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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2535961
05/02/16 01:33 AM
05/02/16 01:33 AM
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I survived my spring concerts. The first, at a shabby-chic castle not far from where I live, could have been called "Adventures on an Ancient Piano." Interesting experience. The piano was a Steinway and in tune, and really easy to play. But it sounded OLD. Kind of tinny and thin—I suspect it had never been restored, at least not in the last 50 years.

I had played a wedding at this place two years ago and remembered the instrument as fun to play. Stupid me. I forgot to factor in the difference between playing a background dinner music gig for 150 chattering Portuguese guests and playing a concert with an audience hanging on every note. Jeez. The high ceilings and granite floors saved me—a lot of echo can hide a multitude of sins.

The second concert was at the hotel where I play my steady gig—the Excelsior Hotel Ernst. We had a full house. It's asparagus season here in Germany and the hotel asked me to present stories and music from Waltz of the Asparagus People. We presented the concert first, with traditional concert seating, then our guests were ushered into the lobby for a champagne reception. When they reentered the concert room, it had been transformed into a dinner salon, where a three course asparagus menu was served, with corresponding wine. Ten round tables of eight people each. Really, the whole thing was pretty damn elegant, especially if one likes asparagus (the white kind). I sort of looked like an asparagus stalk—I wore a white evening gown. Enough with the black, already.

Looks like I'll be performing at the Hamburg Steinway Haus in June. I shall keep you posted in case we have any readers living in or traveling through that part of Germany.

Also, I will be hanging out and performing in Milano for the Piano World Italian Hula-Dula. Really looking forward to that!



Robin Meloy Goldsby
www.goldsby.de
Author of PIANO GIRL: A Memoir
RHYTHM: A Novel
RMG is a Steinway Artist
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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2536421
05/03/16 06:03 PM
05/03/16 06:03 PM
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 2,930
Northern VA, U.S.
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Joined: Mar 2008
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Robin, how wonderful that you're doing the PianoWorld Milan shindig!

I would drop everything and go, except that we have already booked a flat on Victoria Island for a getaway then.

Have fun!


[Linked Image][Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

"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] #2542474
05/23/16 09:35 AM
05/23/16 09:35 AM
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Germany
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Here is my newest essay. Not a wedding, but a romance (sort of).

Still Life with Grape and Hotdog


“Good news. We have a songwriting assignment. A chance to make some money,” Joe says. He stands next to my piano, a two-day-old turkey leg in his hand, waving it at me like a conductor’s baton. As usual, Joe raided my refrigerator the moment he arrived at my Astoria apartment, looking for spit-backs and doggie bags—the detritus of a skinny single girl’s sad culinary life.

We had planned to work today on a new song—”Eight Miles Home”—for the play Joe is writing about Thomas Jefferson. Joe rocks back and forth on the balls of his feet. He’s hyped up, even though exhaustion cloaks his pale blue eyes. Like me, he maintains a patchwork schedule of gigs, bouncing from the Actor’s Studio to the television studio to the Madison Avenue restaurant where he serves gourmet morsels to swanky East Side guests.

“One of the customers at the restaurant last night—a regular named Judith—knows we write songs together. She’s financing a tree project in Israel— one of those forest in the desert things— and she wants a theme song.”

“A theme song. About trees in the desert? Cool.”

“That’s the good news. The bad news is that we have to tie it into world peace and brotherhood.”

“Jesus.”

“Exactly. She wants ‘We are the World.’ But about trees.”

It is 1986. I am twenty-eight years old. The sloping lines traversing Joe’s sun-faded face tell me he has at least fifteen years on me. I repeatedly ask him how old he is. He refuses to answer.

We met each other three years ago, when we were hired as actors for an industrial training film for a television network, but we really got to know each other when we began writing songs for Joe’s Thomas Jefferson project. We’re both divorced and scuffling to finance our New York City lifestyles. In addition to his burgeoning career as an actor/writer/waiter, Joe is supporting a teenage son and trying to scrape together enough money to buy his downtown studio apartment. I play the piano in several midtown hotels (midday at the Marriott, cocktail hour at the Sheraton, late nights at the Hyatt), and grab as much acting work as I can. I date inappropriate men, buy shoes that are too expensive for my piano girl budget, and, like so many of my wannabe uptown friends, spend too much time in a hair salon, having my hair painted various shades of gold.

Deep down, I’m really a songwriter. Joe brings me back to the truest part of myself, the part that can start with silence and create, for better or worse, a piece of music. When Joe shows up at my apartment, I know where I’m supposed to be—somewhere in the middle of the second chorus, looking for a bridge. I glance up from the piano and listen to his James Taylor-inspired voice sing the lyric we have crafted and feel dizzy with love, maybe for him, maybe for me, maybe for art. We do not have a romance, but this must count for something.

