnopedie No. 1, which will most likely get me into hot water with the Classical Police, but that's okay. I actually do play the piece as written and have composed some hopeful interludes around the two mournful sections to make it a little less, uh, mournful. It's a beautiful piece of music that has been recorded 18 billion times. I like to think I've done something out of the ordinary with it, but quite possibly it's just stupid. I need to let it cook for awhile, I'm never very good at making judgements right after I record.

I am off for the month of August—not a single gig. But I start back up in September, full steam ahead.

Yes, the Apple funeral/wedding mix up is a CLASSIC.


Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2676215
09/19/17 05:22 AM
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So. Back on the bench after a summer of leisure.

I survived several photo shoots for my new recording. Turns out that playing the piano is the easy part—looking good at my age takes a silly amount of spackle. At this point in the process, all attention is on the "look" of the packaging and everyone involved in the production seems to have forgotten about the music. But I'm listening to the music after taking a break from it, and it's actually kind of nice. I am happy.

NOTES:

Got a request the other day to play a medley of "Canon in D" and "Dust in the Wind." Maybe the guest was trying out funeral songs.

A baby spit a cookie at me. It was projectile spitting. He was a good five feet away, from the piano, in his father's arms, and still managed to hit my sleeve. What a talent.

A man who works with BIRDS OF PREY invited me to his ranch.

The bartender invented a cocktail for me last year called the PIANO ANGEL. Now he is working on a PIANO DEVIL.

I have a wedding coming up in October, but no recent bride stories. Stay tuned.

Love to all of you!


Last edited by Piano Girl RMG; 09/19/17 01:20 PM.

Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2692281
11/27/17 08:25 AM
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Congratulations to our own Robin Meloy Goldsby!...
(Yes, that is who you think it is)

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

"Composer, pianist, author, and Piano World contributor Robin Meloy Goldsby performed her new solo piano compositions on November 23rd at Buckingham Palace for HRH, The Prince of Wales, at a gala dinner celebrating the 20th Anniversary of In Kind Direct, an organization that inspires product giving for social good. "

Robin is on the road right now but she promised she will drop in and give us the details as soon as she can.

(BTW, I have her new album, it's in the #1 slot in rotation in my car (I spend a lot of time in my car) ).


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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2694228
12/04/17 01:36 PM
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Too beautiful. The future King-Chuck-the-Third must have really liked what you did; I don't know that they just ordinarily drift by and grant the performer a photo op and some chitchat. I believe it amounts to a special honor.

I have read with some bemusement your comments about how much make-up and hair products and time it takes to turn you out presentably, let alone the hours of shopping, the seamstresses' fees, and the bill to robe you in a way that makes it clear at a glance that you did not come to the event to wash pots in the kitchen.

Number One, the royal prince was wearing more spackle and hairspray than you. What can I say. The guy has cameras trained on him for practically every second and every breath of his life, with the snarky tabloid press ready to feature the slightest indecorum on the front page. I think they learn what it takes to keep the shields up, and to avoid at least the worst of it. And Number Two, the shaped waistline was perfect both for you, and for the stage treatment. (Were those the actual royal thrones behind you on the dais, or just some stage thrones?) It was an unusual look for evening wear, but very becoming. I have seen that sort of waist treatment on some wedding gowns, but it took some thinking; the colors, the drape, and the occasion did not take the mind in that direction. I was thinking, back of my mind, of one of those tropical birds with very soft, dark feathers, feathers edged with some iridescent, sparkly light. There are hummingbirds that look this way, when viewed in a certain light.

I was listening to the piano's voice in the upper register, on the music you used on another web site. The tenor range sounded like tiny bells, singing in perfect tune. So lovely. I don't know why it should have been such a surprise to hear something of the same sort on my own piano. Maybe I was thinking that you must have chosen from the world's very best pianos, with your piano tech standing by to keep everything just perfect. Or maybe your recording engineers were being very nice to you--- that is all very believable. My piano is out-of-tune (the tech is coming tomorrow), but I still hear the little detail of the singing wires--- probably the gift of the overtone series.

Not for nothing are we advised to listen to good music, and good musicians. The tiniest detail of their thought can lift us out of the mire. I suppose the advice applies to princes of the blood. We are very unlikely to know much of his inner thought; they are so guarded. But his thanks, and his wanting to meet you in person, strike me as very sincere.


Clef

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