It takes four or five songwriting sessions, a plate of cold gnocchi, three slices of stale pizza, a few bottles of wine (for me) and half a chicken, but eventually Joe and I come up with a song for the tree project. It’s called “If We Believe.” We record and submit the demo to Judith. We get the gig, along with a hefty (for us) paycheck. In return, we are expected to show up at a synagogue in Princeton, New Jersey, to present the song to the congregation at a special ceremony.

*****

Several months later, we rent a dark red Toyota and drive to Princeton. Joe will sing, I will play the piano and sing along on the chorus. We practice in the car, puffed up by the prospect of getting paid to do something we love. I’m teetering on the edge of thirty and Joe has clearly crossed the middle-age super highway, but we feel like two kids on a road trip, unbreakable, singing a song that will open doors and hearts and pay for a few months of turkey dinners and blond highlights.

We enter the synagogue. Judith, a large woman wearing small glasses, greets us. I ask about the piano.

“There’s no piano,” she says. “This is an Orthodox synagogue with restrictions on musical instruments. Sorry. I didn’t know. I’m not a member here. You’ll have to sing aca-aca-aca . . .?”

“Acapella?” Joe and I say. Our voices, so strong and confident in the Toyota, now sound squeaky and thin.

“Yeah, that,” says Janet. “It will be wonderful. I think the governor is coming. Here, put this on. She hands Joe a yarmulke. “Now go sit down. Here’s a program. You’re on at the end of the service.”

We slide into a pew. “You got a bobby pin or anything?” Joe says. “This thing won’t stay put.” I dig in my purse, find a paper clip crusted with hair spray and face powder, and use it to clip the yarmulke to a strand of Joe’s thin blond hair. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.

“There.” I say.

“Uh-oh,” he says, as he reads the program.

“What?” I look around. People stream into the synagogue and take their seats. It’s a somber crowd.

“Jesus,” he says.

“What?”

“This is a Holocaust memorial service. We are singing to honor the dead and pay tribute to the survivors.”

“Joe, we can’t sing a song about trees and world peace at a Holocaust remembrance service. What is Judith thinking?”

“I guess she wants a good venue to launch her project? She believes in our song.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t have to get up there and sing it on the saddest day of the year. What am I supposed to do? I’m not even a real singer.” I wonder if it’s too late to bow out. Or sneak out. This service is too meaningful to be marred by a piddling pop song about seeds and branches and strangers far from home. I feel wildly incompetent, out of place, and panicked. “Joe,” I say. “What are we going to do?”

Joe puts his weathered hands on either side of my hot face. “Rob,” he says. “Be strong. Trust yourself.”

The service proceeds. The elderly survivors of the Holocaust stand. We pray for them. The Rabbi asks the family members of those who perished to also stand. We pray again. Hundreds of people are now on their feet, wounded and sad, but still, somehow, hopeful. It is the most emotional thing I’ve ever experienced.

Joe leans over and whispers in my ear. “Time for a little music. We’re up next.”

Tears clog my throat, in that familiar place where songs are born.

“I can’t.” I say.

Joe grabs my hand. “This isn’t about you.”

It’s not about me. Why haven’t I ever thought of that? A composer serves the project; a performer serves the song. It’s not about me. And just like that, my fear fizzles. I can do this.
The Rabbi introduces us and asks the congregation to remain standing during our song.
Joe looks at me, nods, then white-knuckles the lectern and begins to sing in a voice so luminous that I forget to feel like an imposter. I sing with him on the chorus. The audience joins us and our combined voices seem stronger than all the evil in the world. A fleeting musical illusion, but still, I believe.

We finish the song and I look at Joe. His yarmulke has slipped over one eyebrow and there are beads of sweat on his cheeks. Or perhaps they’re tears. My heart fills with joy, with relief, with respect. I love this man, in a way I can’t explain. Or maybe I just love our song.

*****

After the service we meet Judith and her husband, Alex, in the parking lot. They offer to take us to dinner, but it’s a Monday night and their favorite fancy restaurants are closed. The only thing open in the area is an IHOP, which hardly seems fitting after what we’ve just experienced. Joe, as always, is starving—but Alex, Judith, and I veto the blueberry pancakes and opt to head back to Judith’s home, where she will prepare a light meal.

Alex and Judith, speed demons, drive matching Jaguar convertibles. Joe and I pile into our Toyota and drive as fast as we can to keep up with them. Judith directs us to park outside the gate, on the side of a large circular driveway. She summons us over an intercom and the gate swings open.
In addition to matching cars, Judith and Alex have matching villas.

‘We love each other,” she says as she meets us in the foyer. “But we really don’t like living together.” Every surface of her living room is stacked with huge piles of notebooks, magazines, periodicals, newspapers. I’ve never seen so much paper in one place. No wonder she wants to plant a forest.

“I don’t cook much,” Judith says. “But I have some wine and a package of frozen hotdogs.”

“Wine sounds great,” I shout.

“Hotdogs for me,” says Joe. Judith retreats to the kitchen. Alex, a tiny man, has disappeared.

Perhaps he’s hiding behind one of the towers of New Yorker magazines. Joe moves a wobbly stack of folders and sits down next to me.

“I’ll just put these hotdogs in the microwave,” Judith yells from the kitchen.

“Don’t eat the hotdogs,” I whisper to Joe. “They may have been in that freezer since 1972.”

“Rob. We should be polite. If she’s taking the trouble to make hotdogs, we should eat the hotdogs.”

“No way,” I say. I sip a glass of sweet wine. Judith brings Joe a fancy white plate with a gold rim and one hotdog on it.”

“Thanks, Judith,”he says. “That looks delicious. You have any ketchup?”

I kick him under the table and a pile of paperbacks tumbles to the ground.

“I don’t think so,” says Judith, discovering a large plate of half-rotten grapes underneath a periodic journal. “But, here. Have some grapes.”

“No, thanks,” I say. Joe adds a few grapes to his hotdog plate and cocks his head to study his plate. Still Life with Grape and Hotdog: Princeton, New Jersey.

We talk for a few minutes. Judith thanks us for our song; we thank her for her hospitality.

“What an honor to be part of this special evening.”

“Better go quickly,” she says. “In three minutes the guard dogs will be out. The gate will open automatically for you.”

“Guard dogs?” I look behind me and see four Dobermans racing down the driveway. They’re practically nipping at our boots as the gate closes behind us. We can hear them snarling on the other side of the fence.

“That was close.”

“I don’t feel so great,” says Joe.

“I told you. Poison hotdogs,” I say. “I’ll drive.”

“Wait, wait!” Judith shouts from the other side of the gate, her voice muffled by the barking Dobermans. “Take the grapes, so you have a snack for the ride home.”

“Thank you,” we say.

“I’ll just leave the bag here on my side of the fence. You can reach through and fetch it. Bye!”

“Let’s go, Joe,” I say. “The Dobermans are freaking me out.”

“What about the grapes?” he says.

“Leave them. No way I’m going to reach under that fence. Those dogs will rip my arm off. And I have to play at the Marriott tomorrow.”

“Yeah, but they’re free grapes. ”

“They’re yesterday’s grapes, Joe.” But he doesn’t hear me. He grabs a stick from the side of the road, and, with the Dobermans growling and snapping at it, manages to pull the bag under the fence.

We drive home, the rotten grapes on the seat between us. We don’t say much, and we’re certainly not singing.

*****

Years pass. We do not become the next Goffin and King, Lennon and McCartney, or the Bergmans. As so often happens in show business, the slow-moving blob of real life overtakes art. Joe gets a lot of film work, falls in love with a beautiful young dancer named Elizabeth, and marries her. He changes his name, changes his image, moves to the West Coast, and becomes a movie star. I meet the love of my life—a jazz bassist named John—marry him, and have a baby. We decide to move to Europe.

In 1994 I see Joe one last time, right before my husband and I leave New York. He looks rested and happy. And tan. We discuss projects we’ll never work on and songs we’ll never write. He eats a salad. A salad!

“I can’t remember the key of the tree song,” he says.

“D major. You always sound good in D major. It’s a hopeful key. Bright.”

It’s time to go our separate ways. Joe has been more than a friend, less than a romance. We have forged an artistic partnership based on naivety, courage, old food, and the misguided-but-beautiful belief that a handful of well-crafted songs will connect us forever. Love songs, in a way.

He hugs me goodbye. I will play our music for decades to come. People might move on, but a song? Our songs are forever—aural snapshots of an innocent time; small globes of musical light that roll through my memory and trigger flashes of happiness.

“Be strong,” he says to me before we go our separate ways on Seventh Avenue. “Trust yourself.”

“It’s not about me!” I say, repeating the words that got me through the Princeton gig. “I promise to remember that. It’s not about me.”

“It never was,” Joe says. “It was always about the song.”



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] #2546033
06/03/16 01:27 PM
06/03/16 01:27 PM
Joined: Jun 2008
Posts: 2,902
SoCal
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"They’re yesterday’s grapes"

There just has to be a song in there somewhere!


Gary
Essex EUP-111 at the mountains
W. Hoffmann T-122 at the beach
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2549588
06/15/16 02:35 AM
06/15/16 02:35 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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Yes, Plowboy. Gives a new meaning to "Heard it on the Grapevine."

I am so upset about Orlando I can hardly breathe. All these young people murdered. This is not the place for a political rant, so I'll save my feelings on the lack of gun control in the USA for a more appropriate forum. But for those of us who make a living performing in public places, occasionally in areas with large crowds, every time one of these senseless tragedies occurs, I wonder how long I'll be able to show up in "soft target" areas without looking over my shoulder every ten seconds. It's hard to focus on beautiful music while worrying about automatic weapons.

I played for another gay wedding last week—the type of gig that is quickly becoming my favorite thing to do. Twelve men and me. Does it get any better? I don't think so.

Love wins.




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] #2550268
06/18/16 06:48 AM
06/18/16 06:48 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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The following piece of fiction came about after listening to the banquet people at a recent wedding talk about all the ridiculous food requests they get from invited guests. It;s satirical and not intended to make light of anyone with a serious food allergy (I'm in that category, myself!). Anyway, have fun. I laughed a lot while writing it. xoxo RMG

Hold the Zucchini

Dear Fabian and Becky,
Thanks so much for inviting us to dinner at your apartment next Saturday. Steve and I are truly looking forward to your “June Moon” menu. A clever theme—you know how I adore a good clean rhyme! How kind of you to ask if we have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Not every host bothers to inquire, and, after several recent trips to the emergency room (following meals at the homes of former friends)—we welcome your concern. You may have heard that South-North Airlines refused to let us fly last week simply because we complained about pretzel dust in the air. The incident was humiliating for poor, asthmatic Steve, who did not for one second enjoy being hog-tied and carried off the plane by security thugs. The sound of his wheezing still haunts me.

Potato chips are fine, as are GMO-free, organic Doritos (but not the Nacho Ranch flavor). We’ll discuss dip later.

Like most folks in our culinary circle, Steve and I follow a gluten-free, peanut-free, dairy-free, half-pescatarian, low-sodium, no sugar, vegan diet, except that Steve occasionally eats onion bagels and medium rare roast beef. I enjoy a donut now and then (rainbow sprinkles, please), but for the most part, I avoid all grains. I’m allergic to anything bland or boring, so forget about rice, unless it’s the rare purple type found in the part of the Maldives that is not yet underwater. Purple rice (served on ivory china) dances off the plate when combined with root vegetables. No carrots, though—Steve hyperventilates and has “bodily fluid” issues when exposed to anything orange. Orange is the new death, at least for Steve. I’ve been told he is not alone.

A word about plate design: I like my rice choreographed. No overlapping, please, and make sure the grains are all facing the same direction, west to east, if possible. Poorly arranged food can trigger rage, depression, and the gag reflex. Why take the risk?

Hold the zucchini. Or any type of squash for that matter. I’m not technically allergic to squash, but it gives me the creeps. And speaking of creepy, I can’t abide dried fruit, wasabi nuts, or anything in the “pudding” category. I’m not a picky eater, but I have my limits.

Most vegans refuse to eat fish, but, outliers that we are, we’ll occasionally dine on eel or steelhead trout, as long as it’s cooked in a wood-burning stove at precisely 483 degrees, Fahrenheit. Don’t try to get by with charcoal—that sneaky Sally Sutherland served us charcoal-baked eel last May and I ended up with spontaneous conjunctivitis, hair loss, and an infected gall bladder. All of this happened before dessert—a mousse of chestnuts and air that made Steve’s head blow up to the size of a pumpkin. That was quite a night. Steve and I, side by side in the ambulance, clinging to life, cursing Sally Sutherland, and swearing we would never again eat eel. Sad. Sally ruined eel for us for at least nine months. The lawsuit should bring us some comfort.

Note: Pumpkin—orange!—is also a no-go.

Really, is there a person alive who can tolerate chestnuts? I think not.

Crispy Duck is okay for Steve (another vegan exception!). I refuse to eat the “cute animals”—duck, lamb, or rabbit. But I will gladly slurp down that yummy Hoisin sauce, as long as it is MSG free. In 2013 I suffered from MSG-induced leg paralysis. The restaurant, Ho Ho Fu on the Upper East Side (now out of business), blamed my inability to stand on the two bottles of Riesling I consumed with the meal, but paid experts later testified in court that my hoisin-induced MSG levels were “off the charts.”

Steve likes Diet Dr. Pepper and I prefer to drink Mr. Tom’s Bloody Mary mix with Absolut vodka, once the wine has run out.

You might be thinking we’re complicated, but we’re not! Just last week Bruce and Gladys served a divine Sunday brunch. Except for Steve’s projectile vomiting (caused by a hidden piece of yam in what was supposed to be an orange-free dining experience) we very much enjoyed the selection of gluten-free, vegan delicacies alongside the roast beef, eel, and rainbow-sprinkle donuts on the bountiful buffet. Too bad Steve’s overly-enthusiastic spewing caused the other guests to flee earlier than planned—they seemed like nice people, especially the Bolivian taxidermist (we can gossip about him when I see you—tightest pants ever). Anyway, I suspect Steve ruined Gladys’s beautiful Swedish table linens, but she has only herself to blame. Everyone knows Steve suffers from yam intolerance.

Egg whites are fine, but quail eggs only.

Please, whatever you do, NO BREAD BASKET ON THE TABLE. This is very important. Steve has psychotic episodes when he senses an overabundance of carbs. A few months ago at Chez Norman (Michelin two-stars, so they should have known better) Steve attacked the basket, dug out the inside of a baguette and rolled the dough into tiny balls. This would not have been so bad, but he stuffed the bread balls up his nose and almost died of carb asphixiation. I rode next to him in the ambulance. Steve sneezed (what a mess that was), we veered into an Uber car, and I dislocated my shoulder.

When you see the cast on my arm on Saturday, please don’t mention the carb incident—Steve still feels guilty.

You’re probably aware I only have one eye—Lisalotte Lux threw a fork at me several months ago after I complained about her pesto. I told her about my pine nut intolerance, but she said she forgot. Forgot? Those hives felt like hamsters crawling up my butt. I refused to suffer silently, so I spoke up. Lisalotte got pissed and threw the fork. End of story. End of eye. Lisalotte has a few years remaining in her jail sentence, plenty of time to reconsider her pesto recipe.

Please note: because I’m half-blind, I prefer my meal to be visually balanced. Diligence can be a matter of life or death for me, and I can’t very well patrol my plate if I can’t see it. Candlelight? No, thank you.

French onion dip is fine. So are grilled raspberries, truffle enchilladas, and deep-fried baby asparagus (only the white kind, not the green!).

Steve will tell you he can eat pork rinds, but don’t listen to him.

Looking forward to Saturday! Let me know if we can bring dessert. My shoulder is still healing, but I can manage carrying a donut or two.

Hugs and kisses!!!
Kiki (and Steve)


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] #2550302
06/18/16 10:37 AM
06/18/16 10:37 AM
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This is really great! Thank you for sharing! I laughed out loud at several things...

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2550303
06/18/16 10:43 AM
06/18/16 10:43 AM
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San Jose, CA
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Another Robin tour de force. It could be staged very nicely employing a single monologist, but, perhaps even more hilariously, with a second person depicting the hostess reading the letter, and even with a third: Stephen, acting out his symptoms. That last, perhaps more effectively in the video version. He could leave the audience counting their lucky stars and blessing the glass barrier between the performer and the viewer.

Believe it or not, I have actually met people who are somewhat like these characters. And if you do, all I can say is, run don't walk, and don't hang around to see the spectacle; it doesn't come out in the laundry.


Clef

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2550306
06/18/16 10:54 AM
06/18/16 10:54 AM
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Loved it, Robin!
and yes, we have all known people like this, which is the basis for the wonderful script being so funny. And absolutely, it could be the beginning of a wonderful play. Act II? Vacation together, and Act III, the wedding, of course, with Robin playing the piano for the festivity

I think it is time to only eat at their house!

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2550456
06/19/16 05:56 AM
06/19/16 05:56 AM
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Thank you friends and fellow foodies! I had not thought of "Hold the Zucchini" as a theatrical piece, but maybe you are right. I could set it up as Kiki sending a video message to Becky and Fabian.

Clef, love the idea for adding shots of the hostess and poor Steve in the background. Funny stuff.

And dogperson—you're right. Three parts.

Kiki and Steve: The Dinner Party
Kiki and Steve: The Wedding
Kiki and Steve: Family Vacation

And Eric, thanks for the kind words. Always makes me happy to know someone is laughing.

xo
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] #2555198
07/08/16 11:34 AM
07/08/16 11:34 AM
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Just back from the European Piano Party in Milano and Steinway Haus in Hamburg. Not many weddings, due to the European Football Championships (go, France!).

Here's a little piece I wrote about the glory days of the old Steinway Hall in Manhattan. Holding on, letting go. Music. Life.


Remember Me: A Gentleman, a Steinway, and a Couple of Stubborn Ghosts

It’s June, 2007. I am headed to Steinway Hall.

Manhattan, with its counterpoint of horn blasts, sirens, grumbles, whispers, and roars, performs a deafening sonata. I feel energized. I feel defeated. I feel inspired. I wonder how I ever lived here, or why I ever left. To celebrate the publication of my book, Piano Girl, Henry Steinway and Betsy Hirsch have invited me to present a solo piano concert and reading tonight in the famed Rotunda. I open the heavy door of 109 West Fifty-Seventh Street and step from the bashing, flashing, pulse of the city into an embroidered oasis of tranquility. The high-domed ceiling, hand-painted by Paul Arndt in 1925, seems to scrape the sky. Reach high, it says to me. Reach high, and you’ll touch something worth remembering.

Betsy hugs me. “Ready for tonight?” she says. We walk down a portrait-lined corridor to a practice room, so I can prepare for the main event. Irene Wlodarski, a fiery redhead who looks like she could have been a Rockette in a former life, jumps from her desk to greet me. I feel at home.

*****

Some buildings are haunted in a good way. Steinway Hall has always been such a place—a luxurious monument to the skilled artisans and musicians who have dedicated their lives to the complex mechanics of simple beauty. It’s not simple to build a piano; it’s also not simple to play one.

I met Henry Steinway last month, when I was in town to tape NPR’s Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland. As Betsy escorted me back to Henry’s office, I felt my face burn and my hands tingle, the early warning signs of imposter syndrome wrinkling my newly pressed black suit. Back in the eighties, when I was working as a cocktail pianist in Manhattan hotels, I had been too intimidated to step into Steinway Hall. It seemed like a place where “real” pianists hung out—an elite club for the chosen few, a secret den with a painted ceiling that was home to the world’s best pianos and artists.

Betsy introduced me to Henry, a perfect gentleman with an affectionate handshake and a huge smile, and then left us alone to chat for thirty minutes. Henry quickly put me at ease. How I loved listening to him talk about making pianos! He maintained a deep respect for those on both sides of the piano business—the makers of pianos and the makers of music. Artists might receive standing ovations, but Henry made sure his craftspeople heard their own share of applause.

Henry had read Piano Girl, so we had a long talk about the hotel music business, the art of playing quality music when it seems like no one is listening, the joy of playing a great piano, even in a cocktail lounge full of chattering tourists and business people. “Music is so very personal,” Henry said to me. “Every skilled pianist has something unique to say—it’s up to us to give them the means to say it.”

We talked about craft and skill and talent. We talked about imagination and the critical role it plays in all aspects of the piano business. We talked about writing books. Henry told me he wanted me to meet his brother-in-law, the great author William Zinsser, a hero of mine, whom he would invite to my concert the following month.

Henry Steinway, William Zinsser, Marian McPartland—I felt as if a golden triumvirate of nonagenarians had been appointed to guide my career. I discovered Steinway Hall was also entering its ninth decade. Perhaps ninety would be my new lucky number. I floated out of the hall that day after playing a dozen pianos, each one with a special historical pedigree, sensing that I had been dropped into a fantasyland of wood and wisdom, pins and hammers and perfect sound, all brought to life by an aging gentleman with an ageless vision, holding court in a regal office that seemed more like a home than a work place.

*****

“Here,” Betsy says, on the eve of my performance. “You can warm up here. It’s Henry’s special room.” The piano technician tweaks a few last notes and then, after wishing me luck with my concert, leaves with Betsy. This is hardly a practice room; it’s a small recital hall with a perfect Steinway B, a warm-hearted piano that makes an audience listen. It’s a piano with no wrong notes, a piano that takes a decent player and makes her music sing. I love it here. I love the carpets, the oil paintings, the smell of the wood, the mantle of hope that drapes over me as I sit down to practice. There’s a buzz in the air that’s comforting and energizing all at once. Ghosts of Concerts Past? Maybe.

While warming up for the main event, I allow my mind to wander. My nerves jangle. I take some deep breaths. Decades of musicians have played in the Rotunda. Decades of edgy pre-performance tension, decades of genuine passion, decades of bravery. In an attempt to muster some courage for myself, I try to summon the Ghosts of Concerts Past. I tell myself the acoustic underpinnings of disappeared music—pirouetting silently down the staircase in double time or triple time—will carry me through the night. But musical ghosts don’t exist. Or if they do, the minute I sit down to play the Steinway D in the Rotunda, they’ll flutter away and leave me to fend for myself. No help from the Ghosts. Henry was right: Music is personal—that’s the glorious (and scary) thing about it.

I leave the practice room and stand on the balcony overlooking the concert space, peering down through the prisms of the enormous crystal chandelier onto the coiffed and stylish heads of the guests below. It is time. One hand firmly on the railing, I descend the long curved staircase, greet my audience, greet the piano, and begin. I say what I need to say, and I do it through the mechanics of this marvelous instrument, in this magical place. I am now part of a Steinway Hall Rotunda tradition that all of us think will last forever.

Years later, when I learn that Steinway Hall has been sold, I’m overcome with sadness, a grief deepened by the recent loss of Henry. If walls could sigh, if corridors could cry, if chandeliers could sing forgotten compositions and repeat familiar refrains, what would they say to us? Move on. Music doesn’t live in buildings, even the ones with fancy oil paintings and domed ceilings. Music is human. It lives in the craftspeople charged with making these pianos; it lives in the hearts and souls of the musicians who play them. I imagine the Ghosts of Concerts Past on moving day, teary eyed and a little belligerent about leaving, but eager to catch up to the parade of vehicles departing from West Fifty-seventh Street.

Remember me, they’ll shout. And then, dancing in time to piano music only ghosts can hear, they’ll follow the vans and trucks to Steinway Hall’s newest home. There, a little disgruntled and perhaps missing the swank of the hand-painted ceiling, they’ll do what ghosts do best—they’ll stop yammering, join the audience and listen to the music they helped create, hoping to hear a little of themselves. Music past and music present—all of it very personal, all of it worth remembering.

*****


Robin Meloy Goldsby is a Steinway Artist. She is also the author of Piano Girl; Waltz of the Asparagus People: The Further Adventures of Piano Girl; and Rhythm: A Novel.

Brand new: Manhattan Road Trip, a collection of short stories about (what else?) musicians.


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] #2556923
07/16/16 03:12 AM
07/16/16 03:12 AM
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 828
Germany
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Piano Girl RMG Offline OP
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Germany
The world seems to be collapsing around us. To those of you traveling this summer, be careful. To those of you staying home, be careful. Preaching to the choir, here, but remember: Music offers a respite and refuge from evil and fear and bad news. Keep playing, that's what I say. The beautiful music you send out into the world might not stop the madness, but it will, at the very least, bring you peace.

Sending love to all of you.

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] #2561606
08/07/16 11:04 AM
08/07/16 11:04 AM
Joined: Mar 2014
Posts: 215
Canada
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Canada
Hi Robin

In response to your last message, perhaps you and others would be interested in this lengthy article, with videos included, that I found today in the NY Times.

It's not about weddings, far from it, but it is about our journey through life with music, and how our keyboard skills can help us and others live.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/world/europe/refugee-song-syria-germany.html

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2561768
08/08/16 09:23 AM
08/08/16 09:23 AM
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,302
Parsonsfield, ME (orig. Nahant...
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I don't often get asked to play for weddings. So why now?

Kathy seems to think my not being asked to play at weddings has something to do with my style of playing. You see I came of age in the 60's. As in 1960's, although come to think of it I'm also in my sixties now, yikes!

Does that mean when I'm in my nineties I shall be a child of the 90's? Probably not.

My "style" of playing? I tend to play loud, and fast, preferably both at the same time, each vying for more attention than the other as we race merrily along dashing for the finish line. When I reach the end my audience will often break into applause, although I suspect it's more out of relief that it's over than from being impressed.

And I've always felt one shouldn't be constrained by the conventions of timing and meter, after all I am a bit of a free spirit which one would expect to be reflected in my playing. I've always felt bad for those poor notes all caged in between those nasty bars, permanently trapped in separate rooms like they were being punished. Although I do note that some of them manage to hold hands between the walls, which only serves to confuse me more as by then I've completely lost count of , well, counting.

Measures? The very name conjures up images of slide rules and calipers with people glaring and saying things like tsk tsk, he was an eighth off there, and definitely should have paid closer attention to the dot on that quarter not. (For those of you not familiar with slide rules, they were mechanical devices that people used for computation back when they actually used their brains for such things, imagine).

I look at it as my responsibility to free these poor notes, to give them the gift of flight, like opening a box of butterflies and watching them fly their intricate patterns looking for the perfect flower.

And so I do. Sometimes I free more of them than others, I guess it depends some on how many of them are crowded into one room, and whether they are showing off (sharps), or trying to keep a low profile (flats).
And if that isn't confusing enough to me, you have the notes who don't even know who they are so they change their minds right in the middle "oh, changed my mind, cancel that, no wait I've really changed my mind double cancel" (do two wrongs make a right?). Accidentals are the most appropriately named, because I can assure you there will be an accident when I have to to deal with them.

Maybe Kathy is right, my style of playing might not be completely suited for a wedding.

Imagine my surprise then when I was asked to play a wedding? !

And not just any wedding, but a lovely wedding in a picturesque country setting, and not for just any groom, but one who is a Level 6 pianist from the UK!

How did this happen? I'm glad you asked.

I met the bride's grandmother last year when she called me to tune the old upright piano at "the farm". Mind you the farm is now a beautifully restored old farmhouse on two hundred acres of land, including a mountain, and with a view of the entire presidential range of mountains in New Hampshire.

Still, the old upright is a broken down old upright, even if it was once a proud Henry F. Miller (a venerable old name in the piano world).

I told Martha (the grandmother) I'd do the best I could.It was worse than I thought. I called Martha into the room and explained that the piano was worn out and because of corrosion bass strings were snapping if I even looked at them wrong (I intended to tune it at the level I found it, making no effort to raise the pitch).

She said that's ok, she expected it would be a challenge but just to do the best I could. She explained that her granddaughter was coming to visit and bringing her fiance, who is a piano player. She said he plays quite well (that turned out to be an understatement).

The goal was to have the piano playable enough so Matt (the future grandson-in-law) could bang around on it.

Three hours later I had it sounding something like a piano shaped object.
Martha was pleased. So pleased she asked if I'd mind taking a look at another piano she had. Turns out they own the house just up the hill too (you can see it from the farm) and it too has an old Henry F. Miller upright.

Oh joy I thought.
Martha met me at the front door of the farm with her golf cart (she loves to whizz around the property on it, trust me, hang on tight).

Up we went to the other house. Well the second HF Miller wasn't as bad as the first, although she'd been told by other piano tuners it wasn't tuneable or repairable. I'll spare you the details as they would make another story in themselves, suffice it to say I got it working, but not before Matt and Tess (the bride) came to visit.

Not wanting the pianist from the UK to have to suffer with the old piano in the farmhouse, I suggested to Martha they come over my house to visit and he could play my lovely Estonia L-190. She was thrilled.

Matt and three of Martha's grandchildren came over with her. Tess (the bride) was not with them, I didn't meet her until the rehearsal night.
We had a lovely visit, Matt was happy to play the Estonia, and it turned out the three grandchildren were all talented musicians in their own right. One played the guitar (we still have Kathy's old guitar), one played piano, and the third one sang.

So now you have some of the back story of how I got to know Martha, Matt, Tess and other members of their family.

Which leads up to my being asked to play for their wedding.

Next I will post about the preparation and the wedding itself.
It involves a canon, a trumpet,Like a bat out of church, a numb thumb, a doctor, and a wedding.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peek at the venue

[Linked Image]


Stay tuned...














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Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2561914
08/08/16 07:19 PM
08/08/16 07:19 PM
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Santa Fe, NM
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Lovely space - and my tongue's hanging out for - the rest of the story smile


Cathy
[Linked Image][Linked Image][Linked Image]
Practice what you suck at - anonymous
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2561917
08/08/16 07:44 PM
08/08/16 07:44 PM
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Oakland
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I would like to have bats in churches when I am tuning. All I get is pigeons in synagogues.


Semipro Tech
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2562013
08/09/16 08:21 AM
08/09/16 08:21 AM
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Germany
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Frank! Thanks for posting. I enjoyed every word. Regarding all those trapped notes—I never feel like I release them; they escape.

First rule of playing any wedding: Don't upstage the bride. I've heard some of your more rambunctious material, and I fear for the bride's ego. On the other hand, who says a ceremony has to be all Canon-y and River Flows in You-y? GO FOR IT.

LLXXX, thanks for the Times link. Great stuff.

I am stateside, helping my father (some of you know him from my books) recover from hip surgery. You can't keep a good drummer down. He left the hospital proclaiming he was "too hip for the room."

Last night he told me a story about playing for a wedding where the bride insisted on kissing everyone (!) on the lips. Bad enough, but she had huge rubbery lips that clung to bits of food and lipstick and all sorts of awful things. My dad's trio panicked every time she approached the bandstand. The bass player ran to the men's room just to escape her pucker.

In other news, I am over the moon happy with a new review of Manhattan Road Trip that just came in from Jesse Kornbluth. Jesse, who runs a cultural Concierge service called Head Butler, writes for the NY Times, New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Huff Post, etc. I feel as if I've broken through some mysterious literary bubble and finally gotten one of the big boys to pay attention to what I do. I wonder if he stumbled upon this forum at some point. Possible. I love that at age 58 I am being "introduced." I am the world's oldest overnight sensation.

You can read the review here:

Introducing Robin Meloy Goldsby

http://www.headbutler.com/shorttake/words-on-music-introducing-robin-meloy-goldsby/


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: BDB] #2562035
08/09/16 09:44 AM
08/09/16 09:44 AM
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Virginia, USA
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Originally Posted by BDB
I would like to have bats in churches when I am tuning. All I get is pigeons in synagogues.


We had bats in my church.

We caught them, baptized and confirmed them, and they've never been seen again.


gotta go practice
Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2564881
08/21/16 05:27 PM
08/21/16 05:27 PM
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Chicago
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I just did my first real wedding. What I mean by real is that I did one other wedding where we (bass and piano) played while people had their pre-dinner cocktails. Last night, our jazz quartet was the party band; we played the first dance for the couple, and then played for 2.5 hours straight. People danced, people tapped their foot; people smiled. I have no funny or weird stories. Only that it was a honor to play a role in helping people celebrate such a wonderful occasion.

Re: Let's Talk Weddings [Re: Piano Girl RMG] #2566558
08/27/16 12:11 PM
08/27/16 12:11 PM
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Hey, this thread is now full with good and happy news. smile

